Monday, September 30, 2013

Castellation copes.

At the Sara's Garden Centre Dry Stone 'Follies' Walling Workshop in Brockport N Y last weekend Norman taught his students a variation of a type of Scottish coping that was simple to do with the selection of stone they had and was very pleasing to the eye. Tomorrow I'll show you what my students built.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sedum Moongate

Three days ago Norman Haddow and I revisited the site of the 2013 Dry Stone Walling Festival of Canada held in Alton Ontario back in June.  Whispering Pines along with Eric and Ryan had just completed putting on the sedum mat material. It looked spectacular.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

You guessed it!

My friend Andrew Geeky devised this reusable centering system that needs no pegs or screws.
The wood bars slide out and the sides fold in at the bottom and the plywood semi circle supports drop down leaving the arch supporting itself . The wall at his house (top photo) has several niches in them which he made using these retractable forms. He kindly gave me two of them which I use at my workshops with kids to teach some of the basics of dry stone arch building 

Friday, September 27, 2013

More walling names that maybe give the wrong idea.

 Call us at  'Rock on the Wild Side' to build something on your property that all the neighbours will not be able to stop talking about.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Not a dry stone bridge.

Saw this in Ottawa a while back. Not a pretty bridge.
It's maybe only 20 years old. Stone bridges generally age better.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Like a Drystone Cowboy

A name like 'Drystone Cowboys' is catchy, but misleading.

Cowboys are supposed to wrestle cattle, not stones.
So steady up on those wrangler connotations.
Remember we are fitting rocks, not herding them. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

On the theme of bad names

Yes, stones 'Rock' but they can also 'rock'. Be careful which they do in your wall.
(and how you name your business)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Borderline Case

This wall that Jason Hoffman showed me last week is certainly past borderline.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What's in a name?

A waller thinking about starting up his or her business should try to avoid certain names and slogans for their company that might sound catchy but only give the impression that they don't actually know what they're doing ! 

Can you think of others?

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Master

Irwin's bridge

After visiting Callum Gray of Celtie Landscapes last week we drove over to the next village to see my friend and master craftsman Irwin Campbell.

We had a wonderful time catching up on walling news and hearing about his travels to Sardinia to study 'nuraghes' the broch-like structures there that were built 7 to 8 hundred years earlier than those in Scotland. While Irwin has slowed down a bit now he is still busy gardening and travelling. 

He has built some incredible dry stone structures in his long life as a professional craftsman, as well as served for years as president of the central Scotland branch of the DSWA. My interest in dry stone bridges was kindled in part by one of his creations (above) that he took me to see when I visited him back in 2003. 

This bridge was one that Norman (and others) helped 
Irwin build at a garden show in Ingliston

We talked too about what's going on in North America and the possibility of his visiting next year to see what and how we are doing here in Canada as a new community of wallers.  I plan to show him some of the charming dry stone features that demonstrate the degree of excellence achieved by certain individuals having procured more advanced levels of DSWA certification here. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Charles Jencks

I visited Jupiter Artland in Edinburgh yesterday and was very impressed with many of the installations there, most especially this massive one by landscape architect/artist Charles Jencks. The combination of traditional drystone hahas ( built I believe by professional DSWA waller Bruce Curtis) and the undulating geometry of these modern grass earthworks have got my creative juices going.

Too see more of the Jencks piece called Life Mounds go to

Sunday, September 15, 2013

One Egg - not easy over

Yesterday Jason Hoffman and I visited the 
egg-shaped Goldsworthy cairn in Dumfries and Galloway near the small village Penpont yesterday . Pronounced 'Penn- Punt' 

Come to think of it, it does look like a giant american football 

It was worth the drive from Edinburgh to see his millennium dry stone installation built just outside the village where Goldsworthy lives. It is built of a local red flat-bedded sandstone. I figured that the slightly slanted courses indicated that the stones (except for the jumpers) were laid mostly in one continuous spiral. A walk around it a couple of times confirmed my theory.

Eggsamining left overs. 

Goldsworthy's familiar egg shape motif is actually an inevitable structural decision based on the need to load more weight into middle of an ascending corbelled dry laid sphere so that it is properly counterbalanced and thus far less likely to topple over.

I was only lying down trying to take this artsy shot looking upward at the cairn when Jason took a candid photo of me and immediately posted it on his facebook page claiming I was 'praying to the god of Goldsworthy' . Cheeky!

Anyway Jason tells me the tenth annual Tour of Britain cycle race goes right by here today and will be televised live in north America so if your watching maybe keep an eye out for the cairn in the background.

Eh hem,  who looks like they're praying, Jason?

Up to date TV coverage

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thinker with my hands

Came across an unusual sandstone formation while hiking near Lancaster, which was created presumably by erosion. I couldn't help but think it needed a stone arm and a head to make a miniature Rodin sculpture. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I Imagine

I imagine that stones know how to be.
My concept of a stone is one that has made the metaphysical journey and completed the transition away from the temporary by dissolving itself of all that is unnecessary and removing itself from all incompleteness.
A stone is a simple complexity of 'one' A solid impenetrable vortex of being. My 'stone' waits for all eventuality to catch up. It is content with its own content. It 'takes up' , and bides its own time in space.

I imagine my stone drawing very little attention to itself .- rich in comparisons and infinite in memories  floating yet fixed where it has found itself. My stone has discovered its own way and stays there. It has the ideal weight. It doesn't need to loose weight or gain any . It needs not exercise or compete or perform.
The event and the eventual have merged in its composition . The superfluous is recognized and avoided . That which endures and yet often seems insignificant is appropriated and treasured .

This stone does not judge , it smiles . It finds people and animate life amusing the way humans find cartoons amusing.
It ponders only the present, not the immateriality of the past or the future, and never stresses or worries. My stone chooses not to be distracted or entertained by that which is less focused or grounded than itself . Its inspiration and direction comes from subtler influences found in stillness and solitude

It delves in hills and settles in peaceful valleys . It dwells deep in the earth below . It waits along the shore. Or perches on high and looks out over all of time . It often completes itself by disappearing in a perfect spot in a perfect wall in the perfect setting.
It provides the environment for the slowest wisest things to grow. Like moss and lichen. It takes note of the seasons and holds on longer to the passing of time.

Nothing can improve a stone except another stone, or better yet a lot of other stones - in a wall or a bridge or a pathway . 

A stone always forgets .
It remembers only good
And so , is silent and yet hopeful.
My stone is not in a race to the bottom
If it wills at all it wills to climb higher To attain and maintain reasonable stature rather than give in to common imbalance and shakiness . My stone will stop me from moving too fast . From putting much weight in inconsistency. It will lodge and resist rather than fall . It will take a blow rather than give up and break down and apart.
My stone will enjoy composure.
Endure Exposure
Further patience
Inspire persistence
Refine and redefine resistance
It will not waste my time
It will not suffer tools gladly

My stone shall be appreciated for what it has avoided becoming -
Too small
Too soft
Too flighty
Too shapeless
Too meaningless
Too incomplete
Too clingy
Too unadaptable
Too loveless

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Clougha Pike

Photo by Chris Bestwick

'Clougha Pike' , the installation we visited last week near Lancaster Lancashire, is an inspiring piece of work by Andy Goldsworthy. The three dry stone pillars were erected for the Abbeystead estate of the Duke of Westminster, one per year between 1999-2001
They make an imposing impression on the rugged landscape of abandoned quarry stone, peat bog, sphagnum moss and heather.

The sculpture fits the place so well that I wonder if the piece was designed after visiting the site rather than being an idea that Andy may have had on file before being commissioned by the Duke. Goldsworthy certainly had perfect material to work with. I imagine it is most dry stone wallers idea of heaven. There were piles of flat natural building blocks - beautiful millstone grit in every direction for as far as you can see .

Photo by Chris Bestwick

These three, what David jokingly called 'glorified bus shelters' contrast the lonely remoteness of the site. They give a humanity and a impressive sense of closeness to the place as if to say you are not alone here on the stark fell.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hunting the 'Goldsworthy'

Shooting Butt

Having nearly finished the underground chamber last week it was decided by our host that we go on a small hunting trip to take some shots of a prize Goldsworthy. This required driving to Birk Bank an elite game reserve not far from Quernmore and hike in several miles with all our equipment over barren terrain in search of this rare specimen. 

Along the way we passed a well built turf-topped shooting butt where I lay in wait to see if the rare Goldsworthy might appear but managed only to flush out a common female Red Partridge. 

After trekking in a mile or so further through an abandoned quarry Alec spotted something and knelt down quickly to take a shot. I thought he was going for the partridge in the foreground, but no, beyond that, off in the distance loomed the 'Goldsworthy' that the four of us had so eagerly set off in search of. (You can just see the three blocky sillouetts of the installation on the horizon.)  

David took another shot of it when we got closer. To be contiued.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Plastic Plastic Plastic

Norman and I pondered as to what to use for a template to determine the circle shape for the skylight opening in the dome of the chamber we we5e building. It needed to be an18 inch diameter. We looked around the house keeping cottage
We considered a pizza dish. It was too small. The portal in the washing machine looked the perfect size. It had glass in it too and could be used as well for the top of the tumulus.

We ended up using Mrs Howarth's laundry hamper instead.

It worked perfectly.

New technology and materials meets old.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Listening to Chamber Music

I listened to a favorite chamber music piece while pinning rows of corbeled stones in our dry laid dome yesterday . I really enjoyed the ambience.

I guess this underground structure we are building is my favorite chamber, so any music I Iisten to in it is great.

Wondering what kinds of music or song titles others might suggest as appropriate to listen to in here as well?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Spiral vs. circle coursing in the dome roof?

The corbelled dome we are building is made of a continuous course of narrowing spiral of flagstones  

You can see it better here in the outline.

We could have build it in a different way by creating separate rings of stone that lay on top of each other and get gradually smaller in diameter.
That would mean fitting the last stone of each circle in the space between the first and the second to last.

The spiral has the advantage of not having to do that kind of 'last stone' fitting on each row. 
But is it as strong? That is the question.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tumulus and Tea Time

Even on our tea breaks here on the Lancashire project I can't help 'thnking with my hands'. 
I started corbelling my toast and jam yesterday at the cafe´