Field trips!

Home. After four weeks of sculpting and two weeks exploring Italy it is wonderful to be back home on beautiful Whidbey Island. It’s so green! Italy was so great (big surprise), I have more photos to share from my trip, so if you’re up for more about Sue’s adventures in Italy, keep following the blog.

The last week in March we (Tamara, Eirene, and I), took a couple of great field trips. We went into Florence to have a visit with David, yes, “The David.” We also visited the Medici Chapel to see the sculptures there. The following day we went up into the mountains outside of Carrara on a marble quarry tour, its too many photos for one blog so that is a whole separate blog that I will post soon, in the meantime, enjoy Michelangelo.

David by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni at the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. When I first saw this sculpture in person 16 years ago it took my breath away. This return visit was no less inspiring.

I hope you enjoy the photos even a fraction as much as we enjoyed these days. I plan to post a couple more blogs after this and I’ll definitely post when the stone arrives. It’s on a ship now headed this way and is due in late May.

These are photos of the unfinished Slaves by Michelangelo, also at the Galleria dell’ Academia in Florence. It’s amazing to get within feet of these sculptures and see the tool marks as he worked to find the lines of the form in the block. You can see where he was working out the placement of the body part, pushing it deeper into the stone.

That’s Tamara and Eirene (third and fourth persons from the right) enjoying the well-place bench where you can sit and gaze and then move along and appreciate the lines of the sculpture from a slightly different vantage point.

The Medici Chapel is home to the sculptures at the tombs of Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici. You probably know these sculptures as “Night and Day,” and “Dawn and Dusk,” by Michelangelo.

Lorenzo and Dusk and Dawn
Guiliano and Night and Day (notice how “Day” is so more polished and more bright than “Night”).

The David and other celebrated Renaissance sculptures are what I grew up seeing in my art books and in popular culture. To see them in person is an inspiration. I’m grateful these sculptures were recognized as masterpieces and protected. I do grieve for the losses of so many masterpieces around the world lost to time, war, and ignorance.

So, back to more Michelangelo. Follow me on a little side track. As my trip progressed I went to Milan and while there I got to see a Michelangelo’s Rondanini Pietà. He sculpted the “Pietà” theme at least three times; the first he sculpted when he was in his 20’s, the famous Pietà which is at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The second has 4 figures; “Deposition,” which sculpted in his 70’s. It’s in Florence but I have not see this one. The Rondanini Pietà is at the Sforza Castle in Milan and it was the last sculpture he was working on when he died at 89. Ah, it’s such a feast seeing these sculptures in person.

The sculpture is clearly unfinished, not just obvious by the lack of detail and the textures but also because he left a previous version of Jesus’s right arm that is 10 or more inches away from where the current arm and body of Jesus is. This sculpture doesn’t have to thick muscularity of many of his other sculptures, in fact, from some views I found myself wondering if he’d left enough stone to finish it. He certainly captured the drama in the pose, you can feel the weight and the sorrow.

If you want to learn more about figurative sculpture from the Renaissance, may I recommend the podcast The Sculptors Funeral by Jason Arkles. Jason is going to be one of our instructors at Northwest Stone Sculptors Pilgrim Firs Symposium in July.

There is so much to see in Florence and we were only there for part of a day. It was amazingly crowded, I hear it is always like this now but it was the nicest day of the year and a Saturday. Still, if you’re visiting Florence, get your tickets in advance (thanks Tamara) or you will likely spend a lot of time in line.

Art everywhere, models from the Academia and sculpture from the Palazzo Vecchio.

Not everything is old. Here’s some street art by Blub I found on the streets in Florence and Lucca.

Ciao!

Packing up the stone

Last week on Tuesday we met Piero. Piero is a magician. On Friday he made all of our stone disappear into 4 wooden crates. I thought I knew how to pack things well. Spending a half-day with Piero loading up the crates was an opportunity to work with someone with exceptional spatial abilities. It also helps that he can operate a forklift and use two single straps a multitude of ways to lift, turn, flip and slip stone into tight spots.

I am talking with my hands because my Italian is very limited. Piero listened and then turned to Lotte (on the far right) since she speaks Italian, and German, and English…(Eirene is on the left, Tamara is taking the photo)

He came to look at the various stone we’ve collected over the 3 weeks and with a tape measurer and an exclamation of “Mama mia” we worked out a plan. Mostly in his head, as I only saw him write down the measurements of four stones. With the help of Lotte, one of the resident sculptors here, we arranged to have crates built to ship our stone home. The crates have to be built out of special wood that is stamped and certified so we don’t import any bugs in the wood.

Piero measuring stone (photo by Tamara)

It was a surprise when we arrived to the studio Friday morning to see 5 empty crates already delivered. Piero came after lunch and started to load the stone, Tamara recorded all the stone and where they went, Eirene took photos of each one (we need to supply a complete record of everything we’re exporting and importing to get us out of Italy and into the US). And no, sadly we cannot fill the spaces with wine and olive oil although we did really want to.

Part of the stack of stone that had to go in the crates.
Loading the biggest block which barely fit in the crate. That’s Tamara taking recording all the stone.
Finishing the third crate.

On Monday Piero will return to fill the final crate with our sculpture. This one is packed a bit more carefully. We’ve not finished anything too far and this is one of the reasons why. All of the in-process sculpture will go in the fifth crate. We still get a few days to sculpt on some small pieces before we leave at the end of this week (how did time go this quickly?). At the end of the week, we’ll put them in the last crate before it’s closed up.

Three of the five crates filled and nearly ready to go.

We’ve been working with our shipping agent in the US and his counterpart in Italy who has responded graciously to my many questions with patience after noting, “your first time buying stone in Italy to take home?”. “Si, but hopefully not my last,” I replied.

This week we will spend a little less time sculpting and more time recording all the stone and their dimensions and types. Then we’ll get the final dimensions of the crates and the weights, sign off on the shipping documents, and arrange for a truck to come and pick it up to take it to the outgoing Port. We won’t see our sculptures again for about 6 weeks when they arrive in Seattle and we truck our crates to Whidbey Island to unpack them.

As exciting as this part is, it’s also real reminder that our time here is coming swiftly to an end. We have a few more days to enjoy stone dust and our new stone sculpting family at Studio Pescarella, so we will focus on that instead.

More soon, ciao!

Tools and Tool Mecca

*Disclaimer: This is all about tools so it may not be so interesting to all of you but I know the stone folks following my blog will want to know.

The end of the first day were were at the studio we had to leave early to go buy some tools. Since Italy runs on 220 power our US grinders won’t work here so that was first on the list. We stopped a couple places before we found some reasonably priced Makita variable speed angle grinders. They have these new handy clip on mesh screens for the intake holes, I haven’t seen those before. I’m also not sure they are effective for keeping the stone dust out but I’m using them anyway. I also got these great little 3 inch silicon carbide grinding wheels and they are sweet. Anyone know where to find them in the states? (Because these fit these tools and won’t fit on a 5/8 US shank).

3 inch wheel

Last week we went to Milani tools, I failed to get photos of anything except the wall of the famous “italian” riffler files. It was a bit of a challenge to find but our navigator Tamara got us there. So far we’ve only had three trips to Milani (they are close by) and I’m sure we’ll have one or two more to get some things to take home. They have so many goodies there, pins and sleeves, silicon carbide bits in all kinds of sizes, and of course, rifflers.

Part of the Milani riffler file wall.

I brought all my protective gear from home; respirator, googles, ear protection, hat and gloves.

That’s me under all the gear.

Last week we ventured to Massa (which is 5 km north of us, and on the way to Carrara), to Cuturi Tools. Cuturi makes pneumatic air hammers and Tamara has a couple of old ones, one small Piccolo (small) hammer that needed repair. She has been emailing them so they buzzed us in the gate and welcomed us into their factory site. We met Ezio Cuturi, the grandson of the original founder Gino Cuturi. He now runs the business with his brother. He helped Tamara with the repair and entertained us while we bought chisels and experimented with their new “Piccolino” (even more small) air hammer which does engraving and small work.

Yes, this is a sculpture of an air hammer made of marble.
Ezio, Eirene and Tamara. We got hats!
We all got to try to Piccolino, which was a sweet little tool. Eirene got one and amazingly I resisted buying one.

Both Milani and Cuturi are great brands in the world of stone so it has been a treat to look and buy tools directly from the source. Who knows what else we’ll find to bring home with us!

If you’ve got questions, ask them in the comments and I’ll try to put together a Q and A blog.

Until next time, ciao!

So Much Stone

Notice I did not say “too much stone.” Stone is one of those things you can’t have too much of; like good health or love. Everywhere you turn there is stone; the tile, curbs, window sills, and sinks. It’s like wood in the Pacific Northwest, it’s the readily available material.

Studio Pescarella is located in an industrial area so we are surrounded, literally, by stone yards and fabricators. On either side of us and across the street there are yards, and the “back yard” to the studio is a river and on the other side of the river is…wait for it, yes, two more stone yards.

The stone yard next door, the cranes are amazing!
Two of the stone yards across the river, notice all the marble lining the river banks, yes, I did pick some of that up too.
The stone yard on the other side of us, the one closest to us that has the fabrication shop. I will be bringing something home from here.

The difficulty is choosing. So I started with the path of least resistance, I bought a couple of small cut off stones from one of the studio owners here and worked on those. Then we started exploring the dumpster next door which belongs to a large scale fabricating shop with wire saws, CNC machines and all the rest. They are kind enough to indulge visits to the dumpster from the Studio. We have “rescued” good stone there, the biggest was a good size chunk (see below) and had 2 cracks, once split it has broken into three nice carving stones with lovely veining.

“Rescuing” stone from the dumpster with a little help.
A lucky day at the dumpster, Eirene and Tamara and the catch of the day.
The block with 2 cracks before.
…and after
Another stone, before.
During. Yes, that’s me wearing my Freeland Art Studios t-shirt!
…and after, “The Three Graces”

On Friday we started actually shopping to buy stone. It gets delivered on Monday, nothing giant but some nice finds. More on that soon. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m happy so many of you are enjoying being along on my trip to Italy.

Ciao.

Getting all set up

We arrived at the house we’re renting on Thursday and started to get settled. Friday we had our orientation to the studio space; learning about how the compressor works, where the tools are, and most importantly, where to dumpster dive for free stone from the stone yard next door. Sculptors have been arriving and leaving both Friday and Saturday and it seems there will be six to twelve of us around this month. Some have been here all winter. So far we’ve met sculptors from Argentina, South Korea, Sweden and even South Carolina, USA. There are others we haven’t talked to enough yet to find out where they’re from.

Tamara and Eirene at the house. Sunshine on our first day!
Looking across the valley from the house, we’re on a pretty steep hill, (more about that on a future blog). Notice the terracing to the right of the house in the photo.
Looking out to the water over the seaside towns, our house is in the foothills of Strettoia 2 miles from the studio.

One of the most remarkable things is that the stone industry is and has been the big industry for a long time, there are stone yards and sculptors and all the related services everywhere you go. Kind of like nirvana or maybe heaven. Yesterday we had a “workers lunch” at a nearby restaurant and we got seated in the not as fancy back room with other stone workers with a blasting gas fireplace (which felt great!). We enjoyed a big lunch for only 12 Euros and we’ve got leftovers!

Part of the studio yard at Studio Pescarella. The sculpture in the foreground is that of Neal Barab, part owner and a UC Santa Cruz grad.
A view of some of the work spaces and the surrounding hills in the background.

Not only are there stone yards EVERYWHERE, there is sculpture everywhere, not just stone, but bronze and steel too. Today we hit a weekly city market to buy some inexpensive warm clothes for the studio and some fresh veggies. We walked out on a pier in nearby Tonfano and there were 11 large sculptures around the fountain and on the pier. We’ve driven by so many I’ve lost count.

So much happens every day right now it’s hard to know where to start sharing experiences with you, some will wait (like tool shopping adventures, that’s a whole post on it’s own). I haven’t even introduced you to my travel partners yet so here goes. I’m sure those of you in the NorthWest Stone Sculptors Association know Tamara Buchanan, a talented and experienced sculptor and teacher, she’s been in Pietrasanta before to sculpt and her experience and interpreting skills have been much appreciated. Eirene Blomberg, like Tamara, hails from Lopez Island and it’s not her first trip to Italy but it’s her first sculpting trip. I’ll try to find some links for photos of their work in a future blog.

Tamara getting her first dose of dust.
Eirene working on a piece of marble rescued from the dumpster.
Unpacking my bag at my workspace on our first day, notice how clean it is (was). Thanks to Tamara for the photo!

If you’re not already following my blog you can click the box on the bottom right of any page and enter your email to get a notification when I publish a new blog.

Until next time, Ciao!

New Website!

How do you like it? It’s been a while since I’ve uploaded new images and while I was doing that I decided to go for a whole new look. I hope it makes it easier to see what I’ve been up to. I’m going to use this site more actively now, all motivated by my upcoming sculpting trip to Italy. Let me know what you think.

I’m Going To Italy!

In March of 2019 I’ll be spending a month in Italy trying to soak up as much marble dust as I can. Studio Pescarella is located between the towns of Carrara and Pietrasanta on the coast of northern Tuscany at the foothills of the Apuan Alps about 20 miles north of Pisa. The Apuan Alps are the source for marble famous for many renaissance sculptures including Michelangelo’s “David,” and has been a source for famous marble for hundreds of years.

This area is full of stone yards, studio spaces and sculptors visiting from all over the world and speaking the common language of stone sculpting. My trip partners are two friends from the Northwest Stone Sculptors Association. We plan to immerse ourselves in stone and creativity and we’ll also leave ourselves time to explore the area and enjoy the people, the history and of course, the food!

We’ll return in April and our crates full of sculpture and raw stone will arrive a month or two later. I’m not much of a writer but I will be posting photos and some thoughts about my experiences here on this Italy blog. I’d love it if you’d follow along, just click the “Follow” link on the bottom right of this page (it means you’ll get an email notification when I post a new blog which will be once or twice a week).

Studio Pescarella has made space available for visiting sculptors from around the world and we’re happy to make this our temporary studio away from home. If you want to follow along with the weather (right now 60 and sunny) just look up the weather where we’ll be staying in a lovely home in nearby Strettoia.

This trip wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for all the support and encouragement from my family, friends, and supporters. Thank you! Special thanks to those helping to fund my trip by having purchased my sculptures, and to the crews that are covering for me while I’m on this big adventure!

Stop by at Karla Matzke’s Sculpture Park and Gallery for a new show March 2. I have three sculptures in the show and 3 new ones for the show coming up in April.

Ripple – Steatite on Steel
Sunburst – Pyrophylite