My Work Philosophy

There are two schools of thought on
stone carving: One view holds that it is
best to be absolutely certain of the shape
you are trying to create before you pick
up tools to break any stone. This can be
achieved by putting all your creativity
into modelling a sculpture in clay. When
you have the clay model that you feel
perfectly happy with, you can cast it in
plaster and use very precise measuring
devices to guide you in duplicating it
exactly in stone. When this method is
used, much skill and technique is needed
for carving the stone, but the stone
carving process is reduced to a purely
technical, non-creative task. The opposite
view is that it is preferable to begin to
shape the stone with far less preparation.
This practice is named "direct carving"
because the sculptor goes directly to work
on the stone without first working the
idea out in any other medium. It has
been my quest to become familiar with
both these ways of working and to
discover when one method is preferable
to the other rather than slavishly keeping
loyal to one method and ignoring the
other. There is lots of room in the middle
in which work can be done using a blend
of both extremes.
Portraiture is considered by many to be a sort of ultimate proving ground for
visual artists. I don't know whether or not that's true, but you can view on
this site some of my attempts to capture the physical likeness on the one
hand and on the other, the spirit of the subject. It is a great challenge. A
friend once observed that although "the camera doesn't lie", when one looks
at a stack of snapshots of oneself, there are always some that "look like me"
and others that do not. A photo can only capture a fleeting momentary view.
Often, people put on an expression when they pose for a photo that is very
unlike any that they wear at any other time and the pictures of themselves
that they like best are totally unlike the way other people see them. When an
artist sculpts a portrait, it is optimally done after directly observing the subject
for many hours and is therefore a composite of many fleeting expressions. A
skilled <portraitist can give the final piece an expression that reveals the
subject's essential character. That is what I strive to do.

My training at the Cathedral's apprenticeship program (1989-1991)
profoundly shaped both my life and my work. I discovered a job that I
enjoyed, that I was good at, and that challenged me. The approach to stone
working that I was trained in at the Cathedral naturally emphasized stone as a
building material, not merely as a cladding or veneer but as a substantial,
self-supporting material. The geometry involved in shaping the individual
units (blocks) that can be assembled to form arches, domes, and vaulting was
shown not to be just the concern of a separate class of non-dusty-clothed
workers, but an essential part of the knowledge of a competent stone cutter.
When it came to sculpture, decorative ornamental sculpture for architecture
was naturally shown to have dignity and importance. The language and
characteristics of Gothic ornament were obviously emphasized. Going
through this experience enabled me to understand the relationship between
ornament and architecture from a design point of view.

A friend once summed up the reason for his preference for machine tools
over hand tools by saying, "Why walk when you can drive?". I find this to be a
perfect analogy because if you take it literally, there are many reasons why I
would rather walk than drive. If I am going through a beautiful place, it would
probably be nicer to walk. If I was searching for something, and had to pay
close attention, it would be better to walk. If I was trying to do something
healthy for my body, it would be better to walk. I choose to do the majority of
my stone carving work with hand tools not because I feel I have anything to
prove (although I may have felt that way years ago), but rather for the same
reasons I often choose to walk: it is often a more pleasant way to work, it is
healthier, it is more fun, and in most cases, the work comes out looking
better. However, in many instances I do choose to use power tools because
there are some jobs they can do much better than hand tools. Other times, I
need to work quickly so I use the fastest techniques, often involving power
tools. One thing I hope I will never want to do is to use machines that shape
stone without any human guidance, such as robotic computer-controlled
saws and routers that you can set up and walk away from while they do the
work for you. I'm very thankful for the training I got at the Cathedral where
hand tool skills were considered essential. I appreciate the fact that the values
and techniques I was taught were in total opposition to the dominant trend in
the modern stone industry if not in all areas of the modern world.

Pellettieri Stone Carver

114 Morningside Drive, #52
New York, NY 10027


Website and content
copyright ©  2013 by Chris Pellettieri
Chris Pellettieri, Stone Carver

Specializing in free-hand sculpture, decorative design, portraiture,
casting and lettering for public and private settings