Family Tradition Carved in Stone

(Video) Stone Carving Genius? You Betcha!

You may have seen a piece on Nicholas Benson on the CBS Sunday Morning last November…if you are a carver, you’ll love watching it again. Although we can’t show it here, you can see it on their site

There is something about the ability to carve this intricate lettering.

Nick Benson’s handiwork can be seen across the country – his meticulous portfolio immortalized on headstones, war monuments and memorials. The stone carving craft that he’s perfected dates back to ancient times, and is a Benson family tradition.

Craftsmen? Artists? We say yes to both. Headstones and monuments have lots of lettering. Much of the contemporary work is done mechanically-often using computer fonts and sandblasting techniques. But there are still master craftsmen who ply the age old trade of carving the letters one by one.
Calligraphy, design, and carving all require a lot of skill and patience. These master carvers do it all. No subcontracting out parts! And some of the carving is done by hand, some using power, but it is slow going. About 2 letters per hour.
Nick Benson Stone Carving

Nick Benson began working at the John Stevens Shop under his father’s watchful eye at just 15 years of age. A portrait of his grandfather still hangs and keeps watch over the shop even as Nick is now the owner and proprietor.

Nick’s father, John, also started at 15 under HIS father’s skillful eye. John was the best in the business and in 1964 he was commissioned to design and carve the inscriptions for the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. His work also graces the headstones of  Tennessee Williams, Lillian Hellman, and George Balanchine

Surprising that even though carving into granite there is still the ability to fix mistakes–although we suspect they don’t make many. It was cool to hear Benson talk about one, and the correction process.

This family has 3 generations of stone carvers, but the legacy stretches back so much farther. They truly have a connection dating back to at least the Romans.

We really appreciate this great American family of artists and craftsmen–who can even claim a MacArthur Fellowship Genius Award. Pretty fitting we’d say.

Thanks to CBS Sunday Morning for the inspiring program

Learn about the Benson family of carvers and the John Stevens Shop here.

Video thanks to the MacArthur Foundation. Read more about Nick’s MacArthur Fellowship Award