Old fashion gravestrone
August 30, 2010 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Where can one find someone to make an out-of-the-ordinary gravestone? One involving actual stone carving?

So, the wife has bought us cemetery plots in the rural graveyard where all her ancestors back to the civil war are buried. Most of the graves are pre-1920, and the headstones are unusual and greatly varied. It would ruin the aesthetics of the place to plonk down an ugly standard modern gravestone, so I want to locate someone that will make us cemetery monuments that hark back to earlier times. Does anyone do custom carved gravestones anymore? If you know of someone, clue me in. We are in the upper midwest US.
posted by ackptui to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Check with the normal gravestone places, or the caretaker of the cemetery where you bought your plots, they'll know of people in your area who can do custom orders and special requests.
posted by amyms at 6:44 PM on August 30, 2010

Check into LifeGems or Reef Balls. Both of those are specialized monument companies, and they link to artists that make custom memorials. I wanna be a reef ball. (eventually)
posted by effluvia at 8:26 PM on August 30, 2010

This is not going to be cheap, but you want Karin Sprague. Her shop produces some of the most beautiful hand-chiseled lettering I have ever seen, and they will work with you to put together something that will be exactly what you want.

I have seen lots of well-meant attempts to satisfy this kind of request made by regular ordinary perfectly professional workaday monument shops, and they are often kind of sad -- a custom cut shape, maybe, but out of the same catalogue of ubiquitous granite everybody else gets. In the most unfortunate examples, this comes with clip art and fonts you recognize from online.

Some other options include John Stevens and David Gillespie.

Your question makes me happy -- in my opinion, people don't commission enough art!
posted by Sallyfur at 9:21 PM on August 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

I live in the middle of gravestone central here in Vermont and there is a bit of a revival in people doing custom work. The "too expensive but just to give you an idea" guy is Fred X Brownstein, classically trained in Italy, totally amazing and great. If money is actually a bit of a concern I'd contact the Stone Arts School [and the VT Granite museum] and talk to someone there about what they'd suggest. A few more links for looking over are on this page. There is also the Carving Studio & Sculpture Center in West Rutland Vermont that has a lot of talented stoneworkers as teachers and students.
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 PM on August 30, 2010

Fred's stuff is so nice, you'll want to die as soon as possible!

Out of most human's price range, but absolutely at the top of the pile.

Marble or slate was the stone of choice historically, due to softness, but it does not age as well as granite, which is damned near impervious to everything.

Rock of Ages makes custom granite stones.
posted by FauxScot at 2:57 AM on August 31, 2010

Seconding Karin Sprague; I visited her studio a few years back, and the work was incredible -- consistent with a historical feel without feeling like a performance or "re-enactment," I saw stones that reflected years of thought on the part of those who would eventually be marked by them.

I guess there are two good things about thinking ahead: first, it gives you time to work with a designer (she said that some people did literally work on designs for years), and second it gives you time to save up for it!
posted by obliquicity at 6:34 AM on August 31, 2010

A point to consider is lettering on the headstone -- if you have a custom headstone carved now will it need to have lettering added to it later (dates, etc.)? If so, you (or whoever is dealing with things for you after your death) will need to find someone who can do the work of adding the lettering appropriately without damaging what is essentially a sculpture.

When my father died, my mother commissioned a sculptor friend to create a headstone with a relief carving on it (not unlike some on the Karin Sprague page) and elegant hand cut lettering; a very beautiful result totally unlike the etched granite monstrosities that are the standard mass produced deal. She had purchased a double plot and there was space intentionally left for her details, so when she died we had the tricky issue of finding someone with the skill to do match the nonstandard lettering. This being in England, there are still master masons around and we were lucky enough to find Matthias Garn who did a truly wonderful job of matching the style of carving so that when the stone has weathered fully it will be impossible to tell that the lettering was carved by two different masons more than a decade apart. I would wholeheartedly recommend him, but he is based in York and I suspect that shipping headstones across the Atlantic would be an expensive proposition.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 10:27 AM on August 31, 2010

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