Portland Limestone Art Nouveau style dancing lady

13 September, 2008 – 10:16 pm

I have found myself falling quite by accident into an Art Nouveau style of carving, with my ladies and their long flowing hair, the idea of carving a feeling, not necessarily a perfectly formed human figure. However I hope I never carve anything disturbing.

From this I have decided to follow this natural train of thought, the romanticism, the natural beauty of nature and the female form. Hopefully this is evident in Dancing in the wind, one of my previous carvings.

I am trying to create lightness, delicacy and movement in a material that is so obviously heavy and un-moveable, and trust me, sometimes I wonder how I move it!!

So anyway, this is my block of Portland limestone. I bought this stone among other pieces from Albion Stone quarry, on Portland in Dorset It is recycled from a dismantled building-I like to think that I am helping by not depleting the resources of this beautiful island!

Portland Limestone is incredibly hard and has been used on many historic buildings, obviously most famous for St Pauls Cathedral in London.

I mainly use my Tungsten tipped chisels on it, as it damages the edge on my Cold steel chisels. However there will be times as the carving progresses that I will need to use my finer cold steel carving chisels.

So I start with my Pitch to remove large amounts of stone quickly and efficiently. Then I start with my Punch, see later photos.

I use the Tungsten tipped Punch , I could use my regular cold steel chisel but I would have to sharpen it regularly, therefore wasting my metal.

The Tungsten tipped Claw to remove more material in a more controlled way.

The quarter inch chisel to create safety margins to carve up to, in order not to accidently remove stone that I want to keep.

 Chisels that have rounded ends tend to be used with a wooden mallet, funnily enough these are called mallet headed chisels, generally pitches, punches and some claw chisels are used with a hammer, and are called hammer headed chisel, they tend to have flat ends.

 These next pictures are the sculpture in progress. I start to develop the idea more and explore the movement of the carving, how does the hair move around the fabric? How does the fabric and the figure interact?. I could see that the legs didn’t work and so proceeded to move things around, I increased the depth around the figure. Started to carve the fabric and hair around the back so that it started to inter-twine, it began to look like it was plaited.

 Developing the back of the carving was as important as working the front, this is something that I have learnt from the previous carving, Dancing in the Wind. Obviously every time I create something new, I learn how to carve more efficiently, but also how to create a coherance in the carving between each feature.

As you can see there is still quite alot of carving to do, as soon as I have some more to show you I will write another post.

So you will have to wait and see!!


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