Friday, January 31, 2014

Paving the bridge

Lots going on here. Barrelled surface of granular  sub base has been spread over landscape fabric over the protruding inner vault of voussoirs . Centered lines of staggered stone pavers are fitted together with matching contours and packed down to create a uniform surface . Level left to right.
Our bridge is nearly complete. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Art Horvath

Art Horvath is a stonemason and an inventor. His focus for the past several years has been designing and building custom wire saws for large-scale stone cutting. Big big stones. And he polishes the tops of them with a simple wet polisher hand grinder. They become wonderful tables and benches and pieces of art.  He delivered this beauty on Monday to be situated as an installation on the bocci court.  Monroe, the standard Poodle, instantly jumped up onto it obviously thinking it would be fun to make like a stone statue and see if she fooled anyone.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Winged Wall

Future boulders wall on the right

I find that boulders are very hard to integrate into a dry stone wall.
Ones that have been specially chosen for their shape or colour or whatever are the most difficult to build with. When I was asked to incorporate some into a wall running along Peter Mullinsnew property that he'd hand picked and had delivered on site and sent me photos of, I had no idea at first how I could use them in a dry stone installation and not have it look clunky and cheesy. 

I began developing a scalloped wall/boulder design based on ideas
I had been thinking about and sent a few drawings to Peter. 

The final dry stone wall design we came up with looked like wings arching away from them. The boulders were structural but also could be interpreted as the bird heads

When I arrived in California, Sean Adcock and Patrick McAfee and I began working out the dimensions and determining the design of the wall even more. After we looked at the boulders and the mica quartzite stone material an the site we considered at the idea of not only curving the wall sections on plan but also arching them like wings.

Patrick did copious measurements and scale drawings to work out the heights and the curve of the wing sections

We thought to use a huge length of cargo ship rope that Peter had to mark out the curves but it became very unwieldy so we winged it and and used string lines and stakes.

We chose smaller boulders and barred them into place.

The first two courses of each 'wing' were laid in courses between the boulders

Then began the task of laying the upright 'feather stones' between the bird head boulders.
We are using 2 and 3 inch flag stone material from Sidney Peak Quarry. Very slow going.  

photo by Alan Ash

This is how one of the wing sections looks so far.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Group photo and a single sketcher at the Pyromid.

Matt Driscol                                                                             Kyle Schlagenhauf
Richard Burkholder, Matt Harvey,Tomas Lipps, Sean Adcock, Patrick Mcafee, David Claman 
Raphael Barradas, Alan Ash, Kevin Carmen, Peter Mullins, Geri Rothman, John Divona
Laurie and Paul Lindhard, Amanda Ellen, Sean Smyth, Jerry Shields

Heidi Rogers sketches Pyromid

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bridge Brillance

Yesterday large buff coloured dimensional copestones were shaped by a couple of the guest masons working with me this week at Gualala and then lowered carefully onto the bridge with a Gradal, while a crowd of about thirty people looked on. 

The east parapet was now completed enough that the form could be removed  stone by stone  (that is, all the temporary stonework below the white travertine arch you can see in the photo ) and all the inner arch voussoirs and the large open space below the bridge was eventually revealed. 

This probably was the crowning moment of the 'People With A Passion for Stone' event yesterday as people cheered and the live music concluded with a version of Bridge Over Trouble Water. 

Many of the unique stone projects being worked on by artists and masons on display at yesterdays event (including the bridge) will likely be completed by the end of next week.

Unfortunately the brilliance of sun all day yesterday made it difficult to take good photos. The weather here has not been very good for taking pictures for most of last week.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Paul Lindhard

Paul Lindhard has a creative relationship with stone. He understands how to let this silent timeless material speak for itself. Many of his unique sculptures can be seen on his website and at a special stone viewing park called Art City in Ventura, where he and I first met about 5 years ago during a stone symposium . 

Paul has also been invited to to come to Gualala and build a couple of his 'Light Cairns' which are made of colourful blocks of travertine. I have been checking in on Paul and his helper Raphael on my breaks, watching as the dry stone towers get higher and higher.  We are going to enjoy seeing these light cairns lit up this Saturday night.

It's as if Paul is merely helping the stone in the cairn to stretch upward and become part of the tall red wood forest.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Kevin Carmen

These are pallets of pebbles at American Soil stone suppliers in San Francisco

Although they are all neatly arranged in their display cages they can wait to get out and back into the real world.

Here's the man who knows how to arrange these eager pebbles in a uniquely decorative way each time. His name is Kevin Carmen. His website is
Kevin is working on his project too here along with the rest of us in Gualala California this week.

Here's a taste of what Kevin is doing with the two pallets of 'blue grey skippers' he is working with this time. 

I won't spoil the end result by showing you too much more until the work is completed hopefully by Saturday.

Check out Open House for more details of this event

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Richard Burkholder


Richard Burkholder is one of the dry stone wallers working with us here in California. He lives in Gualala. In the above photo he is helping Sean and Patrick ad I move a big boulder in the winged wall we are building near Anchor Bay. 

Richards work is pretty inspiring.  This is round stone patio wall he built in Little River 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The MoMug for the hard working hands

Fellow stone mason Sean Smyth from Montana showed up on Monday in California to help us on another dry stone walling project this winter here in Gualala. He and Dave Claman helped build the greenhouse/pyromid shown in the photo above.

The mug in the photo is a pottery product he makes back in Missoula called the Momug . It keeps the mustaches from getting foamy.

Sean writes on his web site…"  I am drawn to the trades, to the craft involved in skilled labor, whether it's pottery, stone masonry or cabin restoration.  I most enjoy the days when my hands are filled with hard work worth doing."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

False Work

In order to make the arched bridge wider that we had only partially completed last year in California, this year we are building forms to support a nine inch arch to be added to both sides. This is in order to spread the parapets a bit more so that there is enough walking area  over the bridge between them.
Sean, Patrick and I use junky stones laid carefully in an arc and then add a layer of cement (shaped with a trammel) to form the appropriate Roman arch shape. 

It doesn't have to look pretty. It's just a temporary support for the terrazzo voussioirs we will be adding afterwards.

Talk about false work !

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Everybody's Going Surfin' ?

While the others look for that perfect wave - I'm going surfing at the internet cafĂ© 
further down the beach on this sunny California morning.   

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

Welcome To The Wallness Centre

The next town east of where we live calls itself  'The Wellness Capital of Ontario' 

I dislike the word 'Wellness' 
It seems so contrived - so affected. 

By contrast I have a better word.

It's called 'Wallness' 

As I ponder the quality of 'wallness' I imagine an ad promoting holistic health and relief from the kinds of stress wallers sometimes encounter. 

It would focus mostly on discontented wallers who are not doing beautiful work and think they might have lost their mojo 

Are u stressed out?
Are your walls stressed out?
Is the tensile nature of your stonework over burdensome. 
Are your walls badly battered?
Is it a battle to build them?
Are your walls looking overworked.
Are they too course or too coursed.
Are you trying too hard to build like everyone else

Are you tired of tasteless work 
Of things that are done in poor taste
That are Not beautiful?

What You need is a NEW Aesthetic 

Come to the Wallness Centre

Work with some new material - New Extractions

Begin reconnecting with your own creativity. 

Start connecting the dots again.

Take some time and start playing with stones instead of fighting with them.

Get the full Treatment

Experience once more the restorative power of stone.

Technicians are here to help you relax and throw off the stress of trying to fit in with what everyone else does and just start fitting well again.

Visit our site KeepWallingAndStay.Com For all your Wall-being 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Europe’s Field Boundaries

Patrick McAfee wrote me last week highly recommending a new book that has just been published .


Attached find information on a most wonderful new book called 'Europe's Field Boundaries' in 2 volumes by Georg Muller. Georg basically spent the last 30 years traveling around Europe surveying dry stone walls, hedged banks etc in most European countries (Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Greece etc etc)

He has photos, dimensions, maps, details of construction, where they are, how many of each type etc etc.

I met Georg and his wife in Ireland a few years ago and have been in touch with him by email since. I also met him in Cumbria at an international conference there. He's from Germany, hasn't much English and his books are translated from his native tongue.

With his two books he has done more to highlight the quantity, quality, diversity, loss and vulnerability of what remains than anyone else I know of. If a European institution or a university had achieved what Georg has done it would be considered a monumental task.

The books are beautifully bound with gold leaf on the hardback covers.

If there's ever a special book you want, a once in a life time book on the subject, this is it.

Best regards 

If that isn't enough to wet your walling appetite, here's what Patrick wrote to Georg (and is quoted on the web site ) about this massive two volume set on the subject of dry stone walls and hedges in......

...."congratulations on achieving such an enormous task. I have not stopped reading then since they arrived, they are fascinating and I know of no other such books. They give an insight in to a long neglected area of study and highlight something very precious that needs preserving. The work you put in, the travel, beautiful photos, measurements, drawings, the quality of the work, the whole enterprise, makes these very special books indeed.
I am fascinated how your books make it easy to do comparative studies right across Europe between one country and another. The books reflect a shared European tradition and at the same time one rich and diverse varying from region to region always reflecting local materials, traditions and skills.
Thank you for highlighting Ireland's place in all of this, your books will help promote what maybe is not so well understood and has not received as much attention as it deserves. For a long time I have been aware just how precious this tradition is here and how much still survives. Your books show so clearly that we are a lucky country to have so much but at the same time how this is vulnerable and disappearing.
While some of us in individual countries had some awareness of what existed locally few people if any knew what was there on a European scale. So thank you Georg for bringing it to our attention, making it easily available and hopefully your books will create a new beginning, greater understanding, respect, highlight the need for education and training, appropriate repair and spin offs in tourism and local employment."

With respect,
Patrick McAfee, January 2014 (Ireland)"

I'm getting my copy soon.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Revisiting the crime scene

Photo by Nick Aitken

Herewith an update from Nick Aitken on that image of that mortared dry stone wall repair he documented earlier.

He concludes "The harshness of the cement has gone, weathered and greened over, the crippled structure remains".    

See previous November 2013 post Just say no to mortar

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Boat in a bottle

Speaking of bottles, My daughter Maddy got a boat-in-a-bottle kit for Christmas, from a friend at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, where she is a student. We tried to build it together over the holiday break.

It's fiddly fiddly work, as you may well imagine. 

'Thinking hands' are sometimes not as bright as what you need for the task at hand.

But anyway we got it done and we are still friends, though I suspect she may not feel as kindly towards the person who gave her such a finicky, spatially challenging gift. 

I wondered if building a wall in a bottle might be less difficult, so I tried it.