Trees, monoliths and memorials

Well, it’s been a weird few months hasn’t it, with the COVID situation. I have pretty much been able to continue as my design room is at home, and we have been careful to alternate time in the workshop, and Dan (my long suffering dust maker!) has been able to carve things at home during the worst of the lockdown.

So here are a few pictures of what we’ve been working on recently.

Willow carving, reverse of Welsh slate memorial
The front of the previous memorial, destined for Black Isle near Inverness
Oak tree relief for a small tree marker memorial in Northumberland
Rustic sculptural York stone signage
Preparing a huge slate monolith for carving. This is in the private garden at Holkham Hall. It was very hot! See next pictures
South facing side featuring the inscription ‘THE UNEXPECTED IS THE HISTORY YOU HAVE NOT READ’ close-ups to follow. Lady Leicester wanted the wording to be subtle, read up close, so as not to detract too much from the power of the monolith.
Close up of the South face
Close up of the South face
Close up of the South face
Close up of the North face
Close detail of riven slate monolith above
York stone memorial to the 7th Earl of Leicester, Holkham Hall. I took this picture while I was carving the monolith above. It’s weathering nicely now.
Welsh slate memorial in Ashdon, near Saffron Waldron, see reverse on next picture
Reverse of memorial with words from Mother Julian of Norwich and a wee hazelnut
Moleanos limestone plaque for St Mary’s Church, Primrose Hill
Yotk stone memorial, Sculthorpe, Norfolk
Detail from the stone above
detail from York stone memorial
detail from York stone memorial
Monolith inscribed with words from Rumi, a 13th century Sufi poet…. See next few images. This was planted in a field in Suffolk.
I had to grind back some of the stone to accommodate the lettering as it was very rough in places. Detail to follow
Sometimes grinding back the surface reveals a different sort of beauty within the stone
Seem like a good place to end this blog….. I hope it was interesting. Feel free to comment, I welcome your thoughts and reactions

Bishops’ tablet final stage

I was able to finish the gilding yesterday as the cathedral was empty, which was ideal for uninterrupted loose leaf work. Here are the final pictures

Gold enamel undercoat
Application of tinted gold size with tester patches
Gold leaf laid in, ready to sand back
After sanding
Close up. These are only 20mm tall
Another close up

Gilding is always quite a fraught business, laying in the gold too soon and it wrinkles up, and too late it won’t adhere. This went well. I used 4 hour size, but it was ready within an hour.

Norwich Cathedral additional inscriptions

The Bishops tablet in progress
Setting out the High Stewards inscription

Last week I was working in Norwich Cathedral adding names to two stone plaques. The material seemed to be Nabresina Gold, which I have carved before. It’s quite hard, and ‘plucky’ in places, so I had to be extremely careful chasing in the serifs. The previous inscriptions were of varying quality, and stylistically a bit all over the place (for example the narrow 0’s on the High Steward numerals, which were somewhat at odds with what had gone before). I drew lettering that was close to, but not copying some of the better examples, attempting to create some harmony with the original carving and letterforms, and hopefully set a good precedent for future additions.

Some of the earlier inscriptions were quite poor, and some not even set out square on the tablets. It was awkward work as these letters were only 20mm tall, and there were stone columns in the way on both sides, which meant that some physical contortions were necessary. I can see why previous carvers struggled…..

Detail from existing inscription
Detail from existing inscription
Detail from existing inscription
Detail from existing inscription

Here are some pictures of my work on this. The Bishop’s inscription is yet to be gilded, and has an undercoat at present in these pictures.

Flood painted, prior to rubbing back
After careful sanding
A close up of the 20mm letters
The High Stewards tablet
Another close up, again 20mm letters

I look forward to gilding the Usher inscription, it’ll look great. It was a lovely experience, with the choral and organ accompaniment. I hope to be lettercutting there again soon.

Some recent work

Here are a few pictures of recent work, in different materials.

First a bowl and memorial, both made using Caithness stone:

Next, some York stone memorials:

The last one is in Holkham Hall churchyard. I hope you find these interesting….

A road trip to The Black Isle

Dan my trusty assistant and I have been installing a stone in Cromarty, and exploring some of the historic sites here. Last time I came up this way I visited the enormous Sueno Stone near Elgin, now encased in glass, and the Nigg stone. These Pictish stones have both been unearthed and re-erected. They are from around the 8/9th century. Here are some old pictures:I was commissioned to make a stone to go in Cromarty cemetery. I had previously installed one in Kirkmichael. These were both Caithness stone, which is a hard mudstone, rather like slate. It can be highly polished, but I opted for the more natural and rugged riven finish. The more recent one for Calum is a neutral grey colour, it will become a bit more rusty in colour over time, as can be seen with the other stone here, which I installed about 10 years ago.Kirkmichael is a wonderful small church that has recently been restored. During the restoration many wonderful stones were unearthed and they are on display there. They’re amazing and some are from the 13th and 14th centuries. They feature swords alongside the crosses, tree of life imagery, steps of Calgary, and some of the later ones have sextons tools, imagery relating to death and spirituality, the mort bell, hour glass etc. Feast your eyes on these.

Bale Church piece

I recently installed my second memorial in Bale churchyard in Norfolk.

The first I carved for here was to an inventor and featured some nice cogs on the back. This second memorial features an angel head reminiscent of the 18th century style, along with the cross keys on the back and a runner…..I also really liked 4 deeply carved panels on the font and some lovely inscriptions in the floor

A plaque in Westminster Abbey

This exciting commission was delivered recently and will have been set into the floor by the Abbey’s own stonemason ahead of a gathering to remember Wesley Carr, the previous Dean of Westminster who passed away last year. It’s exciting to have a piece set into the fabric of the building, now part of the building itself and with an eclectic set of neighbours also set in the floor. Prominent poets, scientists, politicians, musicians and so on. It’s an interesting place to visit as a lettercutter.

London Design Fair

I finished setting up my stand today, and had a bit of a wander about. There’s an exciting array of designs by some of the country’s top craftspeople. Furniture, pottery, wallpaper, textiles, lighting, and all sorts of innovative products. Here is a snapshot…. pictures taken during the set up. Come and see me there. At the bottom of this post you will find a private view invitation and complimentary pass. You can download, complete and print these for free entry. I hope to see you there.

Experimental head

I made this yesterday, it’s some kind of imported sandstone. I’m not sure how much I like it…. I had an ancient mesoamerican carving in my mind, but this is not as nice. What do you think? I know it’s derivative, but it’s also a bit timeless and spontaneous….