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