Joseph sculpting the first cornerstone christmas day 2004 on the bowling green Mount Vernon

The Virginia General Assembly commissioned a statue in 1784 to honor George Washington. America’s ambassador in Paris, Thomas Jefferson recommended sculptor Jean- Antoine Houdon of the French court.Houdon the preeminent sculptor of the time, traveled to the United States putting off a sitting with Catherine the Great of Russia. In the autumn of 1785 he reached Mount Vernon, and stayed three weeks with the soon to be president fifty-three-year-old George Washington.”Houdon modeled a clay bust of Washington, still on display at Mount Vernon. The artist also cast a life mask. He covered the general’s face in plaster, the subject breathing through straws. Houdon removed the hardened plaster, and used it to cast an impression of Washington’s face. Houdon delivered a life-size statue of Washington to Richmond Virginia in 1796 this is considered on of the finest portraits of the first president. One of Our preparatory steps was to study the sculptures and casts of Houdon as we began “Cornerstone” the journey this piece took us on was extraordinary.


For years Mount Vernon held a special place in our families history, each Christmas day found us at Mount Vernon a time alone together and exchange that one special gift that stood out for sentimental reasons. Little could we have imagined that in anyway we would become part of the legacy of Mount Vernon?In the tradition of President Washington our life was changed with nothing more than a handshake and trust. The first time we talked to the Mount Vernon Ladies association the idea for cornerstone was born a hand shake and promise of 500 original works all in less than a half an hour, the beginning of a turning point in our life. That fateful handshake was the only tangible existence of our largest single project…as time passed our name was carved in the wall of honor and we were welcomed into the history of President Washington’s Home Mount Vernon and when all was said and done that handshake was the greatest gift America could ever give us. To create cornerstone we started with a self-Harding clay and created a blank a design shape from which we would carve the details eyes ect… a rubber mold and mother were made, in three sizes. Jim Reese Director of Mount Vernon Ladies association arranged for a quantity of soil from the Presidents home, which we carefully blended with soil we had from the White House and Whitestone, gypsum and denstone to create the very special blend that would form our sculpture.As each piece dried we would sculpt the detail sand, finish and sign each sculpture.Everything was progressing wonderfully over the summer of 2006 when on the last run of the project vandals smashed almost all of the sculptures…disaster we had to regroup our thoughts and calculate if the project could be completed realistically a year’s work in less than 35 days seemed unthinkable… We found a new studio that made us feel more secure, moved our residence and studio …but that handshake, the trust had become more important that the work.Nothing, no obstacle would bar us from completing this extraordinary project. As the days and nights passed we were working 18-20 hour days finally we left Nova Scotia for Washington we still had to complete the eyes and structure of the 500 pieces …but it was now within reach. The drive was uneventful until we reached the Tri-Bough rough bridge in New York City we Blew a tire on the bridge…What next…unloaded tons of sculpture changed the tire and decided to take a break in New York city…the next stop Mount Vernon…


we arrived at mount Vernon and began sculpting within minutes…in the days that followed we sculpted 14 hours a day by the slave quarters, on the piazza by the Potomac in our make shift studio we realized we were working where Houdon .had worked over 2 centuries ago with the President late at night we would take a moment to enjoy the great honor we were given a moonlight visit to the tomb of the president to say thank you…sitting on the piazza of the presidents home sculpting in the moonlight or early morning sun…sculpting in the residence…even using the Cunningham room of The West Wing as our studio, the experience was humbling…in the end with all said and done the greatest treasure we found was the handshake that started it all and the many friends we made along the way…we hope that our work inspires it’s owners and allows them a chance to feel the Presence of President Washington in their life…his greatness lives on in a handshake and we hope that feeling is echoed in our work… it is impossible to describe the feeling seeing your name carved in Marble on the wall of Honor among the presidents and 400 greats of the Nations history…humbling to become part of that Legacy…Now we live to deserve such a moment…our time in Washington will never be forgotten…Cornerstone will always be a marker in our life’s Journey…We thank everyone  who made our wildest dreams come true…    


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