A Sculptor’s Drugs

The loud chugging noise of the compressor is sometimes a welcome drug.  You can’t hear a thing while it is running.  The world “on the other side” of it is hissed away.  You can go into your own world and there are no interruptions, except from time to time a tap on the shoulder from a helper or friend telling you it’s time for a break.

Another drug is the work itself—the hammering.  There is nothing like swinging a hammer.  Just as while running, once you relax, you feel you could go on forever, hammering leads you on with its rhythm.  Hammering is really drumming; but there is also something wonderful about the way hard rock cedes to your chisel.  You pick up that hammer and make the first libation strokes to call down Rhythm.  Soon She has come from nowhere and makes a happy machine of you.

This work-stupor produces apparitions.  Deaf with the compressor engine, blind to everything around you except your work, you might suddenly realize that before your eyes was someone you don’t know.   Depending on the strength of your stupor you may or may not find them worth the trouble to look at.  Sometimes you bring them into mental focus and come to understand that you  are seeing a woman with a hat at the gate talking to your helper; or find yourself wondering what that man in the suit—a customer?—is after.  No; it’s the guy with the crane (and his bill) out of his uniform.

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4 Responses to A Sculptor’s Drugs

  1. wpm1955 says:

    Wow! This is very interesting. Kind of the same feeling when one gets into the “drawing mode.” Very right-brain.

    Madame Monet

  2. 100swallows says:

    As soon as I see one side of my brain dogging it I change hammer hands. The female side reminds the other that a woman’s work is never done. (Actually, I never bothered to get clear which side does what.)

  3. wpm1955 says:

    I forgot to ask–using a hammer like this all day long, how do you protect both your HEARING, and your wrists (from developing carpal tunnel syndrome)? Is carpal tunnel syndrome a common occupational hazard among sculptors?

    Madame Monet

  4. 100swallows says:

    Madame Monet:
    None of the sculptors I know have that hand syndrome and none of the old stone-cutters had it either. What the stone cutters got was silicosis—the same disease as coal miners get. It was their occupational disease. Sculptors usually don’t spend so much time carving as you’d think; so they aren’t exposed to the dust for so long. But the stone cutters breathe it all day, year in, year out. One of them already had Stage I at 38 or so. All the oldest ones but one had diagnosed silicosis. Why didn’t they wear a mask? Because, on the one hand, they all had the old machista fear of being considered a sissy; and on the other, they preferred the risk to the discomfort of a mask. On a hot day almost no one can stand having that mask on for very long. No one obliged them to protect themselves.

    Things have changed here in the last few years. Now everyone wears ear protection (like ear-phones or the old ear muffs) and a mask (as long as they can stand it). Bosses also insist on frequent breaks. There are air-cleaners in some of the workshops. In the past, workshops were as out-of-doors as they could be: they were more like campsites with the wind blowing the dust away. Of course you suffered from exposure to the sun and rain, too. Stone cutting is still very hard work. Sculpture is not really so hard or dangerous and is great fun.

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