By Thomas Snowden
As a video editor for NBC Nightly News in the Washington, DC bureau, I’m usually editing stories right down to the last seconds of a deadline. Once in a while, it's a nice break to find a story where I can take my time. Recently, I stumbled upon Sean Callahan, a stonemason and stone carver at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.
Despite living less than a mile from the Cathedral for the past ten years, I found out about Sean and his work through my wife, Cathy. Both happened to grow up in large Irish-Catholic families who were raised in a neighborhood called Stonegate in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Through the ancient art of stonemasonry, Sean Callahan creates beautiful carvings, bringing the likenesses of such inspitational figures as Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa into the stone interiors of the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. NBC's Kerry Sanders reports.
Sean studied fine arts in college, and found himself attracted to working with stone. The National Cathedral hired him as an apprentice in 1987. Two years later, he went to the White House, doing restoration that included architectural cutting and stone setting.
Callahan calls it a "fun exercise" to take on the challenge of creating a lasting piece of art work from a blank block of stone. The carvings have a permanance to them that give him satisfaction.
Start to finish, the process takes about about two months. A sculptor does the portrait then sculpts it in clay. Once the Cathedral committee approves the sculpture, a plaster cast is made of the model and that’s the model that Sean works from.
Stone carving, Sean notes, is not for everybody. It’s physically demanding work and takes patience, working alone for many hours at a time. He says the medium of stone fits his personality.
When he's not working on a carving, Sean does maintenance work on the masonry of the Cathedral.
Sean feels the National Cathedral's beauty naturally attracts people. He considers that beauty to be something innate in all of us. He describes the feeling as the one you get when you see beautiful architecture, stained glass, and carvings. Sean saw it all and wanted to be a part of it. He feels very lucky to do what he does, calling it his dream job.