The arrival of a new apprentice, David Kindersley, in December 1934 is marked by the laconic entry in Eric Gill's diary 'Mr. Kindersley and son came in night'. The nervous but determined eighteen year old non-Catholic public schoolboy, whose stockbroker father paid Gill his small apprentice's indemnity. developed first into a trusted Gill assistant, working alongside him on such important commissions of the period as Bentall's store in Kingston, St. John's College, Oxford and Dorset House, and then burgeoned into a prolific and distinguished lettercutter on his own account. From Gill's earliest inscription of 1903 up to Kindersley's death in 1995, the two straddle the history of 20th century British crafts, resurrecting the neglected craft of lettercutting and redefining the idea of the workshop as a valid way of life.



Gill had begun cutting letters in stone during his first few months at Westminster Technical Institute. He was simultaneously learning writing and studying the Roman alphabet with Edward Johnston at the L.C.C. Central School of Arts and Crafts. These twin influences worked together to persuade him to give up his planned profession as an architect and become a lettercutter and monumental mason.

  The rash of idealistic small craft workshops established in the 1880s and 1890s in the wake of William Morris and inspired by his ideas, had already revived many craft skills. But there had been no creative advances in cutting or incising letters into stone, and this was a challenge to which Gill had risen eagerly. Lettercutting presented irresistible and challenging questions. So, early on in his career, Gill had adopted lettercutting, with its compelling precisions and certainties, as the cornerstone of his philosophy of artistic rationality.
Abridged from the book 'ABCDavid Kindersley'



  When Kindersley began his apprenticeship in the middle 1930s Eric Gill had become a famous and controversial sculptor. Prospero and Ariel were by then in place over the portals of the BBC in Langham Place.  

In the Gill workshops at Pigotts near High Wycombe the cutting of inscriptions remained the staple of activity and was indeed the primary source of income. Amongst the works completed during this period were the memorials to the writers John Galsworthy and A.R. Orage, the artists William Orpen and Christopher Wood, the well-known portrait panel for Lord Rutherford in Cambridge, and the memorial to the Admiral of the Fleet Charles Edward Madden in St. Paul's Cathedral.

As well as the excitement and vitality of the busy workshop Kindersley the apprentice absorbed the protocols of death and burial. This was to stand him in good stead in his own practice. It was Kindersley himself who cut the inscription ET ALIAS OVES on the Hopton Wood stone demonstration panel designed by Gill and exhibited at the French Gallery in London in November 1936.

Kindersley's apprenticeship with Gill reversed completely his earlier months of working with the traditional 'trade' carvers, the brothers Udini in Fulham. Where the Udinis used the pointing machine to enlarge and convert into stone the plaster models made by the many Royal Academicians who used their services, Gill denounced such practices as pusillanimous and ungodly.

  In his generation Eric Gill was the prime exponent of direct carving. Kindersley took on Gill's own delight in physicality: the fluent skills of drawing, the rhythmic disciplines of the hammer and the chisel. Kindersley remained with Gill for two years, setting up on his own in 1936 as a letter cutter and, for a while, a sculptor.  
  He was always to acknowledge the impact Gill had had on him, later recollecting that Gill's 'views on almost any subject were always reasoned if not reasonable, and they influenced me for life'
Abridged from the book 'ABCDavid Kindersley'




In 1945 Kindersley moved to Cambridge, establishing his first fully-fledged lettercutting workshop at Dales Barn in the village of Barton. This was a time of stylistic liberation for Kindersley, in which he broke away from Gill in his decorative embellishments of cutting, in his growing predilection for lettering on slate and the combination of lettering with heraldry. But in the organisation of the workshop, and his aims for it, the sense of dynastic inheritance was strong.

  At Barton, Kindersley evolved his own ideas of wholeness, his mid-20th century development of Gill's 'cell of good living in the chaos of our world', the place of integration where bed and board, home and school and work and worship merge.  
  Though not formally religious, David Kindersley had a strongly contemplative side. He was a maker who was also a quester, deeply influenced by the writings of the Russian philosopher P.D.Ouspensky and for a time a member of the Walker Group, an Ouspenskyist self-help discussion group in London. His view of the workshop was always to remain essentially spiritual.  

'What is a Workshop? It is a place where workers work and build a microcosm of life. It is in many ways like a temple, a place of rethinking and dedication, echoing each passing day and adjusting to the demands of its hitherto unknown clientele.' David Kindersley 'Letters Slate Cut'


The drawing, cutting, painting and fixing in position became a workshop ritual in which not just Kindersley and his assistants but the client, whose involvement was seen as the completion of the almost mystic triangle, all shared. Working out from this disciplined framework David Kindersley designed a number of typefaces and devised a computerised typesetting system, translating Ruskinian ideals of creative individuality and human judgment into 20th century technology.

The survival of a workshop culture in a post-war climate of industrial expansion preoccupied Kindersley through the 1950s and 1960s when he was a leading figure in the Designer Craftsman Society and the Crafts Council of Great Britain. of which he eventually became Chairman.

  He moved his workshop from Barton to the 14th century Chesterton Tower in 1967 and then, ten years later, to the converted infants' school in Victoria Road, the premises the Cardozo Kindersley Workshop still occupies. In his succession of locations Kindersley was able to demonstrate how well a small, specialist, quasi familial grouping of crafts people could work to an impeccably high standard whilst sustaining itself financially.
Abridged from the book 'ABCDavid Kindersley'




It is one of the crucially important things about David Kindersley that he was able to rise above the mystique of the 20th century craft workshop, built up around a central charismatic male practitioner (Eric Gill was a prime example, whose workshop was compared by visitors to a Renaissance atelier) and to acknowledge Lida Lopes Cardozo, a much younger, extraordinarily talented Dutch letter cutter, not just as his apprentice and later as his wife but as a genuine creative equal.

  He began collaborations with her in the mid 1970s. These include the magnificent memorial to the Abbots of St. Albans carved on Welsh slate on the ground in front of the altar in the Abbey, and the hand cut and hand written inscriptions for the Ruskin Gallery in Sheffield.
Abridged from the book 'ABCDavid Kindersley'