The Story of the Stone Carver…Tom Clark

Image:Tom Clark

When it first started one of the original intentions behind Beautiful Business was to explore the beauty associated with skill and craft. This beautiful business embodies these intentions. A timeless skill in danger of being forgotten but brought to life in beautiful arts and incredible skill and craft…welcome to the world of the Stone carver…Tom Clark.

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Image:Tom Clark

Tom Clark, a stone carver from Martock, Somerset in the UK, began his career working with stone in 1974 which coincidently, was the same time that American writer Studs Terkel wrote his famous book Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. In it he describe the routines of working Americans, including, like Tom, the stone mason who says…

Immortality as far as we’re concerned. Nothin’ in this world lasts forever, but did you know that stone — Bedford limestone, they claim — deteriorates one-sixteenth of an inch every hundred years? And it’s around four or five inches for a house. So that’s gettin’ awful close.

Very few occupations leave their mark (quite literally) like the stone mason and carver. The masons craft has been around for thousands of years and in many ways has been at the sharp end of numerous changes, styles in design and the impacts of industrialised production. However, the very essence of stone masonry remains undiminished in some quarters though, as the beauty of hand and eye coordination retains some determined craftsmen. I first came across Tom Clark and his craft when I saw him on video.

Tom Clark – Stone Carver from Artisan Media on Vimeo.

The video captures the beauty of the stone carvers craft and the tap tap noises which link the family of stone carvers through the generations and reach down unchanged into the ancient and medieval worlds. But change comes inevitably in some form. The video suggests that Tom accepts the contribution of machinery in the traditionally hand-based craft. He says…

The mechanical world has taken over this skill to some extent, but I strongly believe that stone masonry will never die out. I am passionate about the tradition continuing. To this end, I regularly run stone-carving courses at my workshop in Martock, teaching people of all ages and abilities, sharing skill and knowledge of the craft. I also get invited to hold workshops in schools, colleges and for community groups, a wonderful opportunity to bring the craft of stone-carving to new audiences and generations.

Image:Tom Clark

Training to become a stonemason is a significant physical and mental commitment. Long hours of physically demanding repetition, Tom served a 3 and a half year apprenticeship at the beautiful medieval cathedral in Chichester. Tom takes up the story…

I began carving in 1974, first as a monumental mason and then as an ecclesiastical mason serving an apprenticeship at Chichester Cathedral. I became self-employed in 1981 and over the years have worked on many large and interesting restoration projects including St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, Westminster Abbey, The National Gallery, The Public Records Office in London and Ely Cathedral.

From an early age Tom had enjoyed making things, originally using wood and then moving on to stone. He has always found the process of sculpting and carving to be very satisfying. Working and being apprenticed at Chichester cathedral Tom was surrounded by medieval influences which have had a profound impact on the work he produces and the styles he works in. Describing his fondness for medieval naivety, Tom appreciates the human qualities inherent in this period of stone carving, reflecting the non linear, the misshapen and the anatomically crude. He says…

I use a direct carving approach. My work has been inspired over the years by medieval art and narrative stories as well as trips to India and Egypt. In truth, like all creative people, I am constantly drawing on the world around me on a daily basis for new ideas and designs.

Image:Tom Clark

In January 2011 Tom headed to India. The reasons for the trip confirms Tom’s love of stone carving and his desire to continue learning, but also his willingness to contribute and give back. He would go on to spend time learning about traditional Indian sculpture with master sculptor Ganesh Bhat in southern India and to spend time at a local school. Tom’s time was spent holding workshop sessions with the children and sharing stories about his life and work in England.

Tom’s life and work is a busy one. At present he is mostly working on commissions – for private and corporate clients and occasional community projects, as well as of course running his popular stone carving workshops through the year.

There are many reasons why stone carving is a beautiful business but for sustaining traditional skills and passing them on….for giving back and sharing….thank the stone carver….thanks Tom.

If you want to know more about Tom, the work he does and the workshops he runs, you can find all this and more by visiting his website at http://www.tomclarkstonecarver.co.uk/

Do you know you’re beautiful?Twitter @beautifulbizzHoadd.wordpress.com

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