Thursday, November 11, 2010

Handling the essential.

Andy Goldsworthy wall in Palo Alto California. ( with sawn copes)

There is an expression that 'speed is of the essence'. In walling it means you may on a rare occasion, say on shaping a piece of thick coping, have to put down your hammer and chisel and get out the gas powered stone saw. Its not nice but sometimes you have to do it. It's noisy. It's dusty. It's hazardous and if you do too much of it you start to lose 'affinity' with the stone. To have to be in a position where you are having to resort to the saw a lot leaves a person numb to the 'essential' nuances and pleasures of working with your hands with stone. The essence of your work even if measured merely in productivity is not just an inverse function of how little time you had to do it in. Meanwhile the 'essence' of time or lack thereof, must not be replaced by the smell of gasoline. The French curiously enough seem to have sensed a bit of a connection here as their word for gas is essence.

One should not have to get in a mode where rushing is the only option. Walling is not only about economy of movement and maintaining quality of workmanship, it is about keeping your options open. As you get faster at walling you still maintain a diversity of choices and movement. To become more proficient at your craft and faster at it is certainly part of the pleasure. The whole thing becomes something like a dance. Sometimes it is a slow dance but other times when you're in the zone it is dazzlingly fast. It is efficiency, but the speed is not obtained out of desperation nor the effectiveness measured in compromise. If I am confronted by a stone that's not right, or that is giving me a problem, I may choose to fix things by bringing out my hammer (and chisel if necessary) and shaping it or breaking it up for hearting. I have the option too to think of it as a 'problem-solver' and put it aside and trust there is somewhere else later I can use it. Or I might not use it at all. The essential thing is appreciating what I do isn't all about speed.