Rob's Stone Heads Project

In 2006 I started an ongoing project to carve heads from waterworn beach cobbles. The idea is that each time I visit the seaside, I find a local stone, carve some features on it, sign it and then toss it back in the sea. Hopefully it will be rolled around by the waves for long enough that the marks I've made are softened and smoothed out before someone finds it. The random elements of this strategy are what makes it so appealing to me. It might get picked up tomorrow, or not for 100 years, or never. As a result, the amount of wear produced by the water will vary from none to complete. In other words, left long enough, all my carving will wear away, leaving a pebble as plain as the one I started with. There are 2 rather obvious implications of this. First, I generally don't have long to do the work, so what I can achieve is limited. Second, since it's going to get rolled around in the sea, there's little point trying to make an exquisite work of art.
Mayo Head face Mayo Head rev. The first head I carved was when we were looking for fossils near Ballycastle in County Mayo, on the west coast of Ireland in July, 2006. Having only just had the idea, I didn't have proper carving tools with me, so improvised, using a geological hammer and whatever chisels I did have. The rock I started with turned out to be rather hard, and I ended up carving less than I'd anticipated, and the result is somewhat chunkier than I'd planned, but that's fine. The pictures show front and back, of course. Click on the thumbnails to see the full sized image. It's sitting on the seat of a dining room chair, so you can see it's about 20 - 22 cm long. I hadn't really thought of naming the heads at this point, so this one is just called No 1 for now.
Watchet Head face Watchet Head left Watchet Head right We spent Christmas, 2006, in Watchet on the Somerset coast, so of course, I had to carve a head! This one was rather smaller, about 15 cm high. I carved it using an electric engraver which has a reciprocating tungsten carbide tip. This was much easier to use away from my workshop, where I had no means of holding the stone while I carved it. I did try chisels at one point, but it was really hard work. This one I couldn't leave where I picked it up, unfortunately. I didn't finish it until the morning we were due to leave, at which time the tide was fully in, and the spot I wanted to leave it was completely inaccessible. I had to guess somewhat, so I really don't know how suitable the location was. I hurled it as far into the sea as I could. Who knows? Rather predictably, it's called Salvador Dali.
Mog-ur face Mog-ur rev. In May, 2007, we visited my step-mother in southern Spain for a few days, and I carved this little head from a pebble I picked up there. The whole surface was pock-marked with little holes bored by some sea creature, possibly marine gastropods, and the lop-sided shape reminded me of Mog-ur, the immensely powerful shaman from Jean M Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear book, first of the Earth's Children series, which I have read many times. In the story, as a child he was mauled by a cave bear, losing an eye and being badly disfigured, only to grow into the most powerful shaman of his time. This stone was so right to carve to represent him. I tossed it back at Playa de Calahonda, wishing him "Rest well, Mog-ur!" as I did so. I had to erase and recarve part of the date on the back, because I stupidly carved RC 06, while my brain was in neutral. It's about 20cm long.
Sidmouth pebblehead Sidmouth pebblehead reverse As a Christmas treat in 2007, we had a few nights in the Westcliff Hotel in Sidmouth, hoping to find Triassic fossils on the foreshore west of the town. Sadly, the weather was foul, and in any case, we'd completely forgotten to check the tides, which were almost as wrong as it was possible for them to be, if you want to look for fossils. Fortunately the hotel manager kindly allowed me to use their handyman's workshop, so I spent a happy couple of hours with the electric engraver, making a pebble head to cast into the sea. Actually, I didn't cast it into the sea at all. At Sidmouth, there's a strip of shingle up under the cliffs and in front of the sea front, but as you go further out, it's bare sand, and the head would have been clearly visible at low tide. Instead, I buried it a few inches deep in the shingle, hoping the effect would be the same.

Last modified by Rob Clack 22nd April, 2008