Obituary: Town's Sole Stonecutter, Apparently

hrant's picture

http://www.rootsweb.com/~scberkel/Cemeteries/Wass_Pics/shula_law.jpg

I never knew Vincent's grandma cut headstones!

hhp

AzizMostafa's picture

By the way, here is how a headstone is done in our cemeteries:
After the burial of the deceased, the grave is sealed with a stone placed horizontally (not vertically) then the electric stone-cutter is driven from LTR inscribing the RTL wh+how info in fascinating Calligraphy, without prior outlining. More surprisingly, the inscription takes place only after fixing the stone leaving no room for errors. Incredible!

Grot Esqué's picture

I spat the coffee at my mac two times. Hrant, a little warning sign would be appropriate. If done properly, of course.

matthew_desmond's picture

Typographic comedy gold. Bravo.

dezcom's picture

A cut above the rest!

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

What's the joke?
Shula was 19.
Her folks spent all their money on the coffin, and couldn't afford a professional marker?

WE.SAW.YOU.SUFFER
WE.SAW.YOU.GO.IT
CRUSHED.OUR.HARTS.
WE.LOVE.YOU.SO.BUT
IT.WAS.GOD.WHO.LOVED
YOU.BEST.WHO.TOOK
YOU.HOME.AND.GAVE
YOU.REST

The Ancient Roman style of periods-for-spaces is very cool

dezcom's picture

I believe Hrant saw the lettering as kin to Comic Sans.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Well for money they could've just sold those
deer carcasses to the local sausage factory.

hhp

Grot Esqué's picture

Is that a punishment?

Nick Shinn's picture

OK, that raised a groan.

hrant's picture

I'd much rather have raised Shula, to ask
her exactly how her parents were related.

--

"After a'carvin' S-H-U-L-A-dot-dot-L-A, pappy got dumb gab dizzy from standin' up so long, so maama took a shot at the dubya... So weez give her the job of holdin' up pappy 'nstead, seein' as how good she reeplaced them poor deer fer pullin' the cart."

hhp

blank's picture

If it weren't so entirely inappropriate right now, photos of calligraphy carved into Iraqi tombstones would make for a gorgeous coffee-table book. *sigh* maybe in fifty years...

BlueStreak's picture

Hey Hrant, maybe for your next post you can make fun of the handwriting of kids with dyslexia.

hrant's picture

James, engraved calligraphy is never gorgeous.

Dan, I make fun of mediocrity anywhere. But being dyslexic for example does not necessarily qualify. To qualify you need to not care. You certainly don't need to be rich to care. Heck, you don't even need arms to care:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3253168.stm

hhp

AzizMostafa's picture

Sooner or later, the one of us will be in such a palace.
Offending nobody, what do you like the headstone on your palace reads?
Will you mention that in your will?

BlueStreak's picture

To me this gravemarker only becomes mediocre if it's viewed out of context. It's a beautiful piece of folk art to me and there are thousands more out there just like it. There would be more except since stone wasn't available to many, they were made of wood and are long gone. In this case I think the inscription mentioned at the bottom of the page says it all...

Sticks and Stones

dezcom's picture

That is a terrific link you posted Bluestreak. I hope everyone reads it.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

You want context? Check out the other headstones in that cemetery.

Oh, and next time you see Comic Sans used by a secretary to set
the company financial report, just think of it as folk typography.

I guess "everybody was a designer" way before computers.

hhp

BlueStreak's picture

Here's a link for anyone else that wants to look at them all:
http://www.rootsweb.com/~scberkel/Cemeteries/Wassamassaw.html

Some are now just rotting pieces of wood.

Paul Cutler's picture

Great links BlueStreak - thanks…

peace

Chris G's picture

Laughing at the illiterate is a bit high handed maybe?

On the plus side, good links BlueStreak.

hrant's picture

Look at the last three, and note what kind of people they were for.
Shula's headstone makes it look like her family was Village Idiot Central.
A rotting piece of wood has much more dignity than that mess immortalized.

What kind of literacy are we talking about? I'm talking about the literacy of caring. We, collectively here, have a problem with people who think font selection is unimportant. Same difference in this case. Just like when you design a good font or logo but then see a case of mediocre design (including by large corporations), put yourself in the position of the stonecutter who was not hired to do it right.

hhp

wormwood's picture

I think it's tragically beautiful. And I'm not just adopting the compassionate smug git position.

We have no idea of the context in which it was made. Either someone without ability (and possibly of low intellect) did the best they could in what was probably difficult circumstances, or maybe Hrant is right and whoever engraved it didn't care, which suggests an even sadder story.

Either way, I think it's equally unworthy of designer criticism.

If you think this memorial lacks dignity, just beacause it is relatively cheap and not expertly engraved, then that is your failing.

hrant's picture

You have some good points, but I do need to repeat: it's not about expertise, it's about caring. They seem to have cared about the deceased, but seem not to have cared about what we here on Typophile (as opposed to Folkpoetryphile) make it our serious business to care about.

hhp

dezcom's picture

My take on it is that the family had no money but still plenty of love and did as best they could with the means available to them.

ChrisL

hrant's picture

Using the money for the stone to pay a woodcarver instead would have been much better. If you can't do it well, know that, and at least don't immortalize your deficiency. Have the humility to fade into the [back]ground with dignity. This way many generations will look at that headstone and feel -even more- sorry for Shula.

Maybe the father was arrogant, or dirt cheap, or had a family feud with the town stonecutter? As Jon hints, we can't know enough to be sure - but of course that can't and shouldn't prevent people from thinking and opining.

hhp

hrant's picture

Wait, that doesn't look like stone, it looks like cement! Maybe the father was a cement guy? So I'm guessing they poored the cement into the typical wood frame on the ground, then figured to just use a branch or something while it was still wet. I'm certainly a fan of heartfelt spontaneity, but: Had they never seen a headstone before? And when they were finished, didn't they realize it was too cruddy? They could have made a second, better one - or even just resurfaced it with a bit more cement and tried again. I think it's pretty safe to say they didn't care.

hhp

dan_reynolds's picture

Look, I agree with Hrant completely. Craftsmanship is important; it can say a lot.

hrant's picture

Thinking about this thread, I have a feeling that the resistance to what I'm saying might be in large part a knee-jerk reaction based on the "death complex": the fear of our own death causes us to avoid -and even combat- any criticism of expressions of mourning. In this respect I think much can be learned from Mexican and Hindu cultures.

hhp

dezcom's picture

To a naive person, crafsmanship may have a different meaning. People of little means have always felt the only option was to use their own hands--that the sweat and toil of their own hands had more to say than the perfection of craft by someone else's. I think of it as well like the crude, hard to read, crayoned, get well wishes from my kids several years ago when I was getting heart bypass surgurey. Their own hands may have been poor at the lettering craft, but the meaning was far more powerful than any of Zapf's finest work.

ChrisL

T Bones's picture

[Edit]

Miss Tiffany's picture

I agree that craft is important.

BUT...

If my niece makes a card for me and it has errors or backwards letters I don't ask her to make a new card.

Unless we know the entire history it isn't up to us to judge this.

Yes, ok, we get it.

I still think it is nicer to see the positive and view this tombstone as a family of people who couldn't afford any better but still cared enough to make a tombstone which shares there sentiments with others to view.

Miss Tiffany's picture

... and another thing. If I couldn't afford to make a tombstone and had to do it by hand and was not a craftsman after this thread I'd hesitate sharing my sentiments with others because they'd be harshly judged.

dan_reynolds's picture

>Is that C for craftsman? ;)

No.

BlueStreak's picture

Thanks to Hrant for giving us something to think about and talk about.

Wormwood said,
"We have no idea of the context in which it was made."

Yes we do know some context. Just based on the picture Hrant posted we know it marks a grave from 1905. I extrapolated more context from the link that contained the picture. It is a grave at the Wassamssaw Baptist Church in Berkeley County, South Carolina. The closest stonecutters at that time were a hundred miles away in Charleston — cars, expressways and freight forwarding weren't around at that time BTW. The stone is more than likely limestone, the cheapest stone available and it's very soft. There is plenty more context that I gathered.

I think Miss Tiffany and dezcom get it right. When my time comes I couldn't care less. Gravemarkers are for the living, not the dead. But my living thoughts are that I would prefer mine be made by someone without skills that cares rather than a hired hand. The key that Shula's marker was made by someone that cared is the poem.

Hrant, just saying that they could've sold some deer carcasses to cover the expense is being flippant. I am, nevertheless, glad you're giving your honest thoughts.

Choz Cunningham's picture

I've written the specifications of my grave marker, and yes, it is a "designer's" piece. My family approves, and think it is surprisingly tasteful. I told them, I'd rather show my good side, if I have to pick one for forever. Should I care? Who cares?

Should I outlive Hrant, I'll try to remember to critique his marker, and I think I am not being a jerk when I say it better be damn good, reflecting the layers of context he strives for in his work.

AzizMostafa's picture

Said:
1. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
2. Change the way you look at things and things you look at change.

wormwood's picture

My reaction wasn't a knee-jerk resistance to the "death complex". I'm as fond of Shiva as the next hombre.

I should have said 'We have no idea of the human context in which it was made.'

Like BlueStreak, I've now managed to extrapolate a lot more from the picture...

Shula's parents had already died from the same plague that finished her off. Only her 8 year old twin brothers remained, who were now homeless as the family shack had been reposessed by a merciless landlord. Winter came early in 1905 and it was amidst a bitter snow storm on the edge of the cemetary that the two crippled and pox ridden boys, Walta and Hecta, struggled to fulfill their dead mother's wishes by creating a lasting memorial to her beloved daughter. If they lifted even a stick from the ground the sheriff would shoot them for stealing firewood, so Walta made do and used the rotten stumps of Hecta's diseased fingers to scratch the words into the freezing cement. Or maybe not.

Craftsmanship can say a lot, but mainly only about the craftsman. Hrant's probably right. If it walks like sh¡te and talks like sh¡te then...

hrant's picture

Since I agree that "gravemarkers are for the living", should we not leave the task to our survivors? Designing one's own seems problematic in so many ways.

Jon, your story is nicely lyrical, and not entirely unbelievable.
(And I'll have to remember that opening-exclamation trick!)

hhp

Nick Shinn's picture

If it walks like sh¡te and talks like sh¡te then…

But some of us are coprophages:
http://typophile.com/node/31458

Or maybe they don't really like that stuff, they just want to use it for educational purposes :-)

BlueStreak's picture

Hrant said...
"should we not leave the task to our survivors?"

The adage says that if you want something done right...

Choz Cunningham's picture

Agree with whom? I only agree insofar as I am living and I care. And my family will presumably be living, and they cared, so they contracted the task to me, being the design guy. While I am skeptical that I will care after it is relevant, it is more comforting to think that my epitaph will be a mirror of some aspect of my life, than anything like either of the stones in that picture. What are the many problematic ways?

Choz Cunningham's picture

!Jon, are you stealing my opening exclamation? Don't make me go invent more marks...

Paul Cutler's picture

Personally I would like sky burial but the Death Machine is not going to allow it so I'll leave it up to those who survive me…

peace

heroist's picture

Good lord, has anyone walked through a cemetery lately? I'd certainly rest much more peacefully knowing that something this modest and sincere was planted above me rather than most of schlock that's etched in stone these days. The meaning and memorial is in the words, not the shape of the letters.

dsb's picture

I think that if all gravestone typography looked like that,
it would be terrible.
But since only that one looks like that,
isn't it ingenious?

made beautiful by the fact that it is also sincere.

But I still think hrant's original joke was funny.

dan_reynolds's picture

>The meaning and memorial is in the words, not the shape of the letters.

Gosh, I guess I'm just silly, because I feel the total opposite :(
I really couldn't care what my memorial says. And if I ever commission any, their text with be sparse. No need to spill so many words, I think. The most important element of a marker, in my opinion, is the dash! You, know "1925–1993." The year of birth and death really don't mean all that much compared with the dash… the dash is someone's entire life, boiled down into just one little mark!

hrant's picture

This here's Typophile. It's all about the shapes of the letters (or actually,
the notan of text). The content is not unimportant, but beside the point.

hhp

BlueStreak's picture

Hrant has pointed out that male deer are called harts. I had no idea and retract my comment about his deer carcass comment.

When I looked at all of the other stones in that cemetary, I guessed that some were replacements. This morning I wondered if Shula's should be replaced with one using better cut letterforms. And I truly don't know. Would Shula and her family be pleased or pissed if this stone was replaced?

AzizMostafa's picture

> The meaning and memorial is in the words, not the shape of the letters.
Heroist, what about the shape of the grave? Pyramids for example?

> Personally I would like sky burial ....
Paul Cutler, Up the mountain like the Men of the Cave?

Paul Cutler's picture

Aziz - Indeed upon the mountain - to become birds…

peace

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