Among the natural stone trades, marble workers are characterized by their skills with a specific rock: marble. Marble workers are specialists who bring this noble natural stone to life for buildings, decorations and memorials. We talked to Brocatelle cofounder Alexandra Païta to find out more about this trade.
© Photo credit: teeraphan / Adobe Stock
Everything from kitchen work surfaces to way-out creations
You often find this definition in the other natural stone trades but for Alexandra Païta, working with marble depends on love of the beautiful, the stone itself - and know-how. “It is a question of bringing together natural marble, which is astonishingly diverse by its color and veinings, and age-old techniques combining precision, love of detail - and challenge”. Marble workers are experts in transforming slices of rock and often cutting them from blocks plus all the finishing steps like polishing.
Detail of a marble table
© Photo credit: Brocatelle
Popular for kitchen work surfaces with sumptuous veinings, marble masons specializing in building and decoration leave the beaten tracks to express the ideas of architects, designers and home owners. Brocatelle is expert in the innovative technique of “honeycomb laminates” and working with marble, onyx and alabaster on glass to make them translucent.
As for monumental masons, preparing the final homage to the deceased with the creation of customized gravestones comes with great responsibility.
Esthetics are the essence of the marble worker’s trade
Whatever the job – from graves to buildings and decorations – getting a work of art is of paramount importance to customers. The projects can be atypical, and even eccentric, like the marble car Brocatelle built for the French haute couture house Saint Laurent in 2019.
The marble car created by Brocatelle for Saint Laurent
© Crédit photo : Brocatelle
Alexandra Païta explains: “We meet demands from architects and designers who are always looking out for new materials. We took part in FABécole of the City of Design of Saint-Etienne (FABécole de la Cité du Design) which organizes workshops where students work with companies. The models created in these workshops were shown from April 5th to August 31st at the International Biennial.”
Marble masons even contribute to fashion! Brocatelle, as an active member of the Rhônapi association, made stone sequins to decorate the clothing drawn by students at the Adrien Testud fashion trades school. These creations will be featured in a fashion parade during the Biennial.
France finds it increasingly difficult to get marble from abroad
Covid didn’t help and now marble workers are not exactly facing a shortage but find it difficult to import marble. While the French natural stone sector encourages the use of the local stone, French marble masons rather work with more decorative marble from Asia, South America and elsewhere in Europe.
“Very occasionally we work with local stone, but it does not have the veining you get in marbles like Arabescato or White Panda, which you can find abroad. There are no quartzites or onyxes in France either. Due to Covid, buyers traveled less and the raw materials which we send for arrive with difficulty, in smaller quantities and with less diversity. Transport costs are rising all the time, so prices increase and although we sell to top of the range customers, this could negatively impact sales” says Alexandra Païta.
Marble comes in an incredible variety of colors, veining, etc.
© Photo credit: Brocatelle
As the range of choice is reduced despite the great diversity of imported marbles, Brocatelle has decided to propose a complete pallet of French marbles like Saint Laurent black marble, the Grand Antique from Aubert, Rouge and Fleur de Pêcher from St Pons and Morello Cherry Red, to name just a few, which are cut and shaped in their workshop.
Will WorldSkills soon recognize the marble worker’s trade?
In 2018, deeply committed to the recognition and promotion of marble masons and in a bid to attract recruits, Brocatelle joined a working group created to register this trade in the WorldSkills contest. UNICEM, Les Compagnons du Devoir (The Stoneworkers Guild School), State Education, Pierre Actual magazine, marble workers, manufacturers and distributors met together to define and propose a test subject and handle the organization and logistics.
In January 2022, a demonstration of the marble worker’s trade was held in Lyon Eurexpo in conditions identical to the WorldSkills contest.
We want to promote the trade by showing astonishing materials, our know-how and an attractive work created by a designer. We called on and “involved in this adventure” Sylvain Dubuisson who drew us a stool with three legs called Tertio.
— Alexandra Païta
And now? The demonstration was extremely well received and we now want to join forces with at least six other regions to present candidate marble workers alongside the other natural stone trades.
The marble worker’s trade can contribute a lot to the projects of everyone looking to include a noble and durable material to sublimate their creations. Many stone cutters who want to work with different stones and enter new markets have already acquired this skill through vocational training. And why not you?