A third-generation stone carver and calligrapher, Nicholas Benson creates architectural lettering for public buildings, memorials, and monuments. A 2010 MacArthur Fellow, Nick owns and operates the historic John Stevens Shop, a stone carving business in Newport, Rhode Island. Benson learned his craft from his father, John Everett Benson (b. 1939), also a renowned inscriptionist.
Conceptually, Nick works on an intimate scale in which a wisp of a serif can determine the character of an entire alphabet. On the other hand, he has to envision his work on a grand architectural scale and project how a letter/word/text block will look from ten, twenty, or a hundred feet away. Similarly, he works in a wide arc of time—today’s letter has to be cut with consideration of how time in the short (changing light conditions) and long term (the collection of debris within a letter, for instance, eventually provides a patina of dimension) will impact its future appearance. This interview originally appeared in Monuments.