Chiseled Lettering: The Stone Age in the Information Age

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< There was a time”2.5 million years”when stone was an exclusive material. Later came the Bronze Age, followed by the Iron Age. Fast forward to our digital age. In our interface culture, it’s understandable (the by-product of a modern life) to reflect on materials characterized by a slow, natural pace”shaped without the awareness of internet speed and bandwidth.

A stonecutter’s tools cherish time and the quality they can bring, particularly in making typography, composed of hard-earned shapes. Etching letters into stone begins with drawing, though a pencil didn’t cross my mind as one of the first selections in a stonecutter’s toolkit. Each letterform is drawn before making the cut.

Like the formation of stone, the mallet-to-chisel motion is at a steady pace, slow and natural.

The letterforms undergo a progressive journey to escape flatland.

The sculptor Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all. The relationship of stone and metal encourage respect”for craft, for time”by way (one of many) of hand lettering. Their combined effect is wonder. Their hard-earned lesson is humility.

Nate Burgos

Photographs from Eye Magazine’s “How lettering is made for public display: hand-cutting in stone.

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