Home > Art, Sculpture & Photography, Personal, Things I Like... > How the Griffin Became: My first attempt at stone carving.

How the Griffin Became: My first attempt at stone carving.

Well he’s finished…..

After 8 very enjoyable weeks full of interesting new people, lots and lots of dust, and taking the tube home looking like I’d fallen into a bag of plaster, I’ve finished my very first stone carving… with 2 weeks left to spare.

If you read my previous post on the stone carving evening classes that I’d signed up for, you may recognise how I resolved the dilemma of what to do..

After talking things through with the course’s very knowledgeable and most excellent tutor Marcia Bennet Male, I decided to take Magda Franck’s beautiful bird sculpture as an inspiration, and being uncertain of my own ability and how long it might take, I ended up not straying very far from her original. Having now completed the piece and realising how much I enjoyed it, if/ when I sign up for another session, I will definitely aim to make something original of my own, and maybe something with curves. I must say however that I’m very happy with my Griffin (and rather proud of my newly found skills if that’s not too much to admit to)

So this is the story of how the Griffin became… (and my apologies to Ted Hughes for paraphrasing his words)

Week 1 was spent messing about on off-cuts, talking to Marcia about what I wanted to get out of the course, practising how to use the various chisels and tools and getting a feel for the different sorts of limestone available. At the end of the evening, I chose this almost A3 sized piece of Bath stone, a fairly soft kind of limestone, and set it aside ready to begin week in earnest the following week (note the proprietary name so no one else would take it)

Week 2 (all 2.5 hours of it) was spent making the rectangular block tapered. This was the one aspect that I would redo if given the chance. The original block was about 100mm thick all round and by carving off one face, I reduced it so that it sloped from 100mm down to about 75mm. My original plan was to so the same on the other side, increasing the tapered effect, but after deciding against this (mostly because of time) I ended up with a block that doesn’t taper enough really (as you can see from the photo, a lot of effort for not much result)

Week 3 was where it started to get more interesting, as I marked out the shape of the griffin onto both sides of the stone and then used the stone saw to cut off the unwanted edges. This really helped me to focus on the shape that I wanted to get out of the block and also had the advantage of creating visible results very quickly.

Weeks 4, 5,6 and 7 were spent incising the shapes and chipping away at the stone with various types and thicknesses of chisels to bring the shapes and contours out from the body of the block. A very satisfying pastime indeed. Surprisingly I lost very few edges as I was working, and the only real damage that occurred was when I was a bit lax moving the block around into different working positions, and I dropped him onto a chisel I hadn’t moved out of the way… Bath stone is quite a forgiving stone being soft, and I suspect this had much to do with my success.

Week 8 was spent tidying up the various surfaces and edges of the shape and smoothing down some of the rougher bits of his body. All in all a most excellent use of 8 weeks.. The only thing is now that I have 2 weeks left to create something else, which is certainly not long enough for something as big as Mr. Griffin, so I have to go through the chosing/ finding inspiration process all over again…

Marcia very kindly said that she liked my work and took a photo of it for her Facebook page (screen grab below, as its very likely to have moved off the front page by the time you read this…)

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  1. Meech
    March 9, 2012 at 21:35

    Cool Joe well done on your first attempt! – Marcia’s not married to my cousin by any chance is she? … Andrew?

  2. Meech
    March 9, 2012 at 21:39

    ….plus it looks really tricky getting into all those small gaps successfully!

    • March 9, 2012 at 21:46

      It can be tricky, but you just have to do it more slowly and carefully, you should try it, it’s really enjoyable..

      I might try your ceramics next.. I’m getting a a taste for what Waitey called “mid life craft based hobbies”….

  3. Andrew
    March 16, 2012 at 06:47

    Don’t know how i stumbled across this page but regardless, that IS a great first attempt, by the sheer fact that it in no way resembles a first attempt. although i kinda like the fifth photo as there’s a nice contrast between the ruts and the scored lines.

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