I have begun my two month residency at the Kitty Harri Sculpture Garden on a shoulder of the mountain above Otivar, Spain in the Andalusia region and just inland from Almuñecar on the Costa del Sol. This magical space was founded at the turn of the millennium by Kitty Harri, a multi-talented artist and she invites artists from around the world to serve a residency. I am honoured to be the artist in residence for December and January.
My term began in an interesting fashion, but one which I am quite familiar – that of being presented with a problem and my having to figure a solution with limited resources.
The workshop area was not fitted out for heavy stone carving, but Kitty and her partner, Nick Tasker want to expand their residency repertoire and so have constructed a carving studio for the purpose. Among Kitty’s talents is stone carving, though the dust issue has been a problem in the past. When we agreed that I would come to work for two months, Nick consulted with me on design in order that he construct a three sided, steel roofed studio with lights that would contain carving dust for me and for Kitty in the future. They dubbed it the “Binkley Bay” (above).
After two weeks of heavy work on my part, we have pronounced the design a success. Dust is contained as planned by Nick.
In preparation for my arrival, Kitty and Nick traveled to Macael, Spain to visit the marble quarries and chose two blocks of stone – one yellow, the other white. Each were a handsome 3 tons and were delivered to their workshop. After Kitty, Nick and I consulted in the Garden over a location for my first sculpture, we decided my first piece would be a standing female torso, executed in the yellow Macael marble.
As my proposal would only require half of the yellow block, it was necessary to split it down the middle. I had not anticipated this task, so have not brought my shims and wedges with me from Canada, and the Garden does not have a large saw – so what to do?
Thankfully, Nick welds and has a stock of cold roll steel. He has the equivalent of 5/8” round stock, angle grinders with aluminum oxide blades and a carbide tipped hammer drill. So he and I set about making our own shims and wedges. I drew a sketch of what the tools looked like, Nick cut the round steel and I refined the pieces with my grinder. We decided on 12 sets, 8 of which we set in drill holes on the upper side of the yellow block. I wanted to place the other four on the opposing side of the intended split, but that necessitated us righting the block to do so. So with no overhead lifting capacity and no forklift to help, we used Nick’s bottle jack and slowly righted the stone from below.
Once righted, we completed the last drill holes and worked methodically to see if our homemade splitting tools would work. Finally, after two days of work, the marble block split. Due to the irregular grain of the yellow marble, the break was not straight, but enough to realize the piece for my torso.
So my first week in residency was one of invention and problem solving, but with a successful result. I then set about within my comfort zone to carve marble and above is a daily progression of the first four days of work.