I have been immersed in the stone trade since my youth, I remember my mother telling me stories about my ancestors and pointing out the ornate Celtic crosses they cut on graveyard Sunday. My family name "Wrafter" has a long history in the trade dating back to the 18th centuary , this is something I have researched through my family tree and visiting the old graveyard in Tullamore to see the folk art style headstones my ancestors carved.
The Wrafters were renowned stone sculptors throughout Ireland , with the distinction of being mentioned in Seamus Murphys book "Stone Mad". The family tree split a long time ago when some of the Wrafters left to make a better life for themselves in Australia, this I found out in the most unusual of circumstances. While working on a large stone sculpture for Belvedere House in Mullingar , an Australian man turned up out of the blue at my workshop on day , he had come all the way from Australia to find me - and his profession - stonecutter - the exact same profession as me, except he has a quarry in Australia, something that is defiantly beyond me. Having said that the Wrafters had a quarry in Tullamore too, but all that is gone now.
So it is this legacy that I draw my inspiration from , to emulate them and then, like all students , to surpass them and now I have a son. I hope he will surpass me too in the trade , this would be a great honour.
When I began my apprenticeship , believe me I learned it the hard way, I was brought to a field where there were blocks of stone and was told I would have to shape my chosen stone into a perfectly square form and I mean level , plumb , square in every direction and
this had to be done within a fraction of a millimetre and then polished to a perfect shine , with not a trace of a scratch in the stone . To make things even harder it had to be done by hand , that is with chisel and mallet, the ethos was , power tools etc could never be used until the apprenticeship was completed. After this baptism of fire and after many blows to the thumb, I started to master it ( having said that you never truly master stone cutting , the man that does is the man that has no future ) then I started to see endless possibilities and I knew sculpture was my future.
In tandem with learning to carve stone I was taught by a master letter cutter how to hand draw letters and to hand cut letters in stone, this for some reason I was quite adept at, for once not paying attention in school helped here ,as drawing music bands names and logos on my books gave me a head start on letter forms.
I work with stone with the belief that you should be true to your materials, to work with the stone and not to force your will or design upon the stone , because as I have found in the past, the stone will make you pay dearly if you don´t respect it. If you respect the stone it will give you in turn breathtaking results as if the material is giving birth to its new form.
So in summing up , I would align myself to the arts and crafts movement, this was a conscious rejection of mass produced products and a return to making things by the craftsman with passion and foresight . If I was to bestowed the honour of being a competent craftsman like these people were that´s all I could ask for.