Chiseling humanity onto slate

Susan Bradford chisels at slate while artist and sculptor Kerry O. Furlani offers instruction at a workshop Saturday at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. The Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning hosted the event. It holds numerous workshops and lectures in and around Manchester.

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MANCHESTER — By chisel and a mallet, pieces of grey slate were transformed Saturday into works of art.

Sculptor Kerry O. Furlani taught an interactive slate letter carving class at the Hay Madeira Education Center at the Southern Vermont Arts Center. It was hosted by the Green Mountain Academy for Lifelong Learning (GMALL).

Furlani guided attendees through each step of the slate letter carving process. She instructed them through the drawing, composition, and spacing of the letter forms to help transform the inscription into a carving.

Carving methods developed by ancient Romans have been used continually used for over 2,000 years, Furlani said. Not much about it has changed.

"I love being a part of a tradition and technique that has been going on for over 2,000 years," she said. "I love to honor traditional techniques and to pass it on."

Furlani has been conducting these workshops for over 15 years. She started focusing on slate relief carving and letter carving about five years ago. Furlani studied at the Frink School of Figurative Sculpture in England for three years during the late 90s.

Slate carving is more popular in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States, she said. Due to its popularity, there are more workshops and apprentice opportunities for those interested.

"I came to try something different," Susan Bradford, a workshop attendee, said. "This is about as different as I can get, and it's challenging too."

Furlani tells her students to make their letters their own and to not copy others. She reflected on a time when she was a student and kept trying to base her creations off others until found she needn't to do that.

As an instructor, Furlani finds that teaching helps her grow as an artist. It helps her slow down and to understand her craft and what it takes to create a new piece.

She also finds it rewarding to see how students grow comfortable with a chisel and a mallet throughout a class. She described participants as becoming friends with their tools. She often shows pieces created by machines to her students to let them see the difference between that and a handmade piece. She finds allowing the human element to flow into the artwork to be crucial component.

"The human connection is very important," she said. "We're touching our humanity."

As a female carver and sculptor in a male dominated art form, Furlani has spent her career debunking the stereotypical images associated with her occupation. She hopes that when women and girls see her working that it will inspire them.

Gloria Palmer, executive director of GMALL, was also among one of the participants for the day's activities. Palmer was interested in the slate carving workshop, as it was the first time GMALL had offered a workshop on it.

"I try to attend many of the workshops," Palmer said. "I've tried many different art forms, and this one is very new to me."

Palmer said that she tries to reach out to different artists to try and get them to hold different kinds of workshops. GMALL hosts a wide array of lectures and workshops.

Pottery, wood working, collage classes, writing classes, basket weaving, and even meditation are some of the many classes offered in the Northshire area.

"We really promote lifelong learning and finding creative ideas," Palmer said. "We hope more people will try it out."

Furlani has her own art studio in Poultney. It bears her name and is located at 188 Main Street. It is open to the public, but by appointment only. Appointments can be made through her website or by email,

On July 8, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. GMALL will be hosting a pet portrait painting class at the Long Trail School Art Room. To register or to learn more about the event visit

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