Marble symposium of about 100 stone carvers is underway in town of Marble | VailDaily.com

Marble symposium of about 100 stone carvers is underway in town of Marble

Will Grandbois
will@postindependent.com

Each year, around 100 stone carvers come from all around the world for the annual MARBLE/Marble Symposium to share ideas, learn new techniques and enjoy their craft without all of the distractions of home.

Located just outside of Marble, a 3-acre parcel along the Crystal River serves as the event's home. Visitors are welcome to stop by, but children must be supervised, and dogs and smoking are forbidden.

"The public is always welcome," said Madeline Wiener, one of the founders of the event.

'The flying bagel'

Wiener still remembers the first time she encountered a group of carvers working on what became known as "The Flying Bagel" in 1977.

"It planted a seed," she recalled. "I wanted to be one of them."

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So, 28 years ago she helped launch the first MARBLE/Marble with some of those very artists. For $900, participants get access to instruction, locally quarried marble — the state stone — and a wide array of tools. There also are payment plans and scholarships to help offset the cost.

The event has grown to include three separate sessions across six weeks, run by the nonprofit Marble Institute of Colorado. The site, too, continues to evolve.

Carvers work under shady awnings, while underground hoses, power tools and vendors offer new things to try. Chipmunks scurry among blocks of marble and completed sculptures as cottonwood cotton and marble dust mix along the trails.

Camping is available nearby, with showers housed in the cast-off pillar cuts from the Lincoln Memorial.

At the end of the day, everyone gathers around a set of huge marble tables outside the communal kitchen.

"This is the center of the place," cook Mark Browning said. "When it comes down to it, the heart is where the food is."

Like most of the staff, Browning started out as a participant.

"We have a bunch of really good people," Wiener said. "Everybody has found their niche. We try to cover everything. Some of us are more abstract; some more classical."

Although the place and resources are a big allure, the most important element is the people.

"Sometimes you just need to be charged up by being around artists of like mind," Wiener said. "We're all drawn together somehow to work and experience the stone."

Ravinder Bharbwaj of Delhi, India, agreed.

"Working with so many artists together brings a lot of energy," he said.

For Karin Troendle, of Fort Collins, her first visit years ago was her introduction to carving in the first place.

"I can't draw to save my life, but I can look at the stone and see what's there," she said.

"I love it up here. It's a different world," she added.

The results of years of labor will be displayed at the Redstone Art Center in Carbondale. The show helps fund the symposium and gives the artists a chance at a sale.

"I think the greatest honor is for someone you've never met to take money out of their pocket to buy your art," longtime participant Gene Milway said.

For Rex Branson, who along with his wife, Vickie, carves wood and stone for a living, it's even simpler.

"It's the neatest thing in the world to see people enjoying your art," he said.

The couple have plenty of experience, and their work is displayed at the gallery around the corner, but that doesn't stop them from coming back to MARBLE/Marble year after year.

"For anyone who wants to learn to carve, they're not going to get a better experience anywhere," Vickie said.