Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hand doubts.

Apparently watching a dry stone wall being built by hand is a lot less exciting than I had imagined. Case in point was the demonstration project we took on at Kingsmere Estate in Ottawa last weekend. On the first day of this special Labour Day event many of the visitors just walked by us without so much as a glance our way. The guys working with me were all as baffled as I was about this phenomena of people not finding what we do very interesting. I would have thought seeing masons chiselling and shaping big stones and skillfully fitting them into a stone wall would attract more attention than it does. However the opposite often happens. People who come by will usually glance once and then must decide that what we are doing is less interesting than watching someone cut their lawn. At Kingsmere that Saturday people must have thought we were just poor labourers who couldnt even afford to take time off for a holiday weekend. They looked like they felt sorry for us too because they would often look the other way as the walked by.

As we drove back, somewhat dejected, to Ottawa that Saturday night we tossed around various ideas as to how the whole experience could be made more rewarding. For the next day, Labour Day Sunday, we decided to take one of two tactics. We would either put out a hat, (with some of our spare change in it, as bait) and see whether people might feel sorry enough for us to be moved to toss us some spare toonies throughout the day, or better yet, we could try to find someone knowledgable enough to stand there and draw attention to what it was we were doing, like a kind of dry stone sports announcer. The organizers who were running the park event didnt think the first idea would be appropriate but said they would be willing to provide us with someone who could be a kind of commentator for the next two days, if we could explain to him what he needed to say.

To find out if we had any success in getting visitors to stop and watch craftsmen re-building historic dry stone walls, please come back tomorrow.


  1. It is even worse in the UK ,those who do stop inevitably say."It is a dying Art".

  2. Well we have stay alive long enough to prove them wrong Norman.

  3. I've had that happen in the past while demonstrating blacksmithing John. To keep the crowds interest I find I need to have constant motion (from forge to anvil and back) and keep up a steady banter as I work. Although I have to say that it's hard to talk and think / act at the same time. Some processes are just automatic and to force myself to talk about what I'm doing really breaks the flow, but it does keep the crowd engaged. I try to stick with simpler processes to keep from getting too messed up. ;) /Scott

  4. Thanks Scott

    We thought about taking a dozen or so nicely fitted stones out of the wall we had already taken a lot of time to built, and then when people came by, we would get their attention by quickly rebuilding the wall at a ridiculously fast speed.