Stone projects at the new old house

We loved the setting of the new house. The ancient Sugar Maples in the yard, the apple orchard, the barn, and the pond made for an idyllic New England setting and we decided to go for it…. unfortunately, our “new” circa 1850 saltbox style house was just as small as our former circa 1850 saltbox house. No problem, we are good at renovation!

Although the house was old, most of the interior had been rebuilt in the 1960’s after a catastrophic fire. The 60’s not being my favorite architectural period made contemplating another big renovation/restoration plan seem like a reasonable idea. Like most renovation projects, the scope the project grew and GREW. Every time we turned a corner, we discovered something else that needed to be redone. Maybe I will blog about that another time.

Our renovations took the better part of a year, during which time we continued to live in our old house.

our son wasn’t at all sure about this…the fireplace before and after

After we were well underway on the main living spaces I decided to address the issue of the 8’ by 8’ 1960’s stone fireplace that dominated the small front room. It was too modern looking for my taste; I wanted something smaller made of river stone.  Since we were doing a complete renovation on the house, it was not a problem to wreck off the old fireplace and fill the living room with piles of stone and bags of mortar while I worked on the project. Bret and Amy gave us access to the stones in their creek and I rebuilt the face of the fireplace with this beautiful worn stone. We had a lot of fun searching the creek beds for the perfect stones with which to build the arch. Our friend Gavin, a real stone mason, built me an ingenious wooden form to support the arch during the construction phase. The form was designed to drop down after the mortar had set, and it worked perfectly.
We have lived in the new house for 12 years now, and it has been fun rebuilding the many collapsed walls on the property .

The most ambitious wall to rebuild in terms of length was the 300 foot wall that lines the driveway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most ambitious wall in terms of the weight of the stones was this one to the right of the barn which contains many huge limestones. I found that with some antique pry bars and a heavy duty hand truck, you can move stones weighing a couple hundred pounds by yourself!

 

 

 

 

This wall defines the courtyard to the side of the barn. We keep our maple syrup boiler in this section of the barn, and boil the sap down in the courtyard in early spring.

Stones and stone walls…the beginning

I had always collected small stones and have always loved anything built of stone, but I never thought of doing it myself until I moved into my first house(circa 1850)  which was so close to the road that the cars whizzing by seemed about to enter the living room.  After an accident during which a car spun out and overturned just a few feet past our house, (nobody was hurt thankfully), we were very motivated to  build a stone wall barrier between our house and the road.

My future husband Paul and I each tackled a section on either side of the front walkway. Neither of us had any experience, we only knew the basic stone mason’s mantra of “one over two and two over one”. Thanks to the relatively flat local bluestone, our efforts were somewhat successful and along the way I discovered that I totally loved wall building! For me it is a great complimentary activity to the fine detail work required in jewelry making. If you like doing jigsaw puzzles, you might like wall building. As in puzzle building, one has to remember the location of as many stones as possible from the pile, and be able to picture how they will fit.  I particularly love that with perseverance and some time,  a woman of average size and strength can build a massive wall!
Over the years that we lived in and renovated the house, my most ambitious stone project was working on re

storing the collapsed terraces behind the house. If you like gardening, (which I do), stone walls provide a fabulous background for flowers. While I worked on the terraces, Paul rebuilt the gorgeous exposed stone foundation.

We loved the old house with it’s hand hewn beams and wide plank floors, but by and by we had two sons and as the boys grew, our little house seemed to become ever smaller. The living room contained the wood stove, our only source of heat, and so we all gathered there in cold weather. We shared the space first with toy trains, tracks and cars, which were followed by a vast collections of K’nex and then legions of  Legos. After stepping on lots of small plastic parts repeatedly, we realized that we had to move to a larger space. We looked for a new house for a couple years and then were lucky enough to know someone who knew someone who was selling an old farm house that was 400 feet off the road. The hardest part of moving was leaving behind my terraces and walls so I was really happy to see that our next house had plenty of stones around!

Irish Inspirations: Part 2

After leaving Killarney National Park, we continued our journey south to County Cork and the home of my Irish ancestors, the McKewans and the Renehens. This was my second visit to this area; the first was in 1976 when my mother and I bicycled the Irish coast exploring the homeland of my great great grandfather.

As we journeyed south, I was intrigued with the craggy stone walls that seemed to be everywhere. Huge slabs of limestone stacked at all angles made for amazing sculptural formations. Having built a limestone wall myself I know how sharp and heavy this stone is to work with and that the larger stones must weigh well in excess of 100 pounds!

 

Southern Ireland, which is moderated by warm ocean currents, does not have frost heaves like we do here in the Northeast. This aids the long term survival of these wonderful improbable walls!

Our hosts took us on a hike along the wild southern coast where we spent a lovely day. The kids found a beach with an endless supply of perfect skipping stones and thus were happily engaged while I took dozens of photos of the stone walls and escarpments all around. Some of my favorite one of a kind and production pieces are from drawings made here.

Ireland Inspirations: Part One

One of the things that I love about traveling is the release from the usual responsibilities… like blogging!  In the spring of 2007, we received an invitation to visit the southern coast of Ireland from my long time craft show friend quilter Cherry Schacher who had recently inherited a house on the sea near Schull. The idea, which at first seemed impossible, gained traction  when I found tickets to Shannon at a great price, yay! We packed up the kids, (then 9 and 13), and were off on our adventure just a couple weeks after the idea was hatched!
Anyone who has traveled  to Europe knows that odd jet lagged feeling of being so excited and at the same time so tired after a long flight. We really needed to get out and walk after a long night on the plane, and determined to stop at beautiful Killarney Park. The opportunity to row out to a small island on the lake there presented itself, and provided for a lovely picnic and an exploration of the ruins of the 12th century Augustinian priory. As always, I was keeping an eye out for interesting rocks, and there I found many!  My geologist brother tells me that the combination of hard and soft rocks, (in this case sandstone and basalt), make for these very interestingly eroded specimens. Two of the rocks discovered on the island inspired the Fossil Pin and the Killarney Bracelet! 

Craftivism

It is my belief that most of us on both sides of this great political chasm that exists in our country want the same things. Peace,  prosperity, safety, clean air to breath, clean water to drink and a planet that can sustain us. The complex problems facing us as a country, but more importantly as a species, demand that we find a way to work together. These basic human aspirations shared by all people across the country and throughout the world should make for a unification of purpose.
I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking in the last couple months, searching for a way that I could make a difference.  Barbara Kingsolver’s recent essay urging everyone to contribute according to their own abilities, was inspirational.  “Craftivism” is defined as a world wide movement that operates at the intersection of craft and activism;  just what I had in mind! While I have done quite a lot of petition signing, emailing, letter writing and donating to charity since the election,  I wanted to also bring my own talents forward to create works that in some way could help to make the world a better place.
477I have been an avid outdoors person for the whole of my life, spending time almost every day hiking in the woods, cross country skiing, and enjoying being out on Adirondack lakes in various small boats.  I find  a great deal of personal solace and artistic inspiration in the natural world. I passionately believe that we must act to preserve our wild places and the balance in our environment. The Sierra Club, 350.org and NRDC are all working hard to educate and influence public policy to these ends. I have already donated to these organizations, but I wanted to do more to promote awareness about climate change in particular, and raise money to benefit these organizations. I designed a new  pendant and earrings which I am titling  “Rising Waters”.  I will be donating 10% of each sale from the Rising Waters series to the above mentioned organizations."Onward"
Like many of you, my family and I participated in the Sisters March on January 21. The world wide turnout was just amazing and a wonderful ray of hope amidst all of the negative energy. I believe that we must continue the impetus forward as compassionate caring people.  This piece, which I have titled “Onward”   came to me in a flash of inspiration. In the center of the circle I have put the arrow symbol indicating our direction and momentum, surrounded by the colors blending together, symbolizing our diversity and unity as a nation. For those who want to spend a little less, I will be offering this piece with no enamel for $55. Both are available for purchase on my website.   I will be donating 10% of each sale to Doctors without Borders to support their brave and important work.
I hope that you will join me in my venture in Craftivism! Onward!