What do you do after writing a PhD on the medieval grotesque? In Alex Woodcock’s case it was to learn stonemasonry. Practical knowledge of working stone gradually transformed his understanding of medieval sculpture and eventually led to him working as a stonemason at Exeter Cathedral for several years. In this talk he explores the subject of his book King of Dust – the twelfth-century carving of Devon and Cornwall that inspired him to pick up tools – and the people, from artists to architects, who have been drawn to it. He also considers how practical skills can bring the past to life in new ways, and what writing about it beyond your comfort zone can offer to both writer and reader.
Dr Alex Woodcock is a writer, stonemason and artist immersed in the worlds of medieval sculpture. His books include Gargoyles and Grotesques (Bloomsbury, 2011), Of Sirens and Centaurs (Impress, 2013) and King of Dust (Little Toller, 2019). Between 2008 and 2014 he worked at Exeter Cathedral as a stonemason, playing a key role in the conservation of its internationally significant west front. He teaches on the Cathedrals’ Workshop Fellowship foundation degree and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His website is www.alexwoodcock.co.uk and he can be found on twitter @beakheads.