Three years ago, I met sculptor Silvio Viola while I was chatting with other stone carvers at an exhibition. After seeing a picture of my “Gymnast” sculpture that I usually have with me at all times, he invited me to participate in his symposium in Castelvecchio, Tuscany, Italy.
This year, Silvio organized another symposium, this time in nearby Vellano. It was held at Cava Nardini (‘cava’ is Italian for ‘quarry’). I knew Marco Nardini from my first symposium, since he supplied the pietra serena grayish sandstone that we carved. It was great working directly in the stone quarry. None of the neighbors complained of dust or noise and we had access to more tools and services than one can get easily off a work-site. And the daily views were wonderful up in the mountains.
We had a total of 9 artists participating although Vincenzo Crieco and Elisa Sordelli joined us after the publicity poster was printed. Other participating sculptors are Massimo Villani, Kumiko Suzuki, Roberto Politano, Mariano Guerrieri, Simone Azzurrini, Silvio, and me. You may remember Kumiko from several other newsletters. She and I have been friends since we met as madonnare (street painters) in Florence, Italy, back in 2009.
The symposium was held 4-14 July. I had been working on the above garden sculpture while I was thinking of a design for this symposium. The theme was Pinocchio’s story. This is natural, I suppose, since this valley called Valleriana is not far from Collodi, the village in Tuscany where the story of Pinocchio is based. Because of my never-healing knee injury and the short time frame, I came up with a design of Pinocchio riding the dove as a bas-relief, emerging from a large book. I was not actually sure if I would be able to stand long. The desired dimensions for my stone were sent to Silvio and Marco, while I continued to work on Rock Towers and Frogs.
However, when I arrived on Day 1 of the symposium and studied my stone, I found two cracks and asked Marco and his father Germano (who resurrected this quarry decades ago) to come have a look and let me know their thoughts about how deep it ran. We decided that my book idea would not work (unless much smaller, of course). So, I thought for a bit and decided to do a vertical sculpture of the same subject and started drawing on the stone. I really enjoy direct carving, but then, I have never learned the point-up system for copying a composition in clay (or other material) into stone.
The cracks determined some basic things in the design, but you will also see in the photos below that I later found another as I began to shape the head of the bird. That was a bummer, but I was lucky that it was not worse. My design was too complicated for a 10-day event, but then I keep changing my mind a bit. For example, days into it, I decided to change from a high relief to a work in the round.
This was the first time I had assistance on my stone carvings. Giuliano is a local wall builder and has created many of the homes in the valley. He was around for the first half of the symposium. I would score what I wanted to cut off and then he would take hammer and chisel to remove stone for me. It allowed me to take a break to drink water or ice my knee or just stand in the shadows from a distance to evaluate my composition while material was being removed.
Marco may be the most generous carver I know when it comes to sharing tools. This was a huge help to me since so many of my stone-carving tools are still in Texas. And he has specialty tools I do not own at all anywhere, such as the diamond bit for coring holes in stone. As the larger chunks of stone fell away, there was less for others to do since I was shaping and making design decisions as I worked the stone myself. But then, I have always preferred to be a hands-on artist myself.
I hope that you enjoy scrolling through these images. The images of my final stone sculpture will be shared in the next newsletter.
Thank you for your continued interest in art and stone carving!
Sculturi in Cava: Pinocchio in Stone
~ Kelly Borsheim
The text in Italian says, "There once was a piece of wood . . . "
Stone Sculpture [Detail] By Mariano Guerrieri
Beautiful Vellano, Italy, in Tuscany