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When one shakes Robert Burger’s hand, the grip feels firm and uncalloused. Those hands not only ease suffering, they also etch detail in stone. The urologist with a 29-year-old practice in Lake Worth has exhibited and sold more than 20 sculptures in 17 years. He is among several South Florida professionals who have taken sculpting into their busy lives. Silva Jaffe, an instructor at the Boca Raton Museum of Art and its art school, has had such professionals in her class and currently working in her studio. “You really have to admire them,” Jaffe said. “Some of these gentlemen are here before dawn on the weekdays, and then others are in here on Saturdays when they could be doing something else.” Another part-time artist and Jaffe student is Stephen Salzman, a business consultant from Delray Beach and former chief financial officer for Getty Petroleum. He has spent years at the craft and exhibited his works. Eric Stein, a Boca Raton consultant specializing in venture capital and angel investments, is another artist. He is a bit shy about discussing his work, having started recently on just his third piece. “I’ve made a couple of animals, but it’s not really important what they are,” Stein said. While Stein is new to the hobby, Salzman has been carving rock for more than 30 years. “Back in 1964, I was returning to college so I could finish getting a degree,” Salzman said. “My adviser said there was no way I could study for all the credit hours I wanted to take.” The adviser suggested Salzman enroll in a sculpting class, giving him time to focus on his other classes — and a chance to make a couple of ashtrays. Said Salzman: “I ended up with a degree in accounting and a minor in sculpting. I never did get around to making those ashtrays.” Despite his high-profile job with Getty, Salzman stayed committed to his hobby, slowly working an hour or two a day on one piece of abstract marble sculpture, for more than 12 years. Since becoming a consultant six years ago, Salzman has found time to make more than 15 pieces. Burger came to his hobby in a different way — at a time when he realized something was missing in his life. “I realized that everything in my life, from my friends to what I read, dealt with medicine,” Burger said. “I needed to do something more. Originally I started looking for a metal class. During Vietnam, our clinic in Fort Hood, Texas, was next to the metal shop. So it was easy to drop by and learn the basics.” But his schedule only allowed for a rock sculpting class instead of metal art — and Burger never looked back. Like Stein, his first sculpture was an animal, a 1-foot-high abstract penguin that now sits in the doctor’s backyard. Over the years, the theme of Burger’s sculptures changed and evolved. The urologist has done a water fountain, a small diorama, and eventually larger pieces, including 200-pound blocks of marble that contain montages of faces, flowers and fingers. “Flowers and faces are what are working for me right now,” Burger said. “Who knows what will work for me in the future?” Salzman prefers abstract sculpture. “I personally like form,” he said. “You can use a lot of shapes and lines to make something pleasing to the eye.” Both Burger and Salzman’s works can be found at Art Fusion in Boca Raton. The doctor also has pieces on display at The Artist’s Gallery in West Palm Beach. While they prefer working with stone, there are ways for these free-time sculptors to squeeze in the gratification of seeing a finished piece in less time. “I do clay when I want instant gratification,” Burger said. “And alabaster is quicker to work with than marble.” Nevertheless, the surgeon’s passion is about the detail. “I find that there is a lot of similarity in the dexterity I use for sculpting and for surgery,” Burger said. “I find myself using my loop [a headset with a magnifying lens] a lot to carve the detail into hair.” The best thing about sculpting for those professionals is the concentration required. “You have to push out everything to focus,” Stein said. “It’s a time when I can leave everything behind for a while and I don’t have to think about work. It can be a great break from stress.”

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