Dry Stone Walls, Personal Boundaries is Mariana Cook's newest book of photography. She and her husband are coming up from the States to attend Rocktoberfest this year, where she will be giving a talk about her work Saturday night. I talked with her on the phone last week. She told me the book sales are going very well. It really is a stunning book and covers a variety of interesting wall styles in several different countries. Copies will be available at the festival.
Mariana talked about her fascination in dry stone walls and when I asked if she found that she was more interested in walls and walling now that she had completed the book she said yes definitely, and that she was planning to take more pictures especially of the ones in the Martha's Vineyard area where their farm is.
We got on to the subject of dry stone walling as an art form. The vernacular aesthetic of farm walls are more the thing that interests her. Being able to read the personality through the individual characteristics of the stones placed in a wall that remains standing long after it's builder is gone. If the wall style is too controlled as in certain art installations she admitted that, for her it tends to be far less satisfying to look at.
As for having any interest in learning how to build a wall, the answer was "not at all". She thought that she was not strong enough and that the process might prove too dull for her. Her visit to Kentucky to see a walling workshop revealed a lot of the process of building a dry stone wall to be organizing of materials and labourious prep work .
"As with photography and a lot of other crafts, its 90% labour and 10 % inspiration. I am passionate about making the photographs so willing to spend all those hours developing negatives, making contact sheets and prints. And enjoying the process even though it might be dull to someone else. Another person is passionate about building stone walls and finds the preparations repetitive but they don't mind doing it because they love the touch of the stone, the moving of it. You have to be passionate about something enough to do and find some pleasure in any craft's tedium. And I don't think the 90% tedium gets you to the inspiration part. If you didn't begin with the inspiration, who would do the work with the promise at the end... It's not as if the 90% were all wretched and the 10% all marvelous.... The creative process isn't organized like a cake with your favorite part in one place and not so favorite someplace else"
Inis Meáin, Ireland
5 July 2005