Stone carver hopes to save his dying craft by teaching others

Chris Pellettieri is a mission to carve out a new generation of artistry. Forever set in stone.

"Stone carving is an ancient tradition that goes back thousands of years, before the United States, before Christianity," Pellettieri said. "Methods and techniques that were built up over all those years."

Pellettieri believes he is one of only a handful of trained stone carvers in New York.

"Everyone knows what the product of the stone carving tradition is, but hardly anyone knows what the activity looks like or what goes into doing it," Pellettieri said.

He first learned the craft in the early 1990s during an apprenticeship at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, the neighborhood where he was born and bred. Now, inside a garage in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Pellettieri is leading his very own Stone Carvers' Academy.

"It's the realization of a dream. It's a vision I had as soon as I left the cathedral workshop, was to get back to working in a collaborative way, with a community of people," he said.

Pellettieri's program is a nonprofit that trains veterans, like Thomas Brown, to become traditional stone carvers. Brown claims he knew nothing about the industry when he first started in February.

"The idea of learning something that's traditional and able to continue on with the sustainability and viability of something like stone carving is really amazing and a rewarding experience," Brown said.

But Pellettieri teaches this week with a heavy heart after Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned for hours. The fire destroyed the spire and roof.

Pellettieri, who has carved everything from statues to fountains, understands how extensive the damage is, but also thinks it's an unexpected opportunity for his trade. Perhaps a rebirth of the old tradition of stone carving.

"To rebuild a structure like Notre Dame would really involve the rebuilding of a tradition and the training of new people in these ancient techniques, which are now almost completely forgotten," Pellettieri said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced plans for the Notre Dame to be rebuilt within 5 years.