Behind the scenes of a hungarian workshop

During our experience in Budapest last March, we were lucky enough to meet Janos, who reached out to us with his hand and heart to share with us some pieces of the stonemasonry culture present in Hungary. He opened the doors of his workshop and shared his story with us.


Louis Dutrieux

5/4/20234 min read

On the sunny pavement, a figure stands out from the flower shops in the background. He waves to us. With faded orange boots on his feet and a noise-cancelling headset around his waist, we recognise János, a Hungarian stonecutter in his forties. We have an appointment with him this morning to discover his workshop. Just enough time to turn on our recorder and take out the camera, in two minutes we are ready for the visit.

A few years ago, János took over the funeral marble factory inherited from his father. It is located in the residential district of Pacsictatelep in Budapest, not far from the cemetery. This is also where he grew up. In the business, he works together with his mother on the commercial side and with an employee he trained himself.

The premises of the family business do not look as small as they appear. Adjacent to János' childhood home, a storage area is framed by a series of buildings and yards. The place is neat and tidy, just like our guide. One feels at ease in this place where a multitude of objects arouses curiosity. The main activity here is the production of monuments in stone and polished concrete¹. To do this, János uses techniques inherited from his father, probably even his grandfather. He shows us the templates used for the stone and the moulds for the decades-old concrete monuments. We also admire some of the machines left by his predecessors that are still running perfectly, such as the kneeler² from the 1960s and 1970s. This large cast iron machine is so well oiled that you could move it with a little finger. You can see that each area of the workshop has its own function. The parts and tools are also well maintained and tidy. Maybe even a little too well," laughs János.
When he has time, János renovates and reorganises certain rooms. Each room is decorated with objects inherited from his parents. We observe that he in turn adds mementos from his experience.

A business that turns
A destiny of adventure and stone

When János finished his training as a stonemason/sculptor in 2005, he was twenty years old and wanted to discover new horizons. In fact, one might wonder if this desire was not born in his youth when he came into contact with blocks of Cuban marble* purchased by his father during the communist era. This invitation to travel will lead him to a place that may seem less exotic to us. Indeed, thanks to an exchange programme between young Franco-Hungarian professionals, he had the opportunity to live for three months in a companions' house near Lille, France. In this place, he was touched by the spirit of brotherhood and the amount of professional knowledge he had access to. He stayed much longer than expected: after ten years, having become a journeyman stonemason and having travelled around France, Italy and England, he returned to Hungary, a polyglot with a striking amount of skills.
In his company, there are a few clues to this past. In his office he shows us some technical books collected in different countries. Further on, in his stock of materials, we also see French, English and Indian tools and plaster staircase models.

View of the cabin where the cutter is located

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Caption (from left to right):
  • Disks for the resurfacer

  • Railways acquired during János' apprenticeship in France.

  • Table and controls of the cutting machine

  • Tools from around the world (India, UK, France ...)

  • Cuban stone of Janos father

Presentation of the resurfacer and its disks

During our interview, János slips away to show some techniques to a young person preparing for the Euroskills. We greet him quickly so as not to disturb him while he is concentrating on learning how to use the disc machine. For a moment, we watch the young man work with envy, realising how lucky he is to have such a trainer.

On our journey, this is one of the few workshops we have visited where we have met such a complete and passionate craftsman. János' family heritage, combined with his stays abroad, give him the possibility today to respond to a great diversity of stone cutting work, whether for marble, building, sculpture or stairs. This visit reminds us that we should not be fooled by appearances. The equipment is only a small part of the real value of a company compared to the knowledge and skills of the stonemason. In a workshop, behind the impressive appearance of the stone blocks, the noise and dust of the machines, there is, above all, the craftsman.

Clothes don't make the man...
Janos presenting the workshop

Stock of various limestones and marbles of the company

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