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.
Over the course of the last 2 weeks, we have seen blizzard like conditions, cold, rain, and snow throughout western NC.
One of the ways I keep my business going in the winter is to travel to warmer climates, such as Asheville NC. Asheville boasts a wealth of stone and stonework, as well as fantastic stonemasons such as Matt Smith, who brought me in on a project in Sandy Mush, NC where he was collaborating with V&V Land Management (voglerllc.com) to construct walls using local boulders.
Well it has been a crazy Summer and early Fall with all of the travel and workshops, not to mention our ongoing project on Beech Mountain, but we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Our schedule is getting full for the Fall, but we are still considering small jobs and giving estimates for projects of all sizes which are not time sensitive. And we are very excited about some projects coming up this winter in Raleigh, NC and Chattanooga TN. Here are a few photos from the Asheville workshop and other travels.
After 3 1/2 weeks of living on the road, we returned safely yesterday afternoon. We have seen amazing sights, met wonderful people everywhere, and most importantly, honed our drystone skills in anticipation of the upcoming DSWA certification as part of the Asheville Stone Symposium in September.
I hope you enjoyed the pictures which are really just a sample of what we saw did and learned. If you would like to know more about English Harbour Arts Centre (EHAC), the stone maze, or Dan Snow, check out these links.
This week we finished up a fireplace in Boone, and we started on our biggest project of the summer. The new project involves a massive stone house at the top of Beech Mtn. The house is bank-owned, and we are completing a long list of projects including flagstone repair, full mortared stonework, concrete repairs, and tuckpointing. This week we were able to work in inclement weather on a covered porch to repair a badly damaged flagstone patio.
The big news is, this is my last week before the big trip of the summer! Josh and I are leaving for Newfoundland for a drystone workshop with Dan Snow:http://inthecompanyofstone.blogspot.com/
I will try to get in one more post before we go, but if not, stay tuned for amazing photos of the workshop and Newfoundland scenery!
One of the reasons we deliver some of the best stonework in the Boone area is the specialty tools we employ in our projects. We use traditional stoneworking tools made in a small factory in Vermont, and they are unique because of the carbide blades and edges that improve their longevity and performance.
Today I received an order of new tools and couldnt be more proud. The hammers and chisels represent a significant investment for my company, but they will serve us for years to come, and help ensure we deliver the best possible product to my clients.
This week we had two projects to complete. One was a small foundation for an addition through High Country Renovators. I don't do many foundations these days, but it was good to use the skills I learned earlier n my career when I was working with master brick and block masons and we built a number of large and complex foundations.
The other project was a simple fireplace for a client in Ashe County who contacted me through email. He requested we do the stonework when his Mom was out of town so that it would be a surprise for her (and so she wouldn't have to deal with our noise and mess). I was able to configure my schedule to make the timing work. Unfortunately my stone suppliers had other ideas.... I planned to buy the stone from Wood Masonry in Boone, and they told me they could have the stone by Tues; we would start Weds and finish by Friday in order to be done when my client's Mom returned from a trip to Asheville.
The trouble started when Wood's supplier was out of the stone and had to make it to order; the stone needed be sawed by a huge diamond saw to make it lightweight enough to not require a footing. First Woods thought they might get it Wednesday, which would have been ok because I already had a small amount to get started and build the hearth. Then they pushed it back to Thursday, Friday, and finally Saturday before the stone would be ready. This was unacceptable because I had promised my client he would be able to surprise his Mom. My other supplier, Blue Ridge Quarries, was also out of the lightweight stone (or so I was told after calling on two different occasions). After much frustration and desperation, I asked my client to look online and see if anyone between here and Asheville had the stone. I was not ready to give up.
I talked to several suppliers over the phone and finally we located Tennessee Stone in Hendersonville, who had a good selection of stone (or so I was told over the phone). Well, Hendersonville is a 2 1/2 hour drive from Banner Elk, and close to 3 hours from the jobsite in Ashe, but I was willing to go to great lengths for my client. So Thursday I woke at 530 am and left for Hendersonville to be at the stoneyard by 8 when it opens. They did have a good selection of the stone EXCEPT they were out of the corners which are what make the sawed lightweight stone so wonderful. I picked out some corners of a different type, thinking we could make it work, but I decided to stop at Ble Ridge Quarries on the off chance they had a few corners in stock. Which they did! But also they had the flats... Turns out the person I talked to was new there and simply didn't know what she was talking about. I drove to Hendersonville for nothing.
The reason I tell this story is to underscore how hard I try for my clients. I can't help but take it personally when something doesn't work out or if a client is disappointed, and I will go to great lengths to make it right.
One of the ways we provide superior service is through the use of sample walls and mock-ups. Friday we constructed such a wall for a client near Banner Elk who has an embarrassment of stone. By building a sample, we were able to define the style to the satisfaction of the clients and determine pricing for future projects.
I also provided a service for this client that was unique and interesting. The owners had a problem with people using their property as a cut -through to a nearby trail, and vandals had destroyed a tubular metal gate. I suggested using an excavator to create barricades and block access to the property.
Another recent project involved building a drystone patio for clients in Banner Elk. We used extra large slabs of chocolate grey stone, and collaborated with Landscaping by Travis to add Irish Moss, Creeping Thyme, and a purple clematis.
Today I am back from vacation and stopped by the Grandfather Golf and Country Club bridge and spillway project, and I am pleased to offer photos of the job. We installed a lightweight mosaic river stone on poured concrete walls, as well, as doing repairs the other walls of the spillway. Additionally, we built 5 stone columns supporting the timber guardrail with a pattern to match the clubhouse.
Today as I sit by my woodstove, sipping my coffee, watching the snow fall, I am wishing I could be working, but also I am thankful for all the work I have had over the past few years, and I am so thankful for my wonderful clients who make it possible for me to pursue my passion. Lately, I have enlisted the help of my roomate and her camera to gather some more high quality images of my work. Over the course of the summer, I hope to upgrade my pictures to a more artistic and beautiful set of photographs that will capture the enduring beauty of stone. Here are a few of the pictures that haven't made it to the gallery yet.
William Waller, owner Living Stone Masonry