This semester I have been lucky enough to take marble carving classes on Tuesday evenings with some other CYA students. The studio is located in Pangrati about a 5-10 minute walk from CYA and my apartment. We began our first session admiring previous works completed in the studio. Some were carved by first timers, others by those that work in the studio full time. Regardless, all were beautiful. Afterwards, we sat down to books filled with images and previous projects so that we could start to get an idea of what we might want to carve. Subjects ranged from Athenian owls to more contemporary designs. I decided on a stylized version of an antefix, inspired by my Greek architecture class. An antefix is an upright adornment which terminates the tiles of the roof. In grand buildings, such as the Parthenon, these antefixes could be extremely large and elaborate. We worked on drawing out precisely what we wanted our carving to look like on paper and then traced this onto carbon transfer paper. From this we taped the transfer paper onto a slab of marble that roughly fit the dimensions of our carving. Finally, we traced over one more time so that the lines were transferred onto the marble itself. From there we were able to start carving.
I began carving my slab at the start of the second class. We were told that it would take about two full sessions to get the hang of using the hammer and chisel. Seven sessions in and I am still no master but I did eventually get the hang of using these two tools. The hammers are relatively all the same with some having larger or smaller handles. You can use whichever one fits your preference. As for the chisels, we work with about five different types. Some were used for removing large chunks of marble to create a high relief while others carve the finer outline details. My favorite one to use comes to a large point at the end so that you could chip away large pieces at a time. Completing the details can be strenuous so it was nice to get the chance to simply hack away.
Around 9:30 our marble carving session comes to an end and we are treated with wine and delicious food. Everybody eats standing around their carvings blocks chatting about the difficulties of our sessions (how we think we might be getting carpal tunnel, all the dust we are inhaling, chips of marble flying into our eyes) but we all enjoy ourselves, our class, and our wonderful instructors. With only one class left of our eight sessions, I am almost done with my carving with just some tidying up and smoothing out of the surfaces. I think it goes without saying that this class has taught me the true talent needed to complete all those ancient statues and carvings in the architecture that I am studying.