Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Izumi Masatoshi Fountain Installation

Fountain Detail Plan

When I decided to pursue stone carving I didn't know what I was getting into. I knew I loved it and everyday I rushed to the studio wanting to study and work. Gradually the stones got larger/ heavier and when I graduated I left not just school but all the tools and friends that helped me move those stones. On my own, if I wanted to continue carving, I had to start over. It took years to get all the equipment necessary to safely handle the material by myself. Along the way I ended up becoming an Art Handler for a living. It dovetailed nicely with being an Artist. I could study my own work in the studio and others Art at work. Slowly I started to incorporate what I learned personally into what was required professionally and I became a sculpture specialist. Like everybody else, I didn't realize when I started what I was building as a student.

Recently, I received an email from a former  classmate in sculpture at the U. of Md. We had accidentally run into each other briefly only once since we left school and she remembered me. She was familiar with my blog, artandarthandling and asked if I would be interested in helping her employer with a project that involved the installation of a stone fountain/ sculpture. It was currently installed in Long Island, NY. It weighed approx. 5,000 lbs. I replied, " Of course I would!"

As a first step, I was sent plans and images. The artist was Izumi Matsatoshi. Reading about him I learned he had worked with Isamu Noguchi in Japan, an early important influence, whose ideas I would embrace and resist. The fountain was beautiful; it was a Zen stone. We arranged a site visit and discussed placement of the fountain in his backyard with the General Contractor who would be responsible for the concrete foundation and the water hookup. I would coordinate with him as well as the NY rigging company that would de-install it and the Artists Art gallery in San Francisco which supplied details provided by the Artist to help me understand how I should install it.

Where he wanted it would not be easy. From the curbed street, obstacles included an irregular flagstone walkway set in stone dust leading to a cedar fence. The fence door opened to another similar flagstone walkway to a flagstone patio, down steps to another flagstone patio set in concrete alongside a swimming pool, then finally to the install spot which was a beautiful flower garden. It would not be easy. I said something like, " ...no problem, we can do it."

It was a two day installation. On the first day, driving in, the radio said it might be the hottest week of the summer, expect triple digits. I rented a forklift to unload the palletized sculpture off the truck. We set 3/4" plywood over the flagstone for the pallet jack to roll over.

The stone was heavy, we pushed and pulled it through the door, over the flagstone walk and stopped at the top of the steps. There were 5 of us. We all looked at the install site on the other side of the steps. So far we had been in shade. It wasn't so bad. The technical details: set up the 1,200 lb. adjustable steel gantry with the 15' I-beam, short leg on top, long leg at bottom, rigg sculpture and trolley over steps, after lowering the pallet to the lower patio, re-locate the gantry over the install site, etc.. wasn't the worst. Where the last step ended, the sun was in full force with no relief. The heat would make it difficult. Personally, I can't remember another summer workday like that, almost unbearable. I told the crew if we can lay it on the lower patio, that's enough, we'll finish tomorrow. Afterwards, when it was all over, I thought it was among the coolest projects I've ever done.

Sculpture is rigged and trollied over steps.

Sculpture is set on granite blocks, level. Plumbing  is ready to be connected, 2" multi-colored river rocks will be placed underneath to complete the installation.


  1. Replies
    1. It's sweet, there's an adjustment in how the i-beam seats on the legs, I'm going to be able to use different width beams. I can use my aluminum i-beam which is 10' long and only weighs 50 lbs. for different scenarios.

  2. Where did you find the gantry? That looks like a pretty nice unit.

  3. I really like stone carvings, but I honestly cannot imagine regularly working with art which can weight over two tons. The scale of these measurements is huge, obviously. I do not think that five people would be enough to do this, even with the forklift and gantry. I bet it looks fantastic now though.

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