Nick was due at Yale for a client meeting this morning, so I settled in to a day of almost uninterrupted carving. By the time Nick got back in the mid-afternoon I was finishing up my eleventh I, with another two to go in the day's tally. There are 33 in the line, not the aforementioned 22, so I was not quite able to complete the exercise. But at some point tomorrow I should be ready to move on to curves.
Tea time with my new Naropa mug, a souvenir from our recent trip to Colorado:
With Paul, Josh and I tapping away on our respective projects, the slate was flying. In some cases it was sloughing off like so much dead stone. A riven surface gives the sun a million angles to illuminate in the course of a day and will enhance the drama of a deep v-cut. But on the gravestone Josh is working on there are hollow flakes masquerading as solid stone, removable with a flick of the thumbnail to say nothing of a carbide chisel.
What to my eye looked like a horrible disaster was shrugged off by Paul and Josh as only mildly irritating. It will mean rebrushing the letters, but the exfoliation will make for a better job. No sense in pretending the stone will take a letter if it clearly won't. I'm told it's a fairly common problem when carving riven slate. When the pieces are cloven at the fabricating stage there is inevitably a superficial layer of stone which finds itself on the wrong side of the split. Every stone then undergoes a judicious cleaning, but sometimes you have to find out the hard way whether or not it's ready to be carved.
If the John Stevens Shop was anywhere else it would still be a special place. But it is in Newport, a lovely Colonial snow globe of a town and a showroom for the National Register. I've made it part of my daily routine, after the crew leaves for the day and I finish fiddling with a beach stone, to walk through a new neighborhood every evening around sunset. Tonight I walked south down Thames Street toward the shops in search of toothpaste and ear plugs (I should really get some sleep). I ducked into a music shop that had an aspect of general store and found what I needed in addition to what I wanted, which was a copy of Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger", a perfect record if ever one was made. I continued on a wide loop up the hill and along side streets marveling at the abundance and variety of public lettering on display. If the John Stevens Shop is an enduring monument to Newport's conspicuous appreciation for beautiful letters, it is certainly not alone in that regard. Evidence of resident gifted craftspeople is everywhere, from calligraphers to sign painters to stone carvers, naturally. Some day I'd like to take a long walk through town in good light gathering a representative photographic sampling of this open-air museum of alphabet. Until then, here's an example from the Shop: