Ampersand Stone Carving in Slate

Inspiration

According to the Oxford English Corpus, “and” is the fifth most commonly used word in the English language. It’s so commonly used in fact that a symbol has been made to take its place in certain instances. &, known as the ampersand, has a pretty interesting history, but I’ll let you dive into that. Today, I want to talk about the word’s personal meaning and why I chose to carve it in stone. Let’s be honest, you probably haven’t thought about the meaning of “and.” Before this carving, neither had I.

“And” or “&” is always accompanying something – it’s never really alone. When you think about it though, I think it’s a really beautiful piece of our language, because through its existence, this simple word can transform and connect by just being there.

Without “and,” things we accept as fact would not carry the meaning we accept them by. Think of “Mr. and Mrs.” The word “and” in this instance not only connects the two, but tells us a story along the way. “And” means the two are together now, joined through a history that we should all be lucky enough to experience ourselves. While busy connecting, “and” has no part in ordering either. We don’t say “Mr. then Mrs.” or “David then Goliath.” All parties involved have an equal part in what comes next when we say “and.” Curious, isn’t it?

& alone has a beautiful applicability to it that allows the onlooker to bring its meaning into their own lives. The ampersand itself is a beautiful object with great lines and curves, and to me was a natural fit for a stone carving project, able to invoke shadows, contain light, and display thought.

Stone

As I continue to learn stone carving by doing, I like to jump between types of stone to gain a better understanding of their differences (which are vast by the way), and to build flexibility, right or wrong! Slate, simply said, is a stone cutter’s dream. It retains great color when carved, takes detail exceptionally well, and is just darn pretty!

Now fun fact, thick pieces of slate are not the easiest thing to come by in my part of the world. Slate is heavily used in the east coast, as well as in the old world, but most slate usage around here are thin pieces for roofing (too thin for lettering). In my search for a regular slate supplier, I filled out an online form looking for more information from a dealer recommended to me by a fellow carver. Much to my surprise, a box landed on my doorstep a few days later (along with a text from my wife asking what stone carving supplies I had bought this time!). There was a beautiful piece of Montauk Black Slate, 5×5 inches and about 1 inch deep, with a business card attached to it. A huge shoutout to Sheldon Slate Products Co.! Perfect for what I was looking for.

Design

I had the inspiration and the stone, now what design should I go with? A quick Google search and you’ll find the range of ampersand types is pretty staggering. I decided to base this one off the ol’ go-to Trajan style, with a couple of hand-drawn differences thrown in. Mine is a bit heavier and lower-weighted than the Trajan style, as I had feared of going too light in my carving depth and width in recent projects, so I wanted to push the envelope a bit through this carving.

Carving

A few knocks of my brass hammer on my Al-Orr and JP’s Masonry tungsten carbide tipped chisels later and bam, the carving was complete. I adore the look of gold on slate, so I threw a little Liquid Leaf in at the very end to help add color while also preserving the chisel striations. I am extremely happy with how this project turned out.

Lessons Learned

Do I see areas to improve? Well sure! The longer I stare at the piece, the more imperfections I see. I add my own marker’s mark to the back of every project, but aren’t the unique faults in a handmade work a piece of the marker’s mark as well? The Bible tells us we are each uniquely made by God. I wonder if what we see as our own issues and imperfections, if we should rather view them as unique marks by our maker that show we are special from any other person on the planet.

I hope you enjoy the end project as much as I do and I also hope it makes you think about what “&” means – what it can mean – what it should mean – what it will mean – and much more!

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