Sunday, January 31, 2016

Positive Front and Back

The stone feature we built at the Gualala Art Centre, during the Positive/Negative Conversation Workshop, turned out to have a great back side as well as an amazing front view.

This was very serendipitous as often the backsides of dry stone installations can look pretty boring.  

The setting, of course, makes everything 'pop' even more.

These past two weeks were great days of building in California and it was with an amazing bunch of people. The teamwork, the fun, the excitement, the conversation and yes the partying was all first rate. 

The stones had called us together again for another year of 'symposing' and we all fit so well.

Thanks to Nicholas, Zack, Amber, Kyle, Amanda, Shannon, Neil, Jane, Peter, David and so many generous people for organizing it.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Good good good Foundations

Every stone project should have a good stone foundation. Bill Hay of Bedrock provided the much needed grading and prep work and gravel base material for the large picnic area project we completed at Gualala last week with the 2016 symposium crew. 

Here he is with Harmony Susalla in front of the wall built by the students using fairly local Diablo basalt material

While much of the Stone Foundation crew has packed up and headed home now, the rest of us enjoyed pizza and a swim last night at the Hay's house near Point Arena, California.  

For dessert Bill's wife Karen set out a scrumptious Stone Foundation cake incorporating our famous logo.  

Thanks Bill and Karen 

Friday, January 29, 2016

And life flows on 'Within You Without You'

We were talking about the space between us all
And the people who hide themselves behind a wall of illusion
Never glimpse the truth, then it's far too late, when they pass away
We were talking about the love we all could share
When we find it, to try our best to hold it there with our love
With our love, we could save the world, if they only knew
Try to realise it's all within yourself
No one else can make you change
And to see you're really only very small
And life flows on within you and without you
George Harrison

Thursday, January 28, 2016

We were talking about the space between us all.

Stones skillfully fitted together structurally, with nothing else keeping them in place, can create a kind of visual conversation. 

It is a conversation between positive and negative space.
And it is always interesting.

Walls having spaces in them that are too wide lose this give- and-take connection. The relationships, the comparisons are lost. There is little conversation. 

Likewise if the stones in the wall are spaced too close together, too tight, if the joints are too 'the same', the thing can become just as uninteresting. The conversation doesn't have opportunity to get started. There is no dialogue. The positives outweigh the negatives. The whole thing becomes a monologue, a lecture, a boring dissertation.

The space between the wall stones (and the space between us all) is so very important, and worth talking about again sometime. 

Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Arch your back

I had our 'creative walling' workshop class at Gualala begin by warming up with a few stretches and then we did a couple of arches and then some simple building exercises. It is important not to over do it on the first day.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stone Yoga

The 2016 Stone Symposium is running some extra non-stone related activities this year up at the Gualala Arts Center.

Over a dozen of us have been attending the early morning yoga sessions this week instructed by John Effland. After a good lot of stretching we go out and then stretch our creative stone stacking abilities. 

There is nothing wrong with the concept of learning to align the elements of our bodies and minds and in so doing attain a state of balance and harmony that will be helpful in building well-fitted beautifully balanced stonework as well.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

John Fisher

John Fisher is an uncommonly good sculptor. He carves stone blocks of marble into soft flowing female forms that delight the eyes and inspire the soul. Last weekend during the Stone Symposium in Gualala before a spellbound gathering of onlookers he carved a dull block of pitted limestone into the form of sitting nude  that almost came alive 

John now feels he is at the very peak of his profession as a sculptor. He has developed his skill to a level that he can properly execute his craft effortlessly. He knows he can bring into being any form that the stone calls out to be released.

He and I were talking last night about creativity. I couldn't help but think how it related to dry stone walling.  Early in his career a professor at art school shared with John that 'all creativity was an act of desperation'. 

John said if you make the same thing you know you can do again, even if its good there is no real creativity happening. Its when you throw yourself into a desperate situation carving chunks of  stone of your block and commit yourself to finding a form in the abstract shape that remains that the creativity kicks in.

Good dry stone work is an act of creativity. It can't be just reproducing something you're good at just because its safe and has worked in the past. Just because you have conquered what the material required of you in the past if you don't feel you are stretching to do something beyond yourself you will not be taken up in the creative act. 

Creativity involves risk. There is no formula or standard way of making it happen, especially if you are good at what you do. 

John Fisher Picture

Sunday, January 24, 2016

No more mud

Often on a job site, when they've run out of cement, masons will call out for more of it, shouting "More Mud !" 

Here on the project at Gualala, where the rain regularly drenches the site throughout the day, the wet dry stone wallers periodically cry out "No More Mud!"

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Looking up !

The weather gave us a break yesterday. The mud wasn't too bad either. The big stones were cooperating. 

Just like the 10 students in Neil Rippingdale's dry stone wall workshop here in Gualala ( and the enthusiastic helpers in the background) - things were looking up!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Come Together

Zach, Neil, Michael, Richard, Jane, David and Roland gathered together Thursday to look at the plans and decide how all the stones were going to come together to form a special outdoor stone enclosure this week at the Gualala Art Center in California.

The random shaped chunks of basalt are ready to do their thing.

Their job is to draw the teachers and students together into a dynamic group that will interact smoothly and efficiently to perform magic.  It's all about coming together. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Litho Bolos

Members of the Stone Foundation stone tribe gathered at Peter Mullins 'stone zone' in Gualala California yesterday to celebrate all the various dry stone installations that have been built there over the last ten years. 

Several of us, including Tomas Lipps, wanted to practice up too for the Litho Olympics which will be held this morning at the Gualala Art Center. It's satisfying to throw stone balls around an area flanked by so many of the dry stone features.
Wooden bocce balls just wouldn't have be as appropriate. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Stone Deposit

Highly valued stonework by Lucas Koch installed at a bank in Flint Hills Kansas.

Lucas gave a great presentation yesterday during the 2016 Stone Symposium at the Gualala Arts Center in Gualala California.

For a really interesting look at his life and work, I think you'll enjoy watching this video Lucas Koch Video   

( Start watching at about 19 minutes and 14 seconds into it )

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

There's no longer not a bridge in Kansas

Located in the heart of the Flint Hills of Kansas, Luke Koch and his crew build wonderful dry stone structures like this newly completed 12 foot span dry stone bridge.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Tactile strength.

Interacting physically with stones on a daily basis provides the necessary tactile strength and confidence for a complete balanced life. There is a sensory depth of wisdom and well-being that can only be acquired through maintaining a haptic affinity with stones. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Playing with Stones at Lunch Time

Having just come from hearing some excellent morning lectures at the de Young Museum given during the second day of the 2016 Stone Symposium in San Francisco, some us went to the Japanese Tea Garden next door for lunch. 

A collection of small black stones sitting in half an inch of water line the sunken area in the middle of all the wooden tables where people eat. Presumably they were there for decoration. I of course couldn't resist making things with them.   

The funny thing was, once I started playing, a collection of people (not symposium people) at some of the other tables began building things too.

Everyone looked like they were having fun and some of them laughed and told me they would never have thought of playing with the stones until I had.  It was a small thing, but it felt good to have a small part in putting some stones back in touch with people, or was it the other way around? 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mosaic Inspiration

An enthusiastic collection of artists and stone aficionados gathered to learn more about the famous water colour artist Millard Sheets last Wednesday at the well organized kick-off lecture presentation at the Scottish Rite Temple in San Francisco. This was part of the 2015 Stone Symposium being held in the city and also in Gualala California over the next week and a half.  

Millard is also known for his beautifully designed mosaics, many of them art installations incorporated into the facades and interiors of public buildings throughout California and the US. Though not specifically stone related his work inspired me to think about the design process and the similarities between dry stone and mosaic patterns.

Tony Sheets his son (an artist himself) , and Professor Adam Arenson spoke passionately about how many of Millard’s mosaic pieces were now needing to to be preserved, as buildings were being torn down or renovated.

One photo showed the barely discernible evidence of what once was a beautiful mosaic of Millard’s installed above the International City Bank building in Long Beach. It had all been inadvertently plastered over. Plans were being discussed to restore it.

A closeup of the pattern showing through the layer of plaster covering this wall mosaic still revealed the decorative but more simplified network of minute cellular shapes that made up the original mosaic. It made me wonder about incorporating a similar pattern in some sort of dry laid stone application.

There is a kind of universal resourcefulness in nature, an aesthetic connectivity in the arts too perhaps, that often allows the work of an artist in one medium, (even in a case where it has almost been lost forever) to become the inspiration for another artist, and like a phoenix reemerge later in another medium 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Style Walling

Lyngso Events

2016 Thinking With Your Hands
Our infamous Thinking With Your Hands workshop is back! Mark your calendars for our upcoming workshop dates: Saturday, February 13th and Sunday, February 14th of 2016. 

It's not as easy as people may think to build a proper dry stone wall, one that looks good and will stay up for a lifetime! Students wishing to learn about this kind of construction and then building a garden wall feature with real stone are encouraged to attend John Shaw-Rimmington’s workshop. John is a professional waller and a landscape design consultant. John has instructed courses in walling and created stunning art with his students. Garden features including arches and follies such as ha-has and faux ruins from California and British Columbia to Vermont and Newfoundland. He also writes a lively daily instructional blog in walls without mortar called Thinking with My Hands,

This year at LYNGSO, John plans to build a triangular three sided wall with different and unique styles of walling on each of the sides: coursed, herringbone and vertical. The dry stack stones for the workshop will be provided by LYNGSO. Students will learn the basics first, with the opportunity to get creative. The students will become familiar with the three basic principles of dry stone wall construction - batter, hearting and bonding. Students should come prepared for one hour of indoor class time both days as well as six hours of hands on professional instruction working with various kinds of stone. Please, wear proper clothing. Safety glasses and gloves are required. Workshop will continue rain or shine. Lunches will be provided on both days.

Cost: $350.00 (non-refundable)
Saturday February 13, 2016 - 09:00 AM to 04:00:PM 
Sunday February 14, 2016 - 09:00:AM to 04:00:PM 

Click here to register.


Lyngso Garden Materials, Inc.
345 Shoreway Road
San Carlos, CA 94070

Our workshops have become very popular. To ensure a more pleasant experience for everyone please read the following:
  • On-time start: 
    Please plan on arriving a least 10 minutes early. We will hold your place until starting time. If you have not arrived by the published start time for the clinic we will begin seating our waiting list. We are sorry we cannot hold a spot for late-comers. 
  • If you can’t make it: 
    Please do let us know by calling Sales at 650-364-1730 or email
  • Extra folks: 
    Please make sure everyone in your party registers. Many of our clinics fill up fast and we often have a waiting list, so please understand if we canÕt add a spouse or friend at the last minute.
  • Children: 
    The content of our classes is for adults. Due to attention span, we discourage children from attending our classes, unless the class is specifically for children. If your child is a serious garden enthusiast and would enjoy sitting through a 1 1/2-2 hour lecture, please let us know when you register and we will gladly consider them for the class.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Balance is Everything

Building permanent features of stone is about creating as many points of contact between the stones as possible and thus maximizing the degree of balance throughout the whole structure. 

There is a tremendous satisfaction that comes with knowing that this has been achieved, and that balance is enough

We don't need to be or do anything more. 

To create balance is really what it's all about.

There is nothing more fulfilling

Such pursuit should never be perceived as wasteful or phoney or contrived. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Hidden Bottles

It's amazing how many interesting things you find inside older dry stone walls. In the process of taking a wall apart here in Ontario, before we begin to rebuild it, we'll often come across an empty bottle of some sort. 

The bottles come in quite an assortment of sizes and colours. Most of them are very small and almost always empty. Some of them look like medicine bottles but most of them look like they held booze. 

I can only conclude that back when the walls were being built a lot of the old wallers must have not felt very well or maybe just liked turning to the bottle to get through the day.

This one I found was full. I thought about taking a sip or two and then putting it back in the wall. But then maybe I'd need to look for a bottle of medicine.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Thinking with your hands

Your hands know a lot. 
They know how to handle things. They sense what needs to be done. 
If you let them pick up a stone and give them enough time, they'll figure out where it goes.  
They can feel the stone's shape and then tell the eyes where to look where it will fit. 
Given practice they can grasp things in the physical world that the brain still hasn't figured out, like how to build a damn good wall without worrying what anybody else 'thinks'.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In almost any galaxy you'll still find stone walls.

In a galaxy not too too far away there's a planet where there are lots of stones all stacked by hand very carefully.

The StarWars VII characters didn't have to travel too far this time to find a stunning built-up stony landscape.  It was right here on earth at Skellig Michael in Ireland.

But it brings up an interesting question.

How is it no matter what galaxy you find yourself in, wherever there is interstellar, space-age, high-tech, action-packed, time-warp, parallel universe, good versus evil stuff going on, you'll always find a few of dry laid stone structures somewhere in the mix too?  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Managing of the Negative

Everything we are not helps define who we are .

Drawing everything except the chair, reveals the chair !

Describing everything around you somehow defines who you are.

It is the managing of negative space that creates a positive structure.

It's what goes on between the stones that gives a wall its 'Life' !

'On the Bias' wall feature John Scott and I built in San Francisco February of 2010

Friday, January 8, 2016

It's Okay to Colour Outside the Lines

We, as professional dry stone wallers 
and builders of a new walling heritage 
here in North America,
have the freedom 
(and the great privilege) 
of "Colouring Outside the Lines"
if the situation calls for it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

How we roll.

Maddy and I can only hope, that after pushing that heavy rock up to the top of the mountain every time ... 

Sisyphus was able to at least enjoy watching it go crash-tumbling down the mountain again !

Monday, January 4, 2016

Our Very Own Tools

It's so important to own our own tools if we are going to make good structures.

So too, the mistakes we own are far more valuable to the creative process than we realize. 
Therefore, we should never say no to the opportunity of making them, nor be intimidated by critics attempts to use our mistakes against us. 

A proper tool set includes a good selection of mistakes. 

The critic who declares that the result of our risk-taking is a 'worthless' failure fails far worse than we ever do as artists who have embraced the possibility of failure.

Because we make (and own) our own mistakes, there is nothing to prevent us from making something beautiful with them. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Shaken. Not Sturdy ?

I don't know, I think I could watch this earthquake simulation for hours. Well done Rocksolver !

There are so many things, so many ideas, so many questions that come to mind. 

Any thoughts or comments you may have please share them. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016


I was asked by a client to do a small installation using a lot of his left-over stone sets (cobbles)

It was difficult but I came up with an idea I thought might look good. 

We liked it for a while (I think having a lot more cobbles would have helped) but anyway three months later I got a phone call where in the conversation my client told me he thought the piece as a bit 'underwhelming' I agreed. 

He thought he would probably take it down to make room for a pebble sculpture. Was I okay with it?  Yes.

The beauty of not making things, especially art, out of reinforced concrete is that when something doesn't end up looking as fantastic as you or the client hoped, it can be changed without needing to have a wrecking crew come over in order to successfully demolish it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Rolling in the New Year

Approaching the New Year is like coming across a beautiful moss covered stone somewhere in a quiet forest. 

No one had touched this special stone yet.  It had never moved !  

2016 had been waiting a long long time.   

Today it started rolling, magically, all on its own. There is very little we can do about it. 

And as it gathers momentum, it will lose all its moss. 

I hope to find some of those pieces and hold them carefully in my hands. I want to think about where they came from. 

We need to infuse our lives, and the things we make with that same essence, and learn to wait with the same mossy patience and breathless anticipation.