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Crafting Sacred Art: the Making of a St. Michael Sculpture

HGH is currently in the midst of an exciting collaboration with The Catholic Cemeteries of Hamilton (Ontario) to deliver a series of sculptures for their cemeteries.

Having worked with the Diocese previously, we were thrilled to get the call regarding this new project.

For us, it’s a wonderful opportunity to blend our granite sourcing expertise with our passion for creating life-like statuary. This blog details the process of making the St. Michael sculpture, pictured, which was installed in August 2023 at the Our Lady of the Angel’s Catholic Cemetery in Stoney Creek, ON.

Part 1. The brief

It all began with a call from the manager of special projects for the Diocese asking for our help. The idea for each granite sculpture was for it to delineate a distinct section of the cemetery. In addition to the St. Michael statue, this included a mother and child sculpture for the mothers and children’s area – both providing connection and solace for visitors.

During our initial conversations, we assessed the feasibility and potential of each design from a granite perspective.

For the St. Michael sculpture, we decided, together with the client, on Imperial Grey granite for the figure and South African Brits/Impala granite for the cylindrical base.

Part 2. The design

Both the client and HGH carried out research to find photos of St. Michael artwork and statuary that was in line with their vision. The customer finally settled on a bronze sculpture that was in one of their other facilities, while we made some changes to the design at their request.

However, the St. Michael sculpture began life as a series of sketches with many revisions. We sent these drawings to our granite artists overseas, who began the process of manifesting the St. Michael figure in clay.

The clay used by the artist is a special sculpting clay that allows them to make continual adjustments to the model, if necessary, as work progresses. Following the client’s brief, the artist captured and made revisions to intricate details, such as the figure’s clothing creases, facial features, and hand placement.

After a six-week period of feedback and finesse-ing the clay sculpture, the client delivered their final approval.

Aligning with our client’s exact specifications before beginning work on the final pieces is an essential part of how we work. It might stretch timelines, but this way we know our clients are truly happy before any work begins – and prevents changes and delays further down the line.

Part 3. Bringing the figure to life in granite

Once the client was happy with the clay iteration of the sculpture, it underwent a 3D scan. Working from this scan the plant was able to create the final piece in granite, using robotic milling and sculpting.

The finer touches were then hand-finished, while our sculptors sent the client photos for approval throughout.

Part 4. Bringing the sculpture home

The sculpture’s journey back across the ocean took approximately six weeks, with each careful step of the way designed to ensure it arrived at our plant intact and ready for installation.

Once we’d received the sculpture, our skilled craftspeople completed the engraving, using stencils and a meticulous hand; they also added lettering through our sandblasting process.

Part 5. Installation

And then the sculpture was ready to be transported to the cemetery.

If you look closely at the picture below, you’ll be able to make out a piece of granite that was left attached to the sculpture between the hand and body of St. Michael. If this granite had been removed before shipping or transportation to the cemetery, this part of the sculpture would have been extremely fragile and at risk of being broken in transit.

Instead, and upon installation, our amazing craftsman Kevin carefully separated the hand from the body.

The round base of the sculpture added a layer of complexity to the installation process too, taking approximately one hour to install.

However, once the piece was in place, we were all thrilled by the results. We’re pleased to say, the client was too. The joy of crafting unique sculptures, witnessing the finished project, and knowing the client is happy, are some of the best aspects of our work.

Part 6. Work continues…

Our work with the Hamilton Catholic Cemeteries is ongoing – and we’re currently in the process of creating and installing further sculptures, which we look forward to sharing with you soon.

In conclusion

Crafting sacred art is an intricate, personal and complex process, where artistic vision, craftsmanship, an open mind and collaboration all come into play. We love that the St. Michael sculpture stands as a testament to this process and shows our commitment to enhancing sacred spaces with the enduring beauty of granite. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the process too.

At HGH, we pride ourselves on sourcing the finest granite and providing the best service to our valued clients. Whether you’re working on a monument project, a timeless headstone, or a public architecture piece, our team – and their many years of expertise – is at your service!

Get in touch with us today.

Did you know that we at HGH Granite have been providing granite services all over Ontario for the last 90 years?

Our vision and business model have helped build a loyal customer base that relies on our expertise and quality workmanship. Over the years, our team has grown with like-minded individuals that share the same passion for providing outstanding granite products and services. Let us help build you your vision.