Stonemason-artist Thea Alvin provided insight Wednesday into her artistic landscaping projects at the Nicholas School for the Environment.
Alvin is the designer of “In Good Time,” a sculpture installation at the Nicholas School currently in progress. Construction of the sculpture began Feb. 8 and will continue until March 28 as part of the development of the planned Environment Hall. Alvin emphasizes fluidity and integration with the natural environment in her work, and she said that “In Good Time” will seek to evoke the beauty found in primitive stone architecture.
“I work as if I were a pencil sketcher with stone material,” Alvin said. “I let the natural face and natural shape of things happen.”
Alvin’s structures are primarily constructed from uncut or unmanipulated stone. Only 50 percent of the stone she uses in her work is cut, she estimated.
"Very few of the stones require manipulation, because I select them to fit,” Alvin said. “My gift is that I don’t see in color. I see color, but I don’t see in color. I see in shape."
Alvin has designed and helped construct stone sculptures all around the world, including in Italy, Canada, Great Britain, France and China. Many of her trademark structures—stone arches—can be found scattered throughout New England. She is deeply involved in the construction of her forms as well as their design, often lifting the stones without aid.
Alvin stressed the importance of attention to the natural environment in the design and construction processes.
“You can’t master mother nature,” Alvin said. “You have to listen to the rules.”
The stones used in “In Good Time” will come entirely from the quarry in Duke Forest. Alvin encouraged students and members of the local community to tour the construction site.
The event was attended by approximately 20 people, many of whom were members of the local community.
“I just like her feel for the environment and her designing ability,” said Brooks Burleson, a resident of Raleigh. “You never know what you’re going to learn from other folks.”
Walter Mullin, a resident of Durham and handyman, echoed the sentiment and called the event a learning experience.
“Occasionally, I have clients who want to do things with garden gates and decks,” Mullin said. “It’s always interesting to pick things up with stone.”