Letters pray

Charles No Comments

I enjoyed a long chat with Ieuan Rees this morning about a logo I want him to design for me. He’s a lettercutter, a calligrapher and a sculptor. In case you’ve never heard of him, he is a major celeb in his field. I have long admired him and I am not ashamed to admit that, in the early part of our conversation, my tongue was frequently tied by hero-worship.

I have always revered lettercutters and calligraphers, not only because I haven’t the aptitude to be one myself, but also because it’s one of those crafts you cannot master unless your heart and your head are in the right place. The making of beautiful letters is a spiritual exercise requiring discipline and stillness, craft and virtue, and a long, long apprenticeship. Here is Ieuan at work:

Ieuan told me something which heartened me. He’s getting more commissions than ever for headstones. People are fed up with the fare offered by so-called monumental masons, who sound as if they are craftspeople but they’re not; they’re completely mechanised. People are fed up with the lack of personal service and the sterile options the monumental masons present them with. They want something unique and beautiful. They want to work with a craftsperson who listens to them. They want to drop in from time to time and see the work being done (by a human with a chisel, not by a sandblasting machine).

A few days ago I had an email from Frances Hook at Memorials by Artists. Here is an organisation which can put you in touch with an artist who will create your headstone or memorial. It also publishes two useful books, a guide to commissioning a memorial and a guide to choosing a memorial for a young person (under 30). It has a sister charity, The Memorial Arts Charity, which nurtures “Britain’s long tradition of fine lettering and memorial art”. From 3 April until 1 November this year it is holding an exhibition entitled Art and Memory in the gardens of West Dean, near Chichester. It’s a must-see.

The wonderful brush lettering at the top of this post is by Tom Kemp, a genius. Read what he says about his craft on his website.

In her email to me, Frances attached this photo:

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