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Thanks for the workshop in Richmond Ca, you and Dean were great. It was a rewarding couple of days...on many levels-community, exercise, creativity. I have a new respect for rocks just as they are, no chisels, drills or sledgehammers.
Hope to see you at the SF Garden Show. And wall the best to you too,
Thank you not only for the workshop and your efforts there but
also for posting the photos on the DSWAC web page. It really is
rewarding to review the experience.
Dear John and Mary and Dean;
The workshop last weekend (Jan 17-19, 2008) exceeded my expectations in unimaginable ways. Not only did we learn about the art and craft of 'dry-walling' but, in the congenial company of the group, had great fun in the process. This opportunity to work with master artisans-cum gifted teachers in the warmth of the Grafton barn, then, at the end of the day enjoy the hospitality of the Shaw-Rimmingtons, cumulatively produced an unforgettable experience. Beyond learning the 'mechanics' of building stone walls, there dividends galore ....all unanticipated. There was immense satisfaction that came from working with these organic materials, from participating in a collective act of creation, from realizing there were universal truths to be gleaned in the areas of problem solving, philosophy , ecology, history and art. And at the end of the day the amazement that all of this was provoked by the simple handling of the stone! In fact, I've concluded that building a dry-stone wall is a fitting metaphor for life: take a pile of old rock and rubble, decide it has the potential to be something beautiful and useful, then set about build it. Whatever the toil of the process, the enjoyment and pleasure the end product will generate for many lifetimes is priceless
So thank you Mary John and Dean for your passion and commitment to this art form and for dedicating yourselves to passing it on.
Hey John, I just recieved you book . I decieded to pour my self a glass of johnny walker blue label to get into character and read your book or should I say view it.. I have to say I was really pleased with my purchase..I have been doing masonry for 12 years now and collected a lot of books. I love all types of masonry. I find it really inspiring that someone has devoted so much of his life to a certain type of stone work; by this I mean dry stone. To tell you that I love masonry all the time, I would be lying.There are some days I hate work and I want to take a pointed chisel and drive it into my head. But it's the end product I love so much. It seems you really love the whole process of building, not just the final shot... But it's the stones I have a undying love for, and after viewing your work, I can tell we share this undying love and respect for rocks. Oh, by the way my favorite piece in the book is the two circle pillars with the inner circle at the top, and the lights on top. I have seen alot of crazy walls, and everything else like that, I have even seen helixes (albeit mortared) even built them. My good friend Micheal Eckerman out of santa Cruze Ca Is one of the best masons in the world for these type of pieces, so they don't really impress me any more, but it's the formal pieces that impress me, the bridges,, the crisp pillars the arches, stuff in your book. I feel that you should learn these before you ever try to do something artful, so many masons skip this step. But anyway I tip my glass to your work, and thanks for sharing your world with me. In a country as beautful as Canada it's hard to imagine anything out that way without beautiful dry stone walls.
Thanks Dan. Hope we can work together on a project some day. John
I wanted to thank you for the dry stone wall course on Jan 17 and 18 in Grafton. It was a challenge for me but I learned a lot.
John and Dean, you have different styles and I am glad to see the variety. Both of you are encouraging and I appreciate that.
I quite enjoyed the Nova video about the trebuchet because I am interested that stuff. I also would have enjoyed just an evening chatting with class mates over dessert. That would promote relationships which could perhaps lead to other stone wall events.
Hi ya John 'n Mary,
I'm so pleased that the coarse went so well and glad that you were able to
book our places (phew). Nice work and looked like fun. We Look forward to
attending this summer when we can figure out our schedule... I (robert) am
enjoying exploring the new life at StoneMad. Well done and thanks to all
involved... I believe it is already proving itself in many areas... fun
watching it evolve.
Do you offer talks to teach people about the walls and how they can be looked after? I know you have your two day ones but what about one that is only 2 or 3 hours long? We are thinking of organizing a seminar that would include a number of topics for the homeowners and I thought dry walling might be one.
One last point - Loved the website! I have visited it 3 times in the last month and each time it was different. Very nice.
yes we do Cherri
I and several DSWAC members have given power point presentations about dry stone walls and stone garden features across Canada.
Cherri Hurst, Weston Heritage Conservation District
I live in the Weston, Ontario area. This is now a part of Toronto but at
one time it was a village on it's own. It has a rich history to it and
part of that history is the ubiquitous river stone walls that are now an
integral part of the area. These walls were originally done in the dry
stone technique by a Scottish immigrant named James Gilbert Gove. He used
stones brought up from the Humber River and painstakingly (as you would
know) worked for 40 years in the area. Many of the walls are now slathered
in mortar and every once in a while someone tears one down and throws the
stones away, much to our chagrin. The City of Toronto being the biggest
culprit. We are trying to raise awareness of the history, workmanship and
beauty of these creations in the neighbourhood. The grandson of Mr. Gove
is getting a plaque put in to commemorate the walls, plus a cenotaph and a
house (not dry stone I believe). I am trying to find some information on
the building, preservation and restoration of dry stone walls to further
Can you help me?
I came across your site by accident and am completely in awe over your
work. I am retired and living on North Pender Island (Southern Gulf
Islands between Victoria and Vancouver BC). I have been building things
with field stone and mortar for the past 4 or so years and had no idea that
you could build things out of dry techniques. My daughter calls me the
"free-range stone mason" because I only use what I have on our 3 acres. I
would love to find out more information.
Thank you for the review on the web site. Your comments are all very well taken.
As I said in my note on the insert to the DVD, I started with the idea of making a loosely "how to" and ended up learning more about myself and what I thought of it all, and the idea of sharing this fascination and source of joy is a lot of what it's about. As you can tell, the music is also very important to me, both to help the work flow along, and in its own right. I have learned a couple hundred old songs now, and a good day for me (yesterday for example) is about six hours of walling in the cold sunny air, followed by a couple hours of playing the guitar and a hot meal. That's low cost value added entertainment. . . . :-)
I had a wonderful time making the film, partly because it put me on an intense binge of building, for every hour we spent filming I spend forty or fifty just working on the wall. Same with deciding what songs to put in the film, and recording a bunch of them.
Don't worry about not having had a chance to meet, I think we will meet, I may come up for some formal training, and you may be down here for a project or travel. Let me know, I will always be here working on my walls.
Best regards and thank you again for your kindness and your comments.
Although Finland has a flourishing stone industry it is confined to
high quality granite for veneers and kitchen worktops and such like. I
have to get stone from quarries that usually crush the stone into hard-
core so in effect your scraping the barrel for decent stone. When I
look at the stone used on some of your projects I could weep at the
quality of the stone. It has taken me a long time to make contacts here
and finally start to get stone that ican at least split with feathers
and wedges. Much of the stone in Helsinki area is migmatite which is
basically a waste of time trying to split into workable shape.
I thought the weather conditions in Canada would be similar to here in
respect to frost penetration depth. I have to go 50cm deep to prevent
frost heave and if needed (clay for instance) put in a drainage pipe to
carry any excess water away. Like everything else in Finland there are
rules and regulation and they are followed to the letter. Maybe that's
why the society works in such an inhospitable area, both geographically
Fortunately I get to escape sometimes and I travel around the Baltic
area looking at dry stone structures. This preserves my sanity as I get
to meet on the odd occasion another stone lover. I was glad to have
read about your recent erection of a Bee-Hive hut. Life is full of
coincidences as it just happens I am leaving for a short break this
coming week to Croatia to look at the Croatian "Kazun", a local beehive
style hut, which litter the countryside in the Istrian area on the
Slovenian border. They have their roots in Greece I believe and the
style dates from 2000 BC. I plan to build on here in Helsinki next
summer so the visit is more a fact finding trip than for pleasure.
Problem here is l could find it difficult to get stone of such a
regular shape as you used in Canada to such good effect.
I have visited your web pages from its earliest conception and have
marvelled at how professional it has become over time. It is probably
the best maintained and topical stone related web info site on the web
along with Stonexus which I quess you are aware of. As a fellow Scot
residing overseas l suspect you carry the same mental baggage of making
sure you leave a good impression to the natives of your ability to not
only integrate but pass your skills onto a future generation.
In the fifteen years I have been working here I have only met two
other guys who can build to a good standard and one of them is over 70
and lives beyond the Arctic Circle. I found myself stagnating from a
creative perspective, building solely retaining walls,the odd free
standing dyke and paths and walkways. With the rise of the internet l
found the DSWA which spurred me on a touch and then yourself and
Stonexus which have rekindled my hope in continuing this hard craft.
Maybe I have to get out more often!!!
Whatever, it was nice to write something down and as a last question
is your membership confined only to Canadian citizens or do you have an
"international" membership? Ultimately I would love to come over to
Canada to spend sometime working or at least do a workshop combined
with a holiday. I will of course keep visiting your web pages and enjoy
the stonework within.
All the best,
What a wonderful letter.
I feel like you and i could become good friends
The work you are doing in Finland sounds challenging
As you probably have surmised i HATE veneers
and crushing stone seems like a crime
And yes i can see why it is a struggle to do real structural dry stone work
when you are so limited by the stone selection available there after the commercial vultures have finished with it
I dig a 6 in deep footprint for my walls, the width of the wall , where i in put 3/4" clear sharp stone aggregate in the trench , not to stop the frost but allow drainage and proper bedding of the base stones
i like to think that no matter how severe the frost the a well built dry stone wall will accommodate the movement rather than fight it and break apart
I must look up the Croation Kazun you mention.
I wonder if any of our members have heard of this specific name for the beehive structure you have described
yes you can become a member no matter where you live.
thank you for your kind words about our web site and the association
please do try to visit some time and join one of our workshops or demonstration events
wall the best!
Thanks for your comments.
The garden wall came out fantastic and
I've gotten lots of nice compliments.
The larger wall we decided to abandon,
because its location blocked a view of a garden
under a lilac in the rear of the yard and
because the patio is quite small to start.
Adirondack chairs around the firepit was
The patio also came out nice and
looks especially good wet.
I did not use any sealer/glosser/etc.
I'll dig up some pics for you.
Thanks Jim Wesolowski for sending this email. Your blog site is well worth our members having a look at and reading your thoughtful musings about the attractiveness of dry stone walling.
Hello, I have enjoyed looking at your site and thought you might enjoy
another web page on working with stone at:
It has to do with a stonemason's philosophy of working with stone and his
stone creations. If you would like to link this web page that would be fine
with me, the page's stonemason/writer.
In Southern New England, USA
I concur with mr Grabowski. It would be great to have some sort of forum to pass information along!
Thank you for your inquiry Dave
The dry stone arch is just north of Mt Pleasant, Ontario, on the west side of Emily Park Rd, ( the main north south road that runs through the small town of Mt Pleasant)
It stands at the crest, high on the hill and overlooks rolling pasture hills and the road to the east
I would love to know where the stone arch was built in mt.pleasant ontario.
I am a local and am interested in seeing if the arch is still there. please
please tell me with where it was located or what road it was off of. thanks
Thank you for your inquiry Dave
John, just a short note to let you know how much we appreciate the artistry and creativity displayed in our beautiful dry stone wall. It is certainly the centre of attention on the street. The wonderfull collection of photographs in the book of your work, including your most recent project, is a pleasing addition to our coffee table collection.
We are certain that the upcoming house tour will focus local attention on your highly regarded wall building skills.
Our sincere thanks,
M & B Anglin
My husband and I really enjoyed the stone wall workshop at Kingsmere last summer. There was a moment on Sunday morning where I just felt an overwhelming ‘wow’. It’s amazing to think that we were creating something that will be appreciated for many years to come and be a small part of a historical site. I’m certain there are many other stone wall projects our my future. We have always enjoyed working together on projects on our property, but I think that stone wall building will become more of a passion than any other.