Snapshots & Sketches – voices in stone and wood

Building an embodied town: experiences of Scottish tradesmen, tools and techniques for generations

Sandy Stephen

featured image: Janus interpretation of Sandy’s work

“There are many fine historic buildings in Inverkeithing. Some of these are named after the original owners such as Rosebury House and The Friary. In other parts of the country, houses are recognised as being the work of famous architects – Adam brothers – or as a reward for battles fought and won – Blenheim Palace – but as I studied the buildings and the methods used to build them I realised that those gems of construction are actually memorials to the multitudes of men and women who shaped and cut the stone and timber. Who worked long hours in often appalling conditions and so often to the detriment of their health. Who are forgotten and nameless. So when I see a tool mark or a particularly subtle piece of skill, I like to touch it and connect across the ages and thereby for a fleeting moment acknowledge and appreciate their skill and craftsmanship and even of their existence.”

Sandy Stephen, text for Snapshots & Sketches 2020

Sandy originally set off on the project drawing and painting the buildings of Inverkeithing, and as he looked at details, it was as if the countless number of nameless men who had physically built the town began to emerge from his pen! He filled a sketchbook with teeming details about building methods, tools and machinery, and even recreated tools from wood and other materials. But it was probably his paintings of the men working away which most readily illustrate his thinking. When Jane included the figures in her Janus interpretation for Sandy’s work, it began to take on the impression that the men were ‘building’ the head out of stone, like lilliputians creating a giant statue. This seems entirely fitting to his subject matter.

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