“ I gotta tell you, Clint. I’ve been carving stone for at least 20 years- trying to learn on my own, from books, some workshops, really any way I could. After all that, I’ve learned more here from you in 15 or 20 minutes than I’ve learned everywhere else in the past 15 or 20 years. This is simply amazing.” Phillip N., Sculptor
Within a changing commercial market, it is increasingly difficult to secure a traditional apprenticeship in a trade such as sculpture or stone carving. The modern student’s intent is too often to learn in order to teach, write or go viral versus employing the actual work for a livelihood. If the sculptor wanted to do that, it would have already been done. The fine line between selling out for simple income versus legacy & heritage preservation can make seasoned veterans selective when investing in their heirs. Training the next generation properly honors the Masters who endowed their knowledge upon the former novice. So it must be done.
A quick search of “stone carving tools” for sale or sculpture “how-to” videos on the internet is sobering. Improper tools, nearly new tools already retired, incorrect and simply ridiculous methods abound. Indeterminate abstract work cannot be qualified as success or failure. Romantic visions of carving Carrara marble al fresco in Pietrasanta, Italy lead a quest for mystical innate ability that is easily discovered or internalized by simple association. What is learned is that fluency takes more than a brief effort, no matter how many times one invokes or mispronounces the name Michelangelo.
Apprenticeship is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the modern world. Usually it is now simply another title for a new employee being trained before achieving basic competence. The idea of a person being legally contracted or indentured as an Apprentice for years by self or parent to a Master in exchange for room, board and vocational instruction is now as romantic as it is politically incorrect.
One part of the traditional apprenticeship relationship is conveniently overlooked. To offset investment and initial losses, the Master was compensated by or on behalf of the Apprentice. As fluency developed, the Apprentice might earn a Journeyman’s wage. Or the Apprentice may remain under obligation until they developed the ability to warrant a Journeyman’s wage to retain their presence. For some reason, many seeking to be Apprentices in the 21st Century think they are an asset when in reality they are a liability. That is not a criticism. It is an all-encompassing fact that must be managed.
Contacts come from around the world. People want to be an Apprentice, which they define as guaranteed employment, salary, lodging and often more, while still a total stranger. That’s not how it works. In this industry, it is anticipated to require a decade for an average newly-hired inexperienced carver to become an income-producing employee. To become a competent sculptor takes even longer. Exceptions to this schedule are rare. The stone makes no judgment between artist, carver, sculptor, hobbyist or professional. Newcomers must provide a means to afford to do the work, just like everyone else who does the work. Now, nearly 20 years since my apprenticeship began, the majority of all in this trade in the USA are self-employed, whether in their own studio or as a contract employee elsewhere. It is cost-prohibitive to do it any other way.
“ My apprenticeship was unique. There were rejections from several Master Sculptors. Then I secured a personal invitation from the man who is now my Master Sculptor. From there, it was up to me. Just like a stone has to be cut without recourse to reveal the lesson, I had to act decisively without more encouragement of any kind. ♦ The day I started, he showed me how to hold a hand machine and chisel, pointed at a picture, then to the stone in front of me and said, “OK, start carving.” That was the most significant of the direct instruction I received from him. A few days later, the Master working beside me- another employee in the studio- was realized to be my cousin. He immediately took me on as his legacy to apprentice. Soon the union required my full hire and enrollment, making me an Apprentice in their formal structure and terminology. Based upon a previous layoff, I was eligible for federal WIA program Displaced Worker retraining sponsorship covering half of my salary during training. Together these circumstances made my employment and apprenticeship possible. During my tenure, other Masters also contributed significantly to my growth. ♦ I am fortunate to have apprenticed without limit as my Master cousin’s legacy while being paid by my Master Sculptor as a Granite Cutters Association Apprentice. Many men taught me to be like them.” AC Button II, Sculptor
Proper apprenticeship remains the cornerstone of professionalism and career achievement. As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 Learning in a correctly equipped professional working studio with immediate access to proper tools and methods is vastly different than a typical art-oriented workshop or insular academic setting, where money is earned selling theory and tools, not finished sculpture. Do you want to learn to be a teacher or to be a sculptor?
Select Individuals seek to learn in a more traditional manner at Carolina Sculpture Studio. Instruction is adapted accordingly. Dedicated one-on-one apprenticeship is one option; less formal group sessions are another. Before you buy tools or build your studio, come work in a real one.
Instructional opportunities are available for all ages, including-
Modeling methods applicable to a wide variety of media including stone, bronze and more
- Traditional design and composition development in 2D and 3D
- Maquette production in plastic media such as plastilina, wax or earth clays
- Plaster casting and model production utilizing waste or reusable molds
Sculpture and Carving techniques
- Professional Carving techniques, including Hand-driven work and power tools
- Sketching and Practice techniques in analogous media
- Direct Carving without models, ranging from abstract to realistic compositions
- Indirect Carving to accurately reproduce models in any scale, including
- Employing the Pointing Machine or la Machinetta di Punta for 1:1 scale projects or
- The Proper use of Compasses or Calipers for differential scale projects utilizing either Right Angle or Isosceles Triangle methods to enlarge, reduce or reverse a model
Operational and Legacy Topics
- Historical trends, awareness and relevance
- Preservation, repair and restoration techniques
- Studio development, including physical plant and virtual considerations
- Tool production and maintenance, including fire steel, carbide and diamond tools
Specific Project assistance and resolution
- Personal art project, commission or restoration- functional or aesthetic
- Production of memorial or monument, to be completed by Sculptor AC Button after initial work by apprentice.
Whenever possible, desired instruction is integrated into relevant daily studio operations. This allows an individual to work side-by-side with a qualified, experienced professional in real time in a working studio, not in an unrealistic environment offered by “intensive” calendar events, rambling esoteric gatherings or academic venues with instructors who earn their living as teachers. Just like every commission, all aspects of instruction vary as they are tailored to each apprentice’s desired results, demonstrated ability & progress, budget and duration in studio.
Every apprenticeship begins with a conversation. Then come to the studio. That’s what I had to do when I started. It changed my life.