Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fall Thaw

Eric Landman and his crew arrived yesterday to find the 'dry' stone wall they were building up to it's shins in muddy water. 

The conditions for the past week at their job site near Orangeville had been similar to ours over in Buckhorn - cold snowy frozen .

I think they had been wishing the snow would melt.

 Another case of being careful what you wish for. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

At Moss Sphere

The moss growing on this slab of patio pavement flagstone creates a miniature universe inviting anyone who has the patience to explore. Stone provides the medium for almost all the varieties of life on this our planet. It will continue to be where we find new meanings. We are surrounded by the infinite . Stone will always be the final frontier.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Before, During and After

Before, there was just a grassy hill at Hart House Farm. And Menno and Stephen said "let there be an amphitheatre here" . And the others agreed. 

And Evan said "let it have a kind of moon gate entrance". And the people said yes. And John said "how about we make it a pointed oval ". And everyone liked the idea. 

And Christopher said " let there also be a positive shaped pillar near the entrance, just like the negative shape in the opening". And everyone got excited. And Thea said " and maybe there could be a stone telescope too, for peering though, to look at the VenusGate ". And it was agreed upon.

And that autumn, people came from everywhere to help build the VenusGate, the amphitheatre, the plinth, the telescope and a host of other things too.

And after it was all completed the people agreed that it was very good. And they went home happy.
Before and after photos open our eyes afresh to the magic of what happens 'over time'. This project came about through the cooperation of enthusiastic wallers and artists, all of varying skill levels, who gathered simply to celebrate the art of dry stone walling .

Time and practice has allowed us all to get better. None of us are the same. But the camera allows us to look back and still marvel at the change we made on that hill, and see who we were and what we could accomplish, even back then!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mystery Wall

There is quite a well built wall gone up recently near Claremont Ontario.
It's well crafted and has some clever design elements to it.
The property is gated and no one seems to know much about who built it.
Can anyone solve the mystery?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Time for a Recess

My friend Jason Hoffman recently completed this amazing arched 'recess' in a curved retaining wall, which is just part of a large dry stone patio project he was commissioned to build in Scotland. 

There are over 250 copes that all had to be painstakingly cut and similarly shaped and fitted over the length of the patio wall. Plus there is set of curved stairs 

Jason wrote and told me that this project ended up being an extremely wet and muddy one. It seems the area didn't drain very well. "The lack of drainage was very draining to work in every day."

Here's the finished project complete with newly laid stone patio.

The making of an arch is complicated enough without having to construct it on a curve.

Here's what Jason had to say about this one.

"Building curved arched recess problems no. 1... "Using a former which is rectangular rather than curved".

I realized that using a straight wooden former for building a curved arch was not going to be ideal.

The black tape marks the line of the outside face of the arch. As you can see, the curve comes in quite a bit

As with a straight arch the outside voussoir stones are resting on the wooden former. The inside voussoir stones are having to be pinned with small shims to keep them in place."

Although he loves building them, Jason says it looks like he's going to be taking a recess from building arches for a while. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Pandani Landscapes : About

Jeram Cowley is a dry stone waller in Tazmania. This is a bridge he and his crew built. I have never built a triple arch dry stone bridge. His is very impressive.

It states on his web site that Jeram began his career in drystone walling in 2002 constructing walking tracks for the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. Doing this he learnt to mimic nature's curves and shapes and incorporate local materials wherever possible. Since then he has traveled to various parts of Australia, honing his unique style and broadening his skill base to include drystone arched bridges and formal drystone retaining walls.

Nice work Jeram !

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Ice Fishing?

Brrrr it's been crazy cold here this week. The lake isn't frozen yet but we went out and put our 'ice hut' up yesterday anyway.  

It's fun fishing under the ice and all the snow for big stones. Big or small, for sure, whatever we catch, were not going to throw it back ! 

We are planning on landing a sizable 'rock base' in here today (or something along those lines) and then maybe a sweet looking 'walleye' by the end of next week.

It seems that each year, here in Canada, the snowy weather comes earlier and earlier, and dry stone walling during the autumn months is fast becoming more of a winter sport. 

It's all about being cooped up inside a warm hut enjoying the great outdoors. It's something everyone should try, once.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Real Unique Concept

These are cool prefab, manufactured-block kits put out by Rosetta that can be assembled to all look like this 'ruined' walled-in area.

Wow !  I wonder how many people know they could have the real thing on their property (absolutely unique too) made with REAL stone.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A book about Taigh and Wilding Garden

Norman Haddow kindly sent me a small book about a dry stone project he was involved in last year. 

'Taigh and Wilding Garden' at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh is the inspiration of artist and poet Alec Finlay who collaborated with Norman and others to create a structure that commemorates, in a very sensitive and artistic way, the people of Scotland who have donated organs.  This special 'book of rememberance' about the project is now given to the families of donors.
Alec Finlay explains the basis of his research into ' how do people memorialize '  

" Ranging through cultures and traditions, I have been drawn, in particular, to the arts of memory as they were practiced by the Ancient Greeks, and described by the great French scholars, Vernant, Detienne, and Vidal Nacquet. By comparison, the ancient traditions of the peoples of Scotland remain obscure, but, if the rites of the past can only be glimpsed, there are still places – sites of alignment and particular atmospheres – and remains – ruined places, structures, and sacred plantings – from which we can imagine. The most important of these structures and, not surprisingly, the one that we know the least about, is Tigh nam Calliach, The House of the Old Woman, a ritual miniature stone hut with a turf roof, in a remote glen, north-west of Loch Lyon. By good fortune I recently met Norman Haddow, who led a party to repair the Tigh in 2012…"

There is much more about this project desribed in Mr Finlays blog at

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Coffee Table Book gift suggestions that say 'Happy Walling Days'

Stone Transformations

This 50 page coffee table book containing beautiful high quality photographs of recent works and collaborations of mine has been published recently. It is the fourth and newest book in a series showcasing some unique and unusual dry stone projects across Canada, England and the States,is available by contacting
The price -  $60 per copy

Improvisations in Stone

The third 54-page hardcover book with high quality colour photographs of various features and collaborations involving my designs and personal work is also available for order.
The book covers the period 2009— 2012 and includes seminars, festivals, public installations, stone balancing and private work (walls, bridges, and features).
The price of $70 per copy (without shipping) is being charged for this privately printed coffee table book, and represents the actual cost of the book.

If you would like more information, sample pages, or would like to order a copy of Improvisations in Stone 2009-2012
please e-mail 

Dry Stone Port Folio  2007-2010

The second 51-page hardcover book with high quality colour photographs of my dry laid work is available for order.
The book covers the period 2007 — 2010 and includes seminars, public installations, and private work (walls, bridges, and features).
The price of $70 per copy (without shipping) is being charged for this privately printed coffee table book, and represents the actual cost of the book.

If you would like more information, sample pages, or would like to order a copy of Dry Stone Portfolio 2007-2010, please e-mail 

Dry Stone Port Folio  2096-2008  

This, the first hardcover book - 60 pages of high quality colour photographs of my dry laid work is still also available for order.

The book covers the period 1996 — 2008 and includes seminars, public installations, and private work (walls, bridges, and features).
The price of $75 per copy represents the actual cost of printing the book.

If you would like more information, sample pages, or would like to order a copy of Dry Stone Portfolio 1996 — 2008 , please e-mail

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Outdoor Dry Stone Fireplace

We are quite pleased with the outdoor sunken patio/fireplace project which we've nearly completed. 
The whole thing is really smoking' ! And we're happy to say the chimney really sucks.  

Why does everything related to fireplaces and how they work sound so negative?

                                                     Music-  Light my Fire by Jose´ Feliciano

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Written in Stone


Nothing is written in stone, but it's there...
It's implied.
The sense comes through clearer than if words had been written.

The tablets of slate I have in my hand speak volumes. 

The mountains of flaky leaves of stone I'm standing on at the quarry Jason Hoffman took me to in Scotland in September of 2013, are fragments of the same puzzle that needs no piecing together. 

It tells me entropy is in effect, and I know, ultimately it is something that is irreversible.

But what do we do until then?


We do everything we can to understand one another.
We recognize that time changes situations and it changes people and even rocks.

And so we forgive and accept that people may change their minds and disappoint and fail us, the way even sturdy walls made of stone eventually shall fail. 

Because to resist change is folly.  

To insist on remaining forever 'unyielding' is unreasonable and impossible.

For nothing is written in stone.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Walling and Sculpting

My 'lookout tower' I hope to build full size one day

The activity of building models and then creating garden features with stone is not very different than what a sculptor would do. The difference is that while a sculptor who works with stone normally removes material that he doesn't want from his stone, the making of a dry laid 'creation' involves the 'additive' approach.

Artists of varying disciplines, working in other mediums use the additive approach too, be it adding colour and layers of glazes to paintings, or welding metal to steel sculptures, cementing tiles to mosaics or just adding lumps of clay or wax to models and figurines.

My father was a sculptor. He made bronzes, created with welded copper and also worked in polyester resin and wood. His pieces were usually figurative and almost always impressionistic. He was very successful as an artist and it was because he was very good at what he did. 

I didn't realize until recently how the work I do and the approach I take with stone is not dissimilar to his vision and output as a sculptor. Whether it's the whimsical element or the impressionistic feeling or just the capturing a certain ambience or sense of place, I don't know.

'Tower'  by  Barrie Shaw-Rimmington


Monday, November 10, 2014

More models

Models and maquettes - miniature representations of what your wall is going to look like can be an important tool for telling if a thing is going to work or not. 

This model of an idea I had for a 7 foot high dry stone replica of the Toronto City Hall, which we completed during the 5 days of Canada Blooms, back in 2006, seemed appropriate for the theme that year, which was was 'Our Town'. 

The tall outside curved walls were not a problem. However I knew from modeling the spherical 'spaceship' that the center structure was going to much more difficult. It was ! 

I didn't use as much plasticine as it looks like, either. I cut Styrofoam curves from 2 inch blue insulation and glued them on top of each other creating the tall 'C' shapes, and then covered them with duct tape so that when I pressed the pieces 'stone' to the surface, they had something to stick to.   The centre piece uses a wooden ball for filler.

Toronto City Hall

The completed free-standing 'demonstration/installation' city hall we built that year was constructed totally dry laid. Thirty tons of random shaped quarried stone went into it, with no Styrofoam or wood filler. We took it all down and re-palleted it on the last night, the show. 

I'll never forget the 'sense of place' and the sensation of 'inner space' created by those two outside walls.

Three stories below ground, in the bowels of the Toronto Convention Centre, surrounded by modern manufactured high-tech landscape displays, our natural enclosure became a kind of sanctuary where you could almost hear the stones whispering.

I'm sorry I have so few photos of it. But I still have the model. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014


A model is much better than a drawing for showing a client how the design of a dry stone feature will look. 

I submitted this plasticine model for a judged public art commission a while back. I was not only able to determine better how to build it, based on making a maquette first, it enabled me to get the concept across perfectly to the judges, and as it turned out, I was awarded the work of creating a large dry stone installation ( albeit a different one than the original sail boat design) at the site of the new Northumberland Headquarters Building in Cobourg Ontario.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Getting Higher

I rarely stack stones higher than chest height. If I have to go a little higher Ill use a plank on two upturned buckets. Today I will have to set up scaffolding to finish four or five more courses around the flue. Scaffolding always clutters up the photo. So here is the last uncluttered shot until completion.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Arch Principle

One Friday afternoon a few summers back I was with Evan in downtown Port Hope doing some banking. While I was in the bank (building on the right) he decided to do some climbing. When I came out I couldn't find him.

He called down to me and I looked up and took this photo of him.

It occurs to me that Evan's ability to hang there in space perfectly demonstrates the basic principle of the arch, that as long as the sides don't spread (and Evan's abs hold out) the 'arching Evan' will not fall down.

It's why the shallow arch of bricks stay up across this window opening.

It's the reason these cobble stones that I wedged/arched between two trees on my property can't fall down either. As long as the trees don't spread apart, the stones can't slip down.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Here's the back side.

We are simply cladding the initial roughed-in sunken fireplace back with dry laid random quarried limestone, starting from four feet below grade. The chimney will hopefully have a nice curve to it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another Outdoor Fireplace - part two

  It's coming along

The curve of this arch (not quite a segmented circle) seems like a classic shape for the four foot opening of this dry stone fireplace. It's interesting how a difference (of the contour of the curve) of one inch, one way or another, can change the aesthetic look of the whole thing.

When the form comes away and the arch hangs there freely - that's always an exciting moment.

More details to follow….

Monday, November 3, 2014