Typically the role of a pencil in the art-sphere is that of a tool, one that is used to start a project, sketch it out, shade in areas and get the ball rolling. More often than not, that tool is found strewn on studio floors, broken on drafting tables, half-sharpened, or worn down to the nib. But when Dalton Ghetti gets ahold of the wood and graphite tool, he turns a pencil into something special, something intricate and something that can take years to create. Ghetti transforms a pencil from a tool to make art, into art itself.
He carves miniscule sculptures out of the tip of pencils and has been doing so for 25 years. His tools are that of a razor blade, sewing needle and sculpting knife. The detail of his work is impressive to say least, especially due to the scale of his canvas. One would think a magnifying glass would be his most prized possession and the key to his work, but one would be wrong.
The 49-year-old craftsman shuns a magnifying glass and relies simply on a steady hand, skill and patience, patience the majority of us in the technological world of instant messaging, social media and the likes simply cannot comprehend.
Some of his sculptures can take years to finish, especially with the more complicated pieces, such as the 23-link chain he created in the middle of a pencil. Last year he finished a series of 26 pencils, each one with a letter of the alphabet carved into its tip. The series took two and a half years.
“When I’m inspired, I can sit down and things just flow,” said Ghetti to NY Daily News. “You can’t force yourself to do those things. I do it just for fun, it’s pretty much like a hobby, a kind of meditation work that I do.”
His work is based on creative passion and attention to detail. He uses a sewing needle to make holes or dig into the graphite, scratch and create lines all while slowly turning he pencil slowly in his steady hand.
But why a pencil?
“The pencil tip is great; it’s like a pure, very homogenous material,” he said to the New York Times. “It cuts in the same direction, not like wood, which has a grain. But when I tell people how long it takes, that’s when they don’t believe it. That’s what amazes people more, the patience. Because everything nowadays has to be fast, fast, fast.”
Is there a market for Ghetti’s work, most definitely. Does that matter to him? Not at all. Ghetti does not sell any of his pieces, but he will gift them to friends.
The New Britain Museum of American Art has Ghetti’s entire collection (to date) on display until Aug. 29 as part of its “Meticulous Masterpieces” show. A perfect fit indeed.
What’s next for Ghetti, well he is working on his biggest project ever, one he thinks will take him 10 years to finish, but it will be worth it. Ghetti is creating one rice-grain sized tear drop for each of the 9/11 vicitms.
“The idea is, as you walk in, you’ll see a huge tear drop far away,” he told the New York Tmes. “As you walk up close to it, you’ll see that it’s made up of tiny little ones. So I make one a day. I was watching the whole thing from Sherwood Island State Park, and I broke down and cried all day. I had a vision about doing something about it, and that’s what I came up with. It’ll probably take about 10 years to do it.”