We cooperate as an association to advance the practice of sculpture and the reputation and appreciation of sculpture and sculptors in the community. This is regardless of whether or not we make a living from sculpture and regardless of our preferred style or medium. To this end we support artists’ moral rights, we advocate a professional attitude to the production and presentation of work and encourage the artistic and intellectual stimulation of interaction amongst artists of all persuasions.

A Stone Sculpting Workshop Adventure


The village of Canada de Benatanduz

From the outset, the possibility of travelling to the mountains of Aragon in Spain to learn stone sculpting seemed as remote an idea as the place itself, but as all the variables deciding whether we four Melbourne sculptors could go fell into place, so did our determination. We must have instinctively known that connecting with Jon Sait who runs Studio Golondrina in the mountainous north east of Spain, was a lucky find, and so Tania Stavovy, Clare Collins, Anna Auditore and myself made the trip.

It was a summer stone sculpting workshop in the tiny mountain village of Canada de Benatanduz in the Maestrazgo Mountains of Aragon. Workshops are run by Jon during the northern summer from a rustic but spacious village house with an outdoor studio which faces a rugged and spectacular limestone gorge. The town is situated at 1442 metres where the air is clean and crisp, the temperatures were a steady 27/28 daily while falcons, swallows and vultures circled overhead, and mountain ibex frolicked. The workshop has a capacity of 6, and we four filled it to capacity.

Susie Ashkenazi and Tania Stavovy

There was a good selection of soft alabasters, black marble from Calatarao, white local marble and fine limestones from local quarries, though our main concern from the outset was the challenge of taking our pieces home with us, so we chose small blocks of either Spanish or Italian alabaster, which is of medium grade hardness. Studio Golondrina is part of an international stone sculpting group called Global Stone, which developed working methods which we were taught. Our teacher’s aim in our case was to help us develop a proper hand carving technique which meant we almost never reverted to electric tools. This was a slow and painstaking process, especially since 2 of us (Anna and I) were complete `newbies` to stone, and unused to the hard physical application it required and the handling and weight of the heavy Italian tungsten tools we used. We became quickly exhausted in the heat of the day, and experienced all over soreness and muscle ache, though after a few days we became more accustomed to it and were able to work quite independently. We discovered the beauty of the stone and the unique attributes of alabaster such as its translucency and light reflecting quality, but we also found out there is no way to rush hand sculpting, and when you do, the ease with which the stone could be bruised and become cloudy. It was an intense learning and living experience as we shared a house and much meal making, enjoyed the rhythm and hospitality of the charming village while trying to concentrate all the efforts on our work.

view of the countryside from the studio

We also took the opportunity to explore the fascinating old Moorish towns and villages of the area such as neighbouring Cantaviejo and picturesque Mirambel, and La Iglesuela del Cid. I found these were particularly refreshing visits as an alternative to the massive crowds of the mega popular European destinations such as Florence or Barcelona, as the towns were quiet and devoid of tourist throngs and busses and a pleasure to wander through.

At the end of our stay we felt the satisfaction of having a shared a huge adventure - an immersive learning experience where a real exchange of ideas was made that was immensely rewarding and fantastic fun shared amongst 4 friends, and making new ones. We also discovered our teacher Jon Sait is an artist, art dealer, researcher, teacher, Social Worker, occasional poet and all round amazing person without whose help and support we could never have achieved what we did.

For enquiries please contact www.stoneinspain.org  

By Susie Ashkenazi

1 comment:

Scary said...

Wow, what a fantastic thing to do as a group. Hopefully the skills you all learnt can be shared at some stage to the ASV.
Marg C