Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stone carving

I never actually set out to carve runestones. That sounds kind of dumb to say... "Oh gee, I didn't use tools to shape that stone on purpose, I just slipped, fell, and BOOM, art happened!" It is, however, true.
I decided one May that the yard behind our apartment needed to be cleaned up a bit, so I went out to pick up sticks and leaves. While I was doing so, I took a look at the steps down the embankment behind our place. They were old railroad ties spiked at intervals down the hill, with flat spots in between. It was not an effective set of stairs, and I decided that they should be replaced. Since I knew nothing about working with stone, either dressing it or laying it, that was obviously the best choice of materials to work with. :)
It took me about two days to finish the stairs, which came out quite nice. At the end of it, I had some sandstone left over, and thought.... I should carve Dalla a stone for her birthday! I'll need to learn to carve stone. I decided that the best way to go about this was to start bashing on rock immediately. I didn't lay out a design or anything... I just started pecking away with a hammer and chisel. This was the end result...
I carved more after that one... not sure exactly how many. I have done them all as gifts... not intentionally, exactly, but people say they like them and hey... what the hell am I doing with them?
My friend Laura Schappert (Eithne in the SCA) is a very good artist, and has designed a good number of the "runebeastie" stones I've carved. She had done some sketches of rune serpents, and commented "they never seem finished".
My response was that it was a matter of purpose... she was trying to breathe life into these creatures on paper, while it is the purpose of the beast to give life to the stone. The designs certainly seem to bring otherwise cold stone to life, in vibrant color. This is a poem I wrote after that conversation...

"Her mind has given it shape, this beast. She has drawn if forth from memories far older than she...memories from her ancestors, mine, yours. Memories from a time before any of us were born, a time when gods walked among men, and the wyrm was feared. It lays before me given shape...but it wants life.
Tap tap tap of hammer and chisel sound out the first beating of the beast’s heart, carrying my own blood into the stone. The whisper of brush across stone is its first breath. The beast comes to life...and the stone with it."

I have done a decent number of stones now... some not runestones. I did a gate stone for Duke Lucan and Haus VDK at Pennsic, and I also did a stone for the anniversary of Sir Steven's knighting. I really want to do a large stone, carved in place over a weekend event. I am working out the logistics of that in my brain now. Stones were carved in period for a number of reasons... memorial stones, stones commemorating events, praising people, or simply because somebody got bored. (there's runic graffiti on the ass of a stone lion... no joke) I hope to possibly do a few stones for SCA awards in the future... but we'll see.
The stone above was given as a gift to the King of the Middle at Pennsic a couple of years ago... King Arch, I believe it was. I intended to loan it to them for beside their gate, but when I saw the look on his face, I made it a gift. I unfortunately did not get any pictures of it at Pennsic, nor do I know what happened to it after... if anybody knows more, or has pictures of it in Midrealm Royal, let me know.

I have been asked to teach classes on carving stone, and I can't. I am not trying for false modesty here... but I really don't know what the hell I'm doing. I am not using proper stone carving tools, or proper technique... basically what I do is take a rock and hit it till the parts that don't look like what I want are gone. There are plenty of folks who do truly excellent stone carving... Master Alaric comes to mind... I recommend seeking them out for instruction.

Here is a link to my Picasa album with a bunch of my stone carving:

1 comment:

  1. I do my wood carving in exactly the same way. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.