HALLOWELL — A local sculptor is offering the public a chance to watch each week as he carves a granite statue — just watch out for flying stone chips.

Augusta artist Jon Doody, 46, set up shop in Stevens Commons last month with a 1-ton, 8-foot slab of Hallowell granite. The slab — which will eventually become a three-quarter profile of a sturgeon — was set up by Hallowell’s Public Works Department. Doody speculated that it may have been used as curbing in the past, noting remnants of tar on the stone.

Sculptor Jon Doody uses a hammer and chisel to remove material from a block of granite Saturday that he plans to turn into a sturgeon at Stevens Commons in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal photo by Sam Shepherd

Doody’s residence is presented by Stevens Commons, owned by developer Matt Morrill, and the Hallowell Arts and Cultural Committee. Doody plans to work through the summer on the sculpture.

On Saturday, the sound of power tools rang through the commons, prompting visitors to check in on the progress of the statue. Doody was still removing excess material from the slab by making shallow cuts into the stone with a saw and then using a hammer and chisel to break each section out.

Doody usually works from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. because he tires quickly from lugging the 40-pound demolition saw across the slab. He said he doesn’t know when the sculpture will be finished.

“Some things go faster than others. I’m still trying to get my equipment dialed in,” he said Saturday. “Hopefully, I can start doing something that looks vaguely fish-like soon.”

Doody, an experienced woodworker and sculptor with softer stones, is working with granite, a hard stone, for the first time, which he said presented a learning curve. He said he was asked if he had ever worked with granite and “wanted to see if he could do something different.”

“It’s easier to take off more than you planned with soft stone,” he said. “(With granite,) the challenge is actually the resistance of the material.”

It’s clear the material is doing a number on his power tools, which show major signs of degradation from grinding down the dense rock. During a break from sawing, he showed visitors how multiple blades were worn dull from cutting the rock and how wide the chisels were for carving hard stone, which can’t be cut with sharper chisels like softer stones and wood.

One visitor, Gail Hamilton, of Augusta, watched Doody for about half an hour on Saturday with her nephew, Daniel, 14. She said seeing the sculpture start from an ungroomed block of stone will give her an appreciation for the final product.

“You take a foundation stone, and all of a sudden, he creates a fish out of it over time,” Hamilton said. “It’s really fascinating to see how it starts from nothing.”

Sculptor Jon Doody uses a hammer and chisel to remove material from a block of granite Saturday that he plans to turn into a sturgeon at Stevens Commons in Hallowell. Kennebec Journal photo by Sam Shepherd

Doody said public exhibitions are energizing because he gets to explain the process to people who may only see the finished product in a gallery.

“People are amazed to realize how much work goes into a piece like this,” he said. “Nobody knows how many hundreds of hours are spent on this.”

Chair of the Hallowell Art and Cultural Committee Deb Fahy said Doody, who teaches adult education courses in Augusta, was an excellent choice for a public residence.

“It takes a specific kind of artist to welcome the public in,” she said. “Jon is really open and likes talking to people and teaching.”

Fahy said she hopes Doody’s residence is a boon for more granite sculpting in the city. She said sculptors have often resided in Hallowell to use the city’s famous granite, but the sculptures never remain in their place of origin.

“There were all kinds of granite sculptors here … but the sculptures all went away,” Fahy said. “We’re a granite city, and we don’t have any granite sculptures really.”

Fahy said she wanted residences for sculptors to lead to a local symposium but opted to start on a smaller scale. She said a meeting with Maine Granite Carvers hatched the idea for Doody’s exhibition in Stevens Commons, which she said Morrill was “very enthusiastic” about.

“It’s about getting a sculpture made and placed in Hallowell somewhere,” Fahy said, adding that she was not sure where the sculpture would land in the city when it was finished.

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