Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Grand Dad

You should click on this to see the details. Grand Dad Riley was a marble cutter. He carved angels, babies, flowers. In the 1970's when his old employer needed somebody to carve something that was not in the cataloged, something that required actual carving, they called Grand Dad in and he dug out his old chisels, some of which he made himself. This piece was carved out of a 4x4 pine scrap. The model was a tiny frame from a Sunday comic. You see Abner is aware of the snake crawling up his leg. The ivy winds around to the back. You can see some of the nice details like the shoelaces and the hair, but his left hand was also fully detailed as were the eyes. Lil' Abner is less than 6 inches tall. This was carved with an x-acto knife and a #1 blade. He would stop and sharpen the blade, shave a hair off his hand and carve off a few wood cells at a time. I would grab my knives, whack away at my piece of wood, break a few blades and end up with crap. Took me years to learn that in wood carving fast is slow and slow is fast. I take my time and hopefully I will someday be able to carve as well as Grand Dad. He could just as easily have carved this out of white marble but he said it was hard to get good marble these days, the 1970's. He died before completing the sculpture so one shoe and one hand are not finished. He never signed any of his work but certain details, like the form of the leaves and the bit of humor he always brought in might make it possible for me to guess at which monuments are his in the big cemetery in Louisville. I hope to be able to determine the years he worked there and then search for monuments that were put up around that time, then check for those ivy leaves or a snake in the grass. One piece he described to me had a little detail in the back of a full relief spider in its web holding down a bound fly! Now if I spot something like that I'll know it's his. He told me he made the chisels for that out of some little screwdrivers and a nail. Dad has told me about blacksmithing some with his father but he didn't do much but draw the details out for Grand Dad to carve. Daddy didn't have the patience to carve marble. I hope I do someday. You know, it would great to be an old coot sitting out back showing a little boy how to carve very slowly so that even with crappy pine you could make a masterpiece. That would be swell. I have about 35 years left to train. I hope you enjoyed the picture.
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