Let the rock roll

Published by Eva Burton | Thursday 25 August, 2016

Go ahead…
Take a walk of the rocky road…
Said the mysterious man standing next to the tree while he was slightly pointing the path between the woods…
Everything occurs for a reason.
Nothing is hazardous.

Since my earliest memories, I have been attracted to stones. I have always been amazed by what Mother Nature is able to do and I just could not believe the colours and the inclusions that some stones have! I wondered how a human could relate to this material and create a form out of it. I felt  especially triggered by Pre Hispanic culture and their connection with stone to create ritual objects, the offers to the Gods and their everyday objects as well.

I have been living in Idar-Oberstein for the past two years. I decided to come here mainly to learn how to work with stone. I have been experimenting with this material on my own and also as an apprentice with a traditional stone carver from the area. Suddenly I realized… I was already diving in the ocean of stone madness.

I have been able to learn some techniques to relate to this material on a small/medium scale, but inside of me an urge to work in a larger scale started to grow. And at that point I felt the need to break away from the limitations of the scale of jewellery.

I decided to join a workshop in Salzburg International Summer Academy to experiment for one month the feeling of sculpting stone using the traditional technique of chisel and hammer. To be able to join this workshop I started a crowd funding project to pay for the expenses of this course. I shared a video through social media where I invited people to support me by buying tickets for a Tómbola (raffle). The prizes were pieces of my jewellery series “In Blossom”. Even though I was happy to have the courage for asking for help, I did not have much expectations. I thought that just my family and closest friends will join the Tómbola. But surprisingly, many people did. And many people I did not even know! People from all around the world showed their enthusiasm and support. This wave of love and good vibes was definitely the best starting point for this adventure!

So… On the 23rd of July I took a train to Salzburg. My belly had this feeling of butterflies, I had a huge smile in my face and my hair turned into shiny electric pink! The sensation of approaching the Gate of the Unknown is something, which is impossible to describe in words. But I could say that is a synonym of freedom. I did not know how the place was going to be, how it was going to be to live with all with all of these creative people from all over the world for one month, how the relation with the teacher and colleagues would be, if I would manage to learn to work with stone… Everything was so unclear, but I felt so free, so light, so spongy… I just wanted to go through this Gate of the Unknown and smell and touch and feel all this new environment that was waiting for me. Once in the Bahnhof of Salzburg I took a bus to Fürstenbrunn and then one of the assistants kindly picked me up and drove me up the hill to Kiefer Steinbruch, the quarry.

The way by car was really amazing, I had somehow flashbacks of my days in Argentina in the Sierras of Córdoba where my great grandfather from Italy started his business in the local quarries.

Curiously, the name of my family is Petrone, derived from the Latin petra meaning “stone”. So… definitely, nothing in this life happens just by chance. Everything is interconnected and sooner or later we will find the knots between the threads of our life… Isn´t it?

When I arrived to the quarry I was like a girl in an amusement park! My heartbeat was the melody of Flintstones jingle! YABADABADOOOOOOOOO!!!

First thing first, to get to work I needed a stone! We explored the quarry looking for a piece to suit my idea. When we founded it I jumped in the caterpillar with Hans, one of the workers of the quarry, who scooped it up and took it to the work place. He saw that I was so excited that he allowed me to drive. It was such a cool experience to drive the Caterpillar! Especially because I have never even driven a car!

Then we were introduced to the tools and machines.

To my surprise, since I have up until now only been working with stone using water, in this case we were working with diamond discs which did not require water. So it was really, really dusty work! Vey noisy as well! It was funny to hear chisel and hammer and flex sounds that were creating a Dadaist symphony!

The workshop was organized with a very personalized assistance. Each student was working in their own projects and Andreas Lolis, the teacher – that I nicknamed “Profe”- with the help of his assistant Stavros Mavromichalis, were advising and guiding us in the experience. Andreas comes from Greece and he is an impressive artist who has been working with marble for the last 35 years. This gives him not only the greatest skills ever to approach the material, but also a sensibility to understand stone. And best of all was that he was totally up to teach and to open our minds to learn to speak the silent language from stone. I appreciate so much to see a person like him who is so passionate about his work, and that this passion is so huge that it does not fit inside of him, so it must be translated into teaching. I will be for ever greatful..!

To wake up every day in these surroundings, to have breakfast and to go straight ahead to work in the quarry was a great plan for a vacation. Even though my body ended up quite smashed I always felt ready for pushing my mind and body for the work. To feel physically exhausted because of working is satisfying for me, I think that as long as I can use my body in this way I want to do it. I want to climb, jump, kick, hammer, grind…

Stone demands full concentration and respect. When you are working with it, you involve with the materiality in a very intimate way. Very, very slowly you start to understand this silent language of stones. There is a point where you start to communicate with it. It can bring the best and the worst out of you. There’s a point you reach, when you hit the hammer and *thunk* a chunk of stone falls away, that has to be the most fulfilling part. On the other hand, when the stone breaks is incredibly disappointing, so this work is also a lesson in self-awareness and understanding; you want to find balance in how you approach the stone so that it will feel grateful…

During this course I worked with machines, chisels and hammers but the surface finish was done by hand. I did not want to have my sculpture polished but it was very important for me to reach a point where the sculpture had a very smooth, soft surface which would be inviting to touch. While sanding the stone I also connected my own body with the shape, it was like stroking her with my hands, my skin with her skin. The fact that I was working in such a large scale made me realize that I could even hug her. I can say that this made me totally aware of what it means to make things with love. I felt like a smile in my heart with each new working day that I saw her from when she was first lying at the base of the quarry, to her moment, her time for “standing”… that was so satisfying! The process of creation is such a driving force…!

Of course after a long day of work I found my moment of quietness with the Nature around the quarry…

I had my sacred spot, a huge flat stone where I could sit to see the sunset while drinking mate.

It was also very nice to stay late at night, enjoying the company of all the international crew from the workshop. I feel lucky that I met such amazing people and we shared and exchanged so much including music and food from our countries. Dancing, drinking and eating was also part of the menu at the quarry!

Since we were 14 people, we split into pairs and each couple had to cook and clean once a week, which definitely contributed to our strong sense of community.

Beside our differences, I felt loved and cared for. Especially in my belly, which was feeling very happy to have enjoyed the lovely tasty dishes from the international buffet!

I had also the chance to explore the surroundings a bit.
Austria is such a beautiful landscape!

We visited other local quarries and also the place where they cut the big blocks of stone. The humongous saws were so impressive to see!

Unfortunately Salzburg is known for being a very rainy place. We were quite lucky with the weather but for few days we were not so lucky. During those rainy days we could not work, because as we all know electricity and water are not very good friends so our outdoor workspace was off shut down during this time. Instead, we had cozy breakfasts with pancakes and later movie sessions with chocolate, wine, blankets and even a fireplace!

Even though the Summer Academy organized a lot of activities for the students, we, the gang from the quarry, stayed mostly at home, working very hard, enjoying long talks in the nights while admiring the silver magical moon bathing our heads.

This experience that I lived is no ordinary thing. It is the result of a big wish, a dream which came true only because of the help and support of so many people.
I feel once again blessed by the power of the Universe and this helps me to walk the Path of Life with self confidence and a bright smile. There is nothing impossible, and I am pretty sure of that…

Bye bye Salzburg