Now and again, one chances to see works of art that defy description, because the creator must have shown both infinite skill and patience to have brought them into being. When you think of pencils in art, your first thought would be of beautifully crafted drawings brought to life by amazingly artistic fingers that wielded the pencils used, but what if the pencils themselves were the base objects of the art form in question?
Dalton Ghetti is a truly incredible artist. This 49-year-old carpenter from Bridgeport, CT has been carving utterly stunning miniature sculptures, without the aid of a magnifying glass, for more than a quarter of a century. Every amazing piece is carved from the tip of a lead pencil. As a child, he began by carving tree bark, but moved on to other things, like soap to chalk before deciding that graphite was his preferred medium.
After so many years and so much practice, this method of sculpting has become second nature to Dalton now, and to do the vast majority of his work, he needs nothing more than a sewing needle, a razor blade, a sculpting knife and a carpenter’s or No. 2 pencil. He says of the art he produces: “The pencil tip is great; it’s like a pure, very homogeneous material. It cuts in the same direction, not like wood, which has a grain. But when I tell people how long it takes, that’s when they don’t believe it. That’s what amazes people more, the patience. Because everything nowadays has to be fast, fast, fast.”
Perhaps the most extraordinary fact about the awesome art he produces is that Mr. Ghetti still regards his pencil carving as a hobby! It often takes as long as two and a half years to complete pieces. Where a standard figure can take several months, sets like the alphabet carvings below take much longer. Mr. Ghetti has never sold any of his work, and has only given it away to friends.
When asked about his mindset whilst sculpting, Dalton had this to say: “It’s hard to explain but for me it’s like a sort of meditation. I’m alone with no music on in my studio and in a deep state of concentration, it’s like another mind state I float about in. I use the sewing needle to make holes or dig into the graphite. I scratch and create lines and turn the graphite around slowly in my hand. Also, I never buy the pencils, my friends are always giving me them to sculpt or sometimes I use ones I find in the street.”
The 49-year-old told how when at school, he would carve a friend’s name into the wood of a pencil and then give it to them as a present. When he later got into sculpture, he would make huge pieces from things like wood, but wanted to challenge himself by trying to make things as small as possible. His Eureka! moment, as he called it, arrived when he decided to carve into the graphite of a pencil.
Dalton, who is Brazilian by birth, keeps a box full of more than 100 sculptures that have broken whilst he was working on them. These are affectionately referred to as “the cemetery collection.” Mr Ghetti has successfully completed over 100 delightful miniature sculptures, and is currently engrossed in an epic piece inspired by the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Those dreadful events of September 11 affected this artist deeply, and he found himself unable to work for a time. In memorium, he decided to make a teardrop pencil carving for each of the 3,000 people who died. Since 2002, he has carved one every day. When finished, they will form one big tear drop. Dalton expects this to take 10 years to complete, but feels it will be worth it. Few would disagree.
Dalton Ghetti, this modest man of immeasurable talent, deserves recognition for his astounding artworks. The dedication he shows in pursuit of his ‘hobby’ really does beggar belief. Wonderful is just too inadequate a word for what he does.
Dalton Ghetti was the photographer responsible for all the images used here and happily gave permission for their use.