I was privileged to be chosen to take part in the fifth and last Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium this year, in Prospect Harbor, Maine, along with six other sculptors from around the world. Here’s my third and last report:
September 21, 2014
The Schoodic Symposium ended, successfully all around, last Sunday, the 14th. I spent a couple days with my good friend Barbara Haring in Orland just 8 or 10 miles north of Castine, where Home and Away is now installed on its site next to the Wilson Museum. Barbara graciously showed me more of Downeast, including Acadia National Park and Cadillac Mountain (splendid views all round of mountains, islands, granite headlands, small harbor towns, boats, and the sea) Haystack School of Crafts (where we got a short tour from the director). On Tuesday, Barbara took me up to Bangor, to UPS (to ship home my tools and misc.) and then to the airport. I flew to Asheville, North Carolina to visit Doug and Kathie Sigler at Penland, and to check out the latest house I designed and Doug is building – we call it The Caboose, because it’s near an earlier, larger one we called Coal Train House. (Heading to the Blue Ridge Mountains? Stay at Coal Train! It’s pretty special, if I do say so myself. www.coaltrainhouse.com). The Caboose looks great – open and airy, with Doug’s characteristic excellence in construction, craft, and detail.
Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts:
“The Caboose,” Penland, NC
What follows is a brief report on the last weeks of the Symposium. I last wrote just before Labor Day, and by then I had roughed out the forms of the three granite elements comprising Home and Away. I used a 14” Husqvarna saw with a water feed and a specially mounted diamond blade that can cut flush across the broad surfaces of the houses forms, and 7” grinders, as well, with similar water feeds and flush mounted blades. I outlined the meanders with a smaller grinder and roughed out the hollows by making parallel cuts into the stone with diamond blades and then breaking away the granite with a hammer and chisel. That process is sometimes referred to as fret cutting.
Fret cutting and bush hammering:
Jesse Salisbury worked with each of us to size the footings for our pieces and he began having them pre-cast toward the end of August. At the work site we used a crane to position the three granite elements as I wanted them in relation to one another. The tall form was the most challenging. Jesse, his dad Jim (who did most all of the crane work), and Mark Herrington (Jesse’s on-site double) helped me strap it up, lift it, and swing it into position. As the 4-ton stone dangled from the crane, we pushed it around to set its final location and angle relative to the other two elements. We took meticulous measurements and I made full-sized templates of each piece beforehand to use in positioning the footing blocks next to the Wilson Museum. Mark Herrington and I traveled to Castine on the 29th and used the templates to locate where the blocks needed to go so the excavator could dig a hole for them. We delivered them on September 4, and worked with the excavator to position and level them.
Positioning the pieces at the Symposium site, and the footings at the Wilson Museum site in Castine:
Back at the work site, I worked on refining forms and surfaces. I ground down the faces of the houses and the tops of the meanders using an angle grinder and coarse, medium, and fine diamond cup wheels, (again with water) and then polished with diamond pads and water, the houses to a 500 grit surface, and the meanders up to 1500 grit. At 1500 they have a pretty bright shine, and a nice feel. Much of the stones’ faces was left natural, as it came from the quarry. I bush-hammered the hollows below the meanders with a pneumatic hammer and a nine-point chisel to create textured, gently undulating surfaces. The intermediate surfaces around the house forms were “pointed” by hand, with a pointed carbide chisel and a hammer to create a more broken, rocky surface. Bush hammering took about three days of solid work. Polishing took more like five days. And then there were lots of corrections to make surfaces and curves look and feel right. Touch is very important in the piece, especially the meanders, which I want people to follow with their hands.
Cleaning up the tall stone was a challenge. It had red and black quarry numbers spray-painted on the curved surface that would face the Museum. We tried a number of strippers and solvents, ending with a tile cleaner containing phosphoric acid. That got most of it, and Mark lightly sandblasted it to clean up and even out the ghosting. My china marker centerlines on the stones also required stripper to remove. Finally I power-washed the stones. The three elements of Home and Away were essentially finished by Monday of the last week (September 8th). The last task was to cut in a shallow flat surface and epoxy the bronze plaque – Jesse had asked U.S. Bells, the small foundry next door, to cast one for each sculpture, identifying the title, artist, date, and the symposium. This time around, at least, all of us were finished and our works were set up, ready for the Closing Ceremony on September 10th.
Several hundred people attended the final ceremony. Jesse and the organizers spoke, supporters and volunteers were recognized, each artist said a few words, and we each got flowers and a handsome small bronze bell from U.S. Bells. Directly after the ceremony, cranes and trucks pulled in and my piece and two others were loaded up for installation the next day. Bright and early on Thursday, the 11th, we headed to Castine, where the three parts of Home and Away were carefully lifted off the truck, centered over the stainless steel pins, turned and positioned as necessary and lowered into place, with a small crowd of locals watching. An hour or so later, the kids from Castine School showed up in front of the Museum. I explained how I made the piece, and asked them how many had left a home behind and moved away somewhere else – lots of them raised their hands! Then they rushed off and mobbed the piece, crawling all over it and having a great time. It’s definitely interactive! All the reports are that Home and Away is a success with everybody in Castine. It was very gratifying to see it in place, the forms pointing out to open water to the west. There was a small potluck at the Museum on Monday night (the 15th) for people closely involved, and there’s a plan for a dedication on July 31st next year, which everyone is hoping I can attend. It’s on my calendar!
We all worked really hard, and had lots of fun and socializing on and off the field – I did make it to the Claudia Schmitt/Sally Rogers concert (great fun!), there was a donor luncheon and a dinner to recognize all the volunteers, and Jesse, Mark, and Jim and Donna (Jesse’s parents) introduced us to lots of Downeast culture, including fishing for squid and mackerel at night, clam digging, and a Lobster Boil – a beautiful evening at “camp” on a nearby lake. (I ate two lobsters that night!).
It’s been an exceptional summer, with great experiences and great people! I am indeed grateful. I got back to Olympia late last night, with lots to do, lots to share, and lots to think about, and intent on keeping my Schoodic spirit alive! And there’s lots of Cascade granite here to use it on!
Best regards to all of you!