November 20, 2008

lettering in stone . .

This is my day job . . . working sometimes for a stone mason,
lettering ancient pieces of granite & marble & painting with designs.
Sitting painting at here at work, my mind goes a wandering
thinking about all the lettering i am surrounded by
words sandblasted into surfaces, there to remain for many a long year
soft dusty sandstone richly coloured granite from near, Dalbeattie or Creetown
from afar India or China cool marble, one misguided drip of paint & the marble stain
and lettering, for generations past fonts traditionally used
have been "old english, helvetica or times new roman"
some inscriptions are silvered
some are gilded with big soft, round tipped brushes
once the size has been applied & gone off (sticky)
the gild is gently worked into every nook & cranny

a very few are still hand chiseled, mostly those old enough to have originally been done in this way. Those old pieces in need of some loving restoration or to have another line of inscription added. Hand cut or leaded letters, these slow, precise processes i love to watch. It is a skill passed down by generations of stonemasons. Sadly, technology has gradually crept in, computers & machinery can do the same job in so short a time, (though the finish will never quite match up ). . still, those craftsman's skills now mostly redundant in this line of work. So sad.
Sometimes, i get to see delicate old pieces that come in to be worked on
and i am always amazed at the skills that were used
and try to imagine the hours of patience.
 Lettering, words, quotes & sayings are humming round inside my head,
One day, i hope to work them into my paintings, decoratively tucked away within.


  1. Fascinating. Thank you. I wonder sometimes what words are said when some craftsman gets to the last letter and something goes amiss. "Oh bother" doesn't seem to cut it.

  2. It always makes me sad to think about how many art and craft forms we are losing to modern methods and machines. I guess labor saving can be helpful, but I always hope that *someone* will continue to pass on the hand skills, so that they are not forgotten forever!

  3. Lee, mmm lets put it this way we have a "swear box2 in the workshop! and everything is triple checked, but human error is a sneaky thing! worst case scenario - a stone has to be sent away to be re-faced and we have to start all over. pesky if i have spent hours painting a picture.

    Tara, it is so sad, we have no younger craftsmen here. Though even i am grateful not to have to draw out all the lettering by hand - more time to concentrate on painting.


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