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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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