The first thing that greets you as you come to the Saint-Malo faire is a huge stone statue of Makey. What most people don’t find out till later is that this statue of a robot was originally carved by a robot. The statue, a work of Brittany-based sculptors Maìllard & Maìllard. While final touches to the statue were carved by hand in the traditional manner, the bulk of the work was produced using their newly acquired 6-degree of freedom computer-controlled robot.
The Maìllard family have been stoneworkers for five generations and the acquisition of the robot has changed the way they create sculpture completely. Although the final ten percent of any work will be finished by hand, using the robot means that they can cut both the time to realise a piece, and the final price, in half.
Sculptures made in this way are still art. The robot does not change the art — it’s a new vision — at the end it’s a human that finishes the sculpture, that gives the expression of the sculpture.
I sat down and talked to Eric Maìllard about sculpture, robots, and how he views the introduction of technology into what has — until now — been a traditional craft.
With so much emphasis sometimes placed on new technology superseding traditional crafts people, it was interesting to see how a traditional craft can adopt — and be changed by — new technology, while also maintaining the soul, traditions, and essence that make it unique. Change may be inevitable, but it can be softened and we can shape the change to preserve the worthwhile parts of what has gone before.