Scott Cahaly says he is proficient at “shutting off the mental chatter and ‘listening’ to the stone.”
That’s an important talent for an artist who also teaches stone carving.
Cahaly, who grew up in Lexington, has been an instructor for 21 years, including the past nine in his studio space on the second story of the historic town-owned Depot building, 80 Loomis St. He leased the room in early 2013; the Select Board recently approved a two-year extension, effective Jan. 1.
“I have felt very supported by the town,” Cahaly said, pointing out that he and his “creative neighbors” on the second floor, the Glass Cooperative, are central to Bedford’s new cultural district.
Currently, he is teaching three 10-week three-hour weekly sessions plus Saturday workshops, a one-day experience with “a small piece of alabaster.” Some students come back for multiple sessions. Details are at stonecarvingdust.blogspot.com.
A biology major at the University of Vermont, considering a career in marine biology, Cahaly recalled he discovered the art world in the mid-1990s, about midway through his undergraduate career.
He said he found carving stone was introspective, a way to “take apart and find out what’s inside.” He concluded that his skills were “innate,” embodying “creativity, expression, and therapy. That’s all I wanted to do.”
After graduating, Cahaly found an outlet for the next three years as resident artist at the Vermont Marble Co. exhibit, part of the company’s Proctor headquarters. He was working with pieces of marble weighing thousands of pounds. Among the completed statuary is a piece that today sits in front of the armory in Somerville.
In 2000 he returned to the Boston area, spending the next dozen years at a Somerville studio. Later he joined the teaching staff at DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, continuing there until he moved his operation to Bedford in 2013. Cahaly still resides in Somerville, which is home to a large community of artists.
He loves the space in the Depot, with room for students and their work and lots of natural light. Cahaly said his studio is the only one in the region that is open all year long for stone carving, and students come from as far as Connecticut. He said he has even received inquiries from prospects in California.
During the pandemic’s months of uncertainty and caution in 2020, his space was one of the few places open for business as usual – because masks are standard apparel when carving stone.
He said he hosts a wide range of students. Although the average age is 45, there are parents with children, seniors, and young couples. “People say it’s the best part of their week. It’s a community. They laugh together. It’s social, a dependable part of any week.”
Cahaly said he instructs students on the use of three primary chisels, each with different variations, and “a dozen or so files.” Some of these tools are virtually the same as those used by artists in ancient Greece, Cahaly said. “This is a refreshing ancient experience in these modern hectic times.”
“I encourage people to let the stone talk to them, to have a one-of-a-kind relationship with their rock,” Cahaly related. “There is an inspiration factor with stonework. You can see a figure coming out of the stone.”
He continues to sculpt his own projects. “I tend to work on one piece at a time,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”
What advice does he offer to the novice carver? “Just stay open to the process – don’t judge yourself as an artist,” he said. “People take to it – I’ve seldom seen anyone who didn’t engage with stone and surprise themselves.”
Cahaly’s personal artist’s website is accessible at https://www.cahaly.net/.