• September 17, 2014

Stone carvers show off their skills at The Vineyard at Florence

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Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 1:15 pm, Mon Oct 1, 2012.

Joseph Johnson, 14, has been watching his dad carve stories out of stone since he was born.

“I’m not a guy that works with his hands because sometimes I drop the chisel. It’s just not my mind-set,” Johnson said. “But, I like watching (Dad) carve because it’s very beautiful.”

Johnson watched his dad and eight other artists Sunday at an annual stone-carving competition at The Vineyard at Florence during its Harvest Celebration Weekend.

Kambrah Garland, co-owner of the vineyard, said it hosts the event annually in order to support local artists and bring awareness to the ancient craft of stone carving.

“This is one of the oldest traditions and there’s not that many stone carvers left in the world that can actually carve,” she said. “It’s a historical and unique tradition.”

Joseph’s dad, Matthew Johnson, 42, said it’s overwhelming to think he’s keeping one of the oldest art forms around.

“It’s interesting to be on the edge of something that’s 6,000 years old,” he said. “People are always amazed that this is still something that’s being done; that feels special.”

Matthew Johnson has been carving for 21 years — half his life — and said there’s something indescribable about the experience of having the piece of stone emerge the way you imagined it in your mind moments before carving.

“There is something really engaging about it,” he said. “When you get to a certain point and you’re able to control the (stone), it’s just very satisfying.”

Artist Shelby Haggerton of Florence, who won second place in the competition, said he’s spoiled to be able to work on a different project every day.

“I like that every day is different,” he said. “When I get into a really nice piece, the whole rest of the world goes away. I could work all day and not even realize it.”’

Joseph Johnson, who has many childhood memories of watching his dad carve, likes to interpret and look at the emotional concept behind the pieces his dad creates.

“I like to think about the spiritual, emotional and intellectual meaning behind each carving that he does,” he said. “If I was feeling kind of gloomy, my carving would come out a little gloomier.”

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