Corné van Iersel considers himself a novice stone cutter but his carefully crafted compositions exude quality beyond experience.
Based in Holland and born in 1967, Corné loves to experiment with text in stone. He especially likes the technical and legibility challenges that come from letters that run through one another in his work…
Inspired by TypographHer favourites like John Mawby, Corné wrote to tell me what “tremendous satisfaction” he gets when carving. I loved the glimpse of his work he shared and so go intouch to learn more about the piece.
Can you tell me a little about the work?
The dry facts: it is a slab of Belgian Blue Limestone, 85cm high and 35 cm wide. The slab is 8 cm thick and consists of petrified mud and shells. The font is Times New Roman varying from 5 to 12 cm in height. But that is not what the stone is about.. the idea originates from Keith Bailey, a late letter carver. I copied his idea because the concept intrigued me. The upfront thinking of how to manage the crossings of the letters and where to place the letters onto the stone in such a way that the result was balanced were the challenging parts for me.
Where is it located?
It is now located in my workshop, sitting on an easel waiting for..for.. I don’t know. You know, as soon the work is completed I somehow say goodbye to it. I relate a lot to the process, but much less to the result.
Was it a project you self initiated or a client commission?
Last summer I did a six days workshop in Cambridge UK with Eric Marland and Tom Perkins. The workshop was given in an old de-consecrated church where a memorial plaquette with Keith Bailey’s name on it was sitting on an easel. Keith’s name triggered my memory: I knew I had seen somewhere an interesting work on Pinterest but I had forgotten the name of the artist (I have a perfect memory for pictures but not for names, which is not always handy). But seeing his name on that plaquette made the connection to the work I had in mind. The rest is history..
I find the composition and changing scales delightful - can you enlighten us on the design process - did you start with pencil on paper or was this born from the stone so to speak?!
Well - thank you! I already had my letters on paper and I had a rubbing of the stone itself (the stone weighs approximately 50 kilos and I could not take it everywhere I went with me because of the weight). It then took me hours of puzzling which combination was the most appropriate for this particular stone. You have to know that I love working in stone where you can see both the original stone and the polished result. That puzzling was the most intense and time consuming part of the process. After that it was a matter of transferring the design to the stone and starting to cut. I am now shifting to drawing directly onto the stone and thus skipping the paper part. I know realise that a background in calligraphy and typography is not only helpful but really necessary to be really successful.
When did you get started letter cutting and what about the process do you find most satisfying?
I started sculpting in 2004 as an autodidact. After a few works in Belgian black marble (Noir de Mazy) I started letter cutting or carving in 2007 as I wanted to try something new. I got hooked on carving. Just like that. The most satisfying part - after the drawing of the letters onto the stone – is the carving and the showing of the individual toolmarks of the chisel in the stone. When my fingers tell me whether the letter is perfect I am satisfied.
What is your favourite tool to work with?
I have actually more than one favourite: my 1,5 lbs dummy and my tungsten tipped chisels. Although I have more than one hundred chisels I actually use only 4 or 5 of them. It may sound silly but whenever I can I have a chisel in my hand.
And what is your favourite letter (if you have one!) to cut.
I don’t have a special one in mind, but the favourite ones are the ones with round shapes in them such as a ‘C’ or an ‘S’. It always satisfies me greatly when I manage to produce a letter which is full of tension.
Where can people get in touch with you or see more of your work?
Online at www.steenkalligraaf.nl (stone calligrapher . nl). And if you visit Holland you are more than welcome in my workshop!