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.
Learning New Tools
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!
Life at the Carving Studio
I immediately felt at home at the Studio. Leo was a constant source of knowledge and guidance in stone availability. He asked questions about my experience level, about the forms I wanted to create, about my likes/dislikes of color and tonality for my series. He and Steve gave me support while pushing me forward to more challenging stones as well.
Lunch was a highlight of my day for many reasons. As you would expect, by 12noon we were all famished. The food was lovingly prepared by Luigi Corsanini, the gentleman who started the Studio and is also Leo’s father. Lunch is served upstairs in the Studio kitchen. It begins with carvers filing into the benches and chairs around a long table – they are all still lightly coated in dust (no matter how careful you are in dusting off, there’s always a little bit of stone dust left behind to prove you were working all morning). Plates heaping full of pasta are passed down hand to hand until all are served. Wine and water flow freely, but not excessively as we all have to return to our carving again soon. Jokes are made and laughter fills the room. Lunchtime has an old-world family feel to it. After the pasta is finished, a selection of salami and cheeses are brought out. (I am still trying to find any here in NYC that rivals the taste!) Espresso is made and often chocolates are passed around the table. A heart-felt “Grazie” to Luigi and we’re all back out into the sunshine to continue our carving.