The Queue: Sebastian Martorana

The Queue: Sebastian Martorana

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

Published on Monday, November 29, 2021.
blog post cover graphic for The Queue featuring Sebastian Martorana
Cover of Winter 2022 issue of American Craft

Welcome to the Wonder series of The Queue.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the current issue of American Craft. We invite these inspiring individuals to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.

From custom tools to comfort with feedback, Sebastian Martorana shares what it takes to put ideas down in stone.
Sebastian Martorana is a sculptor and illustrator living and working in Baltimore, Maryland. He's the "In My Studio" contributor for our Winter 2022 issue, sharing an overview of his workspace and a personal reflection on his creative process. Sebastian has also shared his stonecarving practice at our marketplace events in Baltimore in years past and served as a judge for our Awards of Excellence in 2019. | @sebastianmartorana

stonecarver seated cross legged working with a chisel on an outdoor monument

Photo courtesy of the artist.

How do you describe your work or practice?
I am an artist who illustrates ideas primarily in stone, sometimes wood, but always with chisels. I make the big smaller. I don't always make the complex simple, but I'm always paring down. I split time between self-driven projects and commissions.

The past 18 months has presented many challenges, from a global pandemic to renewed urgency around issues of racial equity and police brutality. As we slowly move into a post-pandemic world, how are you finding beauty and staying grounded?
I've been able to address social issues I feel strongly about in my own work, which is cathartic and rewarding when the feedback is strong, whether positive or negative. However, in terms of the COVID era, my family keeps my firmly planted on the ground. Life has changed for my kids and wife far more than me, being able to drift off into oblivion every time I enter my studio space. Unlike many, I work on projects that often take months or even years to develop. For most of the work including my family, the work got very small, very suddenly, so I have to keep an eye on that in order to even attempt to be a good dad and partner.

spot-lit wooden pedestal holding stone plaque with seven controversial words carved into it
stone carved bust of caricature of donald trump

Photos courtesy of the artist.

The theme of the newest issue of American Craft is "Wonder." Can you reflect on that theme as it relates to your work and practice?
I wonder all the time. Nearly every day while I'm working on a commissioned carving I wonder Is this really my job? Right now, just a couple of clients waiting on my work are the Archdiocese of (a pretty big US city) and a branch of the federal government. How did I get here from a kid whittling with a pocket knife and playing with rocks in the dirt?

work in progress of a government crest and eagle carved in stone
close-up of a government crest carved in stone

Photos courtesy of the artist.

What’s one of your go-to/favorite tools in your toolkit that the world should know about?
One kinda over looked tool is my bench grinder, whcih I use to make the tools I use to make the artwork. I am often asked about where I get my chisels, but what people are really asking is where do I get chisels that do particulars things. I have to make them—or at least shape the edge profile. Each project I do is different, so I have to make the tools that will fit the specific contours and textures of the subject I am describing in each one.

close-up of a stonecarver hitting a chisel with a mallet sending debris into the air

Photo courtesy of the artist.

What book should we be reading or paying attention to right now, and why?
I've read just about everything Malcolm Gladwell has written, but his David and Goliath is probably the only book that actually changed the way I thought about myself and my work.

Are you binge watching anything right now?
My wife and I just finished watching Squid Game (of course)—and I feel like watching Ted Lasso is basically the cure for that...

cover of book david and goliath by malcolm gladwell
Cover of Winter 2022 issue of American Craft

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