Saturday, March 31, 2018

What on earth can be made of these?

Let's see. What can we do with this random pile of stones.

I think there's an arch here somewhere.  
(Actually, there is a small one in the photo. Can you see it? )

Same pile, looking south, over the 401.

And now, another arch has risen from the stones  - just a wee bit bigger.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Recognizing the Inevitable

Back in early spring of 2012 I took this photo of a pile of stones that seemed to always be calling out to me from the 401 highway (renamed the Highway of Heros) as I drove east out of Toronto.

Last Friday, March 23rd I started building an arch there. I built it partly as a kind of celebration of life, but as I built it became an act of solidarity with those who marched and stood for an end to gun violence, protesting the lack of proper gun control in America, last weekend in Washington DC.

I've decided to call it the 'Arch for Their Lives'

There is an inevitability about stone. Structures of stone, gathered from the land and later, painstakingly laid by hand, one on top of another, can, if you let them, take on a kind of impending nobility that seems to allude to something more than just the pragmatic. 

Whether it be building with stone for a certain specific purpose, or in this case trying to create something merely whimsical, my efforts to connect with that 'predestined meaningfulness' inherit in natural stone, though a very rewarding activity, is an achievement that often is very allusive. 

I think of it as a kind of 'pre-realization' that stones convey. There is an unconscious knowing, in each of us, of what it was (is?) a long time ago, already needed to be done. If it's done right, even if we had nothing to do with creating it, we still recognize its sense of 'eventuality'.

If were lucky and we're open to it, and we are the ones silently building with the stone, a narrative can be inferred that is more timeless than we originally imagined.  It's as if the stones become something that they've always wanted to be and are saying something they've always wanted to say.

The very stones cry out.  

By its very lonely silent presence, this arch newly emerging from the landscape has somehow been released to become what I, having worked on for days, only now am beginning to understand it needed to be.

The arch is for life. It stands for life. 

Silently and powerfully as Emma Gonzales stood too for life, during those poignant minutes at the end of her speech , (symbolically waiting out the same length of time that the gunman spent at Marjory Stonemason Douglas High School  senselessly ending lives) 

May these stones silently speak too. And may the inevitability of the stone arch stand for what inevitably needs to change in the beliefs and actions of those in America who resist laying down (or even just controlling better) their beloved weapons for the lives of others.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The American Garden Conservancy

The Garden Conservancy

Here's an event Im looking forward to....

Sat, May 5 2018
10:00 AM- 4:00 PM

Admission to each private garden is $7 for members and nonmembers without tickets purchased in advance. 
Buy discounted admission tickets in advance! They can be used at most Open Days to make garden visiting easier.
Nonmembers get 6 visits for the price of 5 with advanced ticket book purchase. 
Members get 50% off ONLY by purchasing ticket books in advance.
 Digging Deeper programs:
At the Mullins' Mendocino Stonezone in Gualala:
 Stone work demonstrations and Q & A throughout the day with lead project craftsmen, John Shaw-Rimmington from Port Hope, Canada, Kevin Carman from Art City in Ventura, California, and John Fisher of Fort Bragg, California. Free with garden admission.
2 PM - Bonsai styling and presentation and display with award-winning bonsai expert Bob Shimon. Free with garden admission.
At the Gualala Arts Center in Gualala: Stone work demonstrations with Stone Foundation members/artists Kevin Carman and John Shaw-Rimmington will answer questions about their stone installations at the Gualala Arts Center throughout the day.
1 PM - Executive Director, David “Sus" Susalla will give tours of the Global Harmony Sculpture Garden.
  • Mullins' Mendocino Stonezone
    Mullins' Mendocino Stonezone
    SAT 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM • 44600 FISH ROCK ROAD. GUALALA, CA, 95445
    Situated among the magnificent redwoods of Northern California, this scenic coastal property allows visitors to explore a myriad of whimsical stone structures, garden follies, and sculptural installations...
  • The Gardens at Harmony Woods
    The Gardens at Harmony Woods
    SAT 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM • 44380 GORDON LANE. MENDOCINO, CA, 95460
    The Gardens at Harmony Woods, nestled into a cathedral of redwoods, reflect a penchant for collecting an enormous range of unusual and beautiful plants. The emphasis is on rhododendrons and conifers...
  • Gualala Arts Center
    Gualala Arts Center
    SAT 10:00 AM- 4:00 PM • 46501 OLD STATE HWY . GUALALA, CA, 95445
    Gualala Arts Center is a 15,000-square-foot visual and performing arts venue on eleven acres of redwood forest that sits one-quarter mile from the Pacific Ocean on the Mendocino Coast.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Bridging Across Pontypool

A photoshop rendering of how the Pontypool dry stone footbridge will look. 

 A unique stone arched footbridge (using no mortar or formed concrete or metal beams ) will be constructed by students taking the special 6 day bridge building seminar to be held near Pontypool (near Bowmanville), Ontario the from July 9th to July 14  2018. 
A beautiful permanent dry stone bridge with stone post handrails will be built to replace the old wooden bridge situated on this lovely property about an hour northeast of Toronto . It will span nearly 10 feet across a narrow manmade pond and will become the focal point of this spectacular sunken rockery garden.

The course will be held over Monday to Saturday, leaving the Sunday as an option to finish up if there is delay because of weather .  It will be taught by John Shaw-Rimmington and one other instructor. Participants will get a unique experience having a full 'hands-on' experience learning to build a traditional Scottish ‘packhorse' bridge with cobbled walking surface. 
The course fee is 200 dollars a day and has been deliberately set low to encourage stone enthusiasts, with or without experience, not just professionals. In addition to students having the standard instructional printed material provided for this DSWAC course, registrants attending the  Pontypool  Mitchell’s Bridge Workshop will get a copy of my recently published book How To Build Dry Stacked Walls and Bridges. If time permits during the build there will be field trip visit to at least one other other dry stone bridge in neighbouring Northumberland County . Lunches will be provided.

All inquiries about attending this course should be directed to or john@dswac,ca  This course is limited to 6 students.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A pictube is worth a thousand worbs

It struck me how close these totally unrelated but adjacent retail businesses signs registered as 'Dry Stone Wall Structure'. Is it just me?  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mother Earth News Magazine Apr/May

stone material culvert property

Taking on the task of building a dry-stacked stone culvert — that is, a stone culvert that doesn’t use mortar — presents the very satisfying opportunity to build something that’ll be strong enough for you to drive a vehicle over and will look very much like a beautiful dry-stacked stone bridge. There’s no reason to go with bags of sand or cement, blocks, plastic, metal, or anything man-made in your finished culvert. With a little bit of effort and the right stone material, a culvert can become the showcase of your property. After all, it’s the first thing people will see when they pull up to your drive. Why not make it stunning?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


The equinox, the seasons, and the changing length of daylight hours throughout the year are all due to one fact: The Earth spins on a tilted axis.

The vernal (tr. spring) equinox (tr. equal night) is upon us today, Tuesday, March 20th.  Both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres will be experiencing an equal amount of daylight hours. For those of us here in the Northern Hemisphere, it marks the beginning of SPRING, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June.

The green arrow on the rock shows an imaginary revolution of a rock representing for the purpose of illustration - the earth on its axis) It has equal shaded green to non-shaded green. This shows on one spin of the earth there is equal length of darkness to daylight at the equinox.

The green arrow in the photo below showing the orientation representing autumn and winter months prior to the equinox, when the earth axis is turned away from the sun, has more of its circular length in darkness,  and so we in the northern hemisphere, up to now, have had days with less daylight (and thus nights are not equal to daylight time. We've missed our time in the sun.

But now it's time to have fun in the sun, 

Spring is nature's way of saying. "Let's Party"

(sorry, for all of you down under)

Monday, March 19, 2018

Multi-Dimensional Stone

Time is a kind of weird 'extra' dimension that can be added to the three dimensions that we commonly understand 'space' to be.  

How would four dimensions look if we tried to show it the same way we see this three dimensional cube (above) on your two dimensional iPhone or laptop screen?

Below is a view of hypercube rotating in four dimensions, where (in four-dimensional space) all eight cubes are always the same, but here are being visualized as having perspective, just the way the rotating three dimensional cube is being 'visualized' in two dimensions above.


There are lots more dimensions, scientists tell us.
Time is divided into three dimensions. Past, present and future. So that makes 6 dimensions already.

How do we show a 6 dimensional object? - Say a three dimensional object (like our cube) as it is as it was and how it will be, - visualizing all 6 dimensions on the same screen?

I'm not sure.

Then there are the dimensions of 'possibility'

How many?

Scientists can't say, but we know there must be lots !

But here's the thing, I figure that stone contains all the dimensions.

Stone is all 'potential', in '3d space', and in past, present and future 'time'.

Don't ask me how I know. I just know.

And so, because we've been given so many dimensions to work with, anyone who understands and tries to create with it, will always be able to do really cool things with the stuff.

Dimensions in stone 

Thanks to Nick Leung for explaining and demonstrating some of these concepts on his website.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

What makes a dry stone waller

Here's a short video that pretty much sums up how I feel about my job. Good stuff. Walling is the best.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Irish stone dough.

When dry stone Waller Paraic Poil was visiting here from Ireland he helped out with a big stone wall project Mark and I were working on. While he was staying With Mary and I, he fancied having some home made bread and showed us how to make his mother’s traditional Irish soda bread.

I noticed he took great care mixing the combining the brown, white flour and the baking soda with the right amount of buttermilk so that the dough was not too moist. After he had firmly kneaded it into a round fleshy lump it looked not unlike a round rock. 

Lots of parallels have been made comparing stones and bread. What was particularly interesting for me however was the visual of the relationship between ‘dry stone’ and its doughy counterpart not being too moist, or rather being ‘dry’ enough. A wetter mixture would be incorrect. It would be too gooey to work with and would not hold its shape, nor would it have the right look or yummy taste after it was baked.

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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 >