Gravitational Pull and Push

Dry stone walling instruction introduces the two faces of gravity to workshop participants. Gravity is both glue and lubricant; holding stones in place and slipping them apart. Opposites are at work at all times and that dichotomy is at the heart of dry stone construction.

The earth’s gravitational force is pervasive, ever-present and unstoppable. It’s also imperceptible to the senses, so, it’s easy to ignore, or, at the very least, think of it as something inert and benign. We deal with it constantly in our lives without giving it much direct thought.

Walling puts stone in relationship to gravity as much, or perhaps more, than it puts stone in relationship to stone. In walling, stone is the language through which we speak to gravity. Students open a dialogue with gravity when they place a stone. With time and practice they begin to direct that conversation.

In the beginning, gravity talks to itself or makes categorical declarations, leaving the student feeling like they’ve shown up for a game in which the rules are only known to the other player. Slowly, the personality of the playmate emerges. Good nature and bad attitude cohabitate in gravity. The idea for the student of walling is to speak with gravity's better angels through stone choices and placements. Any value in the dry stone walling instruction I offer is in its potential to help students learn to sweet talk gravity.

Two, two-day workshops for the city of Boise’s Watershed Education Center saw a total of 13 participants create 48’ of 4.5’ high dry stone fence. They re-purposed sandstone quarry waste to build a beautiful feature on the grounds of a waste treatment facility! The quarry rubble and saw shed cutoffs cost $20 per cubic yard, making it an affordable, local resource.

My thanks to the many folks who made our time in Boise, Idaho over the past week a pleasure, including, Boise City Department of Arts and History, Boise City Public Works, Boise City Purchasing, Russell Corp staff, Boise Watershed Exhibits, the Watershed River Campus Design Team, the Watershed Center staff, and workshop participants Karl Leclair, Evelyn Hadden, Deborah Hudson, Karen Bubb, Jay Blackhurst, Matt Grover, Mat Slater, Byron Folwell, George Mackie, Helena Kruczynska, Josh Olson, Francis Fox, and Mark Baltes.