Thursday, December 20, 2018


Is there such a thing as being too positive ? Too cheery ? 
There's no time like Christmas to find that out, I guess. 

I look at the photo of the snowy moon-gate we built at Sara's Garden and am reminded that the 'negative' space, created by the positive mass of dry laid stones, could be imagined intermittently, as either just a beautiful solid wall, with a Christmas tree decoration on a glass ball suspended in the foreground, or, seen (more likely) as a circular snowy positive opening with the tree in the background . Both perceptions give the whole thing a feeling of festive cheer. 

In essence, it looks like there could be an extension to the maxim "two negatives make a positive". I realize rather cheerily that a positive AND a negative can create a beautiful positive, as well.  Is that being too positive?

Wishing all you souls a Happy Solstice, and an open mind to the variety of wonderful experiences and opportunities that come your way over the holiday season.

 See you in 2019 !

Friday, December 14, 2018

A Foot in the Door

Sometimes the scope of a project is left undetermined. This can be, and often is, a mutual arrangement between client and artist. It is agreed the wall can go on and be built longer, later. More retaining walls and terraces can be 'talked' about in the future. 
Usually for me the first project is the dry stone 'foot in the door'. Not literally, of course. Good work begets more good work. 
But one day, if it there was the right setting for it, I think there could be an opportunity of putting a dry stone foot in the doorway somewhere. And then, of course, it could be gradually added to, in the future.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The wall stays

Farley is sitting in front of a wall we built over 14 years ago. No,Farley didn't build it. He wasn't there.

It was Steve Fraser and Matthew Ring who successfully completed their DSWA certification tests doing two separate sections on it, and then later I built another 20 feet connected the sections and finished off the west end of the wall.

A newly hired employee with the town, director of works,  drove by the day I was finishing up and told me the wall, though set well back from the road, was on town property and that it had to be taken it down.

The owner of the property went to the town and requested that it not have to be taken down, as for one thing,  it acted as barrier to keep his children safer in the front yard. (A car had the year before careened into the wire holding up the telephone pole on the front lawn where his children were playing) 

Also, there were many trees and other walls and fences much closer to the road that the town had not required to be taken down.

I found out that in that meeting the newly appointed town official put his foot down and said to the then council. "Either that wall goes or I go."

The town was in a funny position. Anyone who saw the wall loved it. Petitions were signed. Wallers from around the world wrote to try to save the wall. A publisher of a stone magazine wrote and asked that it be spared and added that if the town would be so silly to have it dismantled, he was going to come personally and do a story on it, as a way of exposing such a municipal folly.

The controversy of the wall went on in a kind of muted way for years. The people who owned the house were told they had to take out special insurance on it. Each new owner of the property still has to take on this cost.  

Suffice it to say, as you can see from this photo, the wall is still there and, I heard just recently that the town employee vacated his job. I looked it up and read yesterday on line in the archives of a local paper, that he left "without any explanation" in 2017.    

Saturday, December 8, 2018

O Holy Rewrite

Don’t hold them tight, 
The stones are partly frozen.
I’m not dressed right and I can’t find my glove.

Long days at work, my eyes are semi-closin’ 
I should go home, yet I haven't built enough. 

I'm filled with hope.
I've sent a few invoices.
I might get paid, for work I've done this year.

Waaall ---- on your knees !  
Don't make those achy noises.
Try-not, to whine, 
At least one glove is here.

Tonight I'll-freeeeeze !
It's minus nine!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Inside a Stone

The number of stones in a dry laid wall is finite.
However, it is impossible to count how many walls are contained in a single stone.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Lives and Forks

Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I—
I imagined a dry stone 'fork' there.
And that has made all the difference.

(with apologies to Robert Frost)

Friday, November 30, 2018

Monday, November 26, 2018

What it seems to be.


Yesterday's image was a photo of a 'seamless tile' stone texture. In other words, the image is manipulated so that it can be used in multiples of itself to create a continuous surface, without it appearing to be a repeating pattern. In this case the surface of cracked rock has a random feel without any sense of it being multiples of the same thing

However, the further away you are from the screen (and the smaller the tiles become ), the more obvious it is that you are seeing a repeating pattern. 


There is a correlation here between standing back from the thing (vision? perspective? insight? years of experience?), and seeing the possibility of recognizing some sort of controlled pattern, even though others, less patient or maybe less skilled, may only see a random unstructured mix.

This is perhaps an explanation of what we do as wallers. We see the pattern of the wall, within what seems to be at first, just a random pile of stones.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Can you see it?

There is an integral pattern contained in this rock formation photo. Do you see what it is ?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

New Bookends

Our dry stone section of curved 'test' wall, which was built between two large redwoods some years ago, has received treemendous feedback. It was built as an experiment to see if an entire circle, with a similar size arc, built in this upright style, would work in a future installation at the Gualala Art Center. The wall and the concept looks and works better than we anticipated.

The only problem is that the tree on the right moves a bit too much in high winds,hence a few fallen stones have to be put back each year. 

The fix is easy. With the help of a large extended arm forklift (a telehandler Gradall) we've replaced the tall tree 'bookend' scenario with two heavy basalt columns instead. The process of re-situating of the test wall between these new massive bookends now begins. 

We will come back in January to take on the bulk of the task.  The challenge will be to rebuild everything as beautifully and as magically as the first time. This requires our somehow being in the 'stone zone' again. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

How to lose those porta-loos ?

Just because it's a special outdoor event doesn't mean those ugly plastic toilets have to be front-row centre, in fact why  have to look at them at all? A beautiful, dry stone, L-shaped partition wall will keep such unsightly things discretely out of view. 

A section of dry stone wall built tall enough to hide a couple of portable toilets is the perfect answer. Once it's built, it will still continue to be a visually pleasing structure the rest of the year. And when the time comes and it's needed again as an aesthetic bar from the madding crowd and the inevitable 'call of nature' - just say, 'toodle loo' to the loo.

DSWAC will be holding a dry stone 'porta-partition' wall workshop on the first weekend in June of 2019 at ZimArt outdoor gallery, which happens to be their 20th anniversary celebration opening.

Cost - 200 dollars, includes lunches, drinks, HST and printed material. Limited to ten students.

Canada's Premier Zimbabwean Stone Sculpture Gallery
Founded 2000

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

My next variation on the sturdy leaning 'picket fence' stone wall concept. ©

My newest application of the sturdy leaning 'picket fence' stone wall concept we built on the west coast, is based on a photo I saw of super fit bathers on the beach demonstrating a group yoga 'exercise' somewhere near the ocean too. I'm thinking that stones could be 'fit' in a similar configuration, to make a very pleasing variation on our latest installation we recently built in California.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Overlooking the scenery

We’re home now from California.

Strangely, the reality of having constructed a dry stone wall right on the Pacific coast hasn't really sunk in yet.

Maybe, over the next few months, my trying to describe to people the beauty of where we were working, I'll be able to grasp the whole thing better myself.  The significance of the experience, the drama, the ‘thereness’ of it all, perhaps will be better realized as I continue to try to look back on the amazing experience it seems we had there. 

Just to think about it - we built a permanent structure inches from a 70 foot cliff overlooking a crashing ocean below. We literally ‘overlooked’ so much of it ( both opposite meanings of the word ) during the two weeks we were mostly concentrating on getting this pretty unusual stone fence built during the time we had allotted to complete the project. 

I wonder now, did others, perhaps a long time before us, building any of the old wooden livestock fences I’ve seen along these coastal regions, also ‘overlook’ the immense import of it all?  Did they stand there in amazement a lot of the time as they were working, or did they mostly work on as usual, as they dug holes for the wooden posts and hammered the rails and nailed the pickets, close to the edge of the sea?

And then I think, what about all the people who have worked building other stone structures in spectacularly beautiful parts of Britain and Ireland ?   We’ve all seen the photos of bridges built over wild tumbling streams  - and beautiful walls jutting out from fantastically magical landscapes - and stoned terraces tracing contours of breathtaking beauty. Can we just assume the people who built these structures were able to appreciate where they were?

Did they all, returning at the end of the day, or the end of the job, say “ Wow, what a seriously cool thing that was ! ”
Did they talk of it years later, recounting, almost reliving for the first time, what a powerful, exceptional experience building in that scenic place back then, was?

I wonder.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Like a fence in the headlights

Thanks to Gwen, who drove some distance to see it, arrived very late, but sent this photo of our lighthouse stone wall, lit only by her headlights.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Returning to the shore with Stones

How many times have you come to the beach and picked up stones to bring home? But have you ever brought stones to the beach in order to leave them there? 

These mica schist slabs were brought to and left in this order along a short stretch of coastland by my crew and I last week, and then we returned home, 'stoneless'.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Is it a wall or a fence?

Is it a wall or a fence ?
It began as a concept to replace the existing fence with something that would fit into the vernacular flavour of the local landscape and specifically make reference to the various idiomatic split rail fences seen along the Northern California coastline. Instead of using old growth hand split redwood, we used older growth mica schist hand split flagstone material from the Mojave desert. The four foot (plus)slabs are stood upright back to back along the entrance border of the Point Arena Lighthouse, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.

Their spacing, their verticality and irregular heights give the impression of wooden picket fencing from a distance, but as you approach closer, the fence structure begins to widen in appearance and looks more a thick jagged stone wall. The dynamic upright  surging of the cliff’s seen here on the point (and along the Mendocino coast) are a geological feature that the stone fence/wall is also designed to mimic. Shale boulders from Annapolis are spaced every ten feet to brace the upright slabs. The gate boulders and middle pier boulder are bordered with pebble motif compliments of Kevin Carman talented artist mason musician and poet working out of Art City in Ventura  Ca. The pebbles represent the crashing of the waves against the tall cliffs.

The wall/fence/installation uses no manufactured fasteners . Instead the stones are lodged together tightly using sandstone spacers notched into one side of every vertical mica schist slab. The spacers are wedged into the slabs along the same horizontal line so as to appear like a continuous fence rail when viewed directly from the side.

Twenty-four tons of material stretches more than 90 feet across the entrance to the lighthouse property. The backdrop of the lighthouse and vista of ocean shore provides an unparalleled setting for this totally new wall design. Tourists standing back to take photos now kneel down to include the ‘fence’ in the picture.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Buenos Notches

The upright slabs in this latest project required mucho notches to be cut in them in order to slot and wedge the stone spacers between them to produce the upright redwood picket fence look we were trying recreate in stone.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The shadow knows

The familiar late afternoon shadow of a California redwood picket fence - or maybe it’s not. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tiny Hopes

It looked like he was going to jump, but he actually had to climb a tiny way up the tower to see if there was a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fencing along the coast

This redwood picket fence is being built by Kent Cochran of He’s doing a great job. The posts as are the pickets (which are to be nailed on later) are all hand split with wedges. Our fence up the coastal road will have a similar look, but we’re not using wood.

Monday, November 5, 2018

New stone circle.

I helped plant a new standing stone circle on a well known point of land that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. The old one was there in our imagination, we just had to agree on a suitable site and then cultivate the soil and dig in the special 'henge' stones. And now all there is to do is wait. We anticipate they will grow to be quite tall within a few thousand years .

Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Daily Post

Our next stone project involves reinterpreting the redwood pickets seen along the Northern California Coast near Sea Ranch. These idiomatic containment fences capture the rustic individuality of rural Californian living. The pickets, along with the posts, create daily interest as we drive back and forth in the varieties of morning and sunset light. They offer moments of reflection too that are as illuminating as anything you might find in print . My read on it is - there’s likely a new creative opportunity to explore a geological connection . Stay tuned. 

Friday, November 2, 2018

Our inspiration.

Our inspiration, our ideals and our courage, come from the land, the soil, the rocks, the trees, each other. 
The flag can be anything.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Holes in the walls

If you look long enough you will find them everywhere.
But will you find your way back.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Race against the tide

Ventura lith-ovals found on the beach turned on end and stacked in a carin' way as the tide keeps creepin' in.

There's still enough time to 
stop and have a photo taken.

Photos by Sunny Wieler and Mark Ricard 

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Ventura Effect

I've built many stone and brick Rumford fireplaces. They give off a lot more heat than most other  masonry fireplace designs. Rumford’s genius was his intuitive understanding of fluid dynamics.  By rounding the breast to “remove those local hindrances which forcibly prevent the smoke from following its natural tendency to go up the chimney…” and narrowing the channel to the throat,  he essentially created a venturi, a nozzle, like an inverted carburetor, that shot the smoke and air much better up the chimney. 

A Venturi, named after an Italian inventor, is a system for speeding flow of the fluid, by constricting it in a cone shape tube. In the restriction the fluid must increase its velocity reducing its pressure and producing a partial vacuum. As the fluid leave the constriction, its pressure increase back to the ambient or pipe level.

‘Ventura’ California where this year’s Stone Foundation Stone Symposium took place. This is the third time the symposium has been held in Ventura and like the others it was great smokin’ success. 

Lectures, demonstrations, games, competitions, great food, plenty of ‘fluids’ and a impressive flow of stone aficionados. Well done. Tomas, Mimi and Paul & Laurie , Dougy B and all the stone tribe.

Monday, October 22, 2018