Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Hand-Off

Unlike stone masonry, dry stone walling is more of a team sport. Masons can labour alone in their particular area of the country for years without ever working along side another mason or indeed even meeting another one. Dry stone wallers on the other hand generally like to work together on projects. For sure there is the occasional 'stone ranger' who prefers to build walls without anyone else's help, but I wonder if this is by choice or rather a result of not really having discovered the satisfaction that comes with being involved working together, helping one another on a dry stone project.

Such projects are usually lengthy enough (in linear feet or actual duration) for there to be plenty of spots along the wall to get stuck in to, and so be 'stacking' as part of a team. There are many different aspects of the job which shouldn't be considered menial or less important. The hearting for instance is paramount. The pinning and filling of the wall with stones inside the wall is often more important than just the lifting and putting big stones in to place. Finding or making hearting material is always appreciated by those who have to work on the wall itself. Shaping and squaring stones is an activity that naturally comes into this category too. In traditional stone masonry building, the stones often are shaped at a quarry and then transported sometimes a long distance to the site, for other masons to assemble. In walling, this shaping can go on right at the wall and the job can be done by anyone who may see a particular need for making several certain shaped stones for everyone to use.

Sometimes when I see that things are getting cramped along the wall (or there are areas where it is difficult to get the stone material up to people) I will try to find the special shaped stones or 'problem solvers' as I call them, for my colleagues, who perhaps dont have a very good selection.

Providing stones, sharing tools, distributing the workload and passing down ideas, suggestions and compliments to co-workers, is what dry stone walling is all about. The willingness to be a team player by asking a colleague to takeover for a while on a project you have been working on, a kind of 'handing-off of the wall' so to speak, is not only a sign that you trust that individual but also shows professionalism and strength of character. Each project provides an opportunity for everyone to give a helping 'hand' without anyone needing to take credit for more than their share or looking to belittle one-another's efforts.

I have never been reluctant to share the tasks and the credit involved in completing the many interesting projects I personally have had an opportunity to design or been called to work on. Looking at the greater picture, that of 'building-up' an appreciation and awareness of dry stone walling here in Canada, Ive got to 'hand' it to the many wonderful people across the nation who have helped me and see the sense of 'building upon' what has already been done, and continuing to work as a team, rather than trying to tear things down and going out on their own.

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