Yomiuri Shimbun

Beautiful marble interiors

British workmanship

Stonemason James Elliott specialises in marble. He has run his own workshop for coming up to 20 years in Beaconsfield, a rural town famous for hunting, just 30 minutes from London by train.

Elliott personally handles everything from design to production, with the focus being on kitchen and bathroom design. He was also involved in the design of the bathroom at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, Europe’s largest manor house (the administrative centre of a manor built by a minor aristocracy in the middle ages). He also serves many customers seeking repair of marble antiques.

There are hundreds of types of marble, Elliott says. Depending on the cut surface, you can achieve a polka dot or striped pattern. As far as is possible, all objects should be extracted and created from a single block of marble. When multiple blocks have to be joined, care must be taken to make sure the marble pattern is continuous over the whole piece.

The thing that all works have in common is their fragility. Exceptional care is taken in transportation. Restoring broken marble into its original shape is the most difficult aspect of the work. Elliott once restored a bathroom which had been reduced to pebbles.

Elliott, who grew up in the north-west area of Lancashire, met his destiny at the age of 6. Visiting a museum with his parents for a Tutankhamen exhibition, he came across marble burial accessories and golden masks adorned with precious jewels, and thought he understood how to make them. “I thought ‘I could make this myself,'” says Elliott.

At the age of 10 Elliott was handed down tools from his grandfather who had been a furniture maker, and at 16 he began studying furniture making and art at art school. It was at that time that he developed his love of working with marble.

In front of the church where his father, a clergyman, worked was a marble storehouse. After graduating from art school, Elliott worked his first job there for about one year, beginning his career as a stonemason.

He says,

“At first it wasn’t enough to live on, so I also worked as an engineer. But all of the experience and furniture making skills from that time have fed into my work now.”

“They’re beautiful but they aren’t works of art. In the end I just want to carry on making beautiful things. Whenever I don’t know what to do, the marble lets me know.”

(Copy and photographs: Tomoko Minamizaki)