CAH works with skilled stone carvers located in the villages of Leogane and Gressier in Haiti. This region is known for its craftsmanship in stone, and many of the artisans that work with CAH have been carving stone for 10- 20 years. Some are master craftsman whose work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. They have taught others their skills and have developed unique styles and designs.
The stone the carvers work with comes from a mountainous region in Haiti, where it is abundant. Riverstone is a soft stone, easy to carve and shape and appears naturally in shades of white, grey, pink, and green. It is used to create elegant sculptures, lidded boxes, paperweights, and other decorative items.
Stone pieces are selected and brought to the carvers’ workshops. A rough cut is made of the desired design using chisels and saws. The pieces are soaked in water to make them easier to work with. Using simple hand chisels, the shape is refined. The piece is then smoothed by a series of sanding. To achieve the smooth stone finish each piece will be sanded three times, first using a steel rasp or flat steel hand files of different grades and then finally sandpaper. Using a combination of strokes, and progressively finer files and sandpaper, a skilled artisan can attain a surface that is perfectly smooth.
Once the sanding is completed, the details are added to the carving. Textures, design, and details are added using chisels, punches, and different hand tools and techniques. This process requires a skilled hand and knowledge of the stone. The final step in the process is to polish or dye the finished piece. A polish is applied to bring out the natural textures of the stone and to protect it. Click HERE to watch a short video of the process.
CAH works with many stone carvers’ workshops. When orders come in, these small family – owned workshops provide work for 20-30 workers. Each one specializes in a different step of the process. The more skilled artisans will carve the final details. Artisans who are still learning will do sanding and basic chiseling of shapes. One piece can take between 2 hours to a full day to complete, depending on the size and complexity of the design. For many stone artisans, sales of their craft is their only income source.