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Letter Carver Fergus Wessel

Posted 15/09/14

fergus wessel and family

Born in 1974 and raised in a household where typography and general design was the prime topic of conversation and considered more important than maths and English, I quickly developed a keen eye for detail. My mother was a typographer at the Whittington Press near Cheltenham. I remember playing on the ink-soaked floor there, and I can still feel the weight of the glorious cubes of lead type. Logos fascinated me as a boy and I spent hours looking at the sides of lorries.

Whilst still at school I used to ruin the household screw-drivers by banging them against pieces of stone; I still have those early carvings.

Sure enough I was directed into the arts and left school at 16 for Art College. I finally left Falmouth Art School at the age of 20 having learnt a bit about ceramics. I was lucky enough to get my first job at Winchcombe pottery at the age of 20 and stayed there for the next seven years. In that time I worked my way up to be quite an accomplished thrower, so it was with great trepidation that I decided to re-train and go back to carving; this time perhaps with chisels. As a potter my hands were permanently cold and wet and it was time to move on, but it was a hard thing to do; to abandon a skill I had so painstakingly developed.

Again fortune played it’s part and on a damp and foggy January morning in 2001 I arrived buzzing with excitement at Lida Kindersley’s workshop in Cambridge to begin my letter carving apprenticeship. There I remained for the next three years honing my carving skills. It was an intense time, but I loved it. Leaving was hard but I wanted to have a go on my own and in 2003 set up my workshop called Stoneletters Studio in my father-in-law’s garden shed. I employed my first apprentice two years later and when we sensed that a garden shed was beginning to feel inappropriate, I designed and built a new workshop which is where we are today.

I will always feel indebted to the people who have helped and directed me along this path, notably Oliver and Alison Chapple, John Randle of the Whittington Press, Miriam Macgregor and the late Ray Finch. Architect John Melvin, and John Witheridge, headmaster of Charterhouse have been staunch supporting clients for almost ten years. Who knows what the future may hold. One thing is for sure: I continue to draw inspiration from the old masters like William Caslon and Eric Gill; to this day I still cannot put my finger on what makes their lettering so handsome.

I am starting to think that it might not be the letterforms themselves but the spaces in between, but I will keep on musing.

If I have a style I am only just becoming aware of it. I tend to go for letterforms that I like because I want to understand them more. One final word on my wonderful clients; for it is their continued enthusiasm, encouragement and appreciation which makes my job so rewarding and worthwhile, and for them I am truly grateful.

Please follow this link to see a 30 second video of Fergus, or for a fascinating in depth interview and transcript, see our video page.

A rather serious looking photo!

fergus wessel

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