Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Just ask a mollusk

How hard is it to slug away all day on a wall? Just ask a mollusk.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gualala Flyby Part 1

It's been over a year since we first tried taking drone footage of the dry stone features here at Gualala. Technical difficulties have now all been sorted out and there is lots for us to show you. Enjoy !

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What are we up to?

This random, herringbone, squared granite, dry laid pattern, with its tight fitting joints, makes the stones we are building with look like they are melting into each other.


Speaking of melting - the rain and periods of hail that pelted us here most of last week finally subsided. The mud was up to our knees.

Mark Ricard, Matt Harvey and I took a short sunny photo break yesterday afternoon.

This week it has been dryer. The mud has receded and we've  shaped and fitted stones onto the wall now to well over our waist. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Already looks cozy.

This 'work in progress' is already starting to look stunning. It's a simple, effective and nicely proportioned raised fire pit being built by Royce Kelly here in Gualala. The pleasing circle of dry laid firebricks is skilfully interfingered with the mica schist material to give the feeling of being naturally nestled into the corner of the walled enclosure. Everything is built dry laid.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Stone and Sunlight

The sunrise was hauntingly beautiful yesterday morning when we arrived at the Irish Tower.

The sunlight poured through the upper balcony door onto the granite baluster panel casting a beautiful salmon colour filigree pattern onto the interior tower wall.

Photo by Mark Ricard

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Who is that white haired guy?

John Fisher's  artistic talents know no bounds. Not only is he an superbly accomplished sculptor both in stone and in wood, he also paints beautifully in watercolour and now paints in digital form on his new iPad using a painting app called Procreation. 

He visited us a couple days ago and did this illustration of  Mark and some other old fart working on the new diagonally laid granite block 'Wave Wall'.

Below is the link that shows the process of paint strokes being applied to create the above image. It's so rewarding to see amazing digital technology combined with amazing 
artistic talent .


Now I think I need to get that app, and a stylus, oh yes, and a new iPad !

Monday, January 23, 2017

Melting Snowhenge


This melting circle of 'standing snows' was much taller when I made it in Ontario before the late December rains. Each upright was made from a large snowman size snow ball rolled into place and then sculpted into a square 3 foot high, 1x1 column. It occurs to me the huge standing stones of Stonehenge and other stone circles found in many parts of Britain might have more easily been rolled into place as big round boulders and then sculpted into upright columns too? And of course, made of stone, they didn't  melt 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Concave and confounding.

Our retaining wall sits between two basalt columns. By designing it to have not only a diagonal pattern (see Friday's post) but also be concave in shape, both laterally and vertically, we not only make a stronger structure, we give ourselves lots of options for tilting the granite blocks so that a lot of the many slight differences in their sizes can be accommodated.    

The concept is simple, but slightly unorthodox. If we shape slight angles on the faces of the blocks we can seemingly 'stretch' the height or width of the stones so as to make up for minor variances of the tons of random sized leftover granite blocks we have decided to try to use up. many of the blocks with angled faces touch on face edges only but are pinned to not slip (or tilt) backwards or sideways. 

For example, shown here, a 5 by 3 inch block face can be shaped to have an angle that, after it is tapered length-ways too, can fit into a slightly larger 5 1/8 by 3 1/8 face opening.
(Btw, odd-sized openings like these often occur as we are building.  They are caused by adjacent blocks being slightly different sizes) 

This only works of course because the wall is concave along both its length and height. It gives us our wiggle room. We've started the vertical concaveness by laying the ground row of diagonally positioned blocks so that they lean back nearly 30 degrees. 

(The wall is 28 inches thick and the back of the wall is built up as we go to give it the proper thickness and mass. We eliminate any slippage too as we integrate our blocks into the middle of the wall we've been backing up.)

As you can imagine building a wall this way is a bit confounding. None of the faces of the stones in the wall are on the same plane.  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Top Notch

Photo by Mark Ricard

This stone carving by Julien Carmellino, now gracing the top of the spiral staircase in the Irish Tower, took many many hours of work.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Rough Side Out.

As in this illustration, the random shaped/sized granite blocks will be placed carefully on the diagonal and then as you would lay firewood, stacked parallel to each other in the wall creating a random herringbone pattern. This solves many design concerns and allows the showing of only all rough faces. I think this configuration is the best solution for making a strong structural dry stack retaining wall with random sized dimensional stone. 

These 12 to 20 inch long blocks of granite range from 1 inch x 2 1/2  to at least a dozen other dimension combinations, thru 2 x 6 3/4  to  4 x 4 1/4  and up to 7 x 7 1/8 and some even bigger. In some cases the block faces are not even square.

Putting the stones on the diagonal eliminates the inevitable  ugly wavy line created when stones of slightly different heights are placed along side each other in courses. 

Now to solve the problem of fitting the sizes along a pattern so they avoid creating bitty diagonal odd sized 'dead ends' throughout, which would then require a lot of cutting.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Polished but not defined.

This week we are working with tons of long slabs of left over polished dimensional black granite. The challenge is to use it structurally in a dry stone application. Every bar has a different dimension. No two bars are the exact same size or shape. How best to use it ?  I have an idea.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Random Pattern

Photo by Kat Gleason

There is always a pattern, even to randomness. How else would they be able to develop programs that generate random numbers? Our Talus wall needed to look random and natural . In other words it couldn’t look manmade . We needed to discover a pattern.  First, because a pile of rocks seem fit together better with time we knew we had to try to fit our rocks closely to match that tendency and give the rock slope a feeling of having been there a while. Secondly larger stones tend to show up near the surface so we didn’t use a lot of the small ones near the top.

We laid many rocks with any length along the same orientation figuring clusters of rocks fall and land generally along a similar path. Larger rocks with any obvious grain in them we sometimes laid along side each other too. These could simulate larger boulders that had cracked on impact along fault and cleavage lines creating smaller boulders which might appear laying together somewhat parallel to each other. 

We laid several on end where their length and uneven weight might cause them to tip and get stuck in a somewhat upright position out of the rubble.

Certain boulders we placed on the pile just looked wrong at first. We intuitively knew rocks would rarely settle that way.  The rule then was to turn them until they looked right or move them to a new position. Any trouble makers we busted up into smaller rocks.     

We have to thank our excavator guy Bob Baker too, who seemed to catch on quickly to these rater loose rules and especially liked busting rocks with his bucket.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Towering Above The Talus Slope

Yesterday we completed the talus wall rising up to the base of the Irish Tower.

talus slope is formed when debris from a weathering rock piles up to a certain angle of repose. These slopes usually lie at a very steep hill or under a cliff . A talus can also be the stonework or randomly piled rocks creating the sloping face leading up to a castle wall.

    Image result for talus slope castleImage result for talus slope castle

We tried to position all our rocks so they didn't just look dumped there, but somehow created the more natural random look you would see if rocks fell off the side of a steep rocky slope and then settled over time.

We got the talus effect we were aiming for. The rocky slope had a convincing, rather pleasing non-manmade appearance. There were a couple of 'rules' we discovered and loosely tried to keep to. Can you guess what they were?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Abstract Art

A  tapestry, a painting, a mosaic ?

Or just a random section of a stone and brick courtyard ?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wire and Aggregate

Rock Print, Architectural installation at the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial 2015 from Gramazio Kohler Research on Vimeo.

Rock Print is the first architectural installation to be built from low-grade granular material and constructed by robotic machines. Conceived as an intriguing vertical object, the installation presents a radically new approach to The State of the Art of Architecture – the official title of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial 2015 – and brings forward a new category of random packed, potentially fully reusable, poly-dispersed jammed structures that can be automatically fabricated in non-standard shapes. Following an initial period of robotic assembly, the installation will comprise a large-scale architectural artefact in its completed form, exhibiting distinct features, such as, for example, full material reversibility and the respective reusability of the aggregated materials; structurally active interlocking, differentiated structural performance, while yielding high geometric flexibility and articulation. Performing a full scale 3D “rock printing process” that uses the self-aggregating capacities of the material itself, this visionary project is the first collaborative installation by Gramazio Kohler Research, ETH Zurich, and the Self-Assembly Lab, MIT. The Chicago Architecture Biennial will open on 3rd October 2015 and will close on 3rd January 2016. For more information: chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

2014 - Question asked and answered

So what's being built here Christopher ?

We are building a dry stone wall and an arch at the Highland Games in Victoria BC to demonstrate how such an old building method, using only stones, continues to be functional!

With only stones, WTF,  you say? 

That's correct  - Walls That Function !

And,  they’re not only functional, they’re practical, beautiful, ecological, great exercise, and a lot of fun to build!

This is another example of something which was old becoming ‘new' again. 

Join the resurgence of Dry Stone Walling in (and Across) Canada.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Longdistance Walling

At our walling festivals there is always a competitive stone related element where we run events presenting new challenges for the participating stone artists and masons. Things like wheel barrow obstacle races, lithobolos (stone bocce), single stone arch making and even fire rock balancing so that even if you're not competing there are always fun events to watch . 

For a possible litholympic activity at our next festival I'd even thought of doing a long distance hearting competition - a skill test requiring the tossing of stones from 20 paces into a wall needing to be properly filled . 

However this Remote Material Deposit video takes everything to a new level, literally. I mean really ? Long distance wall building?

With cylinders of uncured cement and high tech calculating/catapulting machines, these videos show ruin-like rubble walls and crude circular 'dwellings' being made by a group out of Germany called Gramazio Kohler Research.

Has dry stone walling met its most formidable challenge? 

I think not.

We make more beautiful walls, (and certainly more accurate walls ) without any mortar, and, as it turns out, without using lime 'mortar shells' either !

Remote Material Deposition Sitterwerk Timelapse

Monday, January 9, 2017

The relationship between musical notes and stones is a favourite theme of mine. I did a very short animation clip recently as an experiment for a larger video sometime later in the year. Hope you like it.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Portrait of a Stone.

How does one capture the likeness of a stone? Do you paint the face? If so, which face? 
Do you catch it in an informal pose or try to do a more conventional portrait? 
Do we depict our subject in a natural setting or go for a more poised monumental look?  
Does the artist aim for structural realism or try to capture something of the ethereal feeling of the stone? 

Surely we can find some impression of the stone that feels right? Perhaps as a relief painting?
In my watercolour I attempted to catch the essence of what my stone was thinking. 

I should have gone purely abstract I guess. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen meditating at the Mount Baldy Zen Buddhist Centre in the San Gabriel Mountains, California, November 1995.  A digital adaption of a photograph by Neal Preston/ Neal Preston/Corb

" There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

" Nothing touches sitting still ... Going 'nowhere', is the grand adventure that makes sense of everywhere else."  ( Essayist Pico Iyer recounting a meeting with Leonard at the Buddhist Centre in his book - The Art of Stillness )

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A hand that makes me think

A hand by Andrea Mei of balanced stones. Simple, whimsical  and somehow innocent. A hand not held up in defiance or pride - not waving smugly, looking to be profound. Not claiming some master craftsman level. Merely  celebrating our age old affinity with stones. 

A hand reaching out to the trinity - mass, friction and gravity - to ponder again the physics of balance. And then, to let the sea take it away and we, go back to work, back to trying our hand at other ways of helping bring hope and peace and order in a world gone a little crazy.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

What's the world with no Stone?

Having trouble hearing more and more, (or is it less and less ? ) and now, as I often do, mistakingly hearing different lyrics than the ones being sung, and as the events and projects of 2016 fade into the background, I imagine Joe Dukie vocalist for Fat Freddy's Drop asking the musical question - 'What's the world with no Stone' (instead of no 'soul' ) and in reply I have gathered together images and video footage of stone things I've done (or worked on) and people I've worked with this past year, along with pics of other work, (both mine and other sculptor, mason, waller artists that I saw in the past 12 months), in order to provide evidence that yes indeed the world would be a much lesser place without STONE. Love to you all and wishing you 'wall the best' in the new year and looking back at all the cool stuff we did I think maybe 2016 wasn't that bad. ( Thanks too to Mark Ricard for introducing me to this song.)