The first time I went to the Bellingham Group Studio by myself was a rainy day. I unloaded tools and safety gear and my “rat suit” (coveralls with JOHN emblazoned over my heart). I pulled back the oversized sliding door and walked into the big room, my footsteps echoing in the gritty silence. I went around and into the dust room. I lifted the garage door. Here I would work. The Big One sat waiting on the worked up stack of dunnage that Scott had helped me build and then used his chainfall to position the stone. I flipped the breakers and lights came on. I stood around for a while, listening to and feeling the space around me. Then I plugged in tools, arrayed chisels and hammer, laid out red crayon, took a deep breath and walked around my stone.
I worked tentatively, focusing on the parts of the image that I had glimmers of in my mind’s eye. It is always a trick when you work directly to have the patience to not dive into the first image that comes to mind. So I circled my stone, working areas and leaving as much alone as I could. Three hours later I was covered with dust, not much further than I had been when I started, but happy. The studio felt fine. It felt very good as a matter of fact. The hanging dust covered cobwebs, the chip-strewn floors, the tools, dusty gear and the Sally Army chairs that were welcoming and familiar within a very few work sessions. As the days wore on, I began to ride my bike to the studio, enjoying the freedom from gas powered vehicles.
I worked away for a few weeks and came to the conclusion that I needed a breakthrough. Things were not working. Proportions weren’t right. I settled the problem in my head and let it perk. Part of this process is about being able to see the problem. That requires time spent working patiently until vision can take in what I am doing. I work through the time lag between “problem stated” and “solution”. And yesterday, yesterday it happened. That miraculous feeling when you know the solution. You see the way out so clearly that it is difficult to remember how you saw it before.
Within 20 minutes of madly chiseling and waving my grinder, dust flying everywhere, the solution was visually apparent in the stone. Hallelujah! Now, at last, I know the piece will eventually come together. Up until now, I have been worried. Such a big beautiful stone. And me, with no drawings or model. What if it turned out amateurish and bad? What if it never came together and I ended up with 500 lbs. of marble dust? What was I thinking about, taking this stone? I should have stayed with table-top sized pieces. I should have done something figurative. I should have developed my idea fully, done drawings and models before I ever touched it. On and on.
What a way to spend your time! That is the diatribe I had to quell. I was glad to be alone through that initial process. My internal conversation had to counter all this negativity. I had to remember Michael Jacobsen saying “Don’t question your muse.” And Sabah telling me that he saw the spirit of my work as being true to my own creative impulse. So I worked on. Then, this breakthrough. How happy I am. And what a great place to be working right now. It can rain and the wind can blow but neither touches me as I work away. No distractions, no phones. Just me and my stone. How glorious to be at the stage of, “If this happens here, then this must happen there.” The pieces will fall into place and I must now trust that my skills are up to the image my inner vision reveals.
Such an adventure.