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Commissioning a memorial to celebrate the life of a loved one can be the hardest task facing us, but it can also be the most rewarding. The Lettering Arts Trust can help you find an artist to create a memorial designed and carved by hand, whether a traditional headstone, or a sculpture for your garden. Working with an artist, your memorial will be a piece of solemn beauty and a truly personal reflection of the lost life.
"Each memorial achieves an uplifting expression of the best of us through the care and thought that inspired it, and the beauty of its expression.” Lettering Arts Trust client
The healing power of a memorial
Commissioning a memorial – in whatever form, whether a gravestone, plaque or sculpture -is unlike any other form of commission. It will require decisions that choosing one from a catalogue will not. But it is precisely this personal involvement that is part of the satisfaction that the whole process can bring. It is extremely powerful to have the opportunity to think deeply about the subject of a memorial and just what it is about the loved one that is to be remembered. The emotional significance of the works is just as valuable as their visual quality and inventiveness. These works of art are a way of capturing forever who our loved ones were.
The Lettering Arts Trust
For thirty years we have been helping people to find an artist who will design and carve a unique memorial tribute to a loved one. We have gathered together the UK’s foremost letter carvers on to our register of artists, all of them known personally to us through visits and collaborations over many years. The artists on our register are rigorously selected by Master letter carvers for the exceptional quality of their work. Our advisors are familiar with all the artists’ works, their temperaments and process, so that we can guide you to the right artist most suitable for your needs, taking into account factors such as your time scale and budget. We have also produced a range of publications to help you: https://www.letteringartstrust.org.uk/shop-products?category=LAT%20Publications
We are happy to help, face to face at the Lettering Arts Centre in Suffolk, over the telephone, or by email. Or you can visit our website to review the work of the artists on our register and get in touch with them directly: https://www.letteringartstrust.org.uk/artists/browse/
Designing a memorial with an artist
The expressive power of hand-carved lettering cannot be overstated. Letters that have been drawn and then carved by hand give the chosen words weight and meaning. Their sculptural forms have a presence and a humanity that can’t be matched by a machine-made memorial.
The best designs express the character of the lost in a remarkable way. Whether highly decorative or restrained and simple, memorials made by artists are testaments to love. Many of our clients find that collaborating with an artist can be enormously comforting. One client writes: “The workshop was a revelation, and I was able to take my time. I was immediately aware of the great quality of the artist’s work and his wide range of approaches, choice of material and use of lettering. Every time I visit my husband’s grave I feel happy to have made him a headstone I love and that he would have loved. I have happy memories of the whole experience that took place at the lowest time in my life.”
We recommend a visit to the artist’s studio, to discuss the design, see examples of their work and look at samples of different materials available. Some people start with a clear idea of what they want in terms of style and wording, others are only just feeling their way. It isn’t necessary to have a specific idea, just a general sense of the overall feel of what you’re looking for – traditional or contemporary, elaborate or simple. Together you work on the look, the lettering and the wording.
You collaborate closely, using mementos such as photographs, favourite texts, letters and reminiscences to help inform the design. One of the most important skills an experienced artist offers, is the ability to help the client navigate their way through the design process, to whittle down the layers of memories to find the most important elements to inspire and inform the design. It’s important to remember that this stage should not be rushed. The best artists demonstrate enormous patience and sympathy to help you make your choices.
Every aspect of the memorial is variable, the shape of the stone, the style and spacing of the inscription, the decoration and carving. The memorial may be a flat surface to be written on, or a three-dimensional object with different levels of relief. For the artist, all these design elements must work together to make a single statement, at the heart of which is the inscription itself.
The making process
After discussions, the artist will present to you their working drawings and an estimate. The drawing will show in detail and to scale the shape of the stone and the lettering, carved motifs or surface treatment. It represents the artist’s interpretation of your ideas. You can ask for any changes at this stage, it is essential that you are happy with the design. Once approved by the relevant church or cemetery authorities, the artist will begin to work in your chosen material. Over the ensuing months, you may wish to visit their studio to see the making in progress. When it is completed, the finished work will be professionally installed at its chosen site – be it a churchyard, garden or public space. This gentle and intimate process; the empathy between the artist and the client; the completion and installation help to bridge the emotional journey from grief to commemoration.
Not just headstones
“It is perfect: modest, gentle and enduring, like our memories of Nicholas.” Libby Purves, client and Patron of the Lettering Arts Trust, of the memorial to her son, Nicholas Heiney, pictured, by John Das Gupta.
Many people now choose to create a memorial work of art such as a sculpture or standing stone for their home or garden, rather than a headstone for a public space. One family wanted to honour their mother, who had enjoyed looking at a magnolia tree seen from their kitchen window. Artist Charlotte Howarth chose the blossom to feature in the design of a trio of standing stones for the family garden, as a reflection of the mother’s elegance. They were fixed in such a way that, at the appropriate time, they could be moved and each stone be handed down to the family’s children.
As a guide, hand-made memorials start from £3,000. Many factors affect the price, such as the experience of the artist, the complexity of the design, the size, shape and type of stone and the amount of lettering.
If you would like to talk to us about commissioning a memorial, please contact:
Mary Carter-Campbell, Head of Commissioning firstname.lastname@example.org
Telephone: 01728 688393 or visit our website https://www.letteringartstrust.org.uk/memorials