2. His Handmade Mallet
Chaim Gross built a customized studio space in his home in 1963. Its signature features include a giant, west facing skylight and an end grain floor which was installed because it is absorbent and can bear the weight of large sculptures. The studio space takes up the first floor of the home and the living spaces are on the top two floors. Gross’ studio as you see it today is largely as it was when he worked in it. There are project in progress, supplies, finished work, drawers stuffed with all kinds of miscellaneous objects, and tools everywhere, all arranged based on historical photographs to be as close to how Gross left them. One of the most special artifacts is Gross’ mallet, which he carved himself out of wood in the 1920s. He even carved the year into the bottom.
Gross was a pioneer of the direct carving method. This means he didn’t work from a model of say, clay or wax first, but went right to work chipping away at a block of wood. Gross preferred to work with hard woods like lignum vitae, his favorite. He would carve out figures using a chisel and his mallet, then go in with smaller tools for finer details and to smooth it out. On our Insider tour, we passed around the mallet and were shocked by how heavy it was. You can watch a video of Chaim Gross at work carving a likeness of his wife on the foundation’s website.