The idea started off as two dancers, the girl in a swing movement, sliding under the man's feet and back up again. The symbol for Infinity was the inspiration, wanting a diagonal figure 8 as the main composition idea. The figures would have a C curve to their torsos. The abstraction was too abstract for me and I started to develop the heads and hands. To create more interesting hands, the dancers no longer grasped each other. Instead, her hands left his arms and began to reach for his face. Thus, the idea morphed into something else entirely. Later, I realized that this marble carving was in fact an expression of the gratitude I felt for receiving so much help from my landlord in my new home. He in fact was (very loosely) the model for the male figure here. Most of my works tend to be autobiographical in one way or another, sometimes without even realizing it during the beginning of the creation process.
- 12 h x 16 w x 7 d inches, weighs 47 pounds, (31 h x 41 x 18 cm; 21 kilos)
- Bardiglio Marble
- copyright 2016-2020 Kelly Borsheim
The design is abstract, but tending towards realism. This piece is rather complicated in that there are holes carved in the stone under the arms and spaces between the bodies. The areas under the heads of both the man and the woman were very difficult to reach and carve. However, it allows the light in, much like my Gymnast sculpture. This marble sculpture is in Italy, weighs 21 kilos (roughly 47 pounds). [International shipping included.]
The Inspiration and Creation of the Marble Contemporary Art Sculpture Helping Hands:
It always begins with the stone. In 2016, my landlord drove me and my newly completed clay sculpture commission Rock Towers and Frogs to a bronze foundry in Pietrasanta, Italy (Tuscany). While there, we stopped at a friend of a friend's place and I bought some small blocks of marble, including this piece of Bardiglio [pronounced like Bar-dilYO]. It looks a light pasty grey while dry, but carvers know to wet the stone to see what she looks like when polished.
I did not start work on this marble until October 2017. I finished other projects while I thought of the design I wanted for this stone, but then I broke my wrist in June 2017 due to my two knee in early 2016 injuries that have never healed. It took me a while to get my confidence and strength back up after the cast was removed.
Above: The Bardiglio marble as I bought it in Pietrasanta, Italy, with my yellow chalk sketch marks.
Originally, I wanted to keep it simple. I found out soon enough that this is a hard stone, but like flint. In that, a hammer and chisel tend to make the stone fly off in all directions, or break my chisels. I did mostly grinding to remove stone. Also, there are cracks in the rock, so I definitely recommend displaying Helping Hands indoors, and away from temperature extremes and water.
This top edge of the marble tells a lot about how it will shatter instead of carve.
The first thought was actually a black whale. But I decided that it was not enough. The second idea was abstract ballerinas, using C curves and the Infinity sign as my inspirations. I studied mathematics in university since I had loved it so much in high school. There is another sculpture I did based on the Infinity symbol: Infinity Bronze, a bronze designed for the traditional gift for the 8th wedding anniversary.
I envisioned the man curved over, his back as the C curve, while the woman sat low with her legs extended (her back also a C), sliding in between his legs, their arms gripping one another in the movement.
2017 oct 16: You may see my yellow chalk marks as I sketch out the anatomy ideas for both the woman and the man. I wanted to remove as much stone while working at the Nardini Quarry in Vellano (Valleriana, Tuscany, Italy) with colleagues around.
2017 Oct 21: Above, I have taken my marble home, where my landlord has given me a small plot of land in which to carve small works, basically anything that I can lift or slightly heavier since access is a small problem. I put my foot up to show the relative size of the sculpture WIP (work in progress).
2017 Nov 16: I often use the bird's eye view to help me design my sculptures. But here you see I am looking at the bottom side of the sculpture. I not only wanted to draw the woman's hips and legs and refine the shapes and positions of the man's feet, but I also wanted the bottom outline to be an interesting and asymmetrical shape.
2017 Nov 17: This is the first image I found in which it is clear that I have now changed the design and the idea for the piece. Note that her arms and future hands now reach up to his face.
As a couple dances with swinging movements, their hands are each clasped onto the other's arms. However, as I got into it and closer to being done in my mind, I had the sensation that the piece was too boring. I like some abstract art, but I have a tendency to feel that a person forgets about it after looking for a wee bit. I did not want to make a piece that earned the response of "That's nice."
Thus, the decision to have the man pulling on the woman's arms while HER hands were free and visible, reaching up for the man's face in gratitude, changed the dynamic between the figures. The idea was now different. I used "Helping Hands" as the working title. I had woken one morning and realized that the real inspiration for this marble figure sculpture is my own feeling of gratitude.
In late 2015, I had a new visa and moved to the hills in Tuscany about 1.5 hours from Firenze (by transport), and had some problems to sort out for my things I had left with a friend in Italy four months earlier. I had felt betrayed by two different friends and thus, had to move three times for their selfish nastiness and felt that I was truly starting my life all over again.
My landlord lost his wife in the months from when I had first seen his rental house and when I returned to Italy and needed to move in as soon as I could. The house had been "abused" by the previous tenant. He had told me not to worry, that the house would be ready to see again once I returned. However, the restoration had not been completed due to the care-taking to the end.
He had told me once that he was happy to have so much to do to keep his mind off of his loss a little bit. I think he was being modest. Many people in these hills told me that both he and his wife gave a lot of help to a lot of people. They are kind and generous people. I feel grateful to this day for the help I received in making my new house a place to call home.
2018 Oct 16: Almost a year passed before I came back to this sculpture. I appear to be fascinated by the challenge of serious undercuts. So much so that my tools have a difficult time reaching into the recesses I somehow still manage to create.
I am fascinated by the light entering and moving in and around the figures of my sculptures. Stargazer and Gymnast are other good examples of this. Those figure sculptures are both in the white Colorado Yule marble. Helping Hands will finish off polished as a black marble.
2018 Nov 8: Another direct carving sculpted head that is facing downwards and surrounded by arms that make it difficult to reach the lower parts. But the man, like the woman, has no actual eyes. Yet, I want to see if I could create the forms so that you still have the impression that, despite his skull facing down, he is looking at her face. She is also looking into his eyes.
2018 Nov 19: At some point, I realized the proportions were not working out to have the woman's left hand touch his face. But still, if I could carve it close, there would be shadows around that area while light hit many other places in the sculpture. Note the color of the raw cut stone is a light grey. It will be almost black after polishing and sealing.
2019 August 27: Back for the bean harvest, my landlord's dog Gregory da Pisa is often by my side. My neighbor's dog Yoda hangs with me as well, when his dad is not home. My landlord posed for the hands and I am drawing them in. I wish I had carved them more dynamically, but I changed the idea of the piece too late for my brain to figure out how to adapt some of the anatomy.
2019 August 27: I have on my YouTube channel many process videos so that you can learn more about the stone carving (or painting or mural making). This is a still shot of something I was explaining about direct design of a contemporary figure sculpture.
2019 August 29: Sun helps to show the forms and the shapes of the shadows on stone sculpture.
2019 August 30: I like the peaceful colors in the campo where I carve now. I guess my landlord likes how this sculpture is progressing because this day is his birthday and he gave me a light kiss on the mouth and said, "grazie" after he finished the bean harvest with his brother before leaving for lunch. I was surprised and not as appreciative as he perhaps thought I would be.
2019 September 6: Once of the problems with hard-to-reach places is that the sculptor must pay attention to all parts of the tool to make sure that while one's attention is at the tip or the sides of the carving tool head, the BODY of the tool maybe be damaging a different part of the sculpture. Here, have a look at the right hand's thumb of the woman.
2019 September 10: Another undercut becomes a hole in the marble, this time separating fingers. This will be slightly enlarged over time.
2019 September 18: Realizing that the woman's hand would be too long if it touches the man's face, the space is now opened up and shaping continues.
2020 January 5: Happy with how the non-eyes seem to be looking at the man and happy with the curve of the profile of the nose, now I will shape the mouth.
2020 August 15: Ferragosto (an Italian holiday), dog Gregory da Pisa came over for a short visit while I refine my sculpture/ Polishing has started. That is the longest and hardest part of bringing a stone sculpture into being. But with a colored stone, the results are doubly worth the labor!
2020 August 16: Starting with the lower numbers on sandpaper, working up eventually to the higher, finer papers. The initial stages are the most important to really work out all of the tool marks possible. And this is a complicated shape, so it took me months to sand, and I still could not get it as polished as a I wanted it to be.
2020 August 16: I have a good collection of small diamond-covered files for small and hard-to-reach areas.
2020 August 23: I had been asked by fellow villagers to organize an art exhibit during the annual "Sagra del Panino" (sandwich festival). I am using Helping Hands as my demo piece because I am still a bit of a multi-tasker. hahah. It was a great conversation starter! I am seated facing the door of the local community center, with my paintings and prints behind the back of the photographer. On a personal note, I am also wearing a dress that my 87-year-old neighbor Genoveffa gave me recently. She wore this dress in our village when she went dancing FIFTY years ago! It is in pristine condition because she cherished the memories made in it. I was so touched by this gift that I told her I would twirl in the main piazza of Castelvecchio for her.
Despite the Covid virus protections, we were legally allow to hold the art exhibit and the festival. We were limited to 15 people in the building, so we were near maximum here. I wias thrilled with how well people responded to Helping Hands marble sculpture.
2020 September 5: I use the sun to not only see fine scratches that escaped polishing, but also to look at the form. Specifically, I want to note the softness of the line marking the difference between dark and light.
2020 October 9: Wetting the sculpture not only helps me see missed scratches, but also reminds me of how beautiful the marble will look when the polishing is done. It helps spurs me to the finish line. I often limit the hours I sand each day because I do not like to protect my hands with gloves, preferring to feel what I cannot see to fix. That often leaves my fingerprints destroyed for a while.
2020 October 09: Here you see two marble sculptures near completion. I started to sand the Helping Hands marble in the evening hours before dark, while the mornings and early afternoons with good light were spent carving Sisters, a commission in Carrara marble, You can see that portrait of two women on the stairs at right. It is photo-ready now. I stopped sanding on the Helping Hands marble since the Sisters carving had a more important deadline and too much sanding in one day is painful.
I really love the 1960s look of how the sanded marble swirls with the water while polishing. I wash the sculpture thoroughly when it gets like this, even if using the same grade of sandpaper. Then, BETWEEN grits, the sculpture also gets a bath to prevent any particles from a more coarse sandpaper destroying the efforts of the next finer grade. Fun, Fun... work WORK!
2020 oct 17: This rock is so chippy that I decided to sign my last name on the bottom of the sculpture. Sometimes, as I did for the Sisters marble, I sign my logo instead, for subtlety. However, the signature you see here is now covered with felt that I apply to the bottoms of indoor sculptures. Just know that is is there!