Sunday, November 2, 2008

Temple Benches

This week, I began the commission for 3 sculptural benches to be carved from Indiana Limestone and installed at The Temple in Louisville, Kentucky. The idea for the project began with Dr. Richard Wolf and his wife 'Bert', who had commissioned similar benches. I wanted to create something special, since they're going to such a prominent site. After an initial visit with the Wolfs and Sally Younger of The Temple at the potential site, I created the 3 designs ( shown to the right of this column). A second site visit, which included Rabbi Rapport, helped bring the final details into focus. The Rabbi suggested that the carving of the benches could resemble the four elements: Earth, Wind, Air and Fire. This was just what I needed to hear, as that concept had crossed my mind during the design phase, as well.

The picture above shows the rough blocks from which I will make the bases. The bases are to be carved with layers that resemble the strata of the Earth. The tops will be carved with features that will make reference to Water, Air and Fire. There's hidden symbolism with the use of Earth, as the base for the entire grouping.

I used a hammer drill to make shallow 1 inch holes where I want to split the blocks into the sizes that I need.

Each hole gets 2 "feathers" and a wedge. I beat on the wedges with the hammer, which causes the feathers to put pressure on the stone.

As the pressure increases, the ringing of the wedges increases in pitch until finally, the stone splits. This technique is ancient (The old tricks are the best tricks).

This picture shows the 3 rectangular preforms that I'll need for the bases. The 3rd preform is on the back of the truck. The scrap pieces from the ends will become small sculptures someday.

The picture above shows one of the preform blocks before work has begun. There is a line where I will cut the top flat.

The strata lines were drawn onto the stone and then cut with the saw (shown). I will use a hammer and chisel to break off the excess material. This will give me the natural texture that I want. I've used a geometric progression for the width between the lines, to create visual movement. Two are like this pattern and the other is opposite, for diversity.

My back told me that carving the preforms on the ground was a bad idea. I cribbed up some big timbers to make a higher work station. You can see the finished texture and the amount of material that was chiseled from the original block.

This is the finished base for the Fire bench.

This is the finished base for the Water bench.

This is the finished base for the Air Bench. Tomorrow, I begin the sculpting of the tops.

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