Last Monday, you may have noticed a tweet or two between me and @whipstitch (a.k.a. Father Muskrat's Pretty Bride). Ms. Whipstitch (real name: Deborah) is an amazingly talented woman, has a wicked sense of humor, and convinced me that we should experiment with rubbing headstones.
Yeah, you read that right.
Allow me to explain. Back in August, we all got together for an Atlanta Tweet-up and as Deborah and I sat across from one another, an idea formed. I mentioned wanting to eventually preserve my paternal grandparents' headstone, via a charcoal/paper rubbing, because the surname carving was based on my grandfather's signature. That's when Deborah told me about a technique, involving rice paper and ink, used to preserve ancient Mayan carvings that were slowly decaying. After teasing me with that tidbit, she said "So how about you and I go over to Oakland Cemetery and try rubbing headstones with muslin and water-based paint? That way, I can incorporate the headstones into quilts!"
Ladies and gents, I was sold.
And that's how I found myself at Oakland Cemetery last Monday, getting acquainted with a few of Atlanta's late residents.
Our first headstone was that of Colonel Lovick P. Thomas. We picked him to be our inaugural headstone because he was buried next to both of his wives. Colonel Thomas was obviously a busy man. This was our first try, using one piece of muslin and a heavily-loaded roller. Paint bled through to the marble headstone and Deborah and I frantically scrubbed off the excess paint, hoping a cemetery volunteer wouldn't see us. We decided then that maybe two pieces of fabric would work better. That, and a quick exit from that particular row of graves.
With Ms. May Louise, we discovered that a lighter touch with the paint and two sheets of fabric worked best. The Edward Gorey-esque definition of the words and the lack of paint on the headstone made us grin like idiots.
William C. Loughmiller's headstone was our favorite. When you walk up to it, you can barely read it. But after Deborah gave it the special Whipstitch treatment, his secrets were revealed.
You can clearly make out Mr. Loughmiller's birth and death dates. See those interlocked rings at the bottom? They denote that Mr. Loughmiller was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Without the rubbing, you couldn't even see that tidbit. The quote reads A happier lot than ours, and larger light surrounds thee there. Before we did this, most of this stone was unreadable. Deborah? I think you and I need to offer our services to Oakland for a minimal fee. And by minimal I mean We're rollin' in the dough, baby!
I loved doing this. This quick hour-long project is something I could easily turn into a full-time hobby. Mainly because getting up close and personal with someone's headstone, touching the stone, and revealing it's secrets that may be unreadable to the human eye, reminds me that the person in the ground below had hoped to leave his or her indelible mark in stone so that future generations may remember them. Well, Mr. William Loughmiller? You are remembered.
If you want to see Deborah's finished results, go check out her blog here.