MY EXPERIENCE AND TRAINING
In 2009 I enrolled into Stonemasonry College at Moulton College Northampton, one of the best rated stonemasonry colleges in the UK. I studied Level 2 Banker Masonry over a 2 year period. This course gave me many skills and understanding of working various types of stone including Portland Limestone, Bath Sandstone, Clipsham Sandstone and York Sandstone. The course also taught other parts of the masonry trade including Technical drawing, Fixing, Sawing work, Safe use of power tools and health and safety along with many other skills.
During my first year at college I entered an in house stone carving competition between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year students. This competition was judged on technical aspects, design work, templating, originality and quality of work. The theme of the competition was the Green man or floral design. I chose to do acorns and leaves in a heavy relief. After 8 hours of carving from a single block of Portland limestone, all the entries were judged by the 3 tutors and scored. With a possible score of 40, I scored 36 which gave me first place in the competition. This was a big achievement for me as it was my first attempt at carving and gave me the inspiration to find a career in Stone Carving and Letter Carving.
In 2010 I approached Neil Luxton, A stone carver and letter carver based in Sudbury, Suffolk. After a couple of meetings and a visit to the college I was studying at in Northampton, Neil offered me an apprenticeship as a Letter carver at his studio in Sudbury. Neil is a very well-known name in the Letter Carving industry and has over 30 years’ experience. He is also the in-house stonemason at Highgate cemetery in London and creates some very personal and bespoke memorials for some very important people. It is a great honour to be working alongside someone so inspiring in the trade. During the last 5 years I have been working with Neil, I have learnt a lot of skills that are not really taught anymore due to the development of computers and machinery. 90% of the work we do is all done using the traditional methods of a hammer and chisel that have been used for hundreds of years. Although this is a longer process and a bit more expensive, it gives a lot more freedom with the lettering type and gives a more personal feel to the memorial. We take great pride in providing one off personal memorials that are personal to the customer. We sit down with the customers and come up with designs and ideas that mean something to the customer and the family. When the design is finished and all the paper work is complete, we then start the memorial. We try to use locally sourced stone from this country instead of importing. The most common stones we use are Portland Limestone, York Sandstone, Welsh black slate, Cumbrian Green Slate and Celtic Limestone. Although there are many more stones out there, we find due to churchyard regulations these stones are the best to work with. All our memorials are made from a single block of stone. We do the whole job from start to finish. We start by marking out the shape of the memorial, shaping the stone ourselves using hand tools with traditional methods, marking on the lettering with a pencil and carving the letters by hand. When all the work is complete we also go to the churchyard/cemetery to erect the stone.
In the 5 years I have been working alongside Neil, I have also developed other skills and techniques which I use to create stone work that can be used in the house, garden, public areas and anywhere that can have a feature. I do hand carved house signs, personal gifts, garden tables and stone benches, bird baths and garden features, Stone coffee tables, pet memorials and anything that the imagination can create.