Sculpture Symposium in Bagni di Lucca

998031_421943887922199_955588846_nEvery day since the first of July you wander over the passerella to the Villa Fiori gardens and you hear the musical tapping of metal on stone.  The sculpture symposium, one of the many wonderful events of the Bagni di Lucca Art Festival, has seen the works of five sculptors evolving and ‘becoming’ over the month; Doug Robinson, Sarah Danays, Ryoichi Suzuki, Petra Boshart and Michael Cartwright.  Visitors to the gardens have been delighted by the progress and information on how each artist develops their language, using only hand tools on various types of marble, statuario and normale from Carrara, red travertine from Iran, nut brown from Turkey.

Early days, Ryoichi and Mike discussing marble
Early days, Ryoichi and Mike discussing marble
lunch at Shona and Mike's
lunch at Shona and Mike’s
lunch at Maureen and Kevan Halson's La Balconata
lunch at Maureen and Kevan Halson’s La Balconata

Every day the local people have provided lunch for the artists in their homes.  It has been an enormous discovery for the hosts and the artists alike to see how the other lives life.  There have been lunches in tiny kitchens and under vines with magnificent vistas, every lunch generous and fundamentally Italian, with pasta and wine and home done olives, good vegetables from the fields and heavy rustic breads and cheeses.

Doug sampling the Caprese at Candido's home in Montegegatesi
Doug sampling the Caprese at Candido’s home in Montegegatesi

The kindness of Hotel Pio in Bagni Caldi, donating rooms to three of the artists for the full month along with the Bridge Hotel in Ponte a Serraglio hosting Doug, has been a huge act and earns them the name of the ‘art hotels’ and maybe next year with funding they will be well recompensed.

Pizza night at Hotel Pio - sponsor for the artists
Pizza night at Hotel Pio – sponsor for the artists

Doug Robinson is a Canadian sculptor who has been coming to Pietrasanta for the past thirty years to carve marble.  He has been a wonderful joy in the party, his enthusiasm for the whole culture of Bagni di Lucca with all its hilltop villages, his eyes turning into childlike buttons of wonder have made us laugh and enjoy being here even more.  He has been working in the brown travertine and his work, organic, figurative, animistic and landscape, all, are a beautiful testament to his surroundings that he has eagerly absorbed.

Doug's sculpture
Doug’s sculpture

Sarah Danays, a UK artist living and creating in L.A. and renovating a house in a little hilltop village here in Bagni, is a petite and gentle woman.  She has carved the smallest piece of marble to carefully and delicately create a bust to wear the adornment of an antique necklet which will then be melded into her own artistic expression of a photographic installation.  Her lovely kind presence, always caring about us all and deeply concerned for her sponsors that they are properly acknowledged, has been significant to the warmth and friendship of the group.

Sarah carving her bust
Sarah carving her bust

Ryoichi Suzuki is a Japanese artist who has lived since his student days in Utah, USA, where he now lectures as a teacher in sculpture at the university. He has been used, as a marble sculptor, to the machines of the trade so has encountered a learning curve with the hand chiseling as has nearly everyone in the group.  His process has been very methodical and at the end of his stay here he has created an abstracted silken torso in the white Carrara marble.  People in town have loved his open interest in them and enjoyed his jovial company in the bar.

Ryoichi carving
Ryoichi carving
close to completion
close to completion

Petra Boshart, an artist from the Netherlands, comes from a long respected family line of marble carvers.  She has willingly shared lots of tips from her memories of her grandfather and father and has delighted in the hand carving process which has eliminated lots of the aches that sculptors acquire from constant use of machines when carving.  Carving on the edge of the Lima River inspired her sculpture in the Iranian red travertine, an organic coil of rolling form reflecting the flow of water.

Petra carving
Petra carving

Michael Cartwright, has loved being in the field every day creating.  Life has been incredibly busy, because living in the same place you are working in, means many distractions, including hosting his sculpting friends every evening after work.  But Mike’s energy is huge and he attacked his cube of stone with velocity before it took its shape into an abstract quirky bird form with what he calls the nest.  People walking in the gardens each day got to know it and delight in it which was lovely for him because it usually takes a while for people to know his work.  He is working on his second piece now, a promise of a gentle fluid form that feels womanly.

Mike carving
Mike carving
Michael carving the bird and nest
Michael carving the bird and nest

The artists will be showing their work on May 26th, when hopefully the road in Ponte a Serraglio will be closed again and all the shops reopened with the next exhibitions.


  1. Jodam Allingam says:

    Wow! I envy you guys and wish I am there carving… Put me down for next year.

    1. Hi Jodam – It has been a beautiful experience and the artists have created really lovely work. It would be wonderful if you could participate next year!

      1. Jodam Allingam says:

        Do you allow use of angle grinder and dye grinder for cutting? The reason I am asking is because the carving of marble that I designed are so fragile that if I were to work with chisel and Mallet alone the tapping force will easily break the carving when it gets very thin.

    2. Sorry Jodam, the Symposium is strictly hand carving, including polishing. It has been an amazing experience for everyone!!

  2. Hello There.I am so excited to see some of my colleques in art taking part in such a symposium and sharing ideas.It is also good to know that me as an African stone sculptor we seem to share the same technic when working on a sculpture.Here it is mostly manual.The only difference is the types and quality of stones.In my case I use serpentine stones like Springstone which is 7-10 on MOH,Green opal 5-10 on MOH and a variety of some hard and soft as well.- feel very incouraged to see people from variuos parts of the world coming together and participate in such an event.I hope 1 day I will be able to take part in such a wonderful symposium.You can view some of my works on my facebook page (Edias Muromba).Enjoy ,Regards Edias Muromba.

  3. Hi Edias
    Lovely to hear from you. It has been a beautiful symposium and the artists have loved being together from all their different backgrounds sharing their philosophies and ideas and techniques. Hand carving has been a special achievement because so much of the world wants everything fast, using big machines to move quickly. Instead the symposium has been really quiet and gentle and still they have finished works in the one month period. I will send your link to the sculpture symposium committee and I hope we get to see you here!!! Best regards

    1. Hie Shona And Micahel.Many thanks to you .I will be more than happy to take part in such an the way do you know that the name Shona is a Tribe and a language that I belong to. People from my country Zimbabwe are called the Shona people.I will be happy if you can let me know the meaning of it in your language.Wish you the Best guys,Regards ,Edias.

      1. Hi Edias – Yes I know of the Shona tribe and sculptors! I wish i knew what Shona meant in my country – I believe it is a Scottish or Irish name – but as I am Australian it is unusual in our country. My mother found the name on the back of a knitting book and loved it. I love having it as my name!

      2. Actually, the name Shona is the name collectively given to two groups of people in the east and southeast of Zimbabwe, and southern Mozambique. The Shona tribe is Zimbabwe’s largest indigenous group. Their tribal language is also called Shona or chiShona, native to the Shona people of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia, population is around 9 million.

  4. Tom Allan says:

    Looks like it was a great symposium, in the best spirit of such an event.
    I’ve done several, but am very keen to do one in Italy. Could you please let me know when another one is planned, so I can apply?
    You can see some of my work on
    all the best
    Tom Allan

    1. Hi Tom – it has certainly been a wonderful event. I will send your details to the symposium committee for next year. Good luck!

  5. I’m curious as to what people do to get their pieces home – I was in Pietra Santa in the 90s and was told that if you signed your piece you paid customs / taxes on it – you could ship it cheaper unsigned / unfinished. is that true still? how do you ship the pieces?

    looks like a fun symposium – will you notify us for the next one?

    are you a member of Stone Carvers and Friends on FB? Pls join us!

    aloha –

    1. Hi Angela – it is still the same process sending art work home – if it is unfinished there is less paperwork! And cheaper. No we are not friends of Stone Carvers and Friends on FB, but will look into it! Thanks!

  6. kathryn Mcghee says:

    I am interested in attending next year I have been sculpting for 10 years and the last few with just hand tools! would love Italy-and the experience and learning! Kathryn Mcghee

    1. Thanks Kathryn for your comment. Can you please post your web address for us to look at later in the year.

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