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Gravestones Carved By Hand In Rhode Island Provide Comfort – And Joy

Karin Sprague is among a small group of artists who still etch stone memorials by hand. Photo courtesy of Karin Sprague

Karin Sprague is among a small group of artists who still etch stone memorials by hand. Photo courtesy of Karin Sprague

Early on, good at lettering, Karin Sprague found work painting names on boats. She opened a sign shop on Block Island. She went to art college, and began carving signs in wood. Then a teacher introduced her to stone.

“It’s very different than wood, because you’re using different tools. You’re not pushing a chisel. The mallet is pushing the chisel forward with every tap,” she explained from her studio in Scituate, Rhode Island.

When she carved her first letter, Sprague said, something ignited in her soul, quoting a line from a Pablo Neruda poem.

“I had never gotten so lit up!” Sprague said. “I mean, I get lit up a lot. I get very passionate, very excited, but you know when you have those moments?”

That was 1991 and Sprague said she still gets lit up when she sees a beautiful, hand-carved letter in stone. She uses that energy when she gets the first call from a grieving family, asking her to design something deeply personal.

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