The mill was full of strange large-scale objects once used to wash, grind, or sift grain, or to press oil from walnuts. At first, I didn’t understand their utility, but their sculptural esthetic was stunning.
We spent over three years restoring the mill, the millworks, the dam, and the water system, during which time the workmen became my sculpture professors, teaching me stone carving and woodworking as well as the difficulties in marrying the two materials. I became obsessed with the juxtaposition of wood, stone, and steel, obsessed with transitions: from soft to hard, from having a business career to becoming an artist.
I was invited to show my mill objects in a show called “Le réel et l’imaginaire” at the tool museum in Salles-la-Source. At the opening, I was approached by an older man twirling his beret. He announced that he’d been a miller, and he wanted to know why I had spread the concrete spokes of my paddle wheel with its saw blades on the edges across the floor instead of in a tight circle. When I asked him why he thought I had done that, he said shyly, “To cut the threads of the water.” The minister of culture for our region overheard him, pulled me aside, and pronounced, “We both know that you were illustrating the explosion of the nuclear family.”
Our neighbor, whose father had been the last real miller, gave me a round-headed hammer that his father had used to dress the grinding stones in our mill. It had removable points, since each would quickly become dull from pounding on flint. I started making a large hammer with a head of stone that would hold different metaphorical points. Next, I made forging hammers with a wooden head instead of cast iron, and a paddle wheel from cast concrete with saw blades embedded in the edge. I made a sifter for steel, all using materials in unexpected transitions.
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