I’ve been studying stone carving under Steve Shaheen in NYC since September 2009. After being primarily self-taught in soapstone, I wanted someone to help push me to the next level in my work. Steve immediately suggested working in marble. He said it was the natural next step. He was exactly right. When the opportunity arose to carve in Italy with Steve, I knew it was where I needed to be. From the moment I first crawled out of the car at the Studio, all of my weariness of travel subsided. I was surrounded by huge blocks of marble! It was everywhere, so many different types and colors. Steve and Leonardo Corsanini, the owner of the Studio, lead me through the marble yard explaining the different types of stones. I spent the afternoon exploring the options of stone. There were so very many choices. It was incredible. The next day, I chose several stones and set up my workspace. Each of the following days was filled with learning and productivity. Each stone I worked with pushed me in new ways. Each one was a welcomed challenge. I could not have had this sort of intensity of experience elsewhere. The support and encouragement I felt from Steve, from the other workshop participants, and from the other artisans at the Studio all helped to push me forward with my work. The full-immersion – working beside professional carvers, being able to watch their techniques and processes, and listening to conversations (sometimes translated, sometimes inferred) about carving and life – was a vital component of the workshop for me. I learned more than I had anticipated. I accomplished so much more than I had ever hoped to do. I roughed out five pieces for a series I started in September when I met Steve. I cannot even express the enormity of it – it felt incredible to see the pieces start to line up across the wall as I worked on one, then on another and another.
Back in NYC, I had worked mainly by hand with hammer and chisel. Before this workshop, I’d only worked with an angle grinder once before in class for a few minutes. In this setting among so many professional carvers, I saw so many of them using a variety of power tools with an amazing range of outcomes from each tool. It seemed like the perfect time and place to find some bravery inside myself and learn to use an angle grinder. I was hooked. I loved working with the grinder. It fit so well with my forms and my patterns of thought. Over the next few weeks, my confidence level with this tool soared. By the end of the workshop, I was pleased with how easy it was to use a grinder to create the forms I saw in the stone. Being immersed in this setting and being encouraged to try many different types of stone enabled me to accomplished so much more than I had ever expected. I can’t wait to go back!