Father And Daughter Working Together Cutting Stone In Belfast

Published: Aug. 10, 2017 at 8:35 AM EDT
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In the 1980's, Douglas Coffin was the art director for a magazine, and creative director for an ad agency.

At 40 years old, his life changed when he went to a demonstration and seminar about letter cutting and stone.

The Belfast man is now one of a handful in the country doing something he loves, and his daughter is by his side.

"There are only about 25 letter cutters in the country working at the caliber my daughter and I do, so it's a small, small pond that we swim in." Coffin went to that seminar 29 years ago and found he had the tools and ability to do the job in Belfast. His daughter Sigrid saw him working, but never thought she'd be in his studio too.

"I remember the sound it makes very, very, clearly" said his daughter Sigrid Coffin. "And when I first started, the sound was really familiar to me which was kind of sweet, but it wasn't something that I saw for myself as a young kid, not until I got older."

They both refuse to call themselves artists. Instead they consider themselves craftsmen, who are commissioned to do a job.

But those jobs could serve as a memorial and last for centuries, yet they don't fear making that first cut in the stone.

"The amount of material that we take off with a single thwack of a chisel is so small," said the elder Coffin. "That the mistakes we make are very small and we can always recover."

Their craft requires them to represent a person's life or accomplishments, or serve as a tribute by carving it in stone. They find the beauty in each of the letters they cut.

"There is a way of making a really beautiful letter," said Douglas. "And we all respond to beautiful letters, we don't see them that often, but when we see them, we recognize them and say 'that's lovely'".

"When a really beautiful letter, let's say an R, which is probably my favorite letter," added Sigrid. "When I'm finished with that and I just finish that last little sweep into the foot kicked out, it's ahh, that's really nice."

Douglas is 69. 33-year-old Sigrid has worked with her dad for the last 7 years, and neither one is ready for their working partnership to come to an end.

"There's so many parts of this that I haven't learned yet. There's so many times where Dad says, 'You're gonna want to see this, this is how I'm going to do this, what we need to do is we need to carve this dish but it has to line up with this and the way I'm going to do it is this' and his decades of tool knowledge and sense he imparts to me in tidbits as we're doing them, so it's very hands on. Everytime we come in here I'm learning something new."

"I have good health," said Douglas. "I have good energy, I still like working, I still feel like this is so much fun, and it's actually more fun since Sigrid joined me"

"I love coming in here on a quiet morning and just setting up and putting on my apron and just starting tapping, that's one of the biggest parts of my life," said Sigrid. "And I just love working with Dad, so at some point he'll step down. I hope to continue this at some point, perhaps somebody else will come on with me whether that's a little Coffin or not, I don't know, but it's a nice family industry for now."

The Coffin's get calls for stones, memorials and tributes from around the country and they are booking work already for the fall of next year.

To find out more about them, visit their Facebook page - Coffin and Daughter Letter Cutting or go to their website www.LetterCutter.com.