"Across the Grain" by Thomas Sayre

View this video to see how the piece came about.

Lenoir's Earthcast Sculpture
Lenoir, N.C. is now the sacred keeper of a monumental piece of public art by renowned international sculptor, Thomas Sayre.

In 2011-2012, the Caldwell Arts Council undertook a massive public art project to bring Sayre, who is also a principal of multi-disciplinary design firm Clearscape, to Caldwell County for the creation of one of his world-renowned sculptures. From the ground up, Sayre and several local contractors used a technique called earthcasting. This style of casting creates a mold in the earth in which concrete is poured and then pulled from the ground, creating an inspiring 26-foot diameter, 40,000-pound centerpiece for Caldwell County’s sculpture collection.

The final piece resembles a circular hole saw called Across the Grain, which is bordered by a grassy plaza in the former Blackwelder Hospital site in downtown Lenoir on the corner of Harper Avenue and Church Street.

The finished plaza features a sidewalk with green stepping stones that honor the financial donors for the project. There is seating created by local artists using historic timbers along with a grassy berm for viewing the sculpture in different perspectives. The entire process is complex, and involves considerable planning and engineering skills. You now can see this Powerpoint Slide Show of the event.

Who Is Thomas Sayre?
Thomas Sayre has designed and built public art projects all over the world and has been part of design teams for civic, educational, and museum buildings. He, along with architect Steve Schuster, is a founding principal of the multi-disciplinary design firm, Clearscapes, and has collaborated to produce lighting, furniture, terrazzo floors, and specialty surfaces.

Growing up in the shadow of Washington, D.C.'s National Cathedral, Thomas' early art education along with his love and respect of natural materials, came from the stonecutters and the Cathedral. His education continued at St. Albans School, University of North Carolina, University of Michigan, and Cranbrook Academy of Art.

While occasionally producing "studio" pieces, most of his efforts are focused in the public arena. It is here where the idea of producing art intersects with the realities of life. The art will work only when disparate opinions come together through collaboration to form a coherent vision. To learn more about Thomas, visit his website.

Other Works by Thomas Sayre
Like all of his previous landscape-sized sculptures, Thomas Sayre draws inspiration from the surrounding community. The final piece here in Lenoir resembles a circular hole saw and is called "Across the Grain".  Sayre derives its name from many places, both from the area's treasured past and its anticipated future.

Wheels of the Past and Future
It is apparent how the industrialization of water wheels, turbines and sawmills impacted the furniture industry in Caldwell County. These wheels came out of the ground and some ran in water, which is represented by the green stepping stones in the sidewalk that surround the sculpture.

All of these wheels touched Caldwell County’s past in some way. “And like a skilled man, the furniture world changed quickly, and we started asking ourselves, what are the new wheels of Caldwell County’s future?,” Sayre explains. “The new wheels will drive the spirit and economy of Caldwell County.”

A Logging Lexicon
Thomas Sayre recognizes that the term “across the grain” is a logging term. When you cut across the grain, you are making a commitment, an intentional act to make something.  “This ability to commit to doing something ensures that there is a future,” explains Sayre. “The act of bringing this sculpture to Lenoir is going across the grain, and I get the sense there is something unique here.”

Sayre further states that there are other towns and cities much larger that have tried pieces of this scale, and they aren’t even close to realizing a completed project.