Josh and I spent the second week of our trip to France in Chasteuil, a tiny village in the scenic Verdon Gorge, known as the "Grand Canyon of Europe". It certainly is beautiful with a climate and geology similar to Utah.
I am back in Asheville after my travels in France (though Josh decided to stay and changed his flight). The trip was a wonderful experience, and by working for hosts on their projects, we were able to connect to the country and culture in a way that most tourists do not. The most exciting thing for us was seeing the sheer amount of stone and stone construction, including vast areas with drystone walls and terracing for agricultural purposes, not to mention medieval villages, castles, and Roman ruins. Because these walls and buildings are hundreds or even thousands of years old, many have fallen into disrepair, and there are not enough workers or resources to do the restoration. That is where we come in! By using a combination of Facebook groups and a website called workaway.info we were able to find people to host us, providing room and board in exchange for 25 hrs/week of skilled labor. The area of France we worked was Provence including the Var region and the Verdon Gorge. This group of photos is mainly from the first project and area we visited.
Now that the craziness of Summer has subsided, its time to reflect back on my experiences of the year. One of the most memorable was the road trip to Maine to participate in the Stone Foundation's International Stone Symposium. The symposium is held each year in a different location in this (or another) country. Three years ago we were fortunate enough to have it here in Asheville! This year I was the sole representative from Asheville, and one of three from North Carolina. For me it is very important to connect each year with the international community of stonemasons, sculptors, quarriers, and stone enthusiasts because it puts the work that I do in a greater context, and the knowledge and inspiration that I take away each year fuels my passion for stone and stonework.
An example of the benefits of attending the stone symposium is the presentations on Japanese stonework I was privileged to attend. One of the presenters was Sadafumi Uchiyama, curator of the Portland Japanese Garden: http://japanesegarden.com.
He gave two presentations on stonework in Japanese gardens, one specifically about the various types of pavements, sidewalks, etc.. with specific and detailed guidelines for why and how japanese gardeners approach these projects. This presentation was particularly useful in helping me connect with a recent client in East Asheville who is building a Japanese garden around her home, and wanted a sidewalk based on photo of a sidewalk in a Tokyo garden.
Also, a highlight of the trip was giving a presentation of my own about the large boulder retaining walls we have been building. I called it "Extreme Walling" to underscore the increasingly challenging nature of some recent projects. The 15- minute presentation was well-received by my peers, and I was proud to represent Asheville and North Carolina and proud of the hard work that we put in this summer. Here are the slides from the presentation, and hopefully at some point I can post the video.
Last but not least I wanted to share some photos of the amazing scenery in Maine. The stone symposium and our lodgings were set in the Schoodic Peninsula part of Acadia National Park , and we enjoyed perfect weather weather while there. We also did a self guided tour of some of the stone carriage road bridges built by John D Rockefeller throughout the park. I have included some photos from the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium which we visited, but too much to tell in one blog. If you are interested, read more at:http://schoodicsculpture.org/2014-communities/.
Hi Blog readers, we have a lot to catch up on and news to announce! After a long Summer of working in Cashiers, we have completed that major project and have started working on our scheduled projects in Asheville and Banner Elk. This years' projects included major boulder walls, hardscaping, patios, sidewalks, chimney repairs and more. Also travel! Did I mention we love to travel? Besides attending the annual Stone Foundation symposium in Maine, Josh and I will head to France in November to restore a retaining wall in a Provence olive grove. Stay tuned for future posts about the Maine and France trips.
Also, we are seeking opportunities for winter work in warmer climates such as Chattanooga, Charlotte, Raleigh and beyond!
Please enjoy these photos from our latest projects.
Asheville Retaining wall builders
Hi blog readers, we have spent the last 5 months working on larger and larger retaining wall and hardscape projects in and around Cashiers. Because of all the travel I have not found time to bog, but please like us on Facebook if you want to see the latest updates : https://www.facebook.com/livingstonemasons?ref_type=bookmark
Weaverville Water Feature
First of all sorry for the lapse in blogging! We had a busy and successful season, and keeping up with the blog just didn't happen. Now that its winter, I have some time to talk about some of he amazing projects we've had the honor to be a part of. Recently we had the opportunity to work on a unique project in Weaverville. The owner asked us to take an overgrown seep area and create a focal point for his future homesite. He wanted to be able to see and hear the water, and enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains. Our first task was to open up the spring fed channels and determine how much water flow we had to work with. Next we used a small excavator to move and set boulders recovered from the site (over 100 tons in all) to create pools, spillways, and define and stabilize the channels. Then we added built features, such as drystone walls, pathways, steps, and a bridge to a small patio. The whole project was a learning process because of the dynamics of water and streams, and my goal was to create an area that would mimic nature as closely as possible.
Chattanooga Chimney Repair
Recently we repaired a chimney in the East Ridge part of Chattanooga. Many of the homes there have older stone chimneys that are in need of work. The characteristic style for the area is grey limestone with a decorative "bead" of mortar between the stones. For this project, we not only had to repair the stonework, we had to learn the technique of producing a look to match the old work.
We have reached the finish line with our boulder retaining walls in Dysartsville, and our next project is a chimney repair in Chattanooga. This is the perfect time of year to head to warmer climates as the picture below (of my house) shows.
I have some more photos from our last project, but the thing about drystone walls is they only look better with age. The best time to get photos of these walls will be in 5+ years when the landscaping and gardening fills in and the walls with develop a patina of lichen and moss.
Asheville Stone Mason
We are fortunate this winter to have partnered with V&V Land Management on a large project near Marion NC (Dysartsville). The project involves the construction of retaining walls and steps on a residential property using boulders from near Asheville NC. The real benefit of working in this part of the state is the mild winter weather, which makes it more than worth the drive.
Franklin Smith, owner Living Stone Masonry and general stone enthusiast