Vermont Arts Council

A Sculptor’s Words

This story was first posted on the Arts Council website November 16, 2011.

It is always good news when an artist’s business is growing. So, it was great to get this update from one of our grantees,  Kerry O. Furlani: “I’ve recently moved into a larger studio at the Journal Press, on Main Street, in Poultney. This new location (larger and more centrally located) will greatly support the production of my studio work and allow me to launch a kind of ‘Slate Carving School,’ in which I hope to offer the public an ongoing calendar of workshops in stone lettering and relief carving.”

Kerry has been working with slate since moving to Vermont in 2001. A fiend for traditional craft, she told us she “gives life to her work using wooden and dummy mallets and chisels, a traditional method introduced to her while training at the Frink School of Figurative Sculpture in the late 1990s.” This description was part of her application for an Artist Development grant, seeking funding to work with a master letter carver John Neilson in Wales. With a review panel convinced this would advance her career, she was on her way.
view from cottage in Wales

She describes the time with the carver saying, “My training began with calligraphy pen and layout paper. John helped me develop a foundation in which to build my own lettering forms. He encouraged me to experiment with scale, texture, and the shapes of both formal and informal letters. After weeks of desk work, I began to transfer my designs into carved pieces. John showed me how to ‘chase’ and ‘chop’ the path of a line.”

“I also had the privilege of investigating John’s immense library. Occasionally, we took to the road to track down lettering ‘hotspots.’ From public monuments and cemeteries to medieval churches and cathedrals John offered his insights on the historical development of letterforms. We also took trips to visit some of the best letter carvers in Britain and Belgium. I witnessed a solid group of dedicated practitioners, all of them excited about their work and sustaining themselves through their craft.”

The trip resulted in her recent exhibit “Words to Stone” at the Chaffee Art Center in Rutland.  She created seventeen pieces from stone gathered in nearby Vermont quarries and river beds, stone yards, and back yards. “The outlined shape, texture and color of each stone served as my palette for inspiration for the words and fragments of poetry that were dwelling inside me or came to me after sourcing a stone.”
Kerry carving Everything is Waiting for You
As Kerry moves forward, she describes a new perspective. “I can sense a shift within. I am clearer now about my aims, more confident with the strikes of my mallet to the letters at hand. Fueled and emboldened by the palpable experiences of my adventures in Wales, my ambition is to develop a body of lettering work in private and public spaces that sing with life and are ‘felt’ more than constructed. I wish to convey both rhythm and variety in letter forms and the whole of a text as a singular word image.”

Read about Kerry and see examples of her slate relief work.

You can view her letter carving experience in Wales and see examples of her lettering work on this YouTube video.