Thursday, 1 September 2011

Learning Stone Carving (lettering)

Marea’s Christmas present: a stone carving course.

I was thrilled to receive this but didn't want to go over to Lincoln in midwinter so I arranged to attend during July...

The night before, I was rather nervous that I wouldn’t be able to do this; that I’d simply be useless. I set off for Lincoln, a city I love, where the course was to take place in the workshop of Eilidh Fridlington.

The drive was OK in spite of the roadworks where the A46 is being dualled (seems like the A46 has been being dualled since I was an adolescent.)  I stayed at Orchard House, a small B+B on Yarborough Road – very friendly welcome and a neat and clean room. The owner put a lot of effort into the design and decor. (I think I’ll enjoy staying here.)

The workshop is on the left under the scaffolding; El Portico (for lunch) straight ahead
and, up the hill on the right, The Collection, lincoln's new Museum

Eilidh (pron. Elly) Fridlington, our expert tutor

I walked into the centre and found the workshop. A bit early so I had a good coffee in ‘Cafe Portico’ next door. I met Eilidh at 10 with her daughter who’s on school holidays. Very surprised to find that there’s only one other member of the class; Denise who came down from Hull. We spent the day doing straight lines, starting and finishing, then curves. I had some good results but was losing my concentration by the end of the day.

Denise starting straight lines - my station in the background

I walked back to the B+B. It seemed a very long way this time (uphill all the way). After a rest, I walked in again and had fish and chips, then back to Orchard House feeling rather tired, to settle down with University Challenge and Antiques Master.

My practice straights, curves and crescents

Eilidh polishing a lump of stone to prepare it for carving

And some of her work

There’s not a lot to write about the second day; spent the whole day practicing 'V' endings, curves and entrances and exits where small curves rise to join verticals or horizontals. It’s sometimes difficult to get curves right – not too deep, centre line in the actual centre; that means both slopes are at the same angle; cutting a nice sharp V where the curve joins the vertical. My real problem is starting confidently, getting the centre line in the right place and cutting a fishtail at the end to form the chiselled 'V' ending.

My 'end of day' results - carved lots of joins and endings and, eventually, a couple of letters

My practice letters - the 'e' took an hour to carve - need to improve.

Having finally cut my letters, I then gave some thought to what word I wanted to cut on the third day. Before coming over, I had thought of ‘Paradise enow...’ from the Rubaiat of Omar Khayyam.
A cup of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou; beside me, singing in the wilderness; and wilderness were paradise enow”.
However, I now realise that since it took me an hour to cut my practice ‘e’ even my shorter idea of ‘Amor vincit omnia’ is out of the question.
I spent the evening looking at fonts on the computer and finally decided that it will have to be a hand drawn font. Eilidh thinks I ought to make the baseline a bit wavy and I think this will go much better with an informal font.

When we got to the class, I settled down to draw and carve my word ‘dream!’; trite, I know, but in the time available, having something to complete and take home had become important.

So, I turned my stone over and set about grinding it smooth and polishing it ready to carve.

Eilidh suggested cutting the verticals first and this certainly speeded me up
and gave structure when it came to the curves

Rather like the Glass Leading day I went to in Liverpool, I am pleased with what I achieved, though I can see all the mistakes. For a first attempt, it’s quite satisfying.

I now feel that I could carve anything with a bit more practice so I’ll have to buy myself a lettering chisel and dummy, some bits of stone and just get on with it.


  1. For a first attempt this looks brilliant - and I agree, having achieved this, you could go and carve anything - hope you've managed to get your dummy mallet and chisel, and started practicing!

  2. Thanks Jennifer. I've bought my tools; I now have to get some stone without paying too much for it. I'm really looking for offcuts at the moment. We're heading off to the Cox's auction in Moreton in Marsh on Saturday to see what they've got.