A client on a limited budget approached me about carving something for a friend whose husband, a Marine pilot, had recently died. The widow is an avid gardener, so we decided that a beach stone would be the most appropriate vessel for a simple memorial, as a beach stone looks so at home in a garden.
A small personal project carved in Buckingham Black slate and finished in 23 K gold leaf in honor of a dearly departed friend for whom this served as a motto.
Optimum Vix Satis
Or, The Best is Hardly Good Enough. A gift for a teacher who taught me the importance of maintaining impossible standards. Carved in Vermont Green slate and painted red with a touch of 23 K gold leaf.
The Grolier Club
After completing the large inscription for The Grolier Club’s newly renovated exhibition hall, I was asked to carve a version of the library’s logo, originally designed by Bruce Rogers, which was to be mounted into their new lectern.
Location: Manhattan, NY
Yale Law School Panel
The Yale Law School dedicated their Faculty Lounge in honor of Guido Calabresi, and asked me to carve this oak panel to mark the occasion.
Location: New Haven, CT
The Grolier Club
The Grolier Club, a private library in New York City, recently completed a major renovation of their exhibition hall. I was asked to design and carve the library’s name in 7-inch roman capitals in a cherry-veneered MDF panel which was to be installed above their 17-ft-tall media wall.
Location: Manhattan, NY
I was approached by a graphic designer about the possibility of carving a plaque for a beautiful church north of Boston. The design challenge was centered around there being a large amount of text having to fit into a relatively small area, as it was intended to be hung on a narrow section of wall between a stained glass window and the entrance frame. I suggested a crisp formal italic carefully flourished and set in a 13”x 17” oval format. Hand carved in Buckingham black slate from Virginia and finished with 23K gold leaf.
Location: Emmanuel Church, Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA
For the “World’s Best Dog”, nothing less than a hand-carved memorial in Buckingham black slate would do.
AAS Date Stone
The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA, asked me to carve a date stone to commemorate their recent expansion. The use of 4”-tall Roman numerals gave the project a fitting monumentality.
The vast majority of my inscriptions are originally designed with a brush or pen, but in this unique instance I embraced the client’s request for the use of a specific typeface, in this case Benton Sans Bold. Sometimes it’s fun to go up against machine perfection, if only to reinforce a deeply held belief: a mallet and chisel can handle just about anything.
The design challenge here was to arrange three addresses for two separate homes sharing a single driveway. Hand carved in Vermont green slate and finished with white oil-based sign painter’s enamel.
This project offered me the opportunity to expand the scope of my carving abilities and work in wood, in this case white oak, for the first time. The finished letters were then painted in a shade of oil-based burnt sienna.
Location: Yale Law School, New Haven, CT
The family who commissioned this memorial requested that it combine strength and simplicity, with a laurel wreath and a Greek cross serving as ornamentation. Hand carved in Vermont green slate.
Location: Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, MA
This memorial was carved for a Concord historian and rare book scholar who loved 18th-century gravestone iconography. The family allowed me to interpret traditional motifs rather than copy a specific design, but as she was a Mayflower descendant it was important that a Tudor rose be figured prominently in the tympanum ornament.
Location: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, MA
The beauty of lettercarving by hand is arguably best expressed with gilded letters on black slate. This address sign was installed in an area where easy legibility was of the utmost concern, so the striking contrast of gold on black won the day.
I usually recommend slate for most of my projects, but in this unique circumstance the clients were ardent stone collectors and they wanted their dog's memorial in this specific boulder. You never know what sort of carving experience client-supplied stones will give you until you actually start carving. This stone was quite a bit denser than the slate I'm used to, but I was glad to discover that with a little extra persuasion it moved out of the way nicely.
Lux Et Veritas
In 2017 I was honored to be invited to the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library at Yale University as a Visiting Artisan. I brought along a carving demonstration and for a suitable text I reached no farther than the school's Latin motto. This picture shows the sequence relevant to all of my inscriptions: from brushwork on paper to a traced master layout to letters painted on the stone awaiting the mallet and chisel.