Sunday, October 26, 2008

Wolf Creek

Meg and I went down to Wolf Creek this afternoon, mainly to get out of the house on a beautiful autumn day. But, business first!

I resumed work on the Alabama Marble 'Falling Star'. I picked up where I left off by cutting the outline along the other edge of the preform.

Then, I began the process of carving the forms from the slab.

I did quite a bit more work on the front side before I flipped the piece over. I wanted to begin the other side before too much progress was made on the front. I wanted to make sure that everything would come together, front and back, as it should.

I've started to 'block in' the main movements.

This is how the back side looked at the end of the week.

Marble is MUCH harder than limestone. This piece has already trashed 2 diamond blades and broken the mounting screws on 2 other blades. You can see a hairline crack in both blades from the 11 o'clock position of the rim, leading to the hub. If I use them any more, they will fly apart. Simply put, it's expensive to work this stone, both in labor and tooling.

This is a view from the side of Lapland Road. Lapland is the last holdout for Timber Rattlesnakes in Meade County. And speaking of snakes, I missed my shot when Meg moved a HUGE rat snake off the road. It was at least 5 foot long!

When we stopped on a bridge over Wolf Creek, we saw this beaver dam, which had raised the water level behind it by at least 3 to 4 inches.

Beside the most remote stretch of road in Meade County, is the head of Wolf Creek. It's a cave spring of unfathomable depth that comes up under this ledge.

It's too much fun to jump off the ledge into the pool. The water is so cold, it will take your breath away. Over the years, I've taken many friends to this remote spot.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Kentucky River Marble leaf

Tomorrow, I will return to carving a sculpture in Alabama Marble. In the meantime, I was able to sneak some time into creating a leaf from a piece of Kentucky River Marble.
This stone has a strange pattern to it. It's been nicknamed "copperhead rock" and also "hieroglyphic". It's a dolomitic limestone that is geologically called the Oregon shelf. It comes from the palisades of the Kentucky River - thence its most common name "Kentucky River Marble".
The functional sculpture is 19"long by 7" high by 8" wide and weighs around 30 lbs. I have made several small sculptures in this type of stone over the years, but this is getting close to the end of my supply. I don't foresee being able to get any more, as the mine is flooded.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

carving alabama marble

There have been a swarm of installations lately, and that has kept me out of the studio. Meg and I returned from her LSU installation with about 5 ton of Alabama Marble - and we're both eager to see how it works. I spent the first half of the week doing design work. The idea that I liked best is called "Falling Star", which was inspired by the Sylacauga Meteorite.

I printed off a scale version of the design, gridded it off and transferred the design onto the stone slab.
I inscribed the design with a diamond blade, because the wax crayon will rub off as you work it. I used a railroad jack to raise each end to place boards under the design and to catch the separate pieces as I cut into the block.
I used my hydraulic diamond chainsaw to cut off the big pieces of scrap. These pieces will become other sculptures.
So...what's it like? Hard. It's taking about twice as long to cut as Indiana Limestone.
I used a pry bar to separate the cut pieces, so that I could move the preform with the crane truck.
Marble is a little bit heavier than limestone, so all the fun of moving heavy objects is still the same.
I used the 10" diamond wheel to cut the outline of the design. By this point, I'm beginning to see that the difference with carving marble is that you have to both 'tighten up' and relax. 'Tighten up' because the erratic crystalline nature of the stone is unforgiving - and relax, because you're going to be there a while. Diamond cuts the stone well, but MUCH slower than limestone.
The high point of the week was going to Tom Burkhart's birthday party out on his farm on Saturday night. Tom slow-cooked a bunch of chicken wings and a huge pork roast in his smoker - lots of great food! After dinner, Venus made her appearance above the horizon, followed by Mars. Far overhead, Saturn chased Jupiter across the sky.
Tom started a fire in a big hollow log that he'd stood upright.
The fire gets started quick because of the 'chimney effect'. I never would have thought of using a hollow log this way. It's pretty cool, once you've seen how it works.
hot fire...cold beer...( life's tough!) moths to a flame!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Alabama Marble

Our power came back on Wednesday, September 17 after the winds from hurricane Ike had come through the area. We resumed business with the installation of Meg's 8,000 lb. limestone Cougar at a private residence near Lagrange, KY on Thursday, September 18. Then, we made preparations for her installation of a bronze fountain group at LSU. We left home on Monday, September 22 and made the successful installation on Wednesday, September 24. On the way home, we took a side trip to find the quarry for Alabama White Marble.
We found the quarry about 5 miles west of Sylacauga, Alabama. Under a deep layer of red clay is a thick 'vein' of marble that stretches 17 miles from this quarry, under the town of Sylacauga and a little to the other side. This is the only operating quarry in the area that cuts the marble from the ground. There are at least 2 other huge operations that are blasting out the marble for industrial processes. But, for sculpture purposes, this is the only game in town.
Looking to the left of the pit is a group of buildings that house the production equipment for the company. They produce floor tiles, window sills and similar products. You can see 2 cascading piles of slabbed scrap marble pieces on the side of the hill. I think that this material has a lot of potential uses.
They cut out clean, white blocks for sale and for their own production. (The block on the left has a mark that looks like a petroglyph).
One of the most interesting things that we discovered, was the variation in coloring and veining to be found with this marble. The colors run from white to cream to a light orange (shown above). The veins run from light grey to light blue and light green. Our main purpose was to find if this quarry could be a source for supplying big blocks for our public art commissions. I was able to talk to the owner of the quarry, Stefhan Musolino. He informed me that they had the capability to cut custom sized and large blocks. I was happy to hear that they did not have the size restrictions that I had found with Indiana Limestone.
What we needed was a 'sample' (about 5 tons) of the stone, so that we could do a cost analysis on labor - for bidding jobs. We also needed to get a 'taste' of how the stone worked; to find out what kind of detail it could take etc. For this, we were directed to this pile of rough-shaped blocks. Mr. Musolino has vision for his stone to become the industry standard for sculpture-grade material. To this effect, he is establishing an exchange program with Italian sculptors from Pietra Santa, Italy; with the cooperative efforts of the City of Sylacauga.
After selecting our blocks from the rough pile, we had some time before they could load us. So, we took that opportunity to tour their production facility. The marble blocks are brought into an area with t-saws (2 blades at right angles to each other.
The saws cut off long slabs, like this one. This marble is translucent when cut this thin.
The slabs, like the stack in the foreground, have been milled to the right width and thickness. Then they are fed through a series of polishing machines.
When they are making floor tiles, they have this machine that cuts 5 tiles from the slab, at the same time.
The finished product is packed for shipping.
This large warehouse holds the pallets of product until time for shipping. I was told that 8 semi loads had gone out the day before.
They were ready to load us. I went back to the piles to point out which pieces for the excavator to move. They used this machine to get the pieces to a place where the forklift could get hold of them.
The forklift took our pieces from the pile to the truck. The operator, shown here, is the foreman William Crowe. If you're lucky, you'll get a chance to work with him. He's fantastic to work with - competent, and a total trip!
They had me back the truck up to a loading dock with a ramp. The forklift put the blocks right into the truck. It was safe, fast and efficient.
Unloading at the studio was a bit more of a challenge, as we only have the knuckle boom crane.
Leon and Frankie Vessels, who do most of our trucking, had loaned us the use of their pallet jack and had loaned us some pallets and cribbing.
The pallet jack made it possible to pull these big pieces of marble to the back of the truck where we could get hold of them with the crane. We're both very excited about this new material and we're eager to try some of it. Stay tuned.