Tag Archives: letter cutting

How do you Want to be Remembered?

IMG_1739 3Thirty years ago Harriet Frazer MBE set up Memorials by Artists – now the Lettering Arts Trust, of which I am a proud patron. Harriet had had problems finding just the right headstone for her step-daughter who had died young. Not wanting the usual impersonal polished granite, with machine-made letters, Harriet found it difficult to locate someone who could produce what she wanted. To help others who might be having similar problems, Harriet decided to set up the charity, putting those wanting a memorial in touch with the best craftsperson who could fulfil that.

 

 

IMG_1744But first, she needed to have some sort of identification – a branding or logo. Here are various lettering artists’ interpretations of the first name for the charity. On the top right, and what was chosen, is a wood engraving by Michael Renton, and below that the outline design by Tom Perkins. Nicholas Sloan’s design, bottom left, was lozenge-shaped, and Madeleine Dinkel’s design has exuberant flourishes and incorporates the dove of peace.

 

IMG_1745The potential individuality of each design, as opposed to a standard headstone, is shown here in this stone for Cynthia Felgate who was the co-originator of BBC’s Playschool and was one of the leading authorities on children’s television. Richard Kinderley’s design delightfully has two children playing hide-and-seek around the stone.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1750The charity doesn’t just focus on individual memorials as is shown by the Bali Bomb Memorial at the foot of the Clive Steps in Horseguards Road in London. Gary Breeze and Martin Cook both worked on this inspired design which consists of a large stone globe carved with 202 doves, each one different, representing the individuality of each person killed in the incident.

 

 

IMG_1751Names were carved into a curved wall, with stone seats.

 

 

IMG_1753And to show what a difference lettering style, shapes and decoration can make, Nicholas Sloan carved three different memorials for his mother. Each one reflects a different aspect of her character, a formal design cut into slate, then one which is more casual with an uneven edge, and lastly one which shows the interest in gardening and bee keeping.

The 30th Anniversary is being marked by an exhibition that finished this Sunday, and also by a book which can be bought here.

 

 

 

 

 

David Kindersley Centenary Celebrations

David Kindersley letteringI happened to be waiting in Exhibition Road to go into the Victoria and Albert Museum many years ago, and noticed the letter-cut sign on the wall. The more I looked at it, the more intrigued I was. The lettering looked so perfect and so even; it was cut over two blocks of stone, and yet no letter was actually on the join. In addition, the steady diagonal on the right-hand side almost drew in to the lettering the obvious bomb damage. It seemed a supreme example of craftsmanship. I learned later when talking with David that, when he was approached to cut the inscription noting that the damage to the building was as a result of air raids, he was asked what sort of stone he wanted to cut the lettering on for it to be attached to the building; his reply was that there was perfectly good stone already on the walls!

IMG_0015David’s lettering was exceptional, his eye for design, and particularly spacing quite phenomenal (one of his quotes was on the lines of a bad space is worse than a bad letter). This year, 2015, celebrates his centenary and there are a number of events planned. For details see the Cardozo-Kindersley workshop website here. One major event is the exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum; this is on from 21st April to 14th June and coincides with more of David’s work at Kettles Yard, both in Cambridge. If you haven’t been to either then both are worth a visit on their own, but take in David’s exhibitions while you’re there!

wall picHis inventiveness and skill are shown here in a picture from the wall in the Cardozo Kindersley workshop – examples of lettering of various styles and designs, and beneath that a cupboard with the tools of the trade. David learned letter cutting with Eric Gill when the latter was based at Pigotts in High Wycombe in December 1934 starting when David was 19. His father, it was said, liked to do things properly, and so he paid for David to be apprenticed. Whilst with Gill, David worked on many important commissions.

 

 

IMG_0004When Gill died in 1940, David was asked to take over the workshop, but once he had sorted out Gill’s affairs, he set up his own workshop at Dales Barn in Barton. David was a leading figure in setting up the Crafts Council and became Chair, stepping down because of concerns of underfunding (’twas ever thus!). David’s lettering for the Ministry of Transport was widely praised, but in the end they chose a lower case monoline style for motorway signs. Yet his clear and readable letters are still seen throughout Cambridge and in other towns and cities which have an eye for good design!

pod57Many commissions flowed from the workshop in Barton and when it was moved into a converted infants’ school in Cambridge itself, not least the magnificent gates for the British Library, designed by David and his third wife, Lida. They are a fitting addition to a remarkable building.

 

 

 

 

IMG_0394The workshop is currently preparing for the exhibitions and centenary events and here is a selection of David’s work being considered for inclusion. Again it shows just how versatile and talented he was.

There is not only the exhibitions but also an evening at the British Library with Tanya Harrod, Fiona MacCarthy and Lida and Hallam Kindersley on Friday 12th June (tickets here). The London exhibition is at the Patrick Bourne Gallery on 15th June, with pieces of David’s work for sale alongside new pieces by the workshop. Then the Centenary Walk is previewed here, and also a wonderful set of playing cards with David’s work featured on the backs of the cards – a delightful video shown here.

All in all a great way to celebrate the life and work of such a wonderful man, a true Alphabetician!

Wall Memorials in Bath Abbey

Memorial in Bath AbbeyWe live in a different era now, and for many of us, name and life dates, and perhaps that we were a mother, father, daughter, son etc would be all we would want on our memorial. Not so in the eighteenth century when ostentation was evident not only in dress, manners and fashion. Bath Abbey has a terrific set of wall plaques that show how pious, good natured and strong in adversity its’ citizens were at the time! Charles Symmonds shown on the right, was gentle in manner, high minded and disinterested (!). Charles was fond of retirement and literary pursuits, richly endowed with talents and learning but careless of worldly advancement. And if this wasn’t enough he was charitable, warm-hearted, sincere and fearless in the disclosure of his opinions (hmm, could this be a chink in his overall virtue, I wonder?). A real paragon of virtue surely.

IMG_1635However, he is not alone. Hannah Alleyne was ‘amiable for the many virtues she possessed’. She was patient, resigning herself to the divine will during a tedious and painful illness which she bore with great fortitude, and died aged 35 sincerely lamented as she was beloved.

 

 

 

 

Memorial in Bath AbbeyRichard Ford died at the age of 67, but he too was a most worthy man being a vigilant magistrate, and affectionate husband and a tender father, a daily frequenter of public worship and a generous promoter of every good work.

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial in Bath AbbeyRebecca Bowen’s sister put up her memorial after she died at the age of 73 years. Rebecca had a lively faith while her ‘charities’ were liberal and unostentatious. Despite having a long and painful illness her friendships were warm and constant and her patience exemplary throughout her difficulties.

 

 

 

 

Memorial in Bath AbbeyThe memorial for William Meyler, who was a bookseller, a tradesman and the editor of a public newspaper, a magistrate and a member of the common council of Bath, notes that he was deservedly esteemed for his integrity of conduct and consistency of principle. His memory will also, it is written, be long cherished in the hearts of those who knew him best.

 

 

 

Memorial in Bath AbbeyThe words at the end of Anne Finch’s memorial are very telling –  ‘the first real occasion of greif (sic) she gave her sorrowful mother was her death’. In life she was ‘an excellent person, well-natur’d, discreet, and vertuous most affectionately beloved by her relations and most justly esteemed by all that knew her.’ She also had an illness, during ‘the flower of her age’.

 

 

 

Memorial in Bath AbbeyAnd lastly, ‘If polished manners, inflexible integrity, and the warmest benevolence of heart, form a character which claims the tear of surviving friendship, reflect, O Reader on the distress of conjugal affection, and pity the fond endeavour which in seeking to alleviate perpetuates its sorrows by inscribing this marble to the memory of Robert Sutton’.

The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust

SundialThe Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust is now based at Snape Maltings, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, and it is wonderful to have a showcase for all the excellent work that this charity does. It was set up as a result of the founder, Harriet Frazer MBE, not being able to find a suitable memorial for the untimely early death of her stepdaughter. Many people want a stone cut so that it is personal to a special memory, and working with a craftsperson in creating something unique and beautiful often helps in the bereavement process.

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Memorials don’t have to be rigid and conventional rectangular stones. This one by Gary Breeze celebrates the life of a gardener, and so is attached to a living tree.

They also, as on the right, don’t have to be in a churchyard. Some memorials are in gardens, and may even be portable, so they can be moved from house to house with the owners if necessary.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Charity is so much more than simply acting as agents to put lettering artists and patrons in touch with one another. To enable people to see what is possible, there are now six sites for the Art and Memory Collection, from Canterbury in the south to Pitlochery in Scotland, where you can see the variety and inventiveness of those who work in this medium. This wonderful Stone Ring is by Dave Crowe in Arnos Vale.

 

 

Monnow-Valley-Geoff-AldredLetter cutting is a heritage craft, and like similar crafts, if efforts are not made, the skills and techniques to prepare stone and wood, design and cut letters will be lost. So the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust not only runs short courses at its base at Snape, with the very best tutors, but also seeks to arrange full time apprenticeships so the learners can immerse themselves in the workshop experience. Of course, funding is not easy for these and the Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust is working with the Heritage Crafts Association to ensure that this craft, developed in ancient times, can continue into the future.

I feel very proud to be a Patron of this most worthwhile charity.