By James Raia
Chris Miller has made public art for decades. He works in granite, marble and wood, and he’s made plenty of monuments in town squares and figurines in office buildings.
Auto stone art is his side job, and Miller is now making landmarks from Georgia to Maryland.
On Thanksgiving night, Miller returned home to Calais, Vermont, from Lexington Park, Maryland, with swollen hands and tired after finishing another stone auto art creation. It’s a 125 percent-sized 1929 Ford Model A truck. It serves as a welcoming monolith for a contractor, car and truck collector and semi-truck racer at his home and business.
“It has all the curved fenders; it’s from my favorite era of trucks,” says Miller, who owns ChrisMillerStudio.com. “It has beautiful lines.”
About 30,000 pounds of granite was used, making this one very heavy pickup truck. But it’s a lightweight compared to one of his other creations at 40,000 pounds.
Stone Auto Art: “To Get Outside”
Miller still spends most of his time creating traditional sculptor work. He has commissions for several years. Automotive creations are his side work.
“The stone trucks are sort of a fun way to get outside,” Miller says. “I get out of the studio, do some traveling and work with a crew, that sort of thing.”
After completing his latest stone auto art truck, Miller arrived home at 9 p.m. His right hand was swollen from swinging a four-pound hammer daily for several weeks. His left hand was covering from bloodied wounds from the repeated wallops of the hammering of chisels. His body was sore and he couldn’t use his hands for four days.
“There are no plans; I make it up as I go,” says Miller, reflecting particularly on the completion of his current stone auto art piece. “You measure a vehicle, you draw it all out, you think out all of the different parts you’ll need, the infrastructure. But it’s all quite a puzzle, a challenge and a lot of fun.”
Miller is primarily self-taught, although he studied art in college. He also studied anatomy and sculpture with the late Lothar Werslin of Sandgate, Vt., and drawing and anatomy under Billy Brauer of Warren, Vt. He’s collaborated with several stone sculptors in nearby Barre, Vt.
Completion of the 1929 Ford Model A truck was a three-person project: Miller and a two-person crew. It took 700 hours, the craftsmen working nine-hour days.
“I don’t know how much longer I am going to be able to swing a four-pound hammer every day,” says Miller. “But I think I have a decade more in me. But I will slow down as I go.”
But it won’t be soon.
Miller’s next stone vehicle project is scheduled for next February. It will be a 1952 Ford pickup truck. Pending are a 2007 Peterbilt dump truck and at least one more creation.
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James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: email@example.com.