one in 626,431
Has a Story
Monument etcher and
artist, informed by themes
of dignity and work
in the granite sheds of Barre, artist Heidi Broner has found her
place as an engraver of monuments
and memorials. A solemn task, Broner’s
etching calls for tenderness and
imagination amid the dust and din of
the shop, working to create permanent
images of people she did not know.
In the winter, when the sheds close
due to the cold, Broner turns to painting
at her home studio in Montpelier. She
specializes in depictions of blue-collar
workers, inspired by the hidden grace
and dignity of people doing their jobs
VL: Describe the work environment
of the granite sheds.
hB: The granite sheds mostly
employ men, although there are other
women etchers in Barre. It wasn’t easy
in the beginning; it can be a tough
environment. But everywhere I work,
the men are friendly. This is my 13th
year doing this. I make a decent living,
and it allows me to paint. They call me
when they have a job. It varies wildly
from “Where’s the work?” to “I can’t
VL: As we’re talking, you’re working
on an etching of a young woman. How
do you capture her likeness?
hB: The people whose portraits I
etch are almost always unknown to me,
but I do know this granite bench is for
a 20-year-old woman who died during
Tropical Storm Irene (Ivana Taseva
of Macedonia, who was swept away
in the flooded Deerfield River).
I have a photo of her, and I make a
copy, tape it on the stone, and I use
transfer paper and trace it. I use that
as a guide, but I’m really looking at
her photo as I draw freehand. I use
a Dremel engraver; it’s like a tiny
jackhammer with a diamond tip, and
it makes tiny dots. It might take me a
couple of hours to do the engraving,
but then I fuss with it to make it
right. I think about the person. I can’t
pretend to say I’m capturing their
character, but this is so important to
the family and friends, I want to give
them something good.
VL: Do you feel a connection to the
people you are etching?
hB: Yes. Sometimes I have to do an
infant or a child — and it really gets
me. My job is to make the etching
look like a sweetly sleeping baby, for
VL: What are some unusual requests
you have done?
hB: The monument is a ritual object.
You visit it. It’s very personal. Here is
one of two brown trout in the shape of
a heart. You wouldn’t see trout doing
this, but that’s OK. That’s what they
wanted. His side says, “Gone Fishing,”
hers says, “Gone With the Wind,”
and they have their signatures in the
middle of the heart. I started on the
trout, but I’m not happy with it. They
wanted brown trout, not rainbow trout
or brook trout, so I need to do some
research because they’ll know the
difference, and I want to get it right.
VL: You were raised on Long Island.
When did you arrive in Vermont?