Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Purchase Process

On many occasions I receive phone calls asking what the monument purchase process looks like and I would like to explain that here.

Most often families begin the monument purchase process with a general idea of what they are looking for. For example, some families come to us stating they want something “simple”, “black”, “big”, or “flat”. They often form their ideas based on a combination of the cemetery requirements and what style rock they feel best represents their loved ones’ life.

Once the family communicates their initial ideas to us we are able to offer further ideas, examples, and options to them. After the initial color, shape, size, and style of the stone have been determined we are able to discuss design ideas with the family.

After all ideas have been discussed we are able to design a rendering of the memorial that we provide to the family. The rendering is done in a CAD program which allows us to create the monument to scale, and offer the family an idea of what the stone will look like. Once the family approves of the monument design we are able to begin our manufacturing process.

Once the monument is made we place it in line to be set in the cemetery. We do a large volume of monuments within a 90 mile radius of Springdale, AR, which allows us to visit most cemeteries about once per month. That being said, you can typically allow between four and six weeks from the time you approve your drawing until the time the monument is placed in the cemetery.
Next week I will discuss the various colors of stone and where they originate.

I hope you have found this post helpful and hope you will contact me if you have any questions.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Laser Etching...A New Way to Tell the Story

You can learn a lot about someone based on the engravings on his or her headstone and, with modern day technology, history is being told in a whole new way. While the traditional method of memorializing has traditionally revolved around sandblasted stones such as this:

It has now shifted to laser etchings. With laser etching we are able to take this photo:

And turn it into this:

Laser etching, although fairly new, is a great way to capture detail in stone and really tell a story in a way that is simply not possible via sandblasting. Some fun facts about laser etching are:
  • We only laser etch on black. Many monument companies will etch on ebony mist or other colors but we do not recommend it as you need a granite grain that does not vary in color so that it does not distort your image once etched.
  • By laser etching you can actually fit more text onto one stone. This is because the laser is capable of achieving smaller, more delicate fonts than the sand blaster is.
  • Laser etching is a method of engraving the stone and your etching should endure the test of time nicely if it is not painted. Painted laser etchings (i.e. etched and then hand painted on top of the etching) utilize paints that are inevitably suseptible to weathering and are rumored to last approximately 25 years. That fact bothers some folks and does not bother others.
  • The laser etching process is pretty simple. When you come in to begin your laser etching we recommend that you bring your artwork with you. If the artwork is digital we recommend it be at 600 dpi. If you don't know what that means then don't worry, I will help you! We will then work up a proof for you to view and welcome any changes you have to the proof. We will continue to work this way until the proof meets your satisfaction and you give us the "okay" to begin work.

I hope you found this post to be informative and encourage you to drop me an e-mail, post a comment, or give me a call if you have any questions.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Indian Grave Houses

As a member of the Choctaw Nation I am interested in Native American culture and, as a monument person, have always been interested in Indian Grave Houses such as the ones seen below.

I had always wondered what the purpose of these little grave houses was and had simply assumed they were originally used for memorialization purposes. However, by doing a little research, I learned that the grave houses were not built for memorialization purposes at all; hence the headstones seen erected in front of the grave houses (the headstones are used for memorialization!).

Being a member of the Choctaw Nation I consulted with a member of their historical department regarding the purpose of these houses and was surprised at what I learned. Throughout time much of the Native American history has been passed down orally leaving younger tribal members to rely upon the oral history that has been passed down to their elders. That being said, it is reasonable to believe that there are two common "myths" about the grave houses and I would like to share those with you.

1) In the mid- 1800's there was a tradition known as bone picking. According to my source at the Choctaw Nation, when a member of the tribe passed, his or her body was placed above ground and allowed to deteriorate. Once the deterioration process had progressed, an individual known as a "bone picker" would cleanse the bones and then present the bones to the family of the deceased in what was called a "bone house". These bones were placed above ground with the bone house walls and roofs sheltering them. It was not until many years later that missionaries who had come to the area told the tribe that the practices were not sanitary or proper; the tribe began burrying their loved ones at that time.

2) The second myth is that tribe members were burried in the grave houses and that the purpose of the houses was to enclose spirits with the deceased in order to represent an eternal existance harmonic existance with the spirits they believed in.

Whatever the case may be, the tradition of grave houses, although not widely known, is fascinating. If you have not seen a grave house in person you may be interested in taking a short drive over in to Oklahoma to visit some and view an often ignored slice of history.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Flowers Commonly used in Memorial Art and Their Meaning

When creating a headstone, one may wish to utilize symbols as a means of telling his or her loved one’s life story. Of course there are numerous fraternity symbols, team or company logos, hobby symbols, etc that are often found on headstones. However, did you know that the flowers often carved on headstones have meaning as well?

Whether the individual designing the headstone realizes it or not, each flower has a symbolic meaning and I am going to describe them below.

  • Wild Rose: In a naturalistic form this design symbolizes love. However, in the conventional form, it means Messianic Promise or Our Blessed Savior. In a heraldic form it means the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  • Cultivated Rose: This rose is often referred to as the American Beauty Rose and popularly symbolizes Everlasting Love. It may also be representative of persons born in the month of June.

  • Grape (True Vine): The grape vine represents the Vine of Life or Our Lord. It may also be used to symbolize the Christian Church as it refers back to St. John 15:5 (“I am the vine, ye are the branches”)

  • Ivy: Ivy is best known to symbolize Memory but may also be used to signify Friendship, Faithfulness and Immorality. If used in the wreath form it symbolizes Conviviality.

  • Flowering Dogwood: This flower is extremely popular on monuments here in Northwest Arkansas and is the symbol of Christianity, Divine Sacrifice, and the Triumph of Eternal Life. If used combination with the Cross or Crucifixion, it symbolizes Regeneration. The Dogwood may also be used to signify the states of North Carolina or Virginia.

  • Passion Flower: This is one of the many symbols used to portray the story of Our Lord’s Passion and Death.

  • Lily: Also known as the Easter Lily, this flower is symbolic of Our Lord’s Resurrection and of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Under the title of Lilium Candidum or Madonna Lily, it is emblematic of the Annunciation, Purity, and Heavenly Bliss.

  • Calla Lily: Symbolically this flower means Majestic Beauty and Marriage.

  • Acanthus: This plant is sometimes associated with the rocky ground upon which most of the ancient Greek cemeteries were placed, hence the attributed symbolism, “Heavenly Gardens”

  • Flowering Laurel: The Laurel symbolizes Atonement, Glory, reward and Victory. In wreath form, it is particularly appropriate for persons who have attained distinction in the arts, literature, military service, or in the services of Christianity.

Of course these are just some of the flowers used in memorial art. While the flowers I mentioned above may be used in the course of symbolism, they are also popularly used simply because they are the flower a family’s loved one adored, or they simply like the way it looks on the monument. As in all memorial art, there is no “right or wrong” way to do things.
I hope you found this post to be informative and helpful!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Marble vs. Granite

If you visit an older cemetery you will notice breath-taking marble memorials that are unique in shape, size, and carving such as these:

Marble was a very popular material used for making headstones in the US in the 19th century but it not as popular today. Of course many families ask why it is not common to see newer marble headstones and the answer has to do with the differences in the two types of stone.
  • Marble is a brittle stone composed of dense crystalline or granular metamorphic limestone. Due to the composition of the stone, marble is a softer stone that is at a high risk of cracking, breaking and eroding. You will notice in the photographs above that the carving has become difficult to read over time due to eroding. Unfortunately this is the case with many historic headstones made of marble.
  • Granite, on the other hand, is an igneous rock composed of primarily quartz and feldspar and some mica. Granite, unlike marble, is an extremely hard rock that is more likely to endure the test of time in the cemetery. Thus the reason that granite is more commonly used than marble.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Alison Raymer and I am the co-owner and CEO of Emerson Monument Company is Springdale, Arkansas. When I first decided to create a blog about headstones I wondered if anyone would be interested in it. Actually, I doubted anyone would be interested. However, after visiting with numerous customers and fellow cemetery-goers, my initial assumption was proven wrong.

I am fascinated by life's many stories, hence the name of this blog. There is nothing more satisfying to me than to sit with a family and learn all about their loved one's dreams, accomplishments, and even their normalties. Often I find myself wishing I could have met the individual before he or she passed and am always honored to get to assist in creating his or her memorial. A true honor indeed.

That being said, it is my plan for this blog to focus on everything headstone related. Here I will be blogging about local cemeteries (both condemmed and fully functioning), historic monuments of interest, cultural differences in memorials, differences in stones used, etc., etc.

If you have a topic you would like to see discussed please drop me a comment and I would be glad to tackle it with you!

Thank you for reading!