Monday, March 31, 2014

Burren College

A few years ago Patrick McAfee and Gavin Rose and I visited Burren College of Art in Ireland. 
I remember being very impressed with the school and their 'expanding' vision of what art is and can be. 
I believe they have the right idea.
I think art thrives best where there is a supportive community to encourage it and enjoy it. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Conception and Execution

Dry stone art can start with the conception and go through various promising stages of creation yet all too often ends up being 'finished off' in a rushed or untimely execution.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Obviously not art ?

New modern art paintings by trompe l oeil specialist Nolan Haan. Discover the fine art of a cinder block wall in his online new modern art gallery
 "Tranquility"     acrylic on silk, mounted on shaped panel     48 x 60 inches (122 x 125 cm)

Which is likely have more aesthetically pleasing results -
a waller using uniform block shaped stones laid in courses to create a  solid looking dry stone 'feature'.... 

Wall by Andrew Currie

... or a waller, by arranging a random assortment of more challenging shapes and sizes, creates something that, even though it is just as permanent, causes us to wonder how it could be actually dry laid?

Good art transcends both the medium and the technique that was used to create it. There is often a mysterious almost effortless quality associated with it. Wallers attempting to be similarly creative (even though they may be working at higher levels than most qualified masons) should try to avoid having their work end up looking overly 'structural'. The dynamics of a work ( and our craft in general ) will be destroyed if the false criteria of everything having to appear to have been done 'by the book' prevails. Obviousness stifles artistry. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Wall Art

The principle of true art is not to portray, but to evoke. Jerzy Kosinski

By Alaniz: Flickr / Facebook.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Define art?

Opus 40 is a huge environmental dry stone sculpture built by one man, Harvey Fite. It is described in this video as "one of the greatest (and) most remarkable pieces of elegant...artistic triumph". 

As to the question - What is Art? it is almost impossible to give a concise definition. It would be even more difficult to have a consensus as to what should and should not be included as definitive examples of true 'art'. 

Opus 40 provides a setting for performance art of various kinds, as well as poetry readings and the displaying of works of art and sculpture. As such it represents for me the diversity of dry stone artistry as it encompasses 'what art is' on a larger scale,

The art of dry stone doesn't have to be just the end product, it's often not just the finished work, it is the work - the event. As a structural dance of suspended choreography it can have many forms. These forms evolve and in some cases, as seen in this video, they even bring artists and craftsmen-and-women back together to be creatively restored. 

The art of building with dry stone is fundamentally the process of adaption and improvisation. What better way to celebrate this fact than holding a jazz concert within the artistic setting of Opus 40.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Plumbing as Art - Does it hold water?

Copper sculpture and dry stone wall both by Scott George. Photo by John S-R

Can plumbing be 'art' ?
Is it bad art if it doesn't hold water ?
Does it have to meet code ?
Do artists who work with copper pipes have to be certified plumbers?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The 'a' word

When someone uses the ‘a’ word when referring to themselves, it can be really annoying. You’d be wise to avoid calling yourself an ‘artist’ if you can. 

I admire those who have been careful not to get caught up in the temptation to give themselves that title, especially on their websites.  Let others call you an artist if they want. Better to just be creative. 

Self-proclaimed artists are often not that creative anyway, unless of course it is in imagining they are artists.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mistaking something for Art

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes Art is knowing which ones to keep." - Scott Adams

Working with stone sometimes gives us the opportunity to craft something that is not just useful and functional but also creative. Creativity among other things involves taking risks. It is often a trial an error thing. That's how we come up with new things - how we make things, including mistakes.  The worst mistake is to think something we've done is good or worth keeping just because we did it. Just because we are trying to be creative doesn't mean we are.

Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote “The wastepaper basket is the writer’s best friend. ”  

Our medium is stone. It's where our ideas are expressed. We don't discard the stones but ideas sometimes have to be thrown out to make room for better ideas. In any case we should be thoroughly editing our own stuff long before anyone else sees it. This is not a bad thing. Walls can be taken down to make room for others. 

Because dry laid stones are not set in concrete, we have little excuse for letting a 'creation' of ours stand if we know it to be unworthy.   

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Creative Block

I thought this piece by my imaginary design assistant Andy Blockworthy, could kick off a new series in T.W.M.H. about 'Art and Dry Laid Stone'.  

Those of us who create with stone sometimes get 'waller's block'. These mental blocks, just like problem rocks, are sent to stretch our imagination. Let's try to be creative with them.

Heres my first suggestion. Buy this book.

creative block
As of February 18th, 2014 CREATIVE BLOCK will be on shelves all over the world! I am still pinching myself to tell you the truth. I could not be more proud of this collection of interviews and art work, and am so thankful to Chronicle Books for making it happen.
I came up with the idea for CREATIVE BLOCK for myself, just as much as for all of you. I wanted to make something beautiful – a contemporary art book filled not only with inspiring images, but also inspiring words, advice, and tips to help amateurs and professionals alike, find their way through those days when the ideas just won’t come. Because everyone who dabbles in something creative{writers, musicians, actors, artists} feels that way at some point – right? Right. I wanted to write this book to show you that if you’re feeling this way you’re not alone either. I’ve written hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of posts about successful, working artists who seem to have this whole “creative thing” figured out. But surely they have blocks from time to time? How do they get through them? Where do they find fresh inspiration? How do they handle negative feedback? Does it stop them in their tracks? Now, these full time artists don’t have the luxury of not finishing, or giving up on a project – not when they’ve got a gallery or art buyer waiting on them! So how do they push themselves through those moments when the ideas just aren’t there? Or when the ideas are there, but their hands or materials will not cooperate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Minerals are our friends

Maintaining a good supply of proper environments and minerals is the best way to keep a healthy body of dry stone wallers active and working efficiently. After all minerals, which are basically rocks, are the building blocks of our day to day life.  

Although most of the minerals we require are found near where we live and work, some job sites have less minerals than others.  

And because we consume a lot of minerals in a normal working day, sometimes it's necessary to bring in mineral supplements from elsewhere. While most of these extra daily minerals can be procured in bulk, by the truckload, some of the more important minerals may have to be specially brought in. And where else better to look for precious minerals than a mineral store? 

The good news is you won't need any prescriptions (or require safety boots or a hard hat) to shop at a mineral store. All the rocks are sold over the counter. You can often find some real gems there too.

Some stores have special surprise grab bags of rocks available to buy which makes walling even more fun when you don't know what you're actually 'taking' until you get back to the job.

Very rarely should actual 'trace' minerals be used, that is, 'along' the wall. Ideally they should be taken internally, into the main body of the wall. Complex minerals in specific amounts are very useful for the cheekends, the footings, the main innards of the wall, whereas fractured minerals should be consumed in large doses to maintain a good hearting.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Beware the Irish of March

Thanks to Shelagh Lippay for composing and sending this her timely St Patricks Day poem.

Friday, March 14, 2014

New Book

A new 60 page coffee table book has just been published containing recent works and collaborations by John Shaw-Rimmington. This, now the fourth book in a series showcasing his work across Canada, England and the States, is available by contacting

Monday, March 10, 2014

Beaver Tails

Artist and dry stone waller Ryan Stananought explores our true Canadian identity. 

In this cartoon version of Ryan's, the hard working, ever resourceful beaver (symbol of Canada) shows qualities of both adaptability and ingenuity in walling, rather than being just a Brackish stick-in-the-mud.

to be continued....

Friday, March 7, 2014

Drive by spiraling *

It's not often one gets to create something permanent out of stone this large that you can then come back and drive completely around and film.  So I did !

Draw a stone

Eka is a young man of marrying age within the lost tribe of the Milcarnicans. He and Nikku, the daughter of the tribe’s Chief, are in love and go to the Chief to request permission to marry. The Chief gives Eka 5 blue stones, 5 green stones and two bowls. Out of sight of Nikku, Eka must divide the stones between the two bowls anyway he chooses. A blindfolded Nikku must then draw a stone from one of the two bowls. If she draws a blue stone then the couple will have the Chief’s blessing to marry, but if the stone is green then the union will be forbidden (green being the color of the evil serpent spirit, Balcan).
How should Eka divide the stones between the bowls to give Nikku the greatest chance of drawing out a blue stone?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Looking for Canadian Context

 The mighty surging ocean - the surf, the salt, the sand, and sky of B.C,  

or perhaps 

snow covered foothills of Alberta - the majestic Canadian Rockies off in the distance?


Just a winter's worth of ugly, salty, sandy snow piled up high  
in some school parking lot, somewhere in Ontario ?

Photo by John Shaw-Rimmington

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Where's Waldo ?

At Graniteville, near Barre, Vermont, everyone has a pile of granite waste from nearly 100 years of quarrying some of the finest granite in North America. 

Piles like this are virtually everywhere you go. 
John is standing on a smaller block...kind of like a stonemasonry "Where's Waldo?"

Thanks to John Scott for providing this post 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Explosive Stonework

Dry Stone Wall Rocks  Textures

Stonework is highly explosive but also very implosive. A good worker in stone will not allow the energy to fold back in on itself but rather try to explore this dynamic quality. 

Someone who works in dry stone who has no understanding of this will stiffle it.  A wall or dry stone sculpture can have the material so cruelly trapped within it, held helplessly captive and lifeless so that it drains not only all who build it, but everyone who ever sees it.

High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white

High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white
High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white
High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white
High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white
High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white
High Speed Photos of Combusting Alcohol Look like X Rays of the Human Brain high speed fire brains black and white
The 7 photos of 'combustion' above are by Fabian Oefner 

Monday, March 3, 2014

A Lonely Fractal Voyage

As fascinating as this looks, I don't think I'd like to live in the fractal world revealed here by Alexandre Lehmann/ Ricardo Montalban.
This realistically three dimensional environment, though ornate and creatively complex, appears completely uninhabitable. 

That rocky space age potato planet I'm seeing is a lonely and hopeless place. 

There is no sense of scale either. 
Just think how easy it would be easy to get lost there.

When asked in an interview whether he dreams about his creations,  Alexandre Lehmann admitted...

"I have indeed dreamt of fractal structures. These are more like bad dreams, very alienating. When I roam through these structures in my dreams, I always end up feeling very claustrophobic and disoriented. It’s quite painful, to be honest."

Nope, I think I prefer the scale of the earth the way it is. I like that I can usually find my way home in it. That together, with others, we can make some sort of sense of it.  We can create things and relationships that don't get lost in it.  I like rocks and stones the way they come.  Even the mountains and canyons on this our amazing planet, awesome and expansive as they are, still have a familiar almost alluring quality to them.

The fantastic complexity of landscape in this video reminds me why I am content to live in a simpler environment -  in a place where the dimensions and implications of this kind of fractal reality are kept in proper perspective.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mountveneering *

Before the advent of Mountveenering these enormous rock outcrops were nearly lost to the visible eye (and were a danger to air traffic) as they were so completely camouflaged against the sky.

It was obvious huge amount of 'remounding' needed to be done on many high mountains. A more 'manufactured' look was needed to make these lifeless heights more fashionable, less austere and less dangerous! The formidable task of reworking and re-cladding great expanses of mountainous land, which began back in the 1900s, was gradually completed during the course of many years. Many expeditions of masons risking their lives eventually clad these formidable rocky terrains with a thinner stone coating, (below which was laid electric heating cables) to give it all a more noticeable 'decorative' look.