A year after receiving a B.A. from State University of New York at Oswego
in 1974, I was encouraged by my father to go to his hometown, Proctor,
Vermont, to learn the art of marble carving, to which he felt I was well
suited. As Proctor no longer held opportunities for employment as a marble
sculptor or apprentice, I sought work in Barre as a granite carver. I met
with the monument designer Al Comi, who sent me to Barre Granite
Association., where I learned of the sculptor Frank C Gaylord, who often
worked with assistants. After seeing my portfolio, which consisted of
drawings, lithographs, etchings, silkscreen prints, woodcuts and a few
paintings, Gaylord hired me for a probationary period at $15 a day, and I
began the most difficult work I had ever attempted.
Working on Gaylord’s orders for profiles of Jesus and Mary, I learned to carve the niches, rough out the shapes of the heads, polish the details and finish the surfaces, chiseling away the surfaces inadvertently polished on the cheeks and niches. During my apprenticeship, I learned to rough out the sculpture before having the master define the form, and to finish the sculpture without taking the "life" out of the carving. Gradually I learned to carry the roughing-out process further, and also to assume more of the definition towards the finishing, until I could carve acceptable form and go on to finish without correction.
At the end of my apprenticeship with Gaylord, I had learned how to control vibrating, bouncing, potentially destructive tools allowing me cut precisely any possible detail, and to sharpen and maintain these tools. I had gained an understanding of the nature of the granite and its potential, to model in clay, and to mold and cast these forms in plaster. I had also learned to saw, drill, split, polish, and carve.
there are many fine craftsmen among Barre’s stonecutters, some of whom
have skills many carvers lack, by far the greatest challenge the
sculptor faces is "form" - the matter which separates sculptors
from stone cutters, sophistication from naiveté, greatness from
mediocrity. In order to achieve "form", a good working knowledge
of the heads, faces, hands, body, and cloth is necessary in order to make
all the parts fit together naturally. At some point one hopes to develop
the ability to create beauty and expression in faces, an appearance of
awareness - of life. Another point in "form" is the expression
of assurance in the carving, so that what the sculptor knows is boldly
stated and strongly accented. There is what the Italian sculptors called
"cecco", or freshness - knowing what strokes are sufficient and
making them forcefully, cleanly, and then letting them be. In all these
matters of "form", there is no ultimate achievement in sight.
This is the matter of Artistry. There is no final definition of
"form"; there is, however, recognition when it is encountered.
Mailing address: Eric
Oberg, 1777 W County Rd, Calais, Vt. 05648