By Gerry Aldridge
After having a less than satisfactory experience in an international sculpture school, I decided to leave and teach myself how to work with stone. I think the nail in the coffin came when the teacher told me my ideas were too complicated to produce in sculpture, and that I should consider painting as a medium through which to express myself. Being as drawing is only a means to an end for me and not something I ever wanted to pursue, I felt he was coercing me into being a defeatist.
I spent ten years recreating my complicated ideas into three dimensional stone sculptures and I have no regrets about leaving the constraints of a school. However, what I lacked was the basics of safety awareness and for this I experienced a few near fatal injuries on my way to being a proficient sculptor.
The worst habit I got into was not using the safety guard. I know, I know, I am an idiot, but it’s just so much easier to manipulate the grinder without the safety guard on. It’s quicker and you can literally cut corners better and more accurately without it.
I worked for eight years, considering the lack of a safety guard a calculated risk I was prepared to take. Each day, I convinced myself that my passion for art would protect me from danger, and it did until it didn’t.
A grinding stone got caught in the rock and splintered, spreading shrapnel all over my atelier. Glass jars were smashed to smithereens and clay prototypes were obliterated, all in a second.
Then silence. I looked down at myself, slowly but surely becoming aware of a pain near my groin. Images of pieces of the grinder embedded in my leg flashed into my mind and I was afraid to look down. I had no money on my phone to call for help. I got scared.
I peered down at my crotch and saw the dent in my trousers where I’d been hit. I thought the material had gone inside my leg, but after poking around, I was relieved to discover the shrapnel had not penetrated the skin. I removed my trousers immediately and could see the bruise and the point of impact, which was a centimetre from my manhood. I fell to the floor, out of breath and panicking about what might have just happened.
From that day on, I have used a safety guard and I have become adept at sculpting with it on. As an artist you often must learn from your mistakes and do not cut corners, (excuse the pun) where safety is concerned, or the world could lose your creativity forever.
Gerry Aldridge ©2014