Quarry Tour

I’m back home but still posting photos from my Italy visit. We packed a lot in for one month so I’ll keep posting until the stone gets here in late May.

On the Sunday preceding our last week at the studio we went on a Quarry Tour. Sunday is the best day to avoid sharing the tiny roads with giant trucks hauling stone. We drove up the mountain outside of Carrara and then the jeep took us up to the near-top of the mountain where we could see numerous quarries. The weather was clear and mild, a great day for being on the mountain.

We drove up this far and then the jeep took us up to that saddle section in the middle of this photo.

Going to the quarry is an opportunity to touch the origin of the stone; to see it where it came from, to appreciate all those centuries this marble sat in a mountain after is was formed. There’s so much history in these mountains, they’ve been quarrying stone since well before Michelangelo and the Renaissance.

Michael (our guide) explained the techniques and some of the current rules and restrictions governing the quarries. At the base there is a small outdoor museum with old equipment and photos that helps illuminate the history of the area and the dangerous work of quarrying marble.

I took hundreds of photos so please appreciate the restraint I’m showing by limiting my choices here. I’m not known for my restraint when it comes to stone (which you likely already know if you’re reading this blog.)

Looking out over multiple quarries to the Mediterranean Sea.
One of the old bridges (its in all the old photographs). This road will take you up to Colonnata.
The “back” side, looking inland. See how tiny the giant earth-moving machines look.
A huge block being carved by an automated machine. There are many places that are doing this now in the area, this studio was at the base of quarry that we toured.
What the sculptures look like after the computerized cutting. Still lots to do by hand. I have no idea whose studio this is.

Even if you’re not a stone sculptor, getting a chance to go on a tour and see a quarry is a pretty amazing thing. If you want more photos, I’ve added some here at the end.


Three happy sculptors. Still happy even though we didn’t get to keep the hardhats!
The “back” side of the mountain.

Blue sky, white marble, big smile! Thanks for the photo Tamara!

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.