Most people walk through the woods and give a cursory glance at rocks, or maybe give a thought or two to their shape or position. But others can look beyond the surface of a rock and see an artwork masterpiece waiting to be revealed.
One of those “others” is Kevin Stitzinger.
Stitzinger, Manager of the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op and creator of Stitzinger Stonecraft, has been working in the art of stone carving since 1997.
“I have always been fascinated by geology and geo-morphology ever since I was a young boy,” Stitzinger said. “I grew up in Erie County, Pennsylvania, and my passion began with collections of common road gravel that I scavenged from neighborhood streets and flowerbeds. That saw me through a BS degree in Environmental Science with a specialization in Geology from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and a MS in Physical Geography from the University of British Columbia. During this point in my life, I spent most of my free time caving and mountaineering for both recreation and academic studies. I got my first real taste of ‘stone carving’ at a summer job in ‘97. I was working for a company that had me sandblasting giant pieces of corrugated steel. While I was waiting to get the next big piece to work on, I would gather up the biggest rocks, that I could and would quite literally melt them with the sandblaster. It was too big to do anything artistic with, but it really opened my eyes to the aspect of carving stones to bring out their natural beauty.
“I moved to West Virginia in 2002 to teach environmental education at both The Mountain Institute and Davis and Elkins College, where I began sculpting stone to create unique gifts and accent pieces. I taught at TMI from 2002 to 2005, then went on to D&E from 2005 to 2008. I went back to TMI until 2014, then decided that I wanted to start sculpting full-time.”
And that’s exactly what he did. He left academics behind, and opened his own business, Stitzinger Stone-craft, and went to work doing what he loved.
Few people actually ever pursue their passion,” Stitzinger said. “But I knew it was what I wanted to do, and I went for it. And I have to say, it was one of the best choices I have ever made. I love working with stone, and it brings me closer to nature. Most of my work is done at my home, but some of the bigger things can be trickier to work on. To date, the Cass rock [at Cass Scenic Railroad] is my biggest work, but I tend to keep my art smaller, about the size of a basketball, so it can be easily transported. I do most of my work with common hand tools, such as hammer and chisel, but I do use the occasional angle grinder and sander.
“Recently, over the past year, I have been incorporating clay and ceramic artworks into my stone workings to bring a new and different aspect to my craft. Adding the clay pieces helps to bring out the beauty of the rocks and accentuate the artworks. I got this idea from my wife, Cree Lahti, who does ceramic jewelry. She has been a huge inspiration to me and has always backed me one hundred percent, and without her and my son, Mateus, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
For more information on Stitzinger’s work, visit his Facebook page, Stitzinger Stonecraft or stop by the 4th Avenue Gallery in Marlinton.
Brandon Nottingham may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org