I do not like to procrastinate. I do not like to be late. I do not think I ever left a homework assignment for completion on its due date. As a student and a teacher, I took research and pre-work very seriously and I felt naked if I walked into an experience unprepared. I would never be accused of being flighty nor would I ever have been described as spontaneous. Plan, do the homework, be ready for anything.
If I had done my homework this week, versus following an inspired invitation, I would have failed because I would have missed the moment. I mentioned to a parent from school that we had driven up to the marble quarry and she communicated that her husband was a marble sculptor. She invited us to his studio and I accepted, right then and there. On the drive to the studio, old habits kicked in and I started thinking that I should not show up empty-handed. Maybe it is not a good place for the kids and they may break something. What if we can’t communicate? I took a deep breath and knew that it was an inspired choice to accept and I was willing to see where it would lead.
When we walked into this studio in Pietrasanta, Italy, there was something larger at work than the art. There were a timeless energy and light that I have experienced only a few times in my life. Creativity was driving the hum and marble dust clouded the air but there was also divine tranquility and meditative quality to the finished work that was mesmerizing.
We arrived joyful and curious but not ready. Because I had not done my homework we were open and vulnerable and unprepared. The artistry swept over us and we felt an appreciation that was completely visceral. As we toured, I was in a dreamlike state. The artist and his wife showed us the process and the tools and the time it takes to create these masterpieces. We touched the rough and the smooth and inquired about their quarry trips and how they find their raw material. We talked of their family and their history and as their story unfolded, I was filled with gratitude that I did not do my homework.
If I had done my homework, I would have known that this family before me represented a marble sculpting dynasty from the 1800s that is shrinking with each generation. I would have known that the classically trained artists that had welcomed us were dedicated to a process and product that cannot be replicated by a machine and there are no shortcuts. I would have known that they were dedicated to materials and details of anatomy in much the same way as Michelangelo and Bernini. I would have known that their work is world-renowned, sought after and showcased from Moscow, Russia to Los Angeles, California.
Sirius De Ranieri represents the third generation of this dynasty and his son Dino represents the fourth generation. Sirius scooped up our children upon arrival and took them on a scavenger hunt to see how many marble busts they could recognize. As the children called out Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci, and Cyrano de Bergerac, he engaged their every guess. He put clay into their hands and showed them how he models every marble statue from clay first, down to the last detail. He let them pick marble pieces from the scraps and showed them what to look for in a strong stone. He was passion personified. His son showed us his current work, talked of his passion for a portrait style, and filled our arms with gifts of his work in photographs.
If I had done my homework, I would have felt timid and small in the presence of their genius. I would have tirelessly prepared and through my well-rehearsed questions, I would have missed the meaning of their work. As I looked at the shadows dance between the sculptures, I knew with every fiber of my being that some days are about preparation, but some are pure inspiration.