Matthew Barnes of Yankee Slate Cutting has held a special place in his heart for the monuments created by the early settlers of North America and spent countless hours studying their work and styles. He draws his inspiration from a host of New England cutters and has bent his hand at both recreating these styles as well as adapting them for clients who desire a traditional, colonial era stone. This time honored process is one that always generates questions and so here, we’ll try to answer a few.
Q: Do you use any machines to cut the letters?
A: Never. Every letter is cut by hand using only a round headed, brass hammer and straight chisels, each letter is carefully chipped out little by little with a series of light taps and careful hand-eye coordination.
Q: What if I want to be cremated and scattered? Does a memorial make sense?
A: Absolutely. Remember, memorials are about you, but not really for you. They are a place for friends and family to feel like they are close to your memory and a memorial makes that gathering spot. Many of the old stones you’ll find actually have no one buried beneath them. If a family member passed away while far from home, they were memorialized with a place in the cemetery, though they might be far away. Now, perhaps hundreds of years later, we can still read the story of their lives through these memorials.
Q: How long does a stone take to make a stone?
A: This we measure in hours, rather than days. Going from concept drawings to finished, an average stone will run somewhere from 150-200 hours. This will change depending on the level of decoration and quantity of text wanted as well as if there are revisions to the design that need working out. How fast the work is begun depends on the current work load at the studio.
Q: How do you come up with a design for a stone?
A: Traditional design doesn’t have to mean strict conformity in terms of motifs. We have created stones with a profile and supporting patters whose lines are taken directly from those done in the 1700’s or 1800’s but then added design elements that reflect the lives and loves of those who are commissioning the work. What we do is use our extensive knowledge of traditional memorial design and use that to support and showcase designs that speak of you. With decades of graphic design experience and a keen love of history and research, we can create a one of a kind piece of artwork that will last for centuries.
Q: How is payment handled?
A: Payment for a memorial is divided into thirds. The first third is due at the time the stone is ready from the quarry. The second is due when the design of the stone is finalized and signed off on by the client. The final payment is upon completion and delivery. If you wish to have us set the stone, that can easily be arranged as well.
Q: What about the dates on the stone if it’s being commissioned for someone living?
A: The addition of the second date is part of the purchase of the stone. We will come and add the date when it is needed for no additional charge providing that the travel distance is not too great. This would include most areas within New England.
Q: How many kinds of slate are there?
A: Many, and in a myriad of shades and hues. Slate ranges from red to blue-green to black to grey and many more. We source our slate from New York to Virginia and many others as well. We can even find you black, Welch slate if that’s what you’d like. We’ll happily help you find the right type and source it for the work.
Q:Do you deliver the stones?
A: Yes. Absolutely.