I recently made a memorial for Caistor Grammar School, Lincolnshire as a gift to remember their much loved school cat, Godfrey. Carved from Welsh slate and painted cream, the piece owes much to one I saw and admired it years ago by Cambridge carver Eric Marland, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to adapt and create something similar. Measuring 13″ x 14″, the stone will simply lay in the earth at one of Godrey’s favourite sunning spots, in the central school flower bed. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to show young people that craft skills are alive and well and a viable option for those good with their hands. I would highly recommend anyone interested to look for further details at the Heritage Crafts Association www.heritagecrafts.org.uk.
House names can be beautiful functional items. They should be visible from a distance, and contain well-spaced, clear letterforms. The one below was recently completed, carved from (particularly hard) Crosland Hill sandstone. The client had specified the size of the stone ( 21″ x 14″ ) as it was to go on a long outbuilding and she didn’t want it to look ‘lost’ on the lengthy wall. However, when drawing up the design, my usual mantra of ‘bolder the better’ on sandstone didn’t seem to apply as the lettering was in danger of looking absurdly large, even when passed at speed in a car! So, I decided to reduce the size of the letters a little and take up some of the space with a wide textured border. Creating a tooled frame around the design provides interest for the eye without distracting from the clarity of the sign, improving the overall look of the carving.
Earlier this month I was asked to write asked to have by Skillington Conservation Ltd to write a report on a rather lovely church monument in Norfolk. The Easter Sepulchre at St Andrew’s church, Northwold (between Kings Lynn and Thetford) is rather lovely. An impressive fourteenth century tomb chest, it is considered one of the finest of its kind in the country, despite extensive vandalism (either reformation or civil war related). Carved from clunch (soft chalk), it has a beautiful and complex pierced canopy, and four charmingly carved soldiers resting beneath stylised trees. Suffering from the affects of water entering the building over many years (in fact an engraving shows much of the deterioration pre-dates 1855 ) – poor drainage is hopefully soon to be addressed to help slow its slow, but on-going decay.
Also in the church was this beautiful and unusual ledger stone. I love ledger stones; often real gems which are walked over, have chairs dragged over them and never even glanced at. This is unusual because of its quality and the early date (1679). The layout is extraordinarily well-designed. The low relief carving on its neighbour was also of a very high quality.
It is usual for letter carvers to design and cut their own work. However, collaborations do occur, and when York carving ‘legend’ Dick Reid asked me to carve a small plaque he had designed to go beneath one of his earlier pieces, I was very pleased to be of help. The plaque in question was a modest, simple plaque designed to complement an existing and rather grand memorial in Thorganby Church, North Yorkshire, designed and carved by Dick in 1979 (see picture). Dick had sourced some Cumbrian slate for the job – very dark green, and one of the hardest I’ve ever cut (possibly Kirkstone?). Fixing was happily straightforward – St Helen’s, a lovely small church originating in Saxon times – had been largely re-built in Georgian times, resulting in the north wall of the choir being of soft, level brick. I say this, as anyone who’s ever tried to put up anything which needs to be completely level on a medieval masonry/rubble wall will know how challenging this can be….
A lovely client, a very helpful church warden and a nice job.
As part of the local bartering system which is alive and well in Lincolnshire, I agreed to carve a new house name for a neighbour, in return for an unused agricultural sharpening stone he had lying in the garden. With my neighbour having an urgent deadline due to a house sale, and me having the pressure of school holidays, this needed a bit of juggling. In short, I had a 24 hour window to make something. Designing (always a lengthy part of the job) was, as always worked out in rough and then on tracing paper – although the round nature of the stone meant that some free-hand drawing was also necessary. For signage, lettering needs to be clear, and these solid letterforms worked well on this rustic old stone. Drawing and setting out took me roughly three hours and cutting four. Fortunately, the stone (a gritstone) was surprisingly easy to cut, and out of necessity for speed, I kept the letterforms shallow. I decided not to paint the cut letters, as I often would, and left the stoneuncleaned because I thought the contrast worked so well and would be more harmonious in its naturalistic location. Seven hours in total (and the assistance of my ‘muscle’ to help lift it in an out of the workshop); if only I could complete all jobs with such speed…