Friday, June 25, 2010


Just like handwriting, every waller has a style of building. Just by looking at a wall it is sometimes very obvious who built it. There are signature combinations of stones. There are clues in how much the stone is worked, how the coping is done, whether there is a lot of straight coursing or not, or if the pattern it is broken with jumpers and a lot of random sizes. There are the tell-tale fittings of interesting contours, the attention to detail, the funkiness of the shapes and the overall design of the wall. Of course the standard of workmanship is the best indication of who built the wall.

When I was in Scotland two years ago I thought I recognized the waller who had done some exceptional repairs to some walls we discovered near Drummond Castle Gardens. It turns out I was right. Mastercraftsman and waller Norman Haddow was the one, and he was quite chuffed that we had come across these walls and identified them.

Anonymity and monomorphism within a region or locality is more often the other 'norm' I suspect, as individuality in Britain, with walling in general, is more likely something to be frowned upon.

While I am getting good at recognizing Norman's handiwork, Im not sure I could always recognize his gloves. Here is a picture of them drying out on some batter poles- a shot taken by his host when he was in Italy.

Back here, across the ocean, there are very few dry stone wallers. They have their signatures written in the walls they build. There is room for walling to be thus, here in this great land of Canada, where there is enough space and freedom for people to grow and develop their art as well as their skills.

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