Stone Carving in France


La Pont du Gard. A Roman Aqueduct over the river Gardon.

The Opportunity

This is a little insight into how I ended up Stone Carving in France. In 1986 having assisted the French Sculptor Pierre Vivant create his site related sculpture at Portland Sculpture Park and his recommendation. I made my way to the sunny south of France, to work in a limestone quarry to improve my carving techniques.


The Journey

With a rucksack full of heavy stone carving tools, my unclassified O Level in French and many Night Classes at the local tech. I then boarded the Euro-line coach from London to Montpelier. Feeling apprehensive and ill-prepared.

It was around 5.30 a.m. that I arrived at the Bus Terminus in Montpellier. Too early to catch a train to Nimes. There where also a lot of dodgy characters loitering around the area. So I decided to hitchhike my way. (It didn’t look far on the map! Unfortunately that early on a Sunday morning there were very few cars on the road! I eventually got a lift from a couple of French Students.

Accommodation had been arranged and to my surprise, I was staying in a form of hostel for ‘ les compagnons du devoir’. A craftsman’s guild who teach different crafts to a very high standard.


First Day Stone Carving

The first morning at the quarry I found all my tools for carving unsuitable for their type of stone. It resembled Bath Stone with a lot more shells, carved with wooden-handled chisels and French Drags. Types of scrapers that made a noise like scraping your nails on a blackboard!

Having started work at 8 a.m. It was only half an hour later that to my surprise the stonemasons downed their tools. Bringing out their morning snacks, large baguettes and a nice bottle of local wine. Which was then passed around until finished! I soon embraced their local habits and found that a bottle of good Cotes du Rhone could be bought for only 45p. Hic! I do wonder if this tradition still lives on with all today’s Health and Safety Regulations?

Bienvenue en Provence! (to be continued)

The Stone Carver in France

Stone Carving in France
The Carver at Work

I,d love to get any feedback about my work, feel free to comment.

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