A Stone Turtle

Dan Snow, Stone Turtle Sculpture
Dan Snow, Stone Turtle Sculpture

When a favorite customer asked me if I would consider making an animal, any animal, out of dry stone last summer I immediately said, ‘yes’. Then the puzzling began. What animal shape could I fashion that would be recognizable, and also durable, using only dry stone techniques? It was especially important to the customer that children could climb on the completed piece. With a site in their field picked out as the location, I began thinking about possibilities.

The more animals I thought about, the further from a design I got. Over the summer and fall while carrying out projects in Newfoundland and Denmark I kept the animal project in the back of my mind. I finally gave up trying to come up with an animal design and suggested a completely different idea to my customers. Would they consider a petrified tree stump as a feature in their field. They very graciously said ‘ok, maybe that would be fine’. But while making the clay model, and full-scale mock up, of the tree stump I was freed from the animal idea and, of course, a turtle popped into my head.

When I brought up the subject of turtles, my customers were delighted and told me a story about the snapping turtle that lived in their pond. They had, on occasion, watched its annual trek up into the field to lay its eggs. So, a big stone turtle at the top of the field that looked as though it was heading for water turned out to be the perfect answer to the question I’d asked myself months before.

Choosing six curved slabs from my stockpiles in the stone yard I temporarily arranged them on a mound of sand to get the proper measurements to begin the belly of the sculpture. Five boulders selected from my woods would become the legs, tail and head.

There’s a significant amount of luck that goes into being able to create a successful one-of-a-kind dry stone landscape feature. There’s also a requirement in the belief that things will come together when the time is right if one is patient and remains open and receptive to all that the world has to offer.