01 April 2010

a sunny cemetery day

The move is done. Things are arranged perfectly and I managed to come out the other side of it with some of my sanity left. I still have to put much of it back together but the hard part is over and I'm puffing out a gigantic sigh of relief.

Add to that the fact that temperatures here climbed up into the mid seventies today and I was feeling pretty energetic. I asked Leann (a fellow skully cemetery loving friend) a few weeks ago (when there was still snow on the ground) if she would be interested in doing some grave rubbings. I expected no other answer then what I got (a resounding yes) and then we decided that we liked our fingers and toes so we would wait for the snow to go away and then go cemetery tromping.

Today turned out to be that day. I've been looking around on the internet for polite ways to do grave rubbings (I didn't want to do anything that would damage them), found some good advice and packed up my supplies:

Most of the suggestions I found online were for paper rubbings but I wanted to do fabric. The biggest things to remember are to (1) don't use any kind of adhesive to attach your material to the headstone because it can damage the stone and (2) don't use any kind of paint or pencil that can leave marks on the stone.

In other words, be careful and don't alter anything. No problem.

Plymouth is full of historical cemeteries. I'm quite fond of the carvings from the stones from the 1800s and there are plenty to pick from around here. I've got many photos on my flickr site. We visited two cemeteries today and had pretty good luck.

At the first one we visited, I headed straight over to a stone that, for whatever reason, I am quite fond of. I'd like to introduce you to Emma:

I like her so much and I can't really say why for sure but there is just something about her stone that fascinates me. (I even use the hand portion as the avatar on my flickr page.)

Its interesting to note that on most of the women's stones from the 1800s, their last name does not appear. They are normally buried next to their husbands or fathers. If she is married, her husband's name appears on her stone and that's how you know her last name. If she is unmarried, then her father's name appears. I find it sad in a way.

The other thing I really enjoy about these old stones is that all the carvings have meanings. (Here's a good site with photos.) There are a lot of sites that have lengthy listings but I can't find what Emma's carvings mean. A hand pointing downward means the hand of God descending from heaven but this hand doesn't really point, it looks more like its reaching for the flowers. I'll have to keep searching.

The rubbing of Emma's stone came out fairly well. I also have a thermofax screen of the hand portion of her stone so I'm hoping I can combine that to finish out the fabric and make a stitched piece out of it.

I did two other rubbings in Emma's cemetery. Here is Eliza:

Eliza's stone is broken and on the ground. Again, I can't find a meaning for her carving but I'll keep looking. Since I can't really read the writing on the second half of the stone where it broke, I'm not entirely sure what her last name was. I know she was married because it says "wife of" but the crack is right over her husband's name so that part is lost. The rubbing didn't come out perfect (there were lots of bumps) but I think I'll be able to use it for something to honor her.

And here is an unknown:

Part of this stone has sunk into the ground so I'm not sure what the name is. But the willow tree symbolizes grief. Many of the stones in this cemetery have toppled over or sunk so it make things a little difficult to really read them. But its now under the care of the historical society so things are being maintained.

We moved on to another cemetery after a little bit where we found a stone with markings neither of us had seen before. Here is Sophia's stone:

Her husband's stone had identical carvings. The winged hourglass means swift passage in earthly time. I'm not sure about the chain. I found a couple references to a fraternal organization where a chain is shown and the letters of the organization are in them but those letters weren't on Sophia's marker, maybe they were on her husband's and we just didn't notice.

At any rate, the rubbing from her stone didn't work out well at all. Here is Leann giving it a shot:

Don't you just love her blue hair? (That tape that is helping hold up the fabric is masking tape. Trust me, it didn't do any harm. It kept popping off the stone the adhesive was so low but it was better then nothing.)

I did one last rubbing before we called it a day. Here is John's stone:

This is the only stone of a man's that I did. He was a pretty old guy when he died, 76. Most of te stones I've seen from the 1800s show ages from 20-45 so John did pretty good.

I'm thinking about doing a series of women's stones. I want to honor them, give them their last names. There are several more historical cemeteries around to visit.

I know it may sound a little morbid to some but its really not. There is a strong historical connection. We saw many stones that identified wars that people had fought in and family plots that span many generations. Its a lovely tribute.

I've got a lot brewing in the studio right now (beside the mess) so it will be a little while before I get to Emma's piece but I'll get there. I've moved things around enough to be able to keep plugging away. I've got lots to do to get ready for Open Studios at IQF in a couple of weeks. So the blog will be hopping again. About time, right? :)


mary said...

i started this very project last year. its really cool some of the meanings behind the carvings...i can give you a good list of some neat old cemeteries we have gone to.
the one we went to in mackinaw city was really cool.

Anonymous said...

Your rubbings turned out really strong, love them!

Yarnhog said...

Emma turned out really, really well! This is probably a dumb question, but is that paper or cloth draped on the stones?

Kitty D said...


Next time you ladies go out to do this, gimme a holler! I'm closer to you now that we've moved!