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Kindersley stone cutting workshop launches new books

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Cutting stone has been a lifetime’s work for Lida Kindersley, whose workshop in Cambridge has created everything from the tiniest garden memorial for a beloved pet to huge sundials on public buildings.

Lida with Emma Thompson (7203659)
Lida with Emma Thompson (7203659)

Sought after by royalty and celebrities, Lida has written a new book called Cutting Through Nature about the works she has created for private and public gardens, wild settings and landscaped vistas.

The book is being launched next month, with another she co-wrote called Sundials: Cutting Time. Her co-author is Dr Frank King, Chairman of the British Sundial Society and Keeper of the Cambridge University clock. What links them all is some of the best stone carving, known in the industry as letter cutting, in the world today.

Lida says: “To me you can express everything through letters. That is why we only cut by hand because the emotion and feeling you put in a stone is not done by machine.

Every moment I hit the back of the chisel is a moment of consideration. Once you hit the stone it is a blow of conviction - that moment of really meaning it makes the stone meaningful and connected to one’s humanity.”

Lida became a stone cutter 42 years ago after training as a graphic designer at the Royal Academy in Holland. She went to a conference about type design and met her future husband, David Kindersley.

“When he showed me what he was doing drawing letters so that every letter was a new exploration, not a typeface, that got me really excited. And when david showed me letters cut in stone, I thought, yes! Why didn’t anybody tell me to do that?

“And so I came to England - I followed him, poor man, and finally was allowed to be in his workshop. He sadly died 23 years ago. We have three sons and two are now working in the workshop, so there is a continuing line of us working in letter cutting.”

Lida (7197557)
Lida (7197557)

The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop is a long standing Cambridge institution but one many of the city’s residents are unfamiliar with. Their lettering can be seen all over the city on buildings, plaques and street signs. Known as Kindersley Street, this lettering was designed by David Kindersley in the 1950s and for decades was the street lettering used across much of the UK. It also had its moment of international fame as the lettering for Privet Drive in the Harry Potter films.

Cutting through Nature will be Lida’s 25th book and features case studies of many of the workshop’s commissions.

One stone was made for the top of a mountain on the Isle of Mull. “You can’t own a mountain, you can only be warden of it, but it was part of the estate of people who wanted a beautiful stone at the top for climbers to see when they reached the summit.

A message for climbers at the top of the mountain (7203661)
A message for climbers at the top of the mountain (7203661)

“Fixing it in place almost killed me. Climbing the mountain with a tonne of stone was hard work. We had a little vehicle that climbs onto mountains but we did have to guide it along and cut some trees on the way. It was wonderful because the whole island came out to help us - the client, the farm hand and the local policeman with his son helped along with four of us from the workshop. I love the fact that working with stone is something you have to do together.”

Lida has also worked with actress Emma Thompson on a stone seat by the pond in her garden. Emma states in the book: “Everything in the garden grows out from Lida’s stone. Like the ripples made by a pebble in a pond, because they’re focal points, giving meaning to their surroundings”. Emma was so happy with this stone that she commissioned another for her husband, the actor Greg Wise, a few years later.

The Kindersley Workshop (7197559)
The Kindersley Workshop (7197559)

The author and wine expert Hugh Johnson has two commissions featured in the book including one carved in wood. He has long been an admirer of Kindersley lettering, “Commemorate, explain, remind, inspire - carved words can do all this. When like the Kindersleys’ they are works of art in themselves they add another dimension,” he said.

Another major part of Lida’s work is lettercutting on gravestones. “I happen to love doing gravestones,” says Lida, “because it really matters when somebody comes and has lost someone they love, then there is so much to be explored about life and death and that particular person who is no longer there.

“I’m a stonecutter so people can talk to me and say whatever they want - it goes into the stone and they never need to see me ever again if they don’t want to.”

The books are available to buy directly from the Cardozo Kinderlsey Workshop, Tel: 01223 362170 www.kindersleyworkshop.co.uk/shop Both priced at £15 + P&P

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