Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fabrications- The Weaving of Tales or Hands.

The herringbone pattern can be an effective design solution for a variety of spacial challenges besides being a merely interesting ornamentation. The basic herringbone skeleton is very structural.

Surely it's great functionality, as evidenced in many fish skeletal systems, is the reason you see it used in all kinds of fabrications. After all, if it is good enough for a fishy tail why not a wall or even a tweed jacket? Even though it is an attractive pattern, Im sure this type of weave has its structural merits too.

Usually any kind of construction can be made stronger if you incorporate a diagonal element. In a herringbone dry stone wall the dynamic force of each stone placed at an angle is carried along the length of the wall rather than just downwards. Every stone you place by hand puts weight on its neighbour, whereas regular horizontal coursing leaves adjacent stones 'disconnected' with only the spanning weight of a few stones laid above them to keep them secure.

I remember seeing these type of herringbone walls in the south of England.

The parallel cleavage planes of the natural slate and shale stone found in some parts of Cornwall England, are often quite thin, and demand this radically different pattern of Cornish hedging. The flat smallish stones require great skill to build with because they are so thin. They are sometimes soft too, breaking easily under the weight of those above, and often slippery, so the hedge sides more easily develop a bulge; a badly-built slate hedge soon falls down. To counteract these tendencies this unusual way of building with shale and slate evolved to produce walls which Nick Aitken tells me are properly called 'claddiau' (one wall is a called a clawdd) They have favourite affectionate local names too: 'Jack and Jill', 'Darby and Joan', 'Kersey way'.

Someone told me once that Cornwall may actually have been named based on the distinctive alternating diagonal grain pattern seen in wheat or corn, which is so similar to the herringbone pattern of certain Cornish hedges, but when I wrote to Sean Adcock to ask about this theory, he assured me I could pretty much dismiss it as just an "interesting" tale.

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