Going Public

Navigating the process of a public art proposal feels like a long walk by flashlight through a snowstorm. Signs are unclear and paths become obscure along the way. Because the destination is not a geographically fixed point, there remain, at the conclusion of an artist’s unsuccessful bid to win a competition, questions about where they traveled, and why the trip dead-ended.

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Writing and Reading

This past Wednesday I did a reading at the Aldrich, Barre Vermont’s public library, a beautiful old edifice that well serves its modern patrons. Excerpts from my three published books were assembled under five themes and read from newest to oldest. Audience members remained in their seats for a full hour! The after-questions were intelligent and sincere. I’m grateful to all who came to listen and converse.

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Modeling Clay as a Medium for Design Development

Clay sketches are the instruments of communication I use to express ideas. The truthfulness of any idea is uncovered by thinking and working it through using three-dimensional materials. With clay, a concept forms through the fingers. Questions about a design come up in the activity of applying clay that might not otherwise be addressed until a project is underway. Solving problems in small scale is more easily done than at the full scale of a construction site.

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Dry Stone Walling Workshop at The Stone Trust

It must be said, “The Stone Trust Has It All.” That’s the conclusion I came away with after spending the weekend instructing a Features Workshop there. Not only were the participants an enthusiastic group of talented individuals, the panels they created display the wide variety of possibilities that dry stone offers.

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Slate Bauble

Upon completion, the Bauble perched on its temporary base in the sugarhouse woodshed for three months while the adhesive that held it together cured.

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Dry Stone Art in Nature

Longevity self-validates. Just to have lasted decades in an occupation brings with it a certain degree of credibility. A reputation develops around what’s been done. The integrity of the stoneworker lies in their accumulated projects.

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The Solitary Stoneworker

Conditions being what they were of late with snow storm after snow storm, I stayed away from the stone project in-progress and gave myself a propertyless assignment. The premise was to compile a collection of photos that illustrate the work life of a solitary stoneworker; with myself as the subject and past projects as the source material.

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2017 Stone Projects and Art Travels

The 2017 work year was a variety-pack of projects and travels bringing rocks and people together. Projects from 2017 now lie nestled in snow, while projects for 2018 are already underway.

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Diamond Mines

Environmental artworks in the public domain can quickly fall into the realm of personal legend. One of the best qualities of art in the outdoors is its ability to be endlessly personalized. Each new viewer makes it their own and every return visitor reestablishes their claim to it.

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Stone Fun with Family

A family is held together by those things that their members share with each other. The “giving away” increases the closeness between individuals and tightens the family bonds. Mutual respect grows when a balance of give and take circulates within the tribe.

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Art Above the Arctic

A week on Sørvær in Northern Norway kept me immersed in the land and enveloped by the sea. The atmosphere of this island among islands is reigned by the sky above and waters below. Combined, they create an undeniably powerful influence. My moods changed at the whim of the weather. Even though I’ve spent my adult life working outdoors I’m unconditioned to the reality of light reflected from a vast and shifting water surface, or, tides streaming in and out all around. Grasping the totality of the archipelago's grand and sweeping vistas was a heady experience.

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Something from Nothing

A recent artist residency at AARK in Finland’s western archipelago allowed me the freedom to make something from nothing. There were no tools at hand and none of the materials I’ve grown accustomed to for making artworks. The islands were swept clean of loose stone by the last ice age, leaving a landscape of bedrock, worn smooth. Enough soil caught in low pockets to start the growth of the forest that now thrives there. It was in that birch and evergreen forest that I found my moss muse.

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Stone in Motion

Free stone construction is a practice of seeking. The contents of a pile of loose stone is just waiting to be found out. Everything needed to create a sturdy structure is there. The possibilities are discovered as they’re uncovered, then explored and exploited, one after another. Moment by moment, movement by movement, stones topple into place. Their size, shape and center of gravity are predetermined by the natural forces that made them, but their status in a construction relies on an instant, reflexive response to their stature by the builder.

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Granite Jenga

What could be a more direct expression of form than molding earth in one’s hands? While the modes of earth shaping may vary, the impulse is ages old and remains strong as ever. My personal choice for satisfying the desire for hands-on interpretation of the earthly elements is the manipulation and configuration of loose stone. Within that narrow frame a wide variety of creative endeavors can be manifest.

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Landscape and Lasting Friendships

When they bought the old farmhouse in the early eighties the town road passed within eight feet of the front door. Robin and David Key were willing to overlook that serious drawback because they were in love with the ancient apple trees, the gurgling brook and the wealth of wildlife on the property. All of that was outside the back door just beyond a precipitous drop in the landscape. The retaining wall I would soon build to create a level backyard was the first in a series of dry stone projects we took on together over the following thirty years.

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TCLF Garden Dialogues: Artists in Residence: Vermont

A fourth generation of the Key family has begun to ramble Winhall Hollow. Pond and stream, woods and fields, are the wider setting for their active home and garden life. Into the mix comes long-time friend and dry stone specialist, Dan Snow. He has constructed numerous stone features on the grounds around their house and barns. Stone from the property has been used to fashion steps, patios, retaining walls and fences. Robin Key’s landscape design has seamlessly woven a contemporary aesthetic into the historic fabric of the Hollow.

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The Isosceles Stone Wall

Even without the silhouette of a crosswalking pedestrian or leaping deer, road signs with a triangular outline convey a message of caution; warning the traveler to be aware of what lies ahead. The sharp angles draw attention because they represent sudden change. Survival of the human species has depended on the ability of individuals to recognize signs of change and to adapt quickly to new situations.

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The Stone Hollow

Environmental art serves a wider community. It can prosper plants and animals as well as humans. Art making in nature stirs the pot of local ingredients, recombining elements in ways previously untested. Wild things are opportunists; it’s programed into their DNA for survival. When something new appears in the landscape, ecologies respond. An environmental art work is breeding ground for creative adaptation. Its ultimate use is left up to the invention of its inhabitants.

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