Dan Snow is one of those rare craftsmen with this awesome talent to create great work, and be able to talk and write quite eloquently about that great work.
I found this essay written by Dan on Boston.com about the life of stone as they go from one owner to another, from one purpose to another.
Here’s the photo from the essay. this kind of work takes some real experience, skill, patience and understanding of the stone you are working with.
Dan on the importance and history of the stone fence in New England
Stone fences were an important tool of order for early American farmers. They were the warp and weft of the cultural fabric. Rules for height, location, and maintenance of fences were strict. The laws of the day were truly written in stone. A town’s “fence viewer” held a powerful position in the community. Even now the office sometimes survives as an unpaid, symbolic appointment.
These original builders were not stone mason but farmers trying to find ways to use stones that were cluttering their fields. Tough, hard, underappreciated work.
Thankfully most folks look at stone work today and see/appreciate the beauty in the stone work whether it be walls, fences, out-buildings, bridges, etc. Even then, most miss how tough, how hard and how much skill is needed to work with the stone.
It’s tough work but when you find a pile of stone and are lucky enough to get into a rhythm with the stone as your placing/building it’s . . . it’s like a magical thing.
A derelict old wall can be restored to its original profile, but even when the same stones are used, it can never be the same wall twice. Every builder will handle the stones differently, resulting in a unique creation every time.
Man, how true is this. Spend some time with a collection of stone masons and whatever the number of guys is, is the number of opinions you will get on how to put a pile of stones together.
To get a true appreciation for Dan’s work read In the Company of STONE