Stories in Stone: Master Artisans on Tools, Technique, and Meaning
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Craftspeople in the building arts bring enduring beauty to our built environments. Through their mastery of technique and dedication to excellence, they create three-dimensional works of art that enrich the world in which we live.
In this session, three master artisans—stone mason Joe Alonso of the Washington National Cathedral, stone carver and letterer Nicholas Benson of the John Stevens Shop in Newport, Rhode Island, and stone carver and sculptor Sebastian Martorana of Baltimore, Maryland—share their knowledge of tools, materials, and technique and reflect on the attitudes and values that shape and give meaning to their work. Folklife curator Marjorie Hunt, co-director of the documentary films Good Work: Masters of the Building Arts and The Stone Carvers, moderates the conversation.
Real-time captioning (CART) and American Sign Language interpretation will be provided for this program while it’s live. To access, please follow the links below.
- Simulcast with ASL and CART (via Zoom)
- CART only (via Streamtext)
About the Artisans
Joe Alonso has worked at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for more than thirty years, first as a stone mason helping to construct this fourteenth-century Gothic-style building and now as the head mason in charge of maintaining and restoring the Cathedral’s monumental stonework. A craftsman of exceptional skill, Alonso currently leads a team of three carvers and masons working to restore severe damage to the Cathedral’s stone work from a 2011 earthquake. He takes great pride in the knowledge, precision, and care he brings to his work and to the lasting legacy of quality stonework he is leaving behind.
Nicholas Benson is the owner and creative director of the John Stevens Shop, a continuously operating stone carving shop in Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1705. A third-generation stone carver and letterer, Benson specializes in designing and carving headstones and elegant architectural lettering for public buildings, memorials, and monuments across the country. He has designed and carved the inscriptions for the World War II Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. Benson was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007 and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 2010.
Sebastian Martorana is a stone carver and sculptor living and working in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Rinehart School of Sculpture. His studio is part of the stone shop at the 158-year-old Hilgartner Natural Stone Company, where he undertakes and directs commissioned stone carving, restoration, and design, as well as his own sculptural works. His sculpture “Impressions” was featured in the exhibition 40 Under 40: Craft Futures at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and is now part of the museum’s permanent collection.