Monday, January 31, 2011

Push button landscapes





There is a manmade creek in the park at the Letterman Digital Arts Centre in San Francisco. Located in the Presido, this park is the setting for a stylish complex of buildings and the new home of three very successful corporations, Industrial Light & Music, lucas Arts and Lucas Films. The park was designed by well known San Francisco landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. Amongst other elements the park incorporates a clever selection of tree and shrub plantings, several bronze sculptures, and a 'life size' (can you say that about an imaginary character?) fountain/statue of Yoda.

I was impressed to also see some very bold uses of natural stone there, including a couple of curved (albeit mortared) walls and this very natural looking stoney creek bed. It not only looks like a un-engineered watercourse, it sounds like one too. However, the rocks that the gallons and gallons of gurgling water cascade over, through and around, have all been hand picked, carefully transported, arduously moved into position and then fixed in place (with steel and concrete) in order to give the impression of a natural flowing mountain stream. Everything was designed and redesigned to maximize the 'feel' of a real stream.


It is very convincing stone and water display, except of course for the emergency 'turn off the creek' switch located near where the creek disappears into the ground.

While I applaud the clever use of imported stone and pumped water to simulate a very charming little creek, I am thankful to have had the opportunity last October back in Canada to integrate some less expensive, local random stone material over a really free-flowing watercourse in the form of a traditional-looking Scottish dry stone bridge, at The Canadian Rocktoberfest in Landon Bay Park.


A collaboration of wallers spent a rainy week before the festival carefully building the bridge foundations into the bedrock, while the creek level kept rising.

We never did mange to find the 'off switch'.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Rockfish


video

Thankful for a Good Hand.



Thinking with my hands doesn't get much better than this.

I am just thankful to have associates whose hands think the same way mine do.


It is like having four-of-kind in poker.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Under the influence of stones.


This is your brain on stones.

People call a certain euphoric state – "getting stoned", but if it doesn't involve actually working and/or playing with stones, I think it's just a chemical substitute! Maybe the reason we don't need any kind of substitute is because we have the real thing?

The human brain doesn't look much different than this potholed lump of ocean-tumbled sandstone we found on the beach yesterday. I wonder if their chemical compositions are that much different? Probably they have all the same elements whizzing around with a few of the atoms just rearranged a bit.

I was interested to discover that the leading pioneer of psychology Carl Jung, someone so steeped in the study of the mind and human behavior, maintained a continuing 'hands-on' interest in this mysterious connection between stones and human creativity?

This is what journalist, author and BBC broadcaster Mark Lawson says about the Jung.

"Carl Jung had a drive to transmute psychic images into form and substance . It was the force behind Jung’s tower building impulse in Bollingen. Through it he participated in an ancient and archetypal urge to secure the ineffable in the permanence of stone. History is filled with the archaeology of such longing, from the Paleolithic Venus of Willendorf, the stone circles of Northern Ireland, Stonehenge, and the monumental heads of Easter Island. At the center of Islam is the black stone, set in the wall of the Ka’ba at Mecca. All holy places and shrines share this human urge to meld meaning into rock so that it may endure for generations.

With each structural decision at Bollingen, Jung sculpted psyche into stone. As each stone was set, his resolve to define his own views was strengthened. Much as a castle’s tower claims its territory, Bollingen marked Jung’s emancipation from the Freudian dogma, laying stake to the ground of his own ideas: Throughout his life, whenever he got stuck, Jung “ hewed stone.” (Jung, 1963, p. 169) Stonemasonry was his therapy. After his wife’s death in 1955 he wrote, “the close of her life, the end, wrenched me violently out of myself. It cost me a great deal to regain my footing, and contact with stone helped me.”

Carl Jung working with and thinking about stone.





Friday, January 28, 2011

Pondering

They say a good waller picks up a stone once and then puts in the wall. To keep picking it up and putting it down again isn't efficient. Upon reflection, this seems to make sense. Each time you pick up the same rock you're expending a greater effort and building a bigger imaginary wall than the one you finally end up with. The accumulative effect of the stones, as they are moved and removed, and fitted and refitted, not only slows you down it weighs you down.

A stone weighs less underwater. It weighs even less when it's reflected upside down in water. The upper wall is the mirror image of the real one below. Or is it? In fact it has one more stone in it than the real one. That stone which looks like it has already been fit in the upper imaginary 'watery' wall is in fact still several feet away from being put into the lower 'dry' wall.

Perhaps building could be sped up if we paused and considered our pool of stones a bit more and pondered the shapes and sizes a bit longer. Building beside water, we may not always be able to step back to look, but we should still step back in our mind and try to imagine how our wall is coming together. A wall could be finished in half the time if we reflected on these sort of things.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Walls Without Mordant Amalgamation





Found this interesting video trailer last night. There are many others like it on Youtube.

It makes building stone walls without mortar seem friendly, practicable, inclusionary, creative, exciting and fun.

Contrary to how a certain few 'professionals' behave, and what they might try to have you believe – walling often is all of those things !


A friendly bunch of students, instructors, wallers and onlookers
assembled at the nearly completed 2011 Stone Symposium dry
stone wall workshop held in Ventura California, early in January.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pointing to my Brew.

There are not many American beers I like. So many of them seem tasteless and watery, way too weak . Either that, or they go overboard celebrating 'hoppy hour'. I prefer a beer that doesn't have a grapefruit peel aftertaste. Tried this one because of the name. What are the chances? It's brewed out of Fort Bragg, quite near to where we are. It's got a nice un-hoppy flavour. It goes good with stone chips, rock dust and rosy lingering California sunsets. I know the world is full of all kinds of pain and injustice, but is it so wrong to just be thankful to be alive and at the end of the day enjoy a little bit of un-hoppyness?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Not So Handy Andy.



http://thereifixedit.failblog.org/2010/10/15/white-trash-repairs-earth-4-5-billion-years-old-and-still-damp/


Not So Handy Andy has an interesting blog website. This piece is an installation by Uysal Mehmet Ali at the Land art exhibition in Chaudfontaine, Belgium

It seems to be an out of place posting in a blog devoted to funny red-neck quick fixes. The clothes peg appears to be a more profound statement. It leaves you thinking about things like scale and the relationship between man's use of trees and the resources of the earth. It makes me think about how hills and mountains are really formed. And about the fact that we've hung the planet up to dry.

It also reminds me of an image below sent to me last year.



I think my hands are getting eager to do something in stone along a similar (clothes) line.

Monday, January 24, 2011

NOT thinking with your hands


Sometimes yes, we wallers do use hammers and chisels, and then sometimes (thankfully, rarely) bad things happen to good wallers.

It's the price you pay as you're...

pounding along the 'inflammation highway'.

It's known as...

The ring of fire.

The bruise peninsula

All's swell that ends welt

A lesion to you

A 'lump' hammer.

A welcome to the 'whack-it' club

Graze Anatomy








Sunday, January 23, 2011

Another Slant On Things

Sean Adcock likes the steepness of his part of our wall. It rises at a cute angle. Yesterday the stone placement was hard to catch on to. It was so difficult to do that Sean and I thought we were slipping as wallers. It was such an uphill battle. Today the degree of our skill level has increased. The angle is still kind of challenging but so far neither we or our stones seem to be slipping. Sean sits down at the end of a good day and gives his 'ascent' to being photographed.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hands of Stone



We went to visit the accomplished sculptor John Fisher and his talented wife Sandy in Fort Bragg California yesterday. I first met John at the Marenakos Stone Fest near Seattle where he was teaching a stone carving course. The stone yard there has several of his amazing sculptures. John explained that he often doesn't use models or preliminary sketches, but rather starts into a piece of marble and explores what it wants to be. He discovers some amazing beautiful and sinuous forms.

A lot of his marble is shipped here from a quarry in Carrara Italy where John and Sandy have lived and worked for many years. After the biggest piece is worked and the form 'released' from the largest portion of the expensive white stone John will use the lesser pieces that he cut away from the block to sculpt equally as impressive smaller sculptures.

At their place on the west coast of California several evocative life-size sculptures, most of them emerging from big blocks of stone, greet you as you come up the driveway.


Sandy and John posed for this photo in a seating area created at the base of this stretching nude.

Friday, January 21, 2011

It's 'sawrable'


Sean "I'm fed up wiv this big ridiculously 'ard stone. You can av a go at it if you loyk, but Im knackered"
Me "I guess we could try to use the stone saw on it?"
Sean "Yes well, it's what I call a completely useless sawrable' stone and that's all. There's pretty much no point in to trying to shape it with an 'amma."
Me " Do you mean its useless or that yes, we could try to saw it?"
Sean "You can do what you loyke wiv it. I'm off to go av a cuppa coffee"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A la main


Une arche en pierres sèches parmi les milles îles Après une semaine de travail rigoureux, l'idée de se retrouver apprenti auprès de l'un des maîtres canadiens dans l'art de construire des murs en pierres sèches pendant deux jours me plaisait bien. L'objectif pratique de cette fin de semaine était d'ériger une arche de pierres de huit pieds de hauteur (sans mortier ou béton) au «Biosphere center» situé dans la belle région des Milles îles, en Ontario. L'ouverture de cet atelier s'est faite lors d'une journée pluvieuse du mois de mai, sous un mercure qui n'a pas voulu dépasser les 5 degrés. Tailler et travailler la pierres dans ces conditions météorologiques aurait rebuté n'importe qui, mais les yeux scintillants et l'énergie dégagée par celui qui allait nous dévoiler les grands secrets de la pierre en valaient largement la peine! John Shaw Remmington, un maçon de formation au sommet de son art et instigateur du «Dry Stone Wall Association of Canada», a délaissé il y a belle lurette, le mortier et le béton pour renouer avec les techniques traditionnelles et ancestrales de pose de pierres. Les artisans de cette association créent des murs, des bâtiments et même des ponts de plus de quatre mètres de portée sans le moindre mortier! Des ouvrages qui laissent les visiteurs sans voix! En Estrie, la pierre reprend tranquillement sa place à travers nos paysages et je crois que nous pouvons tous nous en réjouir. L'impact écologique est beaucoup moindre qu'un produit de béton (surtout si la pierre est récoltée localement, il va sans dire), l'intégration plus harmonieuse et enfin, chaque ouvrage de pierres fait appel à un certain sens artistique. La pierre offre cependant plusieurs défis: apprendre à lire, comprendre et respecter la pierre avec laquelle on est appelé à travailler est fondamental pour la pérennité des ouvrages à réaliser. Pour l'instant, ces ateliers sont offerts uniquement en Ontario, mais ne laissez pas ce détail freiner vos envies de léguer des ouvrages de pierres à vos petits et même petits‐petits‐enfants! Cette aventure est ouverte à tous ceux et celles dont la curiosité et la soif d'apprendre ont comme chez moi, un caractère insatiable. Les ouvrages de pierres sont immuables, mais les connaissances et les apprentissages voyagent et n'ont de limite que l'imagination et la bonne volonté de leurs propriétaires! Et puis les Milles îles, c'est une si magnifique région! Aaron P. Wallis (architecte paysagiste, M.Sc A) Parution : Le Reflet du Lac – 27 mai 2010

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thinking with his thumbs



My friend Akira Inman has been working with tatlock marble last week. He put on lots of winter clothing and worked alone in his tent in sub zero temperatures in Port Hope Canada chiselling this really hard stone. He told everybody he spent the day cutting his thumb. Friends were concerned of course. Here are some of the thoughts he had about his thumb project.

"Thoughts on cutting my thumb. This was my first time I carved without cutting to a line. I've only done architectural carvings so it was nice to just tackle a stone with a little more freedom, yet still have a goal in mind. Goal being carving a close replication of my right thumb with the stone I had picked up. I did not want the stone to inspire me to cut a thumb, but rather the other way round, I wanted to cut the thumb no matter what shaped stone I had. Over the two days I learned a lot about my thumb, folds and wrinkles, curves and shapes. I also learned that everyone has very different looking thumbs from all the comments I received..."mine does not look like that..", until they realize that theirs are different from mine. But they were still able to recognize it was a thumb even when it was disconnected from the rest of the hand.....Oh and I would of worked on the details a little bit more but ran out of time. I doubt I will get back to working on it though ... would love to carve other fingers so it looks like a hand that is clawing out of the ground."

Nice work there, on this your first 'thumb', Akira. We can't wait to see the next one, because no matter what, you'll have 'two thumbs up'.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Using what you have at hand



(More info: Isaac Salazar make this crazy pieces of “Book Origami”. “I see my work as a way to display a meaningful piece of art onto a book that would otherwise sit on a shelf and collect dust; it’s also my way of recycling a book that might otherwise end up in a landfill. The words or symbols I use are drawn from anything that invokes inspiration or encouragement, such as “Read”, “Dream” and the Recycle symbol. If my work also makes people look at a book and even art in a new light then the piece has done its job)

I was asked to give a presentation at the 2011 Stone Symposium in Ventura California last week. The title of my talk was 'Where do creative ideas came from ? ' I touched on several concepts including the idea of adaption and free association. I emphasized the need to see what ever we are doing, whether it be dry stone wall work ( which I showed specific slides as examples) or sculpture, or even wood structures and landscape features, as an opportunity to take the restraints and limitations of the material(s) we have at hand and let that be a catalyst for problem solving, rather than just a damper on our creativity.

This week my wife sent me this link and wrote 'This one is for you.' The book-origami thing was exactly the kind of creative message I hope I was able to get across in my talk.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Underhanded Cover-up


There is a competent professional waller behind this white screen barrier. Yes it is a light-test to establish exposure level before doing a video interview, but in a way his identity is being kept secret as another kind of test. Possibly this is the man who built a certain infamous section of wall the photo of which was posted earlier this month on Thinking With My Hands - a section that has received all kinds of criticism, though it was not yet built to two stone courses high. The assumption was that it was the work of someone who didn't know what they were doing, someone who was incompetent and had built something which could have been done much better by unskilled trainees.

The question is - Is this indeed the man who built that wall? And if so, is the wall that he built any good?

It is up to you viewers to critique the logic of judging either things without more evidence. Granted if you think you know who did something and are wanting to discredit that person, it really doesn't matter how much of that person or his work you are allowed to see. But then again if you made a mistake you might have to scramble to cover it up. Thank goodness if we are 'thinking with our hands' there is no reason to be involved in this sort of underhanded behavior.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

An arch should not be built alone.




It is a beautiful thing when people get together with stones. Even when they are not making a living building serious stone structures, wallers and masons will often still need to build things. Yesterday morning members of the Stone Foundation gathered at the beach in Ventura on the last day of the 2011 Symposium to have some fun creating a free-standing arch with stones from the beach. Since we didn't have a form (centering) we decided to try to do it by having all of us hold several stones in place and then each one us carefully let go until none of us was holding it.

Our first attempt was unsuccessful. Though they look flat the stones are all slightly convex and their rounded surfaces do not make good contact.

Our second try involved a lot of shuffling and pinning. We had to not only tune into the stones but also convey to one another what the was happening. Things go wrong when masons don't cooperate with each other. There was a sense of excitement as we tried to tune into where the arch was weakest and where there were still unbalanced forces interacting. In the end we managed to do it. Next followed some celebrative picture taking and a group shot. We dedicated this piece to Mimi who earlier in the day had slipped on the stones and got a bad knock on her head. Tomas took her off to the hospital to make sure she was okay.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The slant people put on things.


Every year around this time there is a kind of open season declared on the many passionate people who make the effort to get to fantastic walling events like the Stone Symposium being run here in Ventura California to promote the craft of dry stone walling. The cost for those of us coming and participating in these events is not just paid out in dollars and sweat, but in recognizing that one's reputation and professional integrity is going to be scrutinized by others who have chosen to sacrifice neither.

While past work may be subject to smear campaigns, actual symposium walls that are still being built are critiqued and dismissed. Building projects that look too difficult, different, or unusual in scope and design are rejected as foolish. Even photos of stones that have not yet been properly laid into position are used as evidence of incompetence. A kind of sour grape group frenzy may be evidenced at this time as fellow wallers discuss on private websites how inferior the work is of those they have chosen to exclude from their superior insights. Might not those of us having a slightly different slant on things at least be given the benefit of the doubt, if it has indeed been determined that we are not worthy of being genuinely encouraged?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hand Picked


Art City in Ventura California is an urban island where stone and stone artisans meet. The art of working with stone thrives here and morphs and transforms into a crecendo of imaginative projects involving every combination shape colour and texture of the rocky stuff we wallers merely stack in rows. It manifests itself in many different sculptural forms here- rough natural and smooth and highly polished. Water may flow from it. It might be a figurative baslt tower a delicate alabaster bust an animate marble lifeform or a weird and wonderful montage of found stone artifacts and tailings. It is a place where people are thinking with their hands

Paul Lindhard is the humble motivating force behind this amazing wonderland of stone. He is also the sculptor, businessman, teacher,and co-facilitator of this and last year's Stone Symposium. The carving workshop was based on the Art City property and was taught this year by well known British carver Nicholas Fairplay. Nick gave a wonderful presentation on Tuesday showing many amazing examples of the intricate carviings he has completed in such important places as Hampton Court and St John the Divine Cathedral in New York

Yesterday morning several of the Stone Foundation Symposium participants took a field trip to Stone City. I was admiring the stone 'contour' piece (shown above) and happened to bump into the artist who created it. He explained how the piece had to combine elements of a sculpture and also be a pathway where foot traffic and wheelchairs could safely pass. It was made of thousands of hand picked stones he had brought back from the beach. This undulating pebble mosaic by Kevin Carman reminded me of a miniature crevice garden. It also was reminiscent of some of the intricate historic pebbled pathwork I saw in St Andrews in Scotland.



Kevin's website is kevin-carmen.com



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You've got to hand it to them.



Sean Adcock's section of the workshop wall being built in Ventura California during the Stone Foundation's 2011 Symposium required stone being built from the back. For a number of reasons Sean had opted for not using scaffolding (staging) so as his section of the retaining wall got higher, more of the stone material was brought down the slope and lifted up from the back of the wall (which was the lower side) and added to the front face. By leaning over and fitting each rock carefully, and every now and then going round to the front to have a look, the work progressed fairly efficiently .

As the wall continued to get higher, the stones were handed up to workers standing on the wall, who fitted not just the outside wall stones from above, but placed in all the hearting material too. The method seems to have worked and Sean's student wall was pretty well completed on time and everyone was pleased with the results.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hand Gestures

Raphael and Lluc part company after six days of intensive building. Raphael is the amazing heavy machine operator who helped move the biggest stones and move dirt and deliver material to the wallers at the Ventura 2011 Stone Symposium Workshop. Lluc flew in from Mallorca Spain to be one of the four instructors, each doing 25 feet of wall nearly ten feet high. He worked very hard and his energy and enthusiasm was infectious. In fact, there was a wonderful sense of harmony and cooperation between the two dozen or so people involved in this massive project. Everyone learned a lot,met up with old friends and made new ones. No one got hurt during the workshop. No body was mean spirited, rude or critical. The peace sign Raphel made with his hands in this photo says it all.

Pictures of the finished project will be posted later this week.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Give the bridge people another hand.

This new video of the wooden form being removed from the dry stone bridge we built near Rockport Ontario comes to us thanks to Ryan Lemieux who attended last year's Roctoberfest from Winnipeg Manitoba.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

All the news that's fit to handle.

Photo by Chuck Kirman


The press came by on Friday and took some pictures of the dry stone symposium project we are involved in constructing in Ventura this week. The article appeared in the Saturday's edition of the Ventura County Star. I pinched the web coordinates and have posted the link here below.

http://www.vcstar.com/photos/galleries/2011/jan/07/stonemasons-teach-students-build-terrace-grant-par/17939/#section_header#ixzz1AW5YaThM

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Trying my hand


In California it seems they really like to encourage stone balancing. Luckily the state has enough quality recreation and costal resources for anyone to try their hand at it. I usually 'build', not just 'balance', with the stuff. I've never thought of myself as a 'resource mason', or a 'dry quality-recreation waller' but I'm always looking for new ways to describe what it is we do.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Handy New Knock Off


Tomas Lipps, director of the Stone Foundation and organizer of this year's Symposium in Ventura California, (and the man responsible for putting together nine other international stone symposiums since 2000, held in various stone-related places throughout North America and also in Spain) holds up a hammer he has just had fabricated by Trow and Holden. It is modeled after the Mallorcan hammer we were introduced to when the symposium workshop students were taught a very different method of shaping stone and walling back in 2007 in Deia Spain. The hammer is a hefty seven pounds in weight with an 18 inch handle and a rounded indentation in the head so that it has an edge on all four striking planes. It seems to do a good job of knocking off edges and making nice faces in the sandstone we have been working with this week. Lluc Mir who is here from Spain teaching one of the Ventura workshops likes this 'knock off' of the type of hammer he is used to working with, but suggests the handle could be even longer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hands With Something to Show

These men put in a long day putting in big stones in our long wall that is being constructed in Ventura this week. The sandstone is gritty and tough on the hands. The pieces are big and awkward. There is still lots to do in the next four days and there are four somewhat different techniques of walling being taught. The size of the project and the mix of walling skills is making it a challenge and very much of a new experience for instructors and students alike. During supper at the pub there were techniques and new ideas to discuss about why certain stones were being placed and fitted they way they were. That things were actually being done is the important thing. It is very satisfying to stand back see the work of our hands rather than sitting on them and having very little to show .


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Various Hand Tampers

Hand tampers properly pack the 'ground' espresso into the brewing head for a more even and consistent brew.

Similarly, the heavier construction hand tamper (above) we used yesterday hopefully packed the 'ground' as well, enough for an 'even and consistent' displacement of the weight of the large foundation boulders we had to push into place (also by hand) in preparation for the four-day 2011 Stone Symposium dry stone terrace workshop in Ventura California. Sean Adcock, Justin Money, Doug Bell,Tomas Lipps and I were fairly 'knackered' (as Sean puts it) by the end of the day.

The workshop starts on Jan 5th and it looks like it is going to be challenge to get the 9 foot high dry stone retaining wall finished in time, but hey, as many of you know, miracles often happen at these 'Stone Foundation' events.

We probably should have rented a mechanical plate tamper. It would have worked faster and been easier on the arms. It would have done a proper job of compacting the knobbly baseball sized rocks we have had to use along the base of this 100 foot stretch of wall. If we had gravel we wouldn't have had to use any tampers at all. And then again it would have been even easier if we had one of those shiny new 'Autotamps'. Of course that's only if we were making coffee not magic.

AUTOTAMP'S ergonomic design makes it easier to 'hand tamp' by simply pulling a lever in a downward motion rather than using a twisting motion of the shoulder, arm and wrist involved in hand tamping

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Picking up the trail.



"It's kind of like a puzzle" they say. They say it every time. It's the first thing that comes into their minds when they come across someone building a dry stone wall. I sometimes answer yes without thinking and go back to building. Sometimes I explain that it is, but it isn't.

There is no picture of what it is going to look like. Next thing that occurs to me is that, as much as I sometimes like to think differently about it, the pieces are not specially made or 'preordained' to fit each other. Third, the 'pieces' are heavier three-dimensional chunks of random shaped rocks, not 2d bits of cutout cardboard. Fourth, unlike a puzzle, you can change the shape of the stone pieces, if you need to. Fifth, it can't be like a jig saw puzzle because I hate jigsaw puzzles and I love building dry stone walls. Oh there are so many reasons it's not like a puzzle.

What it is like? It's like a good mystery. An all absorbing treasure hunt perhaps, where there is something going on way more than just fitting shapes together. There is the unraveling of a plot, an expedition into unknown territory where you may get lost along the trail and have trouble finding your way back. And where you come out will sometimes be a very different place than where you started. It's a story that builds on itself, an event that unfolds. A game. A dance.

It's like you pick up the scent and then you don't think about what your doing.

But no, it's not that much like a jigsaw puzzle at all.



Monday, January 3, 2011

A hand you can dig (with)


One of her earth working hands

"I believe that my hands are smarter than I am, and that they operate on their own, and bring me along for the adventure, and to take notes about what we did together while we were there"


Words of a stone lover who is taking the Neo (Lithic) Year seriously and pushing the dry (and wet) stone envelope.


Thea Alvin is an amazing woman. She works with her hands and her web site pretty much tells it all.

Below is a photo of a cistern she built for a private residence in Boulder Colorado. She says that "It takes the water from the sump pump and stores it for irrigating the orchard and the gardens. The basin is built as a spiraling work of art that when empty is beautiful and when full, a basin to swim in." She flies back to Boulder on Tuesday to create a stone fountain for the new cistern, which you pass through a series of passages and tunnels to get to.

Thea says "It is very cool"

I think she's right.

Also, having seen many of her other arched pieces, I was interested to see her very successful 'spiral theme' (see lower photo) now being worked vertically both ascending and going into the earth. Thea is definitely building, digging and thinking with her hands.





Sunday, January 2, 2011

Before We Wave Goodbye.



Before we wave good-bye to 2010 in anticipation of another exciting stone-packed year, I thought it would be interesting to post this recent article about Roctoberfest which is our annual dry stone festival in Canada. Looking back on events like this one remind me that the walling scene in Canada is now well established and dry stone walls have become something that people are not just talking about and admiring, but enthusiastically acquiring hands-on skills in building repairing and designing. Master craftsman Norman Haddow who attended the event at Landon Bay near Gananoque along with nearly 500 people, taught one of the three dry stone workshops there last October, wrote this piece for the DSWA of UK . It appeared in their quarterly magazine The Waller and Dyker.


ROCKTOBER FESTIVAL IN CANADA

I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the recent dry stone Thanksgiving gathering in the small town or Rockport. Although looking back, the first event in Port Hope was a modest event it has grown steadily over the last 7 years, yet lost nothing of the warmth and kind hospitality which has marked it out since the start. Thanks once again to John Shaw-Rimmington, his wife Mary and a large band of dedicated helpers.



This year it was held close to Rockport in Landon Bay Public Park. The townsfolk had gone to a great deal of trouble to find accommodation for the participants and to provide a great selection of stone so essential for the success of this type of venture. I was amazed by the range of entertainment and also by the standard of walling on show. Only a few years ago there seemed to be little enthusiasm for dry stone walling over there. Now there is a growing band of excellent wallers many of whom have been masons who have come to realise the unique benefit of adding dry stone work to their c.v.

Much was happening over the four days. Most of the activities related to stone. However there was something for all. There was live music during the day and illustrated talks in the evenings.


The children took part in the creation of a wood spiral organised by DSWAC field Manager Eric Landman There were several stalls selling goods and services such as tools, cards, planters, warm food and included a table for the DSWA, UK. The 2011 calendar alone attracted considerable interest.

On days 2 and 3 there were three training courses taught by qualified instructors from the UK, USA and Ireland.People benefitted from these and produced fine work which enhanced the house in the park.


Meanwhile a fireplace was built be a group under the direction of John Scott who lectures in masonry at a Canadian heritage masonry college.

At the entrance to a woodland walk several of the young masons produced a remarkable arch (photo4). On the 4th day six people were tested on behalf of the DSWA .Two sat the initial and four sat the intermediate certificates



There is no doubt that the high-light of the festival was the bridge. It was built to replace Kay’s bridge which was in a poor state. Kay and her husband Charlie were some of the original owners of the area which they later donated to the town as a Public Park. Although sadly Kay had passed away quite recently, Charlie in his late 80s was there and was thrilled that the new bridge in stone would also be called after her.



The bridge project was overseen by John Shaw-Rimmington himself and was very happy to incorporate two new features. The first, a suggestion by Irish author and bridge builder Patrick McAfee, was an idea that the workers lay out the entire arch flat on the ground before it was placed on the wooden former. While this would involve double handling in fact it speeded up the process dramatically as far more people could dress the required vousoirs at the same time. The second idea came from Gavin Rose who works for the National Trust in the Lake District building Pathways in the hills. He suggested that the crossing over the bridge should be in the form of ‘pitching’ which turned out to be a very strong covering for traffic.

Overall I believe this was the best meeting of its kind which I have ever attended. I would encourage anyone interested in dry stone to go to Canada next year and experience for themselves the magic of this Canadian treat.

Links to the dry stone walling association of Canada www.dswac.ca

to more photos of the event www.ryanlemieux.com

Norman Haddow