The Process Tony Mayo follows to create Sculpture


Tony Mayo only uses hand tools to create his sculptures. On very rare occasions, when it is necessary to remove large amounts of material to arrive at a basic shape, he may use power tools. But the actual shaping, refining and final finish is always produced with hand tools. Mayo works by hand because he feels it puts him in touch physically and emotionally with the essence of the material in which he is working.

I know if I am working by hand, it is going to take me a long time to create a work of art. I believe that realization forces me to slow down and take my time while manufacturing the finished product. That awareness compels me not to hurry and to be more patient and exacting.
Tony Mayo’s completed work is refined and finished beyond what the human eye can normally see. When working, he wears magnifying goggles while using small hand tools. Sometimes he makes his own tools because there are no available commercial implements that will allow him to create some of the difficult angles and details he takes great pleasure in producing.

Mayo likes the challenge of pushing various materials to their limit, forming them either very thin, or into demanding shapes that are normally not attempted.

As he sculpts a piece, again and again Mayo looks carefully at it from every possible angle to make sure each line or surface is as straight, evenly curved, or smooth as possible. He does not want any bumps, ridges or uneven areas. As he brings a piece to completion, he closes his eyes and lightly run his fingertips over all surfaces, feeling for irregularities which his eyes, aided with magnifying glasses, may have not detected. If anything unsatisfactory is discerned, Mayo carefully reshapes and smooths it to his standard.

The final polishing is extremely painstaking and time consuming. After the surface has been meticulously smoothed with exceptionally sharp tools, it is sanded with 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. The 400 grit is followed by 600 grit, then 1,000 grit and finally with 2,000 grit wet/dry sandpaper. On some occasions, Mayo may work up to 3,000 grit paper. Mayo uses the 400 grit sandpaper to form the final shape, removing extremely small amounts of material, almost as one might use a super fine file. Frequently, as Mayo puts the final polish on a sculpture, he will discover uneven areas; he then reworks those sections and goes through the entire polishing process once more.

Angel of the Lord
The Angel of the Lord sculpture was carved from a whale tooth found on a Vancouver Island beach.

Usually Mayo’s sculptures incorporate undercuts that are only the thickness of a sheet of paper. Imagine sanding and polishing into those sharp undercuts, as well as into numerous small holes and difficult angles, using a tiny piece of sandpaper held with your fingertips. Often, Mayo must make diminutive custom tools onto which sandpaper can be attached in order to get into hard to reach areas. Hand sanding to a polish can take 100 or more hours.

When carefully observing Mayo’s sculptures, you will notice that even the bottoms and other unseen areas, as well as the smallest hard to reach regions are smooth and finished to a polish. Mayo’s desire is to make his finished piece of art absolutely as perfect as he is able, and to that end, he will rework a piece over and over. Some of his sculptures evolve over several years and can take up to 2,000 hours to complete.

The Angel of the Lord sculpture was carved using only exceptionally sharp knives and miniature files. (No power tools.) The wings are so thin that if you hold your finger behind them in bright light, you can see the shape of your finger through the ivory. The polishing was accomplished with minute pieces of super fine sandpaper held with fingertips. Try to imagine how difficult and time consuming it would be to reach the almost inaccessible areas. The control of movements and the concern of breaking paper-thin wings were so great that Mayo literally had to hold his breath. The thick layer of 24-karat gold was precisely and painstakingly applied using copal varnish and the age-old method of the great masters. It took hundreds of hours to create this exquisite sculpture.

Often Mayo’s art contains details so small that most people can’t see them without the aid of a magnifying glass. Visit the galleries to see Tony’s fine artistry!