Thursday, March 15, 2018

Have a nice day

Sometimes it's too easy, almost glib to merely tell someone to 'have a nice day'. How does one actually implement that suggestion if its cold and miserable and you still see snow on the ground? 

I'm not sure. But I do know that if you spend a day or two in the middle of May learning how to build with stone (no mortar) almost always, something nice is bound to happen .

A two-day beginner's dry stone wall workshop is planned for the weekend of May 12 to May 13 2018. Participants of all ages will learn the craft of dry lay construction as we continue to build another interesting section of dry stone wall, which eventually will become part of a dry stone gate entrance to a beautiful rural property near near Port Hope Ontario Canada . 

Join us for our 'Let's-Celebrate-Spring-Walling-Event'
This unique hands-on wall building course will be taught by proffesional waller and stone sculptor John Shaw-Rimmington. Cost for this two-day hands on seminar including printed instruction sheets, lunches for both days and a possible audio visual presentation on Saturday night is only $250. For more information please write to

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


No erosion, faintest wear
Some icy patches here and there.
They weather well exposed to air 
I’ve looked at walls like clouds.

But now they only build with block 
The reigning king is 'cultured rock’
So many things make piles of crock
Cuz none of it is real.

I've looked at walls and clouds both, now
From real and fake and still somehow
There’s no pollution with real walls
Which don’t make clouds of dust at all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Both Sides Then

The Welsh equivilent to a Cornish hedge is the Clawdd, pronounced ‘cloud’. It is all dry laid using local stone laid vertically, and packed with dirt infill and sod/turf on top.

In Oct of 2012 at our Dry Stone Walling Across Canada festival near Montreal Quebec, Akira Inman and Andre Lemieux (standing both sides of the clawdd) were taught how to construct this unusual type of wall by our special guest speaker and professional waller Sean Adcock, and then, with help fromother students, all under Sean’s clever supervision, together built this lovely example, which Sean then photographed.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dangerous substance

How is it that of all the possible high-tech or suspicious looking things that get detected in people's carry on bags at the security check line at the airport, it's still a simple rock that gets them all confused and requires that you be taken aside and open your bag very slowly

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring Ahead

Our dry stone sundial at Fleming College needed shifting several degrees yesterday to adjust for the time change. It took a lot of time to move, (about an hour) but it'll take way less time when we change it back in the fall. 

Saturday, March 10, 2018


I found it amazing to see in many places during my travels to various parts of central and southern California, real live ‘tumbleweed’ - or rather, real dead tumbleweed.  You see the stuff rolling across the highways as you're driving along and can’t help noticing lots of round prickly clumps of it eventually ending up in people’s gardens and dotted everywhere along the dry flat California landscape. 

It occurred to me that dry stone fences might be useful in stopping this invasive weed spreading across pastures and grazing farmland . Beautiful walls made of natural stone everywhere would then not just be considered to be a very practical form of ‘livestock containment’, it would also be a very useful type of .......‘deadstalk containment’ too. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Grinding out some new lyrics

It's a dusty job 
with a noisy tool,
That I try not to use 
shaping stone as a rule.
But today I am working 
just as fast as I can
But I'm not gonna breath 
all the dust and sand
Cause I'm gonna be a
Paper mask grinder 
Paper mask grinder 
Paper mask -

It's a couple of bucks, 
give or take a few.
I'll be using more masks 
in a week or two.
I could use them longer, 
if they didn't clog up.
Turned inside out
man they really suck.
Paper mask grinder,
Paper mask grinder
Paper mask -

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


To work with flawed material is to decide to discover a perfection that could not be atttained with expensive primo material.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Even though the common dry stone wall is a fairly adaptable creature and can survive in almost any environment, over thousands of years of development it has acquired a taste for a certain amount of visual refinement, and often prefers to be around architecture that is not just pragmatic. 

The wall we had the opportunity to build this week with leftover stone material, though it looks terrific and enhances the look of the building in the background, will always look better when it is one day ‘teleported’ from its industrial location to a more pastoral location, with a house, maybe similar to the one in the photo. 

Like so many things involving stones and style - it has a lot to do with context.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Flawed material has the most perfect potential for improvement .

Hoping to somehow create a masterpiece this week with all these broken pallets of leftover random stone material, all of it presenting a rather underwhelming pallet of colour and visual interest.

Having to use only broken, sawn, guillotined, mortar-stained stuff to build a good looking structural dry stone wall presents a bit of challenge. But there is always hope. And how often with stone - hope prevails.

What appears to be a sorry selection of flawed material,   with some care and imagination, magically can come together still to make something that often looks close to perfect.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

There for the Comparison

Without having something in the photo to compare with, it's difficult  sometimes to comprehend the overwhelming presence, the impressive power and scale of what it is your'e looking at.
That's why I made sure the rock was in this picture of me. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Wave

Sean Donnelly’s dry stone installation The Wave as interpreted by me in the inspiration of The Great Wave off Kanagawa, also known as The Great Wave or simply The Wave, a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai

Here is a short video about The Wave

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Impasto is a style of painting using heavy strokes of thick paint usually with a pallet knife. It seems to be a good technique for depicting stonework. In this case, the impasto ‘look’ of the fireplace we completed this week is accomplished using a digital image and then adding a special filter from an app called Glaze. 

The clip below shows the three rocks I tried to paint ( not very successfully ) in that same digital impasto style and then morphs into the final filtered digital image, as a kind of comparison. 

The impasto technique highlights the gutsy textures and irregular plasticity of the surfaces of the stone, while still capturing the gesture and recognizable ‘impression’ of the human form. 

For anyone looking to create more impressionistic images, of dry stonework particularity, it would be worthwhile practicing painting in this style, or merely experimenting with impasto filters.

Link to short clip >

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Stone versus metal

It’s funny, compared to the numberr of pics one comes across showing family members posed in front of their new stone fireplace, how few photos there are of folks standing there, showing off a new oil, gas or wood furnace.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Monday, February 26, 2018

Standing up for Ca.

Canada Rocks, even in California. We've been revisiting some sites of past dry stone walling advenures here on the west coast. I’m standing in front of the Canadian section of the International Wall which students and I built in Ventura a few years ago.
I’m happy to report it’s looking to be in fine condition. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The painterly word gets inferred

I've always been impressed with the Impresschists. I do like creating artistic features with mica - quartzite too, but schist is the best material for doing any kind of dry stone work, for my Monet.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

I’m liken stone a lot.

The liking of certain things sometimes grows on you very slowly.  I never enjoyed eating vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash when I was young, but as I got older I eventually developed a taste for them. 

Rocks have likes and dislikes too. While it seems to us that they don’t seem to mind being covered with this coloured scaly stuff,  lichens (and other things that grow over the surface of rocks ) do in fact grow on them very very slowly.

I wonder if people who work with stones and rocks for a long time might gradually develop a lichen for the same things.  

Friday, February 23, 2018

Culvert Cairn

For anyone who uses a stone saw quite sparingly I think this video is still worth watching. The finished piece of Goldsworty’s is stunning, however I can’t help but think many of us would have preferred to see it created in a more time honoured way by craftsmen using hammers and chisels a lot more than is shown here. I’m less interested in seeing all the dust of machinery doing the work (music is cleverly dubbed over the screeching noise ) and much more curious about the process wherby skilled masons used merely hand tools to build the many many incredible stone culverts all over America and Europe in the past.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Grazed Landscape

Walls and terraces and man made features help define a landscape. In some cases, as in the foothills of the Sierras the lines of definition comes from an animal source. The textured contours of all the hills that I’ve tried to paint here are created by the constant grazing of cattle along parallel lines in narrow terraced elevations around the sides of all the slopes. I find it fascinating. As if the hills are made of many layers of stacked pieces of corrugated cardboard.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018



Stoneburst.  A dazzling compilation of shale and jasper boulders set in a 90 ‘ mica schist quartzite vertically laid dry stone wall we built recently at near Gualala.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


To me, the most satisfying arrangement of stones always seems to be a cellular pattern.
All the words in the thesaurus to describe cellular help form the image of what stone possibly in it's essential  nature is becoming, or in some distant past, has come from.



Monday, February 19, 2018


Friction keeps us here, 
just like rocks perched on steep shelves
on the sides of a canyon,
fiction keeps us able to stay in contact
able to hang on.

If things were smooth we'd fall into the abyss,
we'd fall apart.

We say we don't like friction,but what do we know?

Friction is the glue,
the stuff of walls 
and monuments throughout history to love and purpose

And without it we float off...

The stones grip each other, silently holding on 

Friction isn't that bad.
it's not like prison. 
it's not like a slippery slope.
it's the stuff of resolve 

Of sticking to it 
of patience  and hope.

It's by friction we rub off on each other a little bit.
we nestle better together,
and hold on fast and slowly,

love each other.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

No one has gone there

It seems there are so few untouched places. No matter where you go to get away to experience new territory, new land, new vistas, someone else has already gone before and left their mark. 

And yet ,there still exists a wonderful wilderness in all its pristine untouched beauty, left for you alone to explore . Somewhere there in your own unique imagination it's waiting to be discovered .

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Fire Wall

Something or someone was gallantly watching over the two ramparts at Grant Park Ventura . While the ugly urbanite walls were badly singed, the fire barely blackened one corner of the southern dry stone structure.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Checking for fire damage

The huge ‘international wall’, built by our students during the very ambitious Stone Foundation stone symposium of January 2011 at Grant Park in Ventura, was completely surrounded by the recent fires that raged in this area for days last month, but the dry stone wall and ramparts remained miraculously untouched. Chared earth and blackened branches could be seen within inches of the structures.    More photos to follow .

Much of Grant Park suffered considerable fire damage . It will be closed for a while .

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Anthropomorphic Limerick

There isn't a nomenclature, 
For rocks that lactate, I am sure.
To say stones need 'weaning',
Lacks geological meaning.
Since 'nurture' just ain't in their 'nature'.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Standing outside the Getty Research Institure , now exhibiting Harald Szeemann Museum of Obsessions

I am privileged 
I am not afraid of sweat 
I am not afraid of aesthetics
I am not afraid of friends 
I am not afraid of enemies
I am not afraid of concepts 
I am not afraid of touch
We are not afraid of third parties 
We are not afraid of your opinions 
I am not afraid of the little, cold hand of the 70's
I am not afraid of the financial ruin of the 80's
I am not afraid of aging in the 90's
Because I'm for getting it wrong
Because I'm for trying it out 
Because I'm for direct contact 
Because I'm for the flicker in the eye that meets mine
Because I'm for other people 
Because we are for unsettling ourselves 
Because we're for enlightened rulers

Because I'm for rebellion against various firsts and seconds
Because I'm for lived counter-models  
Because I'm for new models 
Because I'm for individual mythologies 
Because I'm for human rights 
Because I'm for structuralism
Because I'm for the Eastern,the Western, the Nordic and the Mediterranean, the ephemeral and the ethereal  
Because I'm for poetry and passion
Because I'm for posing
Because I'm for selection
Because I'm against selection
Because I'm for complexity
Because I'm for my simple nature for which everything seems possible
Because I'm for the utopia of the new
Because I'm for hope

Because I'm for questioning the concept of property 
Because I'm for the disruption of questioning through the arresting of ideas
Because I'm for the duality of meanings
ergo the local
ergo the regional
ergo the national 
ergo the international 
Because I'm for anarchy that denies the artist
Because I'm for the artist that cultivates anarchy 
Because I'm for the denial of decision 
Because I'm for the affirmation of this refusal 
Because I'm for open-ended situations
Because I'm against the gravity of property,veto, taboo

Hold on a minute

Are you holding anything back?
I'm holding my position for the ambush which is art
I am privileged because I am dependent and yet independent 
Because I have a moral vein and yet have none
Because I am afraid and yet not afraid
Because I am a daredevil
But I don't want to hurt anyone 
Because I have faith that things that aren't right reduce themselves to absurdity above all in my own case 

i am privileged because i can call this moral/ethical conscience my own and because everything is not so very simple


H Szeemann speaks
a seedling amen

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The facility of stone.

So why bother with these rather challenging kinds of workshop projects ? They're exhausting physically and mentally, and new design ideas are always a bit risky, and have a tendency to look like they could fail spectacularly .  Why knock yourself out with a handful of eager enthusiasts, building all kinds of crazy schist, rather than just be safe and teach a standard course for those who have more of an experience of, and know pretty much already, what can and can not be done with, stone?  

Well, it's because I'm enthusiastic about providing, ( in this case with stone )not just a eye opening , hands on building experience for beginners, but helping demystify or perhaps  unlock in some new way, the human potential for ' collaborative creative accomplishment'  in anything - and thus, potentially, in everything! 

Ordinary people with like interests, who may never have met one another before, get to discover (with the right conditions and a with guidance from an able instructor) what bonding is all about and together make 'something' new  - a 'something' very real, and at the same time quite 'magical' . The effort is worth it . Being provided an opportunity to play and build with stones structurally, those involved  get a taste for creating something unique over a fairly short space of time. The structure they make is not just 'different' or just unusually massive , but often exudes a very permanent sense of proper use of space and time . In the simple act of ordering  natural material we are basically enjoying the art of rearranging elements of our seemingly random existence, (often by luck ) into some meaningful expression of life. Such a fulfilling activity can make us reevaluate other things we do with our time and let our imagination take flight on any given weekend , rather than just do nothing .

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Looking Up

My workshop crew this weekend consists of one man and eight women . This is a good trend . Women generally listen better and apply what is taught rather than just ignore it. I'm happy to say that even though it's a challenging project design and we did get off to a slow start , just  like the students in the photo , everything is looking up now.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Checked off their bucket list .

This weekend nine students get to build a circular dry laid garden feature that will have nine mini  moongates built into it, using five gallon buckets for the forms. What's on your bucket list?

Friday, February 9, 2018

An impressionistic view

Here’s a beautiful garden we visited yesterday.
Many interesting treats for the eye.
However, one section of old garden border wall has nearly rotted out.
The large redwood logs have seen better days.

I see a low dry stone herringbone wall gracing the perimeter.

Replacing the decaying wood border, with a stone wall, could make a good impression.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Floating Boulders

Rather than us being in full control, this project morphed into something i think the stones and the landscape needed it to be. Mark Ricard , Sean and I worked in harmony together with a winning selection of material, jasper, mica schist, basalt, serpentine and gobs of local blue slate  . Almost no saw cuts at all. Just fiddly crunch pulverizing with hammers shaping, and careful finesse fitting. A kind of acoustic unplugged piece that definitely 'sings'.  The rolling curving wall  is framed beautifully in a specially prepared clearing, (what Peter likes to call The Glen). 
It was a pleasure to collaborate with Sean Adcock on this, an original design of mine, which had way more life and vitality waiting to be released than we realized when we first started building it . 
It seems you can't take a bad photo of it . Sean Adcock has proved it .

Photo above by Sean Adcock

Thanks too for hearting help from Melissa Hall.