Limestone symposium co-founder works on piece for healing garden

The Herald-Times
Posted: Saturday, June 28, 2014 12:27 am | Updated: 11:44 pm, Sat Jun 28, 2014.

Drawing soft curves with a pencil, Amy Brier leaned toward the limestone dome. She drew briskly, layering semi-circles onto a carved koi fish to give it the detail of scales.

Then, using a wooden mallet and carbide chisel, she chipped the lines into the stone. The fans attached to her tent moved the hot summer air filled with the buzz of pneumatic hammers and the tapping of hand tools. Brier used both on this project, and the hand tools came in for the details at the end.

“I love working by hand,” Brier said. “It’s satisfying.”

It was Wednesday afternoon, just days before the Indiana Limestone Symposium ends — today is its last day. Brier is a co-founder of the symposium, started in 1996. It’s a time for limestone artists of all levels to work together at Bybee Stone Co. in Ellettsville — or as Brier calls it, “art camp for grown-ups.”

This year, her project at the symposium is one of her larger ones: a dome piece that will be mounted on a base and match five limestone benches at the garden of the new Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis.

Covered in a finger labyrinth to represent water, the limestone is dotted with koi fish and frogs for the theme of healing waters, Brier said. As an artist, carving water into stone is a contrast she enjoys.

“I like playing with transparency … there’s no transparency in the stone,” she said.

An Indiana University alumna, Brier said the limestone is what keeps her here. She said she’s in love with it. There’s a meditative trance in the repetition of carving, and the limestone holds memories, she said.

Brier, who once worked as a stone carver for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, completed her master’s of fine arts degree at IU so she could teach. Now, she teaches art students at Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington.

Nearly finished, Brier had put in weeks of carving along with help from Ned Cunningham, the head carver at Bybee, and symposium participant turned staffer Sharon Fullingim.

The last days of the symposium involve “putting out fires” in the dome’s design and adding details, Brier said. She moved around the dome looking for koi without scales or with a backbone that needed a touchup.

The hand-detailed work is her favorite, but she said it can be hard on the hands of artists. The gripping and repetitive movements put her at risk for carpal tunnel surgery, but Brier now sees a chiropractor regularly to keep her hands healthy.

When the limestone dome is done, it’ll be the hands of hospital patients, staff and guests that will glide over the finger labyrinth, the koi and the frogs. Hands will make the limestone piece worn — a sign it’s been touched and interacted with, Brier said.

But before that can happen, Brier urged admirers who stopped by her tent to keep their hands off.

It needs to be perfect, she said.

And once it’s finished, Brier will move on to her next project; she does only one at a time.

“Something like this is a lot of focus,” Brier said.

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Amy Brier has incorporated water, koi fish and frogs into her sculpture to represent the theme of healing waters. Once it’s completed, the project will be displayed at the garden of the Sidney & Lois Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis. Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

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Amy Brier carves a limestone piece Wednesday during the Indiana Limestone Symposium at Bybee Stone in Ellettsville.
Jeremy Hogan | Herald-Times

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