Male Nude

Female Nude


Female Nude 2.

First Unveiling

Nine Months In Italy With Sculpture and Drawing
By Gordon Punt, MFA

August 15, 1984 / August 30, 1984 - Blacksmith
Organize Nude Drawing Sessions

Two days ago I organized the first open drawing session and held it in my studio. Many artists knew about it but only three showed up: myself, Dionisio, and Carolina. This included the model, since I have not been able to hire one yet, so we each took turns posing in the nude. Other artists like Francois would join us later on. It was fantastic and a bit unusual because Dionisio still had a plaster cast on his right foot from a motor-scooter accident. I was happy with the drawings I did, considering I am out of practice, and we plan to continue our sessions every week for many months to come.

August 30, 1984
Visit to the Blacksmith for Stone Carving Chisels

Today I had an interesting first visit to one of the local blacksmiths who makes the chisels ("subie"), that I need to use for stone carving. The first time I tried to find his workshop I roamed around the hills for an hour on the Vespa but the map I had was not clear, and was made for walking up a one-way street, not for riding a vehicle, since the Vespa was being repaired when the map was originally made for me. Several days later I tried again, yesterday, and took Marty, who is a painter friend of mine from Sonoma County, and who is traveling around Europe for two months. I checked out the map to make sure I was going the right way this time and took off with the two of us on the Vespa. When we got to the top of Via Cariona, where the street to the small town of Torano was suppose to be, and where Nino the blacksmith is, we met up with two "polizia" who were giving surprise spot-checks of vehicles going by. One of them waved us over while the other was checking someone's car. He asked me for registration papers for the Vespa, which there are none, but I told him my friend who owned the bike had them. He then asked us for our papers, which I said were in my studio, so we got out of that as well. But he told us two people on the Vespa was illegal, and I think because we were tourists and barely speaking Italian he did not give us a ticket. To change the subject Marty asked them where Torano was and they pointed back down the way we came, so bewildered and a little shaken up we headed back down Via Cariona into Carrara with Marty walking until we got around a curve so he could jump back on. The police who stopped us were more like state police and not local, the local police do not care if you ride double on a motor scooter.

We went back to my studio, which is also off of Via Cariona and finally found out the right directions to Torano so I could make my way there the next day. In the morning I headed out by myself, leaving Marty to carve on his first sculpture piece, he being a painter. After departing my studio I realized the hard earned map and information I was going to use was in the pants-pocket I had just changed out of, but by now I had enough information in my head so I continued on with out it. In fifteen minutes I was in Torano and I soon found Nino pounding away in his shop. Nino is a healthy slight man in his sixties who works hard pounding hot metal every day. He was busy as I entered the small black room, the stone walls and floor stained with many years of coal and smoke. I told him I wanted some chisels and after some awkward broken conversation I realized he was going to make the fine "subie" I wanted while I waited, after he finished what he was doing. I also brought the chisel I had been using, which Nino made, as an example, and which a friend gave me to use. Along with this I brought two chisels that I bought at a local supply store, of which both tips broke within fifteen minutes of use! When they broke a friend gave me one of Nino's chisels to try and to my amazement it stayed sharp and strong all day. Before all of this I was using two carbide-tip chisels which I was very happy with, but they became too short to work with as I carved deeper into the marble block I was working on, so I needed a longer shaft. I brought these along as well so that Nino could grind down the mushrooming heads where my hammer had been striking.

After fifteen minutes of waiting outside I heard the sound of several metal bars which I know must be the ones for me. Sure enough, as I stepped back into the cave I could see that he was starting on my tools. I loved watching him work and had a good idea what he was doing because I learned to make my own chisels in a similar manner seven years ago. He was an artist with the hot steel, heating, pounding, and dipping in water or oil, like a painter would prepare a brush before using. The bars were first heated over the flame and hot coals to a bright orange on the end where I would eventually be striking with the hammer. They were then pounded so that they tapered in, so that my hammer blows would be concentrated in the middle of the shaft, giving the point more power. After shaping, the end was then submerged in cold water for maybe three seconds to freak out the hot little molecules and cause them to compact into a very hard but brittle composition. If left in this brittle condition the metal would fracture and chip off very quickly, so the process of tempering is required. The example I am giving for preparing the striking end of the chisel is similar to that of preparing the pointed or sharp cutting end as well. For tempering; after the shaped hot steel tip is dipped into water for a few seconds, the heat from the center of the bar is allowed to travel back into the tip. While this is happening, which is immediately, a rainbow of color starts traveling from one inch back and goes toward the tip, starting with a deep purple to blues, green, reds, and finally a straw yellow. When the tip becomes yellow it means that it is still very hard, but the steal in back of it gradually gets softer, which will cushion the blows from the sculptor's hammer, and keep it from breaking off. At that crucial time when the last quarter-inch of the tip is a straw yellow, the end is dipped into cold water again to freeze it, and finally left standing in a quarter-inch of oil, which does the final cooling in a slower manner than the water, giving the tip more resilience. As I mentioned earlier the cutting end is done similarly to the striking end but the cutting end is more crucial and is given more care, which also demands more experience to do successfully.

Since I left the map at home I did not remember Nino's name and neither of us introduced ourselves, which did not matter. While the steel was being heated in the flame, six inches above was a large heavy pot also being heated. I thought this was hot water for the tempering process or something, but he eventually took the pot down, pored the water out, then dumped four large chunks of meat on the black stone floor close to where I was standing. One of them looked like the heart of maybe a cow, and being a vegetarian, at the time, I had to compose myself a little at the sight and smell, but I just stepped aside a few feet and put my mind on the task at hand. I also noticed that Nino was not using metal tongs or gloves as he took the hot rods from the fire and handled them. I asked him about that and he just smiled and showed me his hands, which were black, calloused, and also tempered from use.

Nino kept heating, pounding and shaping the "subie" as we began to talk a little more and I felt comfortable in trying out some of my fresh Italian words. He was pleased to learn that I would be here for nine months, which all of the locals are when I tell them. I then asked him which hammer I should use for his chisels. Until I started working here in Carrara I do not ever remember learning or hearing about the use of different hammers, and I have been carving stone for ten years! Though the weight differs according to the individuals strength and purpose there are two basic types of hammers: the soft metal, or "dolce" meaning sweet, and the hard metal, or "duro" meaning hard or strong. Chisels are also made two ways, which I did not know either. At the end of one type of chisel, where the hammer strikes it, there is a rim around the edge and a cavity in the center. This type is used with the "dolce" (pronounced "dolche"), hammer only, because if it is hit with the "duro" hammer small pieces of the rim can break off like bullets and hit the sculptor, or someone near by. The regular type of chisel with a tapered flat striking end, like the ones Nino was making for me, can be used with either the soft or hard hammer. The reason for having a softer, so to speak, type chisel and hammer is to help alleviate bruising the stone. The stone is actually bruised every time the chisel point is hit into it, and this is no problem until a sculptor decides to polish that area. If the surface is left rough, like the way I am working now, there is no reason to worry and the harder chisel and hammer can be used to take off stone more quickly. But if a surface is to be polished one has to be careful that the blows from the chisel do not fracture the material deeper than the level that is to be polished. If this happens, then after the polishing is finished there will be little dull white dots from a one-sixteenth to one-eighth inch in diameter staring back at you, even though the surface is perfectly smooth and shiny. This is hard to avoid, and now that you know this secret you can look for them the next time you back into a stone sculpture, whether it be your next door neighbor's (who makes all that noise late at night), or something you find in a museum.

Nino said I could use either hammer for the type of chisels I wanted him to make. I had the hard type but also wanted to try the soft "dulce', so I bought one from him, which he made, including the rough carved wooden handle that he forced into the iron head. Within one hour Nino had made the five "subie" I ordered and repaired the other four I brought with me. For all of this, including the hammer, he only charged me about twelve dollars, plus everything is guarantied! I thanked him and putted home with my new toys, which I used immediately with great satisfaction.

............ ..< Previous Journal.......... Journal Beginning>