A resident of Chouzy-sur-Cisse, a commune of Valloire-sur-Cisse, for the past five years, forty-year-old Olivier Vernet is an ornamental stone sculptor.

Its restoration activity consists of replacing or inserting, according to the rules of the art, a decorative stone work on an existing building. Unlike the stonemason, he works on the decoration of a historic monument, not its structure, reproducing, for example, Gothic friezes or chimeras on a cathedral, trophies on a castle or shells on fireplaces.

Housed in the former Catholic girls’ school built in 1830, he says as you enter the workshop: “Now you understand why I call my company Poussière de Pierre. Indeed, the workshop is covered with a fine layer of dust, testimony to the workmanship of the stone.

At the age of thirty, this native of Burgundy gave up his sales career to take up stone-cutting. After training at the Afpa in Blois, he moved to the region, specializing in ornamental sculpture in 2015. For the past 10 years, he has been working on prestigious monuments such as the Royal Chapel at Versailles, the Louvre, the Châteaux of Chambord and Villers-Cotterêts, the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame at Vitry-le-François, Orléans Cathedral…

“Modelling is really part of our job, we don’t just work with stone”.

As you enter the workshop, you’ll discover all the facets of the trade and the skills required. In addition to sculpture, the artist needs to master various techniques such as drawing and modeling, as well as knowledge of the styles of different periods. So, when there are no remains, and therefore no model, he has to research and draw one, which he presents to the architect of historic monuments, and then make a very precise model in plaster or clay before starting his sculpture. ” What’s great is to have the vestige next to us, to look at it and sculpt it, the eye is a formidable tool… The stonemason leaves me a cube in the monument, what we call a reservation, and I intervene directly on it. Our professions are complementary.

“It’s very moving to work on old buildings”.

Olivier Vernet has a “nose” for sculptures, perceiving every detail and the finesse of the work carried out, and always feels a sense of emotion and respect when restoring these relics. “At Vitry-le-François, on a capital, the sculptor had marked 1629 in a place that wasn’t visible. The oldest monuments he has worked on date back to the 11th century.

“It’s the most difficult period to work in, there were crafts, a quality of work lost since, with details so minute that only the sculptor sees them. It’s frightening, and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to do it again. It’s impressive, because it was anonymous people who carved the stones. We restore, we don’t interpret.

As we leave the workshop, we also feel a certain emotion at the sight of the remains, and leave with… stone dust on our clothes.