By Tine Roycroft
The Gravestone Girls are more than your typical gals ~ they’re sassy, educated artisans who share a deep respect for history and a great sense of adventure. Their idea of a perfect day includes passing time in cemeteries and “keeping the dead alive.”
“We create artwork using the images carved on gravestones,” explains Worcester’s Brenda Sullivan. With her faithful friends and fellow headstone honeys ~ Maggie White and Melissa Anderson ~ Sullivan finds both gorgeous and downright spooky cemetery design work and uses them (without harming them) to create rubbings, castings, magnets and much more.
“Nothing says ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ like a gravestone!” Sullivan laughs as she reminisces on how the Gravestone Girls came to be. “The three of us would bring home these fantastic rubbings from cemeteries and then we started making them into pieces of art. So people started receiving them as gifts. And they caught on!”
After piquing the interest of friends and family, the trio was inspired to take part in local craft shows. For over 15 years now, the Girls have been doing what they love and teaching the masses along the way.
“We’re educators too,” Sullivan, who received her Art History education at Assumption College, explains. “I give public presentations about cemetery art, history and symbolism: why we have these particular images on the gravestones, why cemeteries look the way they do, why the gravestones are shaped and colored the way they are, and so forth.”
According to Sullivan, one of the many perks of her job is discovering the fascinating (and sometimes terrifying) stories behind each stone. For example, on a recent trip to Northhampton, she found a headstone for a brother and sister who had both been struck by lightning.
“A lot of the time, information on how the person died is put there right on the stone. It can be a nod to the tragedy and the loss of life, but it’s a warning of our mortality, too,” Sullivan says. “‘We’ve found people crushed by houses, killed by falling trees, and people who have fallen off of bridges.”
Sullivan’s interest in cemeteries began in her childhood when her mother and grandmother took her along when they tended to their family burial plot. The older women would be planting flowers and trimming weeds while the little girl would be running through the rows of stones with pieces of paper, looking for fancy symbols from which to create rubbings.
“I think my mother taught me about rubbings primarily to keep me out of her hair,” Sullivan says.
And although Sullivan and the Gravestone Girls might be older now, they have no intention of ever straying from their beloved graveyards or the stories and art they find there.
For more info, go to www.gravestonegirls.com.
1 Comment »
Leave a comment