Sunday is our day off

It just so happened that we’re in Italy for one of the biggest Festival experiences in Italy. Carnavale Viareggio is second only to the Carnavale in Venice, and it just happens to be only a half hour from where we are. On Sunday, our day off at the studio, we decided to join the crowds. The guidebooks call it a “once in a lifetime must- see” and they were right.

Three happy artists enjoying the VERY large sculptures of Carnavale

We parked far away and had a lovely walk along the seaside boulevard, which was very Malibu-y. Many places aren’t open and the beach isn’t wall to wall people like it is in the summer. We started to see folks dressed up and since it was mid-afternoon there were lots of families and kids. All the kids had bags of paper confetti to throw and they did enjoy that. I’ve got some still in my shoes, bed and floor.

We bought our tickets and joined the party inside the gates. They have the entire boulevard blocked off to control entry for 2 km long circuit. Each direction is two lanes wide and the floats start moving and go in a large circle. You start seeing these giant floats from far away but you cannot see the entire length of the parade. The largest ones fill the whole street, almost close enough to touch people standing on their balconies three stories up. The floats are made of paper-mache, as they have been since they started way back 140+ years ago. I’m sure they have some rain proofing material on the outside as they seem to be quite permanent, not like the paper-mache I made in grade school.

Here was a busy make-up tent for dancers on the floats. They were hustling to finish everyone, 10 minutes later the parade started and the tent was packed up in flash.

The large floats are animated, some have multiple characters moving in multiple dimensions, it’s an engineering marvel under it all I’m sure. Some are pulled by tractors, others must have some device driving it from the interior, many are pulling large industrial-sized generators to power the lights and who knows what else. There are folks pulling levers and spinning wheels to move certain parts, and they’re doing this for at least 3 hours, impressive! There are dancers on the floats and also lines of dancers in front of the floats, some had some intricate choreography. After 2 hours we started seeing a lot of folks in these costumes at the concession stand or having a cigarette, I think dancing on the floats is more fun the first half hour.

These folks were part of the Trump’s Space Force, after 2 hours the choreography was not happening and they were walking in front of the float smoking.
This was on of the most emotionally powerful floats, it was masterfully done.

The artistry of the floats were amazing, there were some that seemed to be alive, and many had an emotional impact like the whale covered in plastic with oil refineries growing from its back, and a tear coming from its eye. I encourage you to look up some YouTube video of the Carnavale Viareggio 2019, their videos are better than mine and seeing them move is amazing.

They encourage everyone to participate in the parade, no sitting on the curb. Well you can but everyone else is walking around you so you don’t see much this way. You can get right in the street in front of the float (as long as you move out of the way to not get run over).

Tamara taking video from under the whale. you can see how close she is.

So many of the attendees were in costumes, like Halloween. It was great to be able to get up and walk around and follow a float or cross to the other side of the street when you wanted.

Some of the floats were tributes, like the Frida Kahlo, many had to do with the key issues of our times: the environment, bullying, and of course, politics. There were two large-sized Trump floats (and I think a few small ones), one depicting him as “God Emperor Trump,” which was not meant to be complimentary although I understand that some of his fans think it was. The other one was Trump as a baby swimming amongst toys. It doesn’t seem that Italians are fans, another reason to love Italy.

This experience was an amazing “extra” for us. There was so much to see, I’ve added a lot more photos to the end of this blog. It has taken me a few days to get this posted, our wifi here isn’t very robust but I’m grateful we have it. I’m going to publish this while it’s still daytime for you all, it’s still odd being a half a day ahead of you all! Everything at the studio is going great, more tales coming of stone, tools and sculpting…


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!

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Until next time, Ciao!

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