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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Tilting Day Time?

This is the moment in the earth’s orbit where its lean towards the sun gives us the longest time of daylight in one 24 hour period ! So why don’t we lean even more that way, and get even longer days?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


We must not give in to A. I.  -  that is, Artificial Insanity.
There is still enough REAL to go around.
Non-plastic flowers still can bloom in our gardens and be picked and put in vases and last long enough for us to remember life is not an act, not a facsimile, not something we can pretend is close enough to real that it doesn't matter.
Of course it matters.
Life is not artificial.
Matter matters and it is ALL real.

Rocks may be our last chance to turn this rampant artificial insanity around.

Rocks are not trying to be anything else. Rocks don't need to be imitated. Rocks shouldn't be fake. The artificial has to stop somewhere. We have enough fake gold, pretend amusement, synthetic food, made up lives and fabricated lies to sink a planet.

The rocks can save us if we listen to them, if we don't mute their voices staring at plastic versions.

Our planet is mostly rock. Our earth is made of reality.  It will not go well if we fool ourselves into thinking we will make do in some fake world we have manufactured for ourselves. No amount of insanity, or intelligence, can replace the truth of one single REAL rock.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Shade Boarding

There's no skating the heat today
Every rock you touch is hot
The sun burns down 
Your strength is sapped
No walls are capped
Nothing can be made 
Even in the shade 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Herding Sheep

You rarely see Border Collies and border walls in Canada both ‘working’ together to round up sheep. 

The place was Balsam Lake Ontario 
The time? Last Friday. 

The wall? Just one of some the many sections we’ve restored over the past 14 years. 

The dogs? Just prizewinning shepherding dogs owned and trained by Kevan Gretton and Catherine 

The ‘experience’ was a pilot event organized by Debra Soule, economic development officer for the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Half way through the second day workshop

The pilot program is going well.

The Balsam Lake walls, where we were 'work-shopping' yesterday, will soon be on an interactive map showing art and/or historicaly interesting points of interest in and around the City of Kawartha lakes. 
There will be signs put up too, marking where these lovely old Scottish walls are, many of which are over 150 years old.  We better hurry and get this interactive one completed.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Large Boulders ? No problem.

I was asked to help develop a pilot program for the City of Kawartha Lakes Tourism,Arts,Culture and Heritage Development Department involving instructing a wall restoration course at Balsam Lake as part of a two day 'Experience' that will be offered as a package holiday adventure here in Southern Ontario. Yesterday we took down a section of 150 year old wall that was showing signs of collapsing and had spread out at the base. Property owner Doug Patterson and I, with the help of some capable promotional and marketing women, pushed some very large granite boulders back into place in preparation for rows of limestone material to be then laid above them today  .

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Key to creativity.

Looking more like a 'keyhole' now, our 'bowl bench' is taking shape. This local limestone (from the Smith Falls ,Ontario area) breaks along parallel cleavage lines, leaving lots of flag material (or as Mark says 'plates') to choose from. We are finding laying it vertically in a more Irish style is giving the circle strength and a pleasing dynamic look.  The trick too is not to have fresh breaks showing, ( just natural faces) or chisel too much so that the finished piece looks vaguely neolithic. That said, this installation is turning out to be a bit of a challenge. I like creating structures I've never done before, and so I remind myself that usually means taking a risk. As my friend John Fisher the sculptor says,  "True artistic output is an act of desperation".

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Seating Area

Looking rather like a moongate lying down, our ‘bowl bench’ is now beginning to look like something.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Lean back and imagine you're in a different time.

Here's a visualization of a project we're starting this week. A dry laid concave circular reclining area nestled in a inverted bowl-shaped hill. The splayed entrance invites you towards the narrow opening that then opens up into a cozy protected 'gathering area'. Hopefully the grassy mound and passageway will have similar appeal to that of various rounded sections of ancient Roman earthworks I've seen on my visits to Britain..

Monday, June 11, 2018

Both Sides Done

Eight students, two day workshop.

Students who took the May 20th Dry Stone Walling Across Canada workshop in Rockport might be interested to see their shorter section of wall has now been completed and matches the longer wall we built last year on the other side of the lane.

Again, well done to the students, and to everyone who was involved.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Well on its way Not to be a Ruins

Photo by Paul Murphy of Merchants Gate Films

Even though we didn't quite get it finished during the five day festival of Stein and Wein in Langenlois Austria, we made a significant landmark nestled among the rolling hills of this beautiful vineyard landscape. 

In my talk the previous Friday, I had pointed out that when you are building structures with dry stone, you can pretend that they are supposed to be rustic ruins until you come back to finish them. Then again, if it is to just be a ruins, and you need more work, you can keep adding to it for as long as it is expedient. 

Many thanks to Helmut and the whole crew who made this part of the five sided hut such a success. Sorry to leave my Irish, Austrian and German friends behind. Missing from this photo are Martina, Elizabeth,Reiner, Herman and Renate who also were big helpers.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Finding my niche

There will be several niches like this one I just completed in the five sided hut we're building at Wein and Stein festival in Langenlois Austria .There will be a chunk of blue green or red stain glass that lets the light into the vaulted roofed interior.  There is a beehive of activity today trying to get the hut to a height we will still need to leave for Helmut and his capable crew to finish before the end of July for the gardening school's special celebration .

Several types of stein are being used in the construction of the hut including dense limestone and dimensional and irregularly shaped granite. There are many different students and professionals in the project. The challenge is to get the Stein and the volk to work together.

I have been so impressed with the hospitality and provision of those hosting this event. There has been a much appreciated routine of good tasting Austrian cuisine and an amazing variety of refreshments each day. 

The project has taken five days now and during this short time I have made many new friends and been reacquainted with others I've had the pleasure of working with before  (from Ireland Austria and Germany) who all have discovered this same love of stein. It's a wonderful niche to explore.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Vintage building

Another hot day lifting heavy stones onto the walls of the five sided hut .
Great helpers, great food, great learning, great experience and great exercise . Thirsty work too. Luckily there were copious clusters of fresh grapes on the vines in the vineyard where we're working to refresh our parched pallets . 

But I jest. They are jest photoshopped. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Helmut Schieder

Helmut  Schieder (organizer of  Stein and Wein stands confidently in the opening of the five sided hut we are building in the hot hot tropical Austrian sun. It's about one fifth done. We have three more days.