STONE project.

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10 Moving As Observation

When a stone is extracted from the earth, it begins a journey during which it is passed from one worker's hands to another's. At each transition the stone changes either shape or position. Each worker in the chain applies skills that complement the work that has come before and prepares the stone for the next step.


A full-slew excavator frees a freshly cut block of marble from the quarry matrix and topples it onto a block of rubble to cushion the fall. Henraux quarry, Pietrasanta, Italy Annual re-enactment of the traditional method of lowering blocks of marble down the mountain from the quarries to accessible wagon-loading bays. La Lizzatura worked in well co-ordinated teams uncoilIng loops of rope from fixed pegs dowelled into the rock matrix. Via a system of wooden sledges and rollers they gradually lowered the large blocks of marble.  Carrara , Italy.


It may be a long journey that begins when a piece of stone is split free from the earth. After a block is created and dislodged it is urgent that it be moved out of the way so the next block can be freed. Quarry maintenance is an important part of stone work. Off-cuts can soon accumulate until they are in the way and dangerous. Off-cuts and rubble can be graded into piles because their size determines their destination. Some quarry rubble stays near to where it was extracted, used to cushion large stone blocks as they fall after being cut free, or to make uneven ground level.

It is not unusual for blocks to be prepared near the quarry to the exact specifications of the client. The sculptor may also rough out a stone in the quarry, beginning work before the stone is moved to the studio. The idea formost of this work is to reduce the weight in preparation for further transport. Moving stone is difficult and no more weight is moved than necessary.

Shifting large blocks of stone requires specialist skills. If the stone needs to be hoisted from below ground, riggers and crane operators will be involved. In Carrara the problem is different. The quarries are actually high in the mountain so the stones have to come down rather than go up. Sliding heavy stones down mountainslopes is treacherous and takes the collective skills of a group of workers called the lizzaratori. Here, as in many stone working jobs, worker cooperation is essential.

From the quarry the stone is passed onto a series of specialized workers. Stones are faced, carved, turned on a lathe, polished, and so forth. After each step the stone is moved again.

In the summer of 2009 STONE project sponsored a large carving event, called Milestone, where many of the techniques of the stone workers could be seen in person. Stones were split, hand and power tools were used, and heavy stones were moved and turned. There was a public demonstration of blacksmith techniques that compared Japanese and European traditions. The audience could watch the workers performing many actions, inventing solutions to problems, and regularly helping each other. Observation amplifies understanding. Cooperation and sharing information is a stone working technique. The audience, by watching, became part of the process.

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