I know there are some folks on WG that like or appreciate obscure aspects of our world. Maybe this will be interesting to them.
As a full time granite sculptor for now over twenty years, the realities of living the dream is that sometimes itís less dreamy than other times.. Last year was going well. Just after I finished multiple stones and got my CX100 by May, I sold a large life-sized angel memorial project that had been in discussion for nearly two years. When I placed order for stone in early June, i expected a long wait to receive it based on industry conditions. 3 months is normally a long time the get stone, so figured maybe 6 months as the industry was really backlogged by a historic combination of reasons. It would great to have work for the winter. Nope. I was told, ďIt will be a minimum of 12 monthsĒ until the stone is available.. everybody else is screwed now too because no one can get stone. itís made a long and modest season here at my studio & shops. And maybe it will be here this summerÖ
During this time, there have been even more serious talks about the actual permanent loss of the craft. The sculptor colony in Barre, VT is drying up. The half dozen remaining elder Masters are dying, medically compromised, fully retired or simply too old to have enough time left to apprentice anyone. When training someone as a carver in the industry, itís considered to require an average of 10 yrs of full time work to become break-even employee. Itís longer to actually become a sculptor while can originate, produce and finish projects. There are exceptions, but not many. There are 3-4 ďyoungĒ people carving in VT who are ďonlyĒ in their 50ís like me. Some are more fluent or motivated than others. Then thereís me, 1000 miles away here in SC working via the granite industry center of Elberton, GA. There are no other professionally-trained, industry-level sculptors left working in the USA.
Iíve been asked numerous times about moving back to VT to help train people but itís not a viable option, especially to do it as an independent contractor. There are people within the granite memorial industry who want to learn. They are trying to learn on their own and there are some ďexpertsĒ muddying the waters to make a buck without actually teaching anyone how to carve or sculpt stone. Some granite people have been here for instruction but itís generally too expensive for anyone to be here for long. Thereís no way to do this work cheaply. The biggest benefit of being somewhat isolated is that Iíve been able to preserve and protect the craft in a unique way. Without the typical slow & unnoticed changes caused as technology creeps in, Iím still doing it the way I was taught to do it.
So, to both archive what I was taught & have learned and to help perpetuate the craft, I started a new Virtual Stone Carving Apprenticeship video series on YouTube. Iíve done a lot of videos during this slow time. Iím hoping the VSCA series will reach the more serious audience during the next decade of time I would like to think I still have to carve.
A major goal is to present an accurate representation of professionally approaching & working in a traditional craft. When a Master retires from full time work, the next generation becomes responsible for perpetuating the craft. Weíll see how it goes.