A self-taught stone sculptor, Alabama’s Brooks Barrow uses old world techniques and traditional tools to make his modern and minimalist pieces.
The artist: Barrow grew up Montgomery and Franklin, TN, and later served in the Marines. While living in Wisconsin, after his military stint, Barrow worked in commercial construction. Unsatisfied, he turned to making art full time.
The company/studio: Brooks Barrow Studio, started in 2009 in Wisconsin. Two years later, the self-taught craftsman moved back to Alabama and set up his shop on a 100-acre pine plantation in Davenport, about 30 miles south of his Montgomery home.
The goods & materials: Functional pieces, such as bowls, and nature-inspired sculpture in stone, mainly limestone and marble, native to Alabama.
Process: Hand-tools free-form objects and sculpture from blocks of natural stones using traditional tools and techniques.
This process yields subtle asymmetries and produces a softness of line and form not possible with a lathe or other mechanical means, he said.
After tooling, each form is either given a tooth chisel finish or is honed and polished to a matte finish sufficient to reveal the color and grain of the natural stone.
Why stone: Because of its permanence, but also the challenges and limitations inherent in the material.
What’s popular: Oblong limestone bowl ($250); basalt cardholder with accent pebble ($15); pure white marble bowls ($120 to $1,250); and banded marble bowls ($325 to $1,800).
- Nature and the natural beauty of material itself.
- Sculptures by artists, including Noguchi, Duchamp-Villon and Nevelson.
Fun or unusual requests: Asked to create a sculptural dove (pictured below) for the donor wall at Montgomery Catholic High School in 2019. “It was a challenge to capture all of the details of this bird in flight,” he said.
Big break: In 2010, Barrow was selected to participate in a specially curated section of Etsy shops for the “One of the Kind Show” in Chicago. It helped open up his small studio to a much larger audience.
Claim to fame: Commissioned by the City of Montgomery to create a public sculpture on the occasion of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s 10-year anniversary in Montgomery, to be on view in Hyundai’s visitor center.
Barrow sculpted two large stones, one in Alabama marble and the other in Asian black basalt. He positioned them in close proximity and slightly angled to one another, to symbolically reference and link Alabama with South Korea.
Awards/honors: Asked to create pieces for Calvin Klein Home, General Electric and Google.
What’s next: New body of abstract sculpture.