Stone Carving: A Disappearing Trade
ROCK HILL, S.C. - It's in the back of a van where Dean Reganess keeps his tools for a trade he says is disappearing. "The craft is dying,” Reganess says. The 37-year-old is a stone carver. You may have seen his work outside the Olde York Farms neighborhood in York or the 190 pound marble trophy given to Jimmie Johnson after the Kobalt 500 in 2007. Reganess also spent ten hours a day for two months carving a 600 pound dragon out of green soap stone. He says, "I can't imagine anything more satisfying than what I do.”
Reganess says there are less than 200 professional stone carvers left in the United States. And in the Carolinas? “Yeah, I'm the only carver around," he says.
"We don't want to see these custom designs and elements that have meaning to a family go away,” says Rock Hill homeowner Duane Christopher. He commissioned Reganess to make the green dragon for his traditional Japanese garden. It cost a few thousand dollars, but "It has a lot of meaning for us,” says Christopher.
The green dragon is more than just a nod do the disappearing trade of stone carving; he's also become a bit of a neighborhood rock star. Area brides come to the garden to have their pictures taken with him.
Meantime, Reganess says he is hopeful that with exposure and education, more people will turn away from machines and technology and back to craftsmen like himself. "What I have is something you can't get out of a machine, and that's human design,” he says.
The US Department of Labor has reported that, as of just a few months ago, one in four electricians, carpenters, masons and bricklayers were out of work.
Reganess spends a lot of time teaching other people the craft of stone carving in the hopes of keeping the trade alive. His three kids, one even as young as two, can all carve.
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