Artists’ Studios | Purple Door Studio

A visit with the sculptors of the Purple Door Studio in Denver, COBy Bonnie Gangelhoff

Why do you choose to work in stone?
Mark Brodie: People have an innate attraction to naturally occurring materials such as wood or stone. Even outside of art and sculpture, we are drawn to stone in our environment. Who doesn’t love the sculptures of the Grand Canyon, Arches, or Canyonlands national parks?
Eric Marshall: Stone is in my family blood. My great-grandfather on my father’s side was a stone sculptor in Kentucky, and on my mother’s side, my great-grandfather worked in the quarry in Marble, CO, in the early 1900s.
Tom Weeden: Stone seems the most primitive of materials and has its own natural beauty.
Madeline Wiener: I love everything about stone—the textures, lines, and forms that can be created are endless and the mechanics are very thrilling. I love the sounds of the stone from the beginning days of using the hammer and chisel to the rhythmic sounds of filing and sanding.

What is the most challenging aspect of working with the material?
Mark Brodie: The greatest challenge is also the most obvious—moving the stone. Secondly, if you make a mistake, you have some serious re-thinking and adjustments to make.
Edy Cherniack: If I have something in my head, the most challenging thing is to reproduce it.
Michael Clapper: The dust.
Dave Holton: It’s challenging to rough out a shape from a block of stone. It takes a lot of time. We use 30 to 40 percent of the stone we start with; we remove more than we retain.
Josh Wiener: The amount of time it takes to refine the surface.
Madeline Wiener: When I first started to carve larger stone, moving and handling it was the most challenging. Now, I’d say that with age, maintaining long hours and using heavy tools are the most challenging. But I’m up to it!

What are some of the tools you use to create your sculptures?
Vanessa Clarke: Angle grinders with various sized blades, which I use for roughing out a sculpture and adding textures. Pneumatic air hammers and chisels for detail and texture.
Dave Holton: Hydraulic diamond chain saws, electric saws and grinders, air saws and grinders, and diamond sanding pads.
Tom Weeden: Spinning blades, hammers, chisels, carbide, sandpaper, eyes, ears, and hands.

The studio is dusty and noisy. What precautions do you take to protect your health?
Michael Clapper: The usual outfit includes a dual-cartridge respirator, anti-vibration gloves, hearing protection, and eye covering.
Vanessa Clarke: I have a respirator that I wear over my nose and mouth. Goggles protect my eyes and I have ear protection with a built-in radio. The studio also has a filtration system that helps trap the dust and keep it to a minimum.
Tom Weeden: Headphones, respirator, eye protection, hard-toed shoes, and back support.

What inspires your work?
Mark Brodie: I am attracted to simple, clean lines. These types of lines and forms are found all throughout nature in places like sand dunes, patterns made by ocean waves, wind- or water-eroded rock, or even complex mathematical formulas.
Edy Cherniack: Nature and people.
Michael Clapper: Other cultures and architecture but always elements in the natural world.
Josh Wiener: When I create, I am always looking for the path of intuition. Sometimes it comes through intense studies. Other times it comes from playful exploration of materials and shapes.
Madeline Wiener: Life. Sometimes my ideas are of such a personal nature that they just come out of a family event; other times, when I am working on something public, I listen to the needs of the committees and communities.
What artists from history inspire you?
Michael Clapper: The artists from the cave dwellings in France and various creators of mid-century modernist architecture.
Dave Holton: Bernini.
Eric Marshall: Michelangelo.
Josh Wiener: Bernini for accuracy and Noguchi for soul.
Madeline Wiener: Early on I was inspired by Rodin, Brancusi, and Henry Moore. Now, I am inspired by all the sculptors I meet.

Describe your creative process.
Mark Brodie: I make small maquettes out of high-density foam and may use clay with the foam to alter the shapes until I have a desirable starting point. I try to locate a piece of stone that will accommodate the shape of the maquette. In a more nebulous approach, I start by trying to envision a few strong lines to follow within the piece. After a few parameters have been set, I will continue to just carve and let the piece and my mind dictate how to proceed.
Michael Clapper: I typically sketch very rudimentary images and go right to an architectural model using foam to work out the form.
Vanessa Clarke: I draw on the stone for reference. Really, all I have to do is look at the stone for a little while and I can see the form that I want to create.
Eric Marshall: I make a small model in clay and then transfer it to the stone.
Tom Weeden: I draw on the stone with a pencil or crayon. Then I draw on the stone with a chisel and carve for dimension.
Josh Wiener: When I create within a set budget, I will design three-quarters of the piece on paper or in a maquette. I always want there to be space to add detail or somehow advance the idea in the final form.

What types of music do you listen to while you work?
Mark Brodie: Contemporary African or classical and some pop.
Michael Clapper: Jazz, to counter the harshness of the grinding.
Eric Marshall: Rock gets me psyched for the more physical roughing-out stages. But I listen to classical music in the final detail stages because it relaxes me.
Tom Weeden: I only listen to the sound of the tool applied to the stone. It is important to my carving experience to feel and hear that interaction.
Josh Wiener: I currently am most moved by Otis Redding, but I will go from that to Blind Melon.

What’s the one place people will never find you?
Mark Brodie: A karaoke bar.
Vanessa Clarke: Wendy’s.
Tom Weeden: Heaven or hell.
Madeline Wiener: A shopping mall.

What is your ideal project?
Edy Cherniack: Every piece is a big, fun project for me.
Vanessa Clarke: A large-scale public art piece.
Tom Weeden: A good collaboration, a challenging vision, a learning experience, and one with financial benefit.
Josh Wiener: There are no words for my wildest dreams.

Featured in July 2007