The Journey(man) begins...

Next week I begin my Journeyman placement with master letter carver Chris Elsey. I will be joining him and Tom Sargent in The Stone Carving & Lettering Studio workshop where they design and make beautiful things. Exactly what i will be doing on day one is yet to be revealed, but i am excited to find out... back to basics with Trajan caps and foundational hand perhaps. Whatever it is, the next several weeks should help me begin to better analyse letter forms and thus draw and carve them with a new understanding.

At the end of 2013 I discovered lettercarving - the traditional, and ancient art of mark-making in stone by hand and aided by a small hammer and a few chisels.

I have been doing some ever since, not as much as I would ideally like, but enough that i have been making small improvements. As time has gone on, as with most things, despite the progress I have made, I have become less satisfied with my output as I become better versed in the dark lettering arts, i realise how far short of 'the mark' my efforts fall.

The concept is simple really, draw some words on a piece of stone, chop out the bits of stone you don't want, leaving an inscription so beautiful and heavy with meaning that people cannot help but marvel at it.

As time goes by, however, the shear scale of the task at hand becomes clear. The words are only the beginning. Hand drawing the letters, designed for the particular piece of work is a skill that will take years to master. Letterforms that will communicate not only the words themselves, but also some of the emotion and mood of the text.

It has been difficult for me to find [make] the time to do the amount of practice to make the improvements i have wanted to see.

I have attended one-evening-a-week classes at the Skelton Workshops with Helen Mary Skelton and Alyosha Moeren on a Thursday, and enjoyed a 12 week Roman Lettering curse with Ewan Clayton last year, but i have still struggled to make the improvements.

I have several reasons/excuses for this:

  • I have an inertia deficit and struggle often to get started on things
  • Stone is expensive, and the mound i have at home seems to be too precious a commodity to use for just practice marks, practising technique - i feel it need to be used for finished pieces.
  • I have a job and a family which obviously require at least some of my attention and time
  • and so on

But things are beginning to change.

After a chance meeting with Lynne at the Lettering Arts Trust, a new chapter begins, starting with a Journeyman placement sponsored by the Trust [and their generous members].

For several weeks, starting next week, I will be studying under Chris Elsey, a letter carver who is local to me in Sussex, and whose lettering i have come across in various places and much admired.

Hopefully some of his skill and talent will rub off on me, and that of his ex-apprentice Tom Sargent who works in the workshop alongside him. 

The Journey(man) begins...


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