CSS Newsletter, Volume: 14 No. 9 – November 2006

A friend that I met at my first M/m symposium submitted the following article to the Colorado Stone Sculptors (CSS) November Newsletter. Her name is Laura Lee and it was her first experience with Marble/marble as well. I couldn’t have said it any better, so I have inserted the article below:

MEMBERS’ FORUM – Marble/marble through the words of Laura Lee

The problem with trying to write about MARBLE/marble is that it’s like trying to look into the sun. All I can really do is squint at it, or look askance, then blink and try to make sense of what I see around me. Because after looking at the sun everything looks different.

For the week that I’m there I dream of sculpture. I dream of sculpting. These are not my everyday dreams. These are fevered dreams. I am working on sculpture all night long so that there is no sleep only the feeling and vision of sculpting. The pillow is marble and I’m shaping, shaping, shaping it. These nighttime images stay with me for a full week when I return from the artistic retreat.

Re-entry is difficult. I am homesick for Marble, for tents, for cold nights and warm beds, for marbleslab breakfast on a cliff overlooking the swirling Crystal River and the upside down tree that defies gravity and sense and grows its own mad beautiful way in a place I’ve come to equate with love and laughter and growth and smiles and eyes whose color change and I cannot look away. It is this simple; I fell in love daily.

My first impression of MARBLE/marble is of Josh’s huge brown eyes like Byzantine paintings and arms covered with marble dust. His passion for stone emanated forth from his beingness. He carves giant quarry blocks into bite-sized sculptor bits. I found out later he is Madeline’s son. His wife Gia and their son Anders and daughter Savannah were there as well. Three generations sculpting in the woods of the Crystal River valley. There are people, tents, marble blocks and energy everywhere. It’s like no place I’ve ever been and not what I imagined. I am excited. Overwhelmed. Overjoyed. This is a place where magic happens.

Madeline pilots the program and the bobcat forklift. Her smile flashes light and happiness from the shadows of its cockpit. She is real. Vibrant. Alive and loving. She deftly wields tons of stone to and fro all over the camp. People are bustling around creating open-air studios, seeking out their stones and greeting one another. For many this is a family reunion. For Rebekah MARBLE/marble is family. She is fifteen and all black and kohl, all talk and brains. She is a mile a minute- nonstop. Feisty and funny, I immediately take a shine to her and we are fast friends. She’s been coming her here whole life, practically born here her parents, Rex and Vicki, are instructors and were part of the first MARBLE/marble experience 18 years ago.

Fifteen years ago Bob, my mentor, came to this symposium not much farther along in his sculpting career than I am. He’s been coming back every year. They save his spot by the river and this year there is a spot saved for me there as well. I am honored. Later that day I find out from Mike, a man whose face has launched a thousand Westerns, that Bob is known to many as “The Gentleman Carver.” I laugh when I hear this as it suits him perfectly. Always impeccable in clean Chinos, long sleeved button dow shirts, suspenders and a white straw hat Bob saunters down to his studio by 9:30 every morning. He is quiet and affable and I can’t for the life of me figure out how he stays so clean. The rest of us will be covered, head to toe, in marble dust and yet Bob manages to stay pristine and unruffled. He is a lovely man who produces lovely sculpture.

By the end of the first day sculpting I pen these words in my journal:


People here are so encouraging. The kindness is sweet and touching.


I smile at everyone.

At the end of the second day carving I’m looking for excuses to get away from my so-called sculpture and having serious doubts that the bedding plane is going the correct way. I’m feeling tired mentally and physically and I’m wondering just what the Hell I’ve gotten myself into here. My mind roils with phrases like: I’m an imposter! I don’t know anything about sculpting! I’m not an artist!

It is about this time that Chet comes over to introduce himself. Fantastic good fun, he is a retired orthopedic surgeon from Las Vegas. The sculpture he’s working on is an abstract female figure that I just adore. It’s cubistic in form yet still accessible and inviting. Later in the week a friend points out that Chet’s hair goes left his body leans right and wouldn’t he make a great sculpture? But on day two, I am not yet to the point of seeing everything as a sculpture so when Chet offers to help me see my piece in the hunk of stone before me I am grateful for his guidance. I’m so new to this process I don’t even know what questions to ask. When he leaves I have a much better idea how to block my piece.

As it turns out it is impossible to easily and quickly block one’s piece without the use of serious power tools. For this I turn to one of the instructors. Cathi is gorgeous with healthy, sun-drenched patinaed skin and sparkling eyes. She is powerful with a 9 inch side grinder. Get outta her way! It is wielded like an extension of her arms. She is sleek and confident and immensely talented. She makes some of the first cuts on my piece, smacking them out with a hammer. Her poise with the power-tools must be infectious because by the end of the next day I pick up the 9 inch side grinder without a guard on it and lop away big pieces of marble.

Day four rolls around and I’m tired of everyone’s good intentions. I’m so overwhelmed with advice that I become paralyzed. I find myself wandering over to the cul-de-sac where Ellen’s working on her ‘Twisty Bunny’ piece. Ellen was a Disney animator for 20 years. She quit last fall and moved to Loveland, Colorado to pursue a career in sculpting. This is her third stone sculpture. Her maquette is flawless. She is paralyzed in her own way so we chat for a bit about marble intimidation and the fear of cutting off something important. Next to her is ‘Western Mike’ who seems to have no paralysis happening at all and across from her is
Barry. I’ve found my man. Barry has sharp blue eyes and wit to match. He is brilliantly funny and hands down the best motivational speaker at Marble this year. The blue of his eyes is enhanced by the marble dust on his forehead when he removes his goggles
and dust mask to speak. I hope to always hear his voice when I get to the point of giving up, “Oh yeah! You gotta just go for it. Don’t worry about what it looks like. Just go do your thing. Become the tip of the chisel.” He is in love with the stone and the process
and I catch it.

And it is with those words that I approach my stone. Again. Struggling. I look at it this way and that. Chet comes over again, animated, agitated, and points out the obvious. DING! The light goes on. I can see it. I can see what he’s talking about. Those big huge hunks HAVE to come off in order for the form to emerge. “Do that and you’ll really feel like you’ve done something today, Girl. Yeah. You’re gonna be great! Now just do that! Move that stone!” I didn’t exactly become the tip of the chisel, but I definitely became one with the 9 inch grinder and when the dust had settled, I had a much more recognizable seahorse before

The last few days I worked on my piece, took time to walk around and chat with the people I’ve come to call my Marble family. Our litmus question for how the day was going became, “Are you coming back next year?” By the last day my answer was a firm, “Heck yeah!” And by the end of the last day people came by to say how amazed they were at the work I got done, and on my first try, and wasn’t the belly looking round and they could really see the head and I felt happy. And content.

I went to MARBLE/marble to learn to sculpt and I fell in love. Daily. With the people, the place, the process, and always the stone. That beautiful mesmerizing, glowing, glittering marble from the heart of the Rockies. It is bewitching. The dance of the
stone is divine.

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