After work on Friday I paid a visit to the Newport workshop of Brooke Roberts, a JSS alum from the oft-invoked "Golden Age" of the mid- to late-seventies. Back then he was an artistically inclined teenager looking for a summer job. Instead he found a lifestyle. He still carves, often employing Paul Russo to help get the work out the door, but like John Benson, who hung up his chisels for a working retirement in sculpture, his first love, Brooke is in the slow process of transitioning back to the canvas. We talked for a half hour or so about his work, some memorable projects and general aspects of the craft. I found him easygoing and good-humored, a master who wears it lightly. His shop is pretty much the ideal one-man operation, especially for those of us who don't have 300 years to spend waiting around for the atmosphere to ripen.
And he has a most enviable library.
What I took away from Brooke that I appreciated most was the reminder that there is room in the carving world for lettering methods other than those perfected by the John Stevens Shop. Calligraphic genius, mercifully, is not a prerequisite, at least not yet.