Training to be a stonemason offers several lessons in disappointment. I’ve kept telling myself that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially at this early stage. There’s no way around it. Mistakes must be made – it’s part of the process. If it were easy, everyone would be chipping away at their perfect bit of stone and building lovely houses for themselves. A stone mason’s skill is a slow learn. But like all slow learns, the pay off will be all the sweeter for it.
“Don’t you get bored just chipping away at one bit of stone?” my dad asked a few weeks ago.
“No,” I replied. The confidence in the immediate aftermath of my answer seemed to reverberate back through me. I wonder whether dad caught a sense of that.
It occurred to me in that instance that this is exactly what I wanted to do.
I make it sound as if stone masonry has been some sort of divine calling. The thought didn’t strike me like some thunderbolt. I don’t want to make a Hollywood script out of it. This so-called thunderclap of inspiration could have come straight from Ikea: its light, its electricity and all of its other component parts came flat-packed. And there was me, with no set of instructions and no screwdriver. In short: I’ve spent the last seven years in an office trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do.
I cannot say that the technique is coming naturally to me, but I am enjoying the process. Having made a flat surface out of one side, I’ve turned my stone over and I am now working on my second of three flat surfaces. It’s not in the slightest bit boring, which gives me a lot of encouragement. Having never worked on stone before this course, I was afraid that I’d pick up the tools, start on my block and simply not connect. Both financially and emotionally, I’m glad that this isn’t the case. I feel at ease when I’m working on the block. I’d never felt that in the seven years I was in an office. The tap-tap-tap of tools on stone is very much a meditative act, while office work offers no such pleasures. It’s the best (and, I daresay, only) U-turn I’ve ever made, and one I am certain will pay dividends.
Now that I’ve fully invested in the idea of becoming a stone mason, I didn’t see any harm in investing in some of my own tools. My first real love is language, and letter carving seems like a very obvious way of combining my new-found passion with my well-established one. I’ve ordered three letter cutting chisels (⅛, ¼ & ¾ inch), a 500 gram iron dummy and a 200/400 grade diamond sharpening block, as well as a leather tool roll that John at JP Masonry Supplies has kindly thrown in for free. I should expect to receive them through the post during the early part of this week.