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Marble Quarrying

Beautiful footage of marble quarrying in Italy, a trailer for the film, Il Capo, by Yuri Ancarani. The filmaker spent a year visiting the quarries of Carrara Italy and decided to focus on the delicate choreography between the foreman, the machinery, and the monolithic blocks of stone. I would love to see the full length movie in person on a big screen.

Naoya Hatakeyama: Natural Stories

Lime Hills by Naoya Hatakeyama

In a comment on my last post, James mentioned Edward Burtynsky’s quarry photos which are really striking and highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t seen them. Coincidentally, SF MOMA currently has an exhibit of photos by a Japanese photographer, Naoya Hatakeyama, who works in the same vein as Burtynsky, photographing large scale human impacts on the landscape, including quarries. His Lime Hills (Quarry Series) has images where the quarries are horrible scars, but also ones where they seem quite sculptural and aesthetic.

Naoya Hatakeyama, Lime Hills (Quarry Series)

Naoya Hatakeyama, A Bird/Blast

Along with the photos, at the museum there is also a very cool video (titled Twenty-Four Blasts) of quarry blasting. If you sit up close to the screen, the explosions fill your vision. The video doesn’t seem to be online, but SF MOMA posted a slideshow of stills from the best sequence.

Naoya Hatakeyama, Still from Twenty-Four Blasts

I went to the exhibit to see the quarry series, but probably the most powerful images — especially in light of the superstorm blasting the east coast right now — are of his hometown in Japan, Rikuzentakata, which was destroyed by last year’s tsunami. It was impressive to see such carefully composed photos, knowing that this was his hometown and that his mother died in the event. He talks about it in a video at Wired.

Naoya Hatakeyama

There was also a slideshow of his photos of the town before the tsunami, and though the exhibitors chose not to present the before and after photos as literal side by side comparisons, there was an eerie similarity to some of the compositions. I tried drawing thumbnails at the speed of the slideshow — twenty seconds per image — and then later colored them at about the same pace. It’s rather off-topic for this blog, but completely current with all of the images of flooding on the east coast, so I included them below the fold. (more…)

STONE Project

Peenya Granite Quarry, India | Stonebreaker from STONE project on Vimeo.

A recent book about stonework, Stone: A Legacy and Inspiration for Art, caught my eye with its focus on the raw material and craft of stonework rather than the finished product that seems to fill most of the stone books out there. Turns out the book has a companion website, STONE Project, with a lot of great content as well, including photos, a stone glossary, and tons of videos, including the rather striking one above showing one of the more un-OSHA-compliant workers I’ve ever seen. Sandals, a sari, and a big sledge, gotta love it. The videos are rather raw and cinema verite, and overall the website is probably more for the serious stone lovers out there, but then personally I’m convinced that everyone in the world is a stone lover, so there you go. Good stuff, definitely worth a look if you’re interested in the process of stonework. From their Introduction page:

STONE Project aims:

to collect information about stone through the eyes of artists, masons, quarry workers, anthropologists, and cultural and literary thinkers.
to discover differences in how stone is understood and worked throughout the world.
to understand both the ‘physical processes’ and the ‘thinking approaches’ when working with stone.
to show these modes of understanding in ways that are broadly applicable and transferable.
At the heart of STONE Project is the shared belief that research on stone can also contribute to a further understanding of:

hands, tools and material –
tactility/senses –
tacit skills –
reductive thinking –

STONE Project’s ultimate aim is to:

… assemble all research and achievements in an archive for the use of current and future generations, a tool which anyone can use.

Hear, hear.

BGS Quarry Photos

Corncockle Quarry, Lochmaben. Dumfriesshire ‘Close-up view of splitting the sandstone by the ‘chisel wedge’ method. Eleven wedges are seen being forced into the stone to separate a block from the main mass of rock. Three quarrymen in typical working clothes are seen, two holding large sledge or striking hammers used for driving in the wedges. A selection of picks rest on the rock behind.’

A couple of photos in STONEZINE led me to the website of the British Geologic Survey which has some great photos from quarries and other sites of geologic interest. These photos here are all 1930’s era, but at some quarries the techniques haven’t changed that much. Pallets of stone still sometimes come marked with the name of the individual who quarried them.

Rubislaw Quarry. Aberdeenshire ‘View at surface, showing dressed and partly dressed building stones. The granite is mainly used for building and monumental work. Two quarrymen prepare a granite block to be split by using the plug and feather method. They are using pneumatic drills to drill short holes around the block into which the plug and feathers are inserted. These are then systematically struck with hammers, causing the block to split. Another quarryman appears to be using a measuring stick against a large block of granite.’

Silver Grey Quarry, Creetown. Kirkcudbrightshire ‘A large granite block being prepared for splitting on the quarry floor by means of ‘plug and feathers’ method. Two quarrymen can be seen inserting the ‘plug and feathers’ into a large granite block. A recently separated block can be seen in the foreground. A series of narrow holes a few inches apart were drilled by a pneumatic drill. Two half cylinders of steel called ‘feathers’ were inserted into all the holes. A steel wedge-shaped ‘plug’ was then inserted. The plugs were then hit in succession with a hammer and a straight split in the granite block would result.’

Silver Grey Quarry, Creetown. Kirkcudbrightshire ‘A large granite block split into two on the quarry floor using the plug and feathers method. Two quarrymen, one wielding a crowbar, displaying recently split large blocks using the ‘plug and feather’ method. A series of narrow holes a few inches apart were drilled by a pneumatic drill. Two half cylinders of steel called ‘feathers’ were inserted into all the holes. A steel wedge-shaped ‘plug’ was then inserted. The plugs were then hit in succession with a hammer and a straight split in the granite block would result.’

Craignair Hill Quarry, Dalbeattie. Kirkcudbrightshire ‘A view of the open kerb-making yard. Two workers can be seen standing at barrels filled with sand on which the stone was dressed. Completed kerbs are seen stacked to the left of the photograph.’

Corsehill Quarry, Annan. Dumfriesshire ‘The masons are shown wielding wooden mallets called ‘mells’ and chisels as they work on the stone. On the left are sawn blocks; some show small holes cut in the faces. These holes are used for gripping and handling the blocks with a dog and chain sling as in the centre foreground.’

Craignair Hill Quarry, Dalbeattie. Kirkcudbrightshire ‘Granite sett-making on the yard floor. A sett-maker wielding a hammer at work in front of his hut. On the left are the rough unprocessed blocks while to the right are carefully stacked finished setts. A ‘sett’ is stone roughly squared for paving.’

Craignair Hill Quarry, Dalbeattie. Kirkcudbrightshire ‘Sett-making on the yard floor. Two workers (and a dog!) are seen. One is working on a sett. Note the chisel faced hammer he is using and the very large pile of completed setts piled carefully behind.’

Locharbriggs Quarry. Dumfriesshire ‘A close-up showing the ‘shot-grove’ and chisel wedge method of splitting stone. Widely spaced holes are drilled and filled with black powder; once blown and the blocks dislodged, chisel wedges are driven in along planes of weakness (usually bedding planes) to further work the stone. Note the quarryman wielding the large crowbar.’

Locharbriggs Quarry. Dumfriesshire ‘A close-up showing the ‘shot-grove’ and chisel wedge method of splitting stone. Widely spaced holes are drilled and filled with black powder; once blown and the blocks dislodged, chisel wedges are driven in along planes of weakness (usually bedding planes) to further work the stone. Note the quarryman wielding the large crowbar.’

Rubislaw Quarry. Aberdeenshire ‘General view of floor and west wall of this granite quarry, showing west-south-westerly running joints and material brought down by blasting. Holes, six metres long were drilled using pneumatic drills, black powder was inserted and then blasted. The natural weakness of the joint planes was used in deciding where to drill and blast.’

Salt Point State Park

I took a couple of days this week to go climbing and hiking at Salt Point State Park up the coast between Jenner and Sea Ranch. I’d never been before, it’s a little far for a day trip, but now the impending closure of so many state parks has got me motivated to check out some of the parks I’ve always meant to visit. Salt Point isn’t one of the ones that will be closing, but that’s partly because they have already cut back many of the services. The closures didn’t really affect my visit, I had a great time, but it was a reminder of how things are trending. But in any case, I wasn’t dwelling on that during my trip, mostly I was just enjoying the park. Classic Northern California coastline, lots of wildflowers in bloom, and I was lucky to enjoy perfect weather. I’m not sure photos can show how exceptionally pleasant it was.

Salt Point was a quarry in the 1850’s. Sandstone slabs were split and shipped down to San Francisco to use as paving and wall stone; you can still see drilling scars on some of the rocks.

It’s great to see a former quarry site looking so beautiful.

Stone Quarries

Rock of Ages #1 by Edward Burtynsky

I got excited during the opening of the new James Bond. During the big car chase, a character said, “They’re heading for the quarry!” I’m into quarries and figured something really good was going to happen. After all, the best scene in the last Bond was the chase through the construction site. But Bond-in-the-quarry was a little disappointing: no great stone moments, no Indiana Jones boulders, nothing particularly quarry-specific. Bond drives really fast, dodges a lot machine gun fire, then shoots the driver of the other car and wins. Note to villains: machine guns don’t work against Bond. 

I occasionally come across links to webpages about former quarries. I’m going to try to keep some of them bookmarked here. We’ll see how many I add over time.

Bringing Down Marble from the Quarries in Carrara, 1911, John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent did a number of works at the quarry in Carrara. My favorite is above, a rare instance where I like an oil better than the watercolors. Others from his Carrara paintings and drawings can be seen here.

Canaletto’s The Stonemason’s Yard

I also like a quarry watercolor by Stewart White.

Other paintings include Old Quarry, Rockport by Henry Aiken Vincent, Quarry of the Chaise-Mre at Fountainbleau by Corot, The Sand Quarry by Guillaumin, Chou Quarry by Gauguin, a series at Bibemus Quarry by Cezanne, Bibemus Quarry was also painted by Andrea Masson. I can’t find Childe Hassam’s series at Rockport Quarry online, and I don’t particularly like The Quarry Pool, Folly Cove, Cape Ann.

The best quarry photographs, including ones from Carrara, are by Edward Burtynsky. Burtynsky’s website has a great gallery of quarry photos.

The best quarry scene in film is still the one in Breaking Away. That youtube link has gone dead. Garden State has a quarry scene too. I have mixed feelings about it.

Quarries and Beyond has the most info.

Quest has a writeup on some of the old quarries in the Bay Area.

Parc des Buttes Chaumont is probably the most famous park made from a former quarry.

Opus 40 by sculptor Harvey Fite, a quarry site turned into a massive dry stone sculpture. It’s currently falling down because he didn’t break his joints, but there are efforts to preserve it.

Robert Morris made an amphitheatre/scultpure from a gravel pit, Untitled (reclamation of Johnson Gravel Pit). Robert Smithson’s Broken Circle/Spiral Hill is in a former sand quarry in the Netherlands. IHilary Anne Frost -Kumpf has a webpage about reclamation projects which includes info on the Morris and Smithson pieces, Opus 40, and a Michael Heizer piece Effigy Tumuli.

Quarry Garden in Shanghai Botanical Garden, a former quarry turned into a park, won an ASLA award in 2012.

Reordering Old Quarry, a residential landscape on a former quarry, by Reed Hildebrand also won an ASLA award in 2012.

Stone Quarry Hill Art Park

An article about the San Rafael Rock Quarry in Marin Magazine

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