Saturday, August 18, 2018

My kind of fishing.

There's a rock and gem shop in Bancroft Ontario that has a special area out back set up so kids can go fishing for unusual rocks. It's 'stocked' like a lake, not with fish, but with semi rare minerals, all left over mine tailings. 

This way to a pool of natural resources.

My grandkids hauling the day’s ‘catch’ back to be weighed. 

Is that a small rock basalt or just a minnow-rel?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Salem Creek Bridge Drama

This is how far the water came up when Salem Creek flooded after the torrential downpour burst the beaver dam upstream. This is a photoshopped image based on where the flood lines appeared in the lawn,( we had no camera at the time the flooding occurred)

Blue lines show where the wall and part of the abutment washed out.

I repaired the damaged section the next day laying the stones vertically to give the wall along the bank more of a dynamic grip.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Good Wine And Good Bridges Go Together

Check out karlo 

While many people have visited this first class winery in Prince Edward County and had an opportunity to taste their wonderful selection of wine, perhaps not as many have seen the dry stone bridge we built on the property over ten years ago. 

It's worth taking the time to go there this summer and join the ever growing number of people who have discovered this gem of a place, and then stood on the bridge and raised a glass to friends (old and new) and all the good things there are to drink and eat and discover right here in Ontario 

Photo- Saxe Brickman

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Best Camping Activity

Getting away, getting back to nature... the great outdoors holds so much attraction. For many of us the call of nature is so irresistible we manage to find some way each year to pack up and drive great distances in order to find a place where we can set up our humble camp in the wild, pitch a small tent and then sit and relax by some lake or river and take in the 'peace and quiet'.

This euphoric idea of being immersed, if only for a few days in the serene calm of such undisturbed surroundings, may only last a few moments however, when we actually get there. The bugs can quickly take their toll on our pioneer spirit and outdoorsy enthusiasm. So too, like the food in the cooler, our sleeping bags and yes, even our resolve to enjoy these precious moments away from civilization, may all get bit soggy over night.

The fact is after sitting for a while in the untouched surrounds of mother nature, eating and drinking, after going for that swim or hike, we will eventually get restless for something else to do. 

Some campers resort to gathering wood for fuel or gathering mushrooms for fun or rare wildflowers, others try checking their phones or just eating and drinking more .

As my associate Mark and I sat at our camp site contemplating our forest surroundings last week, we recognized that we were not restless at all. A perfect out door activity awaited us each day to engage our full energy in. 

We didn't have to wonder what to do or make up some project to pass the hours. There was a stone bridge to build. 

We found we couldn't think of doing anything more satisfying and enjoyable on our work-away holiday. It provided all the engagement two dry stone wallers needed to have a blast in the forest and yes, get paid for it. 

At the end of each day we rested fully satisfied in our progress of adding, stone by stone, a permanent natural arched passageway across a small stream ( all be it, dry at this time of year) built entirely of natural stone material, nothing else. 

It beat just building a dock or fitting stone steps down into the lake or making a fire pit or a stone footpath somewhere. It even beats balancing stones or making sand castles on the beach.

Camping and bridge building just seem to just go together!

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

New Bridge

The calm serene simplicity of a stone bridge leading across to the lush forested regions of our unexplored imagination. 

We completed this our latest dry stone bridge in Haliburton Forest yesterday with a flagstone pathway over the walking surface. 

Now we sit and wait for the rains. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Perfect Hearting Material

Any dry laid structure is only as good as the hearting used inside it. Hearting is the network of stones used to wedge, pin and bind the stones in a wall together properly.  In just the same way a cemented wall is held together with a poorly mixed, or an improper mixture of, aggregate and bonding agent, will result in it not lasting long, so a dry stone wall 'laced' with round river stones, slippery pebbles, cubes of broken flagstone or crushable brick or friable rock fragments is not going to stand up for long either. 

No, a good wall can only be as structural as the hearting is, and even if you don't skimp on the hearting, if you use incorrectly shaped stuff or place it badly your wall will fail. 

We have recently found a plentiful supply of the best material ever to use inside a dry stone wall. It comes in a wonderful variety of suitably-sized sheared-off wedge-shaped chunks of stone, from a quarry floor where flat 3 inch slabs of stone are being squared-up by banker masons with hammers and chisels. The stuff we've been privileged to collect for free, though it looks like useless stuff to the boys at the quarry, is like gold dust to us. We use it, dare i say, like a dry mortar. It helps stones bind together, yet gives the wall capacity to move and not have stones slip or slump and so the wall yields and breaths and the stones with the hearting helps the wall shed moisture .Each carefully chosen sharp wedge shape fits perfectly between or under any combination of builder stones. 

Good hearting material (like this or other similar sharp hard fragmented stone material) is the secret ingredient that makes dry stone walls great. To pin or fill any part of a wall with any thing less is 'heartless'.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Reusable Stones

Back in 2003 during the 2 days of the Uxbridge Highland Games that year, we built this demonstration arch from inexpensive random 'rip rap' limestone rock that I had purchased from a local Vicdom gravel pit.
That weekend the completed wall and arch became part of the fencing arrangement that penned show cattle and livestock at the Highland event. 

I remember just before the games ended, a friend offered to pay for all the stone material to be dumped at his property where he was restoring an old presbyterian  church. Being able to do anything with the stone was a huge relief for me because I had nowhere to take the 23 tons after the event was over.

Later the next year after attempting to build a wall and arch ruins with the stones he had bought at the games, that same friend called me up and asked if I could come and build it for him.
It was a challenge to build a much more permanent arch than the demonstration one we had quickly constructed the year before, while only using the same very irregular random stone.
I got a text last Thursday form some recent clients of mine who happened to be driving through Sonya, Ontario and saw the arch that I built there at beside the old church back in 2004.
They sent this pic and wrote "Is this your work?"  I was pleased that they guessed it was mine and relieved to see how charming it still looked beside the old church and that after 14 years none of it looks to have crumbled or slumped.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Wall Together Now

There is nothing quite like discovering how a huge pile of random stone material all fits together to create one ordered expression of connectedness

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Symposium 2018 in Ventura


Calling all Stonemasons, Stone Artists and Artisans, Stone Carvers and Stone Cutters, Stone Sculptors, Stone Quarriers, Stonework Contractors and Stone Balancers, Stone Suppliers, Architects, Landscape Architects, Designers, Geologists, Archaeologists, Scholars and, of course, Aficionados
Ventura has been a most excellent venue for these events, readily accessible as it is from airports in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, with discounted lodging for WORKSHOPS and SYMPOSIUM participants. . . many excellent restaurants. . . the proximity of the sea. . . beach stones to play with. . . and, not least, the fact that rental cars, while a convenience, are not a necessity there—in the old town, where the SYMPOSIUM, the WORKSHOPS and the LITHIC OLYMPIC GAMES will take place, everything is within walking or biking distance.
We are pleased to return to this amiable, art-oriented coastal community and show our support for them after the disastrous fires that occurred there in December. The Ventura community welcomes us as they did before—and the Anacapa Brewing Co. will again produce the excellent ROCKNOCKERS’ ALE in our honor. 
SOME HISTORY: Tomas Lipps was the Founder and for fifteen years the Director of the STONE FOUNDATION, a community of stonework enthusiasts. He acted on its behalf, edited its publications, organized its gatherings and secured its place in the stone network.
He gave the STONE FOUNDATION its sovereignty in 2015. It became a Non-Profit 501(c)(3) organization and successfully organized Stonework Symposiums in 2016 and 2017.
STONEXUS Productions LLC, which had managed the STONE FOUNDATION since 2006 became a separate legal entity that now publishes the STONEXUS print magazine and its digital counterpart STONEZINE. It also organizes stonework-related activities. The STONE FOUNDATION purchases magazines from STONEXUS Productions to distribute as membership benefits. 
Although the STONE FOUNDATION and STONEXUS are separate entities, each supports the other’s activities.
The first 14 INTERNATIONAL STONEWORK SYMPOSIUMS and associated WORKSHOPS were organized by Tomas. When he offered to organize the Symposium this year in Ventura—site of the memorable 2010 and 2011 annual gatherings—the Stone Foundation Governing Council approved his offer. 
The SFGC does insist, however, that the event be, officially and explicitly, a STONEXUS undertaking and one for which it will take no responsibility, nor bear any liability. 
Therefore, let it be known to all: INTERNATIONAL STONEWORK SYMPOSIUM 2018 is a STONEXUS Production.
Tomas is still a very active Stone Foundation member and invites ALL—past, present and future—Stone Foundation Members—as well as non-members—to come to Ventura in October for a traditional annual gathering, a Stonework Symposium, the Rocknocker’s Rendezvous. Membership not required.)

P.S. STONEMASONS and STONE ARTISTS from EUROPE, AFRICA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND and ASIA are invited to come to California in October and participate in these events. In consideration of the expense of travel, your registration fees will be waived.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Old Rock

Old rock take a look at yourself
You're- a lot like me. 
Not much holding you down 
Mostly, g r a v i t y
In my wall, you might kinda ‘rock’
And then, what good would that be?

Old rock take a look at your shape
You’re a, lot more round.
Than other rocks in this place
That,  I have found
No way you’d stay in my wall
You’d-just,  fall down.

Old rock, take look at your size
You’re-just    way too small.
I use rocks much-more-square
Ones very large, impressively tall.
I can pile them faster that way
And my machine does it all!

Old rock take a look at my wall
Cuz it’s almost done.
I’ve got others to build
And they’re not much fun.
Maybe we’re not the same after all
You have the time,  (and) I’ve got none.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Cellular Reproduction

My hands attempt to take on the wisdom of the stones
By handling them and being around them
By holding their propensity to be set in some cellular pattern 
By anticipating their predisposition to become a collective structure.

The stones allow my hands to mesh with them
By not crushing them
By being kind, in the most uncompromising way
By allowing them to find the invisible bonds. 

The wall becomes a network of cellular data
By ignoring the constraints of my physical nature
By transcending the common perceptions of any sense of disconnectedness
By becoming one organism, and so imparting life to these my stoney appendages. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Is it all water under the bridge?

Some of it, (definitely not all of it)
is water OVER the bridge.
Some of it is 'still to come'
And so very separate 
from any that flows below.
These are
Possible future showers maybe,
Not necessarily great happenings,
But normal everyday watering.

It's all stuff that isn't yet or might never be 
'Water under the bridge'
Not this bridge anyway,
Maybe water under another bridge
Head water?
Water that hasn't decided,
Hasn't made its watershed choices .

It isn't all 'bridge over the water' either.
There are streams that run dry under them.
And Bridges that don't span year round creeks .
There is that which bridges the dry gulch - the waterless gap.
Stones that merely span the dry periods of life.
Stones that wait in the bridge indefinitely
For rain,
For a mere 'covering' of wetness.
So that the bridge may be, at least,
if only briefly,
all wet ..
And more, under the wetness of water
than ever being 'any'  (let alone - 'all' ) 

water under the bridge .

Sunday, July 22, 2018

A stones throw from the high school

Last week we visited the bridge we built in July of 2017 . It's looking very settled in and part of the landscape Good to see too there's no stones loose or missing, even though the bridge is opposite Haliburton High School.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Did it really happen?

If a wooden form is removed from the bottom of a dry stone arch bridge in the middle of the forest, and no one sees it, was it ever really there?

Friday, July 20, 2018

Valuables in the Vault

We put a lot of time in the vault. There was a big investment of energy and a lot of mental effort. There was the value added in the shaping, the fitting, the figuring out what will work in what space , the taking stock of what stones we had left, banking on the bankers and being able to finish and maintain the high standard of workmanship that we started with. 
There's a lot of valuable stuff in our vault   saving up for the And now any time soon we'll go to the vault and withdraw  everything else ( the wooden form) so we can just look up inside the vault . We trust we won't need any bridge financing.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Good Bridge with Good Form

Good bridges need good 'centering' , in other words 'good form'. We know this one is good because we just used it to build Mitchell's bridge and it worked perfectly. Today we will complete the abutments and start going over the form with the granite voussoirs.

Monday, July 16, 2018

What a Performance

Here in Ontario we have something cleverly named High Performance Bedding (HPB)by some aggregate industry advertising spin doctor. It's basically tiny pieces of crushed limestone, without the dust.
High Performance Bedding (H.P.B.TM) is the rather over-excited name for bedding material used to provide drainage layer under slabs, retaining walls and between flagstone. Apparently it is approved as an ‘alternative’ material by the Ontario Building code to the formally recognized HL6 clear stone.
It sells like crazy.
But surely it's a stretch to call it high performance ? Having had initially great expectations, I have long since given up holding it cautiously in my hands waiting for it to somehow 'perform' -as I sit perched on the edge of my seat, expecting it to put on some amazing show. . . Nope

It's just tiny gravel folks. Nothing to see here. Move on.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A bridge is not a dam.

I build bridges. 

Bridges are built so as not to hinder or stifle the course that nature has already taken, no matter how inconvenient that flow seems or how expedient our own course has become.

A bridge does not say to the river, “Stop what you’re doing, I am more important”

A bridge does not block the silent flow of the moment, or the stream of spontaneity or creativity It does not try to impede the activity that goes freely on below, however contrary to the direction we have chosen to go. 

Spanning things (not hindering the flow) is of a higher order than just connecting adjoining purposes. In this respect, causeways are very unsuccessful bridges.

The thing that flows beneath a bridge can often be more important than the bridge itself, or the things it connects.

There are comings and goings of life (of people and situations) that flow constantly across (above or below) our path which we shouldn’t need to criticize or block completely just because they appear different or not useful to our own interests. 

Bridges are the solution to differences of opinion, style, technique, orientation. A bridge is a structural compromise across dynamic flows, not a stagnant stalemate between enemies. There is no need for conflict, no need for 'either or' ultimatums, no need to have the falsework stay there under the bridge blocking the expansive  flow of cooperation and good will ever possible between man and man, or man and nature.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Metamorphic Stone

The bridge at Pontypool went through a transformation yesterday. Not unlike the metamorphosis of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, late in the afternoon, after three solid days weighting in the hot sun as we systematically shaped and assembled them, the stones shed their original form supporting them, and, almost miraculously, changed into a floating arc of beauty.  

For the next two days the bridge will need time to have its wings dry laid and have its cobbled walking surface emerge, After that we're anticipating this whole garden bridge project, which has been such a splendid experience to be part of, will begin to 'take off'not just visually, but also 'notably', as the bridge, with its slanted abutment design, is quite different from any of the previous ones we've done here in Canada 

Thanks to the enthusiastic team that participated in this workshop, including the 'Fike Team', Mack, Zack, Brian and Reid. Big kudos to to Oliver, and of course to my main helper Mark and my client Dave.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bridges without anything but Humans

Stone bridges can be made without mortar. 

Stone bridges that span many feet and take the weight of all sorts of heavy traffic and cross great chasms, can be made without a lot of things. They can be made without complicating engineering reinforcement requirements and without many totally unnecessary manufactured products, things that unfortunately, in this so called modern age, you might be pressured to using.

But the fact is, they can be made without having any  steel or concrete in them. They can be made without nails, fasteners,rebar or plastic holding them together. And can be built without using bobcats or cranes or heavy equipment. 
Beautiful footbridges of stone that last hundreds of years can be made without anything, (except a little bit of wood) some rocks and a friendly bunch of enthusiastic people. It mostly needs people doing what they do best - getting along.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Dry Walls and Stone Boats

Last Friday, after completing four days doing the boat /bench installation on the shore of Head Lake in Sam Slick Park, I moved inland with my students to do a half day of dry stone wall instruction along the perimeter of Haliburton Highlands Museum property near HSAD.

The fieldstone material here is very different from the quarried material we were using before. Rounder, weathered, and distributed long ago by the glaciers. These particular stones had been piled here at the time the museum opened and were waiting to be made into a replica of a historic wall settlers might have constructed after clearing the land. (Perhaps the bigger ones would have been dragged off the fields in a traditional 'stone boat') 

They would however, have been difficult to form into any kind of sculpture of a 'boat'. 
They would all rather just be part of a ‘dry’ stone wall. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Messing about with a Stone Boat

"There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." Kenneth Grahame

Friday, July 6, 2018

A Dry Stone Boat

These happy sailers just completed 4 days on a course along the shore in stone row boat building workship, I mean workshop. Even though the weather was scorching and there was no breeze, the crew did a fine job of staying on course without any talk of mutiny or anyone rocking the boat too much. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Field trip to the quarry

Yesterday we went to a local quarry so the students could see how the granite near Minden comes out of the ground. and is processed. Mostly by one man, Ryan, who works at the quarry and is happy enough to show us how this lovely layered Liquorice All-sorts material can be split into 2 inch flags fairly easily with a large splitting hammer. 

A field trip like this helps fill out the day and is a change from the hot work it's been so far this week moving and lifting stones. More fun to watch someone else sweating.

We were there too on a mission with my trailer, to pick up a few 'parts' for the stone boat we are building.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Design a Stone Boat

Yesterday, after a morning of class instruction in dry stone walling, and an afternoon of designing in miniature with small stones, my class has come up with what we think will be a good dry stone bench concept for the park.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Hot Doggedy

Last Friday Mary and I went to the quarry in Minden and chose all these rocks for the Haliburton School of Art and Design course thatI’ll be teaching this coming week. 
Farley just sat and watched. He was way too hot. 
Drop by if you’re cottaging in the area. The workshop project is in the park right next to the site where last year’s class built a charming little dry stone footbridge.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Extending the radiating pattern of the voussoirs

We would like to have the design of the bridge that we're building at next months bridge workshop, have abutments that continue the radiating pattern of the voussoirs over the bridge opening. It will be a fairly flat bridge.

Enough mass will be established below grade to support the longish abutment stones and also there will be large stones stacked at the ends of the bridge below grade to eliminate the tendency of the arch to spread. 

The problem area will be where we are laying the abutment stones nearest the point where the arch opening begins. These stones will want to slide until they are pinned by the entire weight of the voussoirs over the bridge. The opening below the form could get narrower but it could hinder taking out the form. I'm wondering if anyone has any suggestions.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Representational Art

If an artist needs ear, eye and respiratory protection while carving stone in the true likeness of the model who is posing there in the studio, then it seems to me the model would need the same equipment.  For the piece to be realistically representational, the finished sculpture too would have to be depicted wearing that same safety equipment . 

Abstract sculpture does not demand this kind of authenticity.  Nor does building dry stone walls.
But then again, we don't usually use grinders, so we don't have to wear all that stuff anyway.  And our walls can look (and be) absolutely realistic without the rocks needing any kind of protection.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Art of the Frugal

I don't know if this installation completed just last week (at the same private art gallery near Ottawa where we created the slanted garden last year) is art, or architecture or just a folly. Essentially, I don't think it matters. It's pleasing just to the eye . 

A friend of my client who is in the gallery business, saw the photo of it and wrote back - "... So many congrats for commissioning such an elegant, timeless, discreet intervention in the landscape! I look forward to experiencing it in the flesh."

'Timeless' is a positive word . I like it. It transcends fashion and novelty. It speaks of history (real or imagined it doesn't matter) It says to me the stones from the property made their visual resting place, rather than being forgotten with the rest of the dirt when the gallery foundation was excavated. 

How can we call it ‘Environment Art', if the available natural material is not valued enough for us to save and create, not just an aesthetically pleasing statement, but one that lasts. 

The pile of leftover stones below didn't get buried, they were fitted into another expression of permanence and beauty, creating if you will, a kind of ‘timeless closure’. I don't think any other material than these lovely stones from the property could have been used to create such a harmonious whole/hole - a sunken ‘enclosure’ celebrating the inherent economy and provision of nature.