We had the good fortune of connecting with Meghan Shogan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meghan, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I was interested in science and the liberal arts, but I needed to be hands-on and have some freedom for creativity or creative problem solving. Training to become a craftsperson seemed like a good compromise where I could grow a career in a bustling industry (construction) working with my hands and still get to be creative. I thought that I could eventually use my craft skills for more unbounded artistic expression, once I was proficient enough in my trade. I started training as a stone carver in 2007 and have not stopped learning since. It is challenging physically, creatively, and intellectually, especially with the mathematical side of setting out architectural forms. While I was working as a stone mason and carver, I paid attention to all other aspects of the construction business so I could be adaptable in my career. I have worked in many different roles in the construction industry. And now in the past several years, I have finally circled around to using my stone cutting skills in a more free-form artistic application, so my plan worked out.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I carve stone, for architecture and for free form sculpture. There are a handful of people who do this in Texas, but not many, and not many in the world who were trained though a traditional apprenticeship approach. I have always have an easy time learning new skills and academic school was easy for me, but learning how to cut stone for architecture was just plain difficult. I felt incompetent for the first 4 years of practicing the trade, and finally had a breakthrough at the end of my 5th year. I am still learning 13 years later and don’t expect to master it for another length of time. It took until recently to synthesize my drawing and art skills with stone. On a building, there is some personal style in stone carvings but generally it is matched to the style and time period of the architecture. I am making sculptures now that reflect my personal sculpting style, much like my drawing style is different from another artist. I strive with my brand, Vault Stone Shop, to fill in the gaps where production stone mills and CNC machines are lacking. I have worked in several stone mills and have programmed and operated CNC machines, so I know what they are capable of. There is a certain look to hand carved stone that can’t be efficiently matched with larger machinery, due to lots of undercutting, shadow, small detail. I turn down jobs that could easily be done in a stone mill to focus on more unique and detailed carving work, that would not be less costly to have done in a mill.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would force them to exercise with me by going rock climbing at Crux Climbing gym, or biking at the Veloway. We would check out the Cathedral of Junk (that’s in my neighborhood) and then inspired shopping at Uncommon Objects and record store hopping. We would go to at least one swimming hole- Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool, Blue Hole, or McKinney falls, maybe all of them! We would eat brunch at Enoteca Vespaio or Swift’s Attic, tacos at Veracuz orlunch at the Saigon le Vendeur food truck. Dinner is usually more tacos but if we wanted to get fancy, Lonesome Dove has a nice Texas touch. At night, we skip the bars and go to local art openings at Co-Lab Projects, Northern/Southern gallery, Women and their Work, or any of the great art galleries in the Canopy complex. Maybe a night cap at Kinda Tropical or if we have a reservation- Midnight Cowboy. I would want them to experience a movie at Alamo Drafthouse or the Paramount theater. And we would have to spend some time in my neighborhood in South Austin in The Yard, where there is winery, sake distillery, whiskey distillery, brewery, and coffee shop. This is in my pre-Covid world. If they came to visit right now, we would do all the outdoors activities with food to-go and ranch water (tequila and Topo Chico) at home on the patio, and dream about our past social lives.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to shoutout to the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC, and the professors and staff who taught me while I attended. A random visit to the college in 2006 set the course of my life path when I decided to enroll there. I had tried two other colleges after high school and did not feel like I was going in the right direction, and didn’t enjoy the traditional college approach. There needs to be a place for the students who don’t want a desk job, want to be hands-on, but still need to be intellectually challenged. ACBA is the only place I can think of that fits the bill where you can get an actual accredited degree. I was part of the third graduating class (in 2011) of the tiny and burgeoning college, and I hope to see them succeed and thrive in the future.
Scott David Gordon and Chris Van Loan III