Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rollin Rollin

Once our dry stone installation at Zimart Gallery was completed and the ‘Johnny on the spot’ was rolled in behind the L shaped partition, people could no longer see where the ugly plastic portapotty was. 

Later, if someone standing near the wall needed to use the facility and didn’t know where it was , we were tempted to sing  ( like in the CCR tune ) - There's a bathroom on the right!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Moongate musings

Moonstock July 1969-2019
Q. How will we create the irregular circle-contour shape (above) without having to construct a unique odd shaped plywood form? 
A. By stacking the hole of the moongate with lengths of firewood, as we build up the sides.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Voluntary and Involuntary Inspiration

In Yoga we try to concentrate on our breathing. We try to relax, but before long we realize we've kind of taken over that job that the body normally does without thinking. That which usually does the breathing involuntarily now notices the attention we are giving to our breath and stands back and merely cooperates for a while.. The involuntary allows itself to be subject to the voluntary. 

And now we hold our breath. Our lungs like two planetary bodies hang in space. In the stillness the conscious mind contemplates the incongruity of thinking about not thinking. Who do we think we are now? Neither the conscious mind nor the non-conscious is breathing. The planets have stopped rotating. The rocks have become motionless. Yet time ticks on.

Finally, gasping, we exhale, and take a big breath, and consciously let go of the job of doing the breathing anymore . Whatever inspired us to start breathing again remains something of a mystery .  We eventually just go back to thinking we're in charge again. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Pieces of the puzzle

Below is what a student of mine sent me a photo of a lovely wall he started building , after taking my workshop up in Haliburton 

Below is the post he wrote for his blog about his ongoing walling experience.

Pieces of the puzzle

With a sturdy foundation in place, it was onwards and upwards for the stone garden terrace.
Inside our cottage, Nadine, her mom and a friend were grouping like-minded pieces for a jig-saw puzzle depicting a classic canoe. Outside, I was using the same approach for the stones that would form the second and third courses of the terrace. With like-minded stone close at hand, I could move faster once I started building each course.
canoe puzzle.png
Smelling the roses
My dry-stone mentor John Shaw-Rimmington had advised our class at Haliburton School for the Arts to step back now and again — to see from a distance how the stones fit together.
This was the stone-walling equivalent of smelling the roses. Sometimes a stone that looked good up close was clearly out of order when seen from afar, and could be adjusted or replaced before it became embedded in the structure.
So I did a lot of stepping back and peering at the little stone terrace as it rose next to the cabin. In fact, whenever Nadine caught a glance at me stone-walling, she said I usually had my hands on my hips, arms akimbo, peering at the stones. For inspiration, I nestled a pot of pink and white impatiens next to the terrace.
course number three.png
A student of mine wrote me a nice letter with a photo of a lovely garden wall he recently completed.

Rocking and rolling
By nudging up the string next to the straight section of terrace, and checking its level, I could chase it upwards in slow motion with the stone-building. Stones that rocked and rolled a bit too much were wedged with thin stone shims to get them to settle down. Each course was carefully packed with hearting to get it tight and ready for the next course.
Next door, the farmer was raking his hay.  I could hear the drone of the machine as he swept by. The next day, he came back with the baler and wound the dried hay into huge bundles.  They would be wrapped in white plastic, resembling massive puffy marshmallows, and stored outside to give his cows feed through the long winter.
On a misty summer morning, the hay bales loomed large outside our cottage front door.
hay bale.png
A special blend
As the terrace wall came up with each course, I began to backfill it with some better soil. I trundled with the wheelbarrow over to our nearby veggie garden. There a special blend of quadruple mix was concocted, using equal parts of garden soil, compost, peat moss and some worm castings.
This new soil mix was a step up from the sandy clay next to the cabin, and would provide a nutrient-rich bed for the terrace garden, once complete.
To get the terrace as level as possible for the final layer of heavy capstones, I used slimmer stones in the fourth, and penultimate, course. For the freelance curve at the south end, I had cheated, using just three layers of larger stone. The curve dipped slightly off level, but I made a mental note to try to fix that with the capstones.
Piece by piece
The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. Inside our cottage, the wilderness image of a cedar canvas canoe slowly emerged on our card table as Nadine, Ann and Mary Jo worked on the 1,000-piece jigsaw, after some swimming and kayaking in Minden Lake. Outside, the stone wall was rising.
course four with cabin.png

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The beginnings of a Hobbit Hole

We have started a hobbit hole entrance this week to what will eventually become a domed dry stone grass covered room for having underground chamber meetings. Stay tuned for more enchanting developments later this month.

Monday, July 1, 2019

One giant sleep for mankind.

Fifty years have nearly passed since the landing of a man on the moon. In many way the hopefulness of that era somehow got lost . Many of us now realize we need to wake up and renew our vision. We need to shoot for the moon in our heart and take stock of all the things we’ve forgotten. Let’s celebrate in the hope that mankind can still get back down to earth and start caring for this planet again, and together, enter into a new space of global harmony and consciousness.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

We have this impression that we're in control

We have this impression that we're in control. The thing is we are kind of in control, but it goes both directions. There always has to be equilibrium. For a universe to allow something to go one way it has to be able to go the other way too. Sometimes at the same time.

Monday, June 24, 2019

To bee or not to bee.

We completed our bee bowle structure yesterday. The bees in the ‘skep’ you see in the niche on the right , loved it. The bees on the right have not arrived yet.

The entire project including a lovely set of stone stairs, a large retaining wall, a tree well, an access ramp, several niches, bee sculpture and other carvings was created by the friendly gathering of dry stone enthusiasts and professional instructors you see here.

My two best helpers Christina and Helena sat down for a brief moment for a photo before Helena (on the right ) had to return to the Czech Repepublic.

Friday, June 21, 2019

An Irish Tower

Patrick McAfee gave a great presentation here in Austria last night at the Garden Landscaping School in Langenlois. This is an Irish Tower he designed, taught us how to build and helped construct himself in California.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

A visit to Hubert Seidl’s

Thea alvin sits in front of dry stonework by Hubert . It’s a kind of aqueduct that sends water to a stone-lined pond he’s made in a peaceful dry stone courtyard.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Reclaiming and repurposing the past.

Hubert Seidel has been building with hundreds of tons of reclaimed stone over the last dozen years. His property near Krem Austria is a delight to visit. Arches niches sculpture aqueducts seating areas ponds, and much more are there to be discovered, and enjoyed. I need to devote another page to his work tomorrow. 

Monday, June 17, 2019

A bit of an inspired innovation

It occurred to me on a recent job we were doing, that horizontally laid stones in a coursed retaining wall with ‘vertically’ laid backing would be actually much stronger than having both back and front stones conventionally laid horizontally. I’ve asked a colleague, and he agrees.
The upright stones at the back are much tighter, they can’t sheer/slide the way they would be prone to if laid flat, and they are much easier to fit in place than trying to lay them level.
So that’s going to be the way we do it from now on.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

On Target

Why are we so concerned about the cracks. We are always trying to get rid of them, or at least make them smaller . We have the sense that the crack represents failure. We don’t like the way cracks make something look old, and therefore kind of useless.  We think, if there were no cracks everything would be okay.

But cracks are here to stay. In fact they are kind of okay! Sure, some big ones might need to be seen to but there is often no need to try to make the smaller ones smaller. There is definitely no need to try to glue everything together so there are no cracks.

In a dry stone wall it’s the pattern of cracks that allows the thing to stay connected.
Something that doesn’t have any cracks, or can’t crack, can end up breaking, and that, is a very different thing.
Cracks in a way, are what keeps things together.

Cracks allow for movement while keeping the context of overall shape.
Cracks allow for renewed tightness between the whole.

If we aim for tightness it means the thing will have to have joints. 
If there are no cracks there is only static resistance. Nothing grips. A thing that can’t crack can only shatter. We need to get a grip on the fact that it is the humble crack allows for us and everything else to stay on target. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Hands Free and Vertically Challenged

With so many hands-free devices at our finger tips, all this handy technologically designed to keep us safe, makes it hard to find things for our hands to do that involve the possibility of getting them scratched or pinched. Luckily there is still the activity of building with stones. 

Maybe the old expression - it’s all fun till someone gets hurt - should be changed to, it’s not that much fun if there’s no risk of getting hurt. Anyway apart from a few scratches, we had a bang up time building with about 40 tons of this pile of very odd shaped chunks of random granite, even though it was pretty challenging to try to build ‘vertically’. 

 It comes in such a lovely variety of pastel shades. Well actually, it comes in trucks from a quarry an hour north of Salzburg. 

Thanks to Pflastermeister Ing. ( Mario and Carola Tomasek) for the opportunity to present a different spin on the craft of building in the dry stone method, for the hand full of students here in Schwanenstadt, Austria. More photos to come.

Friday, June 14, 2019

From chaos to order.

As dry stone wallers, we look at the chaos of a random pile of stones and try to make some kind of fence of it.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

How much do students gather in another language.

Teaching walling in Austria this week with my fragmented vocabulary ( very broken German) the problem of overcoming the translation barrier is happily hurdled by having the students first learn to build miniature 'barriers' with 'broken fragments' of stone that they previously gathered.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Volkswagens and Crib Mattresses

Like when you say 'it was the size of a Volkswagen', I’m thankful there are common things that people are familiar with, that make it easier to describe how big some of the stones are, that we have to try to move sometimes - like crib mattresses.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Making the world a little less ugly , one ‘Johnny on the Spot’ at a time.

Our two day ‘Hide-a-porta-potty-with-a-dry-stone-wall workshop’was held last weekend. It went well. And now the portable toilet is well hid. No, it wasn’t right there, being used while we built the wall!

Anyway, the upper third of the wall was completed later by Mark and me . It’s over 8 feet high and hides a lot of shitty plastic.

I really don’t know why you don’t see a lot more dry stone partition walls like this, or maybe I should say, I don’t know why we can’t start to see a lot fewer of these ugly toilets at outdoor venues everywhere ?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Painting with her eyes

I Collect Rocks, Paint Eyes On Them And Return Them To The Landscape To Be Found Or Lost Forever 

On a recent residency with Q Bank Gallery in Queenstown, Tasmania I began a project of transforming collected rocks into painted eyes and returning them to the landscape to be found or lost forever.
Queenstown has an extensive mining history and there were many unusual rocks everywhere. So I began a collection and what started as something for myself grew into a treasure hunt/community art project.

Jennifer Allnutt is a contemporary figurative artist based in Melbourne, Australia.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Writers Block

As a person who tries to think of ways of doing fairly interesting things with pretty ordinary stones, Its much easier when you experience any kind of Creative Block 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A tidy wall makes for a tidy yard.

The Blossoms of the Magnolia tree look so beautiful on the branches and yet so messy when you see them on the ground below . It's good to have a stone wall in front of the tree, to hide the mess.

Friday, May 24, 2019

It’s all water under the bench

Can you imagine
Years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.

Paul Simon

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Space Gravel

Rock-stars, moon-stones, sun-showers and shooting-shards are all part of space gravel. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

What’s cement got to do with it?

Permanent dry laid walls have well fitted stones that can often look like they’re just meant to be together, but this satisfying look of ‘inevitability’ is rarely achieved when you cement them together.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Ironically, there is nothing concrete about this.

Aqueduct of Segovia. The Romans built this out of rocks that didn’t end up going to the crushers to be made into concrete. It is basically built dry laid, without any mortar.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Not cement to happen.

All over the world, unimaginably huge amounts of natural stone are blasted out of our planet and busted up into chunks and dragged kicking and screaming to the cement factories to be made into cement. 

Perfectly good stones for building with, are taken for their last ride up to the massive rock eating machines, that turn them into powder, to make endless manufactured concrete products

Tomorrow, let's look at some of the more natural, less destructive, less carbon-emitting, less fuel-consumptive, less mind-numbingly polluting things, that could have been done with these rocks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Are You Experienced?

Stone is the medium most able to experience us !
We are it’s ‘other’.
And yet the solid non-ego consciousness of stone remains impervious to the mindless barrier ‘other’ materials pose to our meeting.
It looks for us. It reaches out to touch us.
We are strangely mindful of this, and as we touch it and work with it, we say we ‘know’ the stone, and trust that it knows us.
Stone is only able to be known of us, because we have already been known of it.
If we experience it and are touched by its essence, it is because we are experienced by the stone.
And in time, some of that experience may be given to us.

The question ‘Are you experienced’ has less to do with any skill or knowledge we’ve acquired and much more to do with appreciating that wonderful something, beyond us, experiencing us.

Friday, May 10, 2019



To make Peace takes a lot of creativity , a lot of initiative, 
A lot of new incentive,
It takes a lot of beginner stuff, pure hopeful unsullied enthusiasm and ...
It takes people who may not believe it can't be done. 
It takes beginners .

Professional people often have only bad experiences to go on, they just seem to know how to make war .
They think to solve aggression they need to be professional.

The peacemakers- the bridge builders build a sense of connectedness between human beings, between us and nature  between our small place in the cosmos and the rest of the cosmos.
These bridge builders are all beginners . 
A bridge likes this gives me hope, and I hope it gives others hope .
Make bridges not WAR 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Former Training.

Removing the wooden form (the former) out from under the bridge is not unlike taking the training wheels off a child’s bicycle. 

For a certain length of time, some sort of support is needed , but then, in a moment of time, that dependence suddenly disappears. That which was there has served its purpose.  

The bridge, and the child, have discovered how to stay upright on their own.

The magic happens, and then it’s all just water under the bridge.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Franklin Bridge

Photo by Franklin Smith 

The experience of the last five days felt a bit like the dry stone equivalent of a major musical performance. I had been invited to come to Asheville to conduct members of a guest orchestra . The stone/musicians had not seen the music before but sight read and performed the ‘bridge piece’ perfectly. Bravo orchestra !

Monday, May 6, 2019

Just enough.

Our bridge is small enough for children to play on
Wide enough to walk over
High enough for the stream to flow under
Sturdy enough to last a long time...

And big enough for all our friends.