the fakest arch

one final post from the past months before I exhaust my reserves.

this one was started as a blatant rip-off of my framed frame stack a while back, and it wasn’t very interesting to me.

I spent 25 minutes trying to make an arch on the top of this dumb guy, and never managed to make it work. I knew I wasn’t doing it correctly, and I knew it wasn’t going to work, but… something in my stubborn nature kept me at it.

this stack isn’t very “smart” or well constructed, but formally it still sort of made me happy, if only a little. the base is another one of my throw-away, “stack crap till you have the height you want” structures. I think I initially had some idea about the transition of a haphazard base of large scale elements to a more detailed and careful set of layers above, but instead we had this thing just sort of waltz into existence. I guess you have to take what you can get.

the final thought is a dissatisfaction that’s been growing in me. there are a few recent exceptions, but far too often I find my pieces are essentially meant as 2d images – to be viewed head on and looked through, with very little consideration for the sides. it would be good to start approaching these things as proper sculptures that are meant to be viewed from many angles, possessing varied qualities and strengths. color and cohesion of individual elements should be thought about more strongly, as well.

I hurt myself recently. I had meant to go out tuesday night or tonight to build up more, but I wimped out. I hope to go out this weekend. I have one more stack waiting to be posted – it was constructed sunday, and I’m quite proud of it. I hope you all will enjoy it too.

spiral stairs

Here’s something that started as another exercise to force my creativity, but ended up blossoming into something I was actually proud of.

here’s the first stage. I was following the curve of the rock, utilizing small elements. a central point and some columns on the outside suggested a radial construction. everything was built up to approximately the same height at this point.

from this, I had the inspiration to work a different type of radial element in, adding a stepping spiral of plates like a stairway.  I could have made them a little more regular, but they were close enough for me. the one change I would make if I were to do this again is that I would build the wall the steps sit on right up to the treads, instead of throwing any old junk under them to get them to the right height. I’m ok with the way this part turned out, but I may take another crack at a staircase soon. there was still something missing, though.

the central axis was losing its expression to the massive nature of the plates. it’s a simple, quick fix, but adding some point-balanced rounded stones reemphasized the radial nature of the construction and satisfied me that the piece was finished. I felt like I could do a lot more with this project, but it had been 3 hours of arduous thought and work, and I was pretty badly sunburned.

this project isn’t exactly impressive or perfect, but it marked a moment where I felt as though I was back in the swing of things. good things to come from here on out. I hope you all are enjoying the summer.

small studies 2

here’s another set of small studies done to try to force a creative impulse to form. for this set, I decided to base my pieces on a driftwood tree trunk sitting near the shore.

for this first one, I used the worn stubs of long gone branches as starting points to raise a platform. the major difference between starting a project on the rubble of the beach vs on these branches is one of compression. pretty much any spot you chose as a starting point on the ground is about as solid as it’s ever going to be, so as long as you make sure your starting elements aren’t tippy, you can load that sucker as heavily as you like and not see much of a difference. the end of the branches, on the other hand, aren’t perfectly stiff; the ends are feathered and jagged where the wood is falling apart, and as you load the elements onto these endpoints, the wood starts to compress. this changes the spatial relationships of anything stacked above that point, and though the effect grows too slowly to notice, it would be the undoing of anything I attempted to build on the points. like the last edition of small studies, I built until the arrangement collapsed multiple times, and only one iteration is shown here.

number two was another one of my piled point attempts, smaller than usual. the tree trunk is a lot smoother than any rock I can find, so it’s much easier for the whole thing to slide off. friction is basically the most important factor in building, possibly even more so than balance. I built a little higher than what is shown here, but it fell before I could image it again.

last is something completely thoughtless – this guy isn’t much larger than a grapefruit. I went to a different spot, out among the sharper rocks for this one; I was watching the moon as I built, smelling the salt air and feeling the change in the wind as the tide came in. it was wetter and colder in this area than my usual site, as the landscape here is completely submerged during most hours of the day. I like the thought of my work being pulled under by the rising waves and cast back into randomness, I don’t know why. I may try building in the surf more sometime soon, but the rocks there are harder to work with. I don’t really know what they want to be.

net time we’ll talk about a piece that started out as a small study and ended up flowing into an actually satisfying creative moment. thanks for reading, keep living.

small studies 1

here are a couple quick pieces I threw together in early spring. with short daylight hours and busy weekends, I didn’t find many chances to do much of anything, or lacked the inspiration to make something compelling. however, when you’re uninspired, the only thing you can do to move forward is to do something, anything. action is the only thing that can keep any aspect of your life from atrophying. though the action will keep you alive and guide you back towards your creative flow, it won’t necessarily be rewarding in its own right. these photos are evidence of that; the small stacks portrayed here aren’t very satisfying, though they have the seeds of something bigger in them. keep working, and that seed will sprout eventually.


the first stems from a thought about verticality. nearly every element I place in my standard build is wider than it is tall, and to go against this trend is to (most often) invite disaster. mortar would allow me to conquer a lot of the issues posed by vertical stones’ torque problems, but we’re working dry, here. you can see in one photo that I began building a detailed layer on top of the platform with its precarious legs; you’re not seeing the multiple collapses and toppings that grew from the slightest off-centered application of force, whether from an accidental poke or a carelessly dropped pebble. as the daylight dies, the fervency grows – you have to discard this impatience, though, if you want to make much of anything. I don’t enjoy needing to be patient, most of the time, but it is good for me.

the second is a boring little pillar. this work was an even greater exercise in working for the sake of working. the form is as plain as can be, and there was no theme or desire behind it. I did enjoy a couple of the moments of detail, certain individual relationships between discrete rocks, but those are personal moments that have no bearing on the average viewer and can’t really be captured in photographs, only understandable in the very moment they occur in three dimensions under your hands. crouching to stare between an interesting pattern of voids, finding a stone that fits perfectly with its neighbors and creates an amazingly even and level top surface – these are moments for me and me alone. there is a pleasure and a sadness in living these instances.

got a few more small studies to be brought up. you’ll see them later this week.

stabbed case



I’ve been terrible about posting, I know. I apologize. I have a bunch of stuff to share from the last 4 months of silence, some of it satisfying, some of it trivial. either way, I’ll be posting a bunch this week, and hopefully spending more time out at the beach in the coming weeks. now, on to business.

this project was strange in that I kept feeling that I was finished, then went on to continue working, finding new identities for the work. there was a sort of gestalt to the stages that I think deserves viewing. below are three states of development that I enjoyed.

the scale is half of what I enjoyed about this project. most of the forms are very human in size, and came together with relative ease, considering the required constituent elements.

the second funny thing about the project was that its actual finished state, after so many pleasing moments during the construction, wasn’t attractive to me. this is in part because the structure ended up being taller than me, and I didn’t have the strength or dexterity left to work above head height. thus, it’s finished off in a loose, uncaring way. the cap lintels and the outer edges of the top surfaces are haphazard and placed merely to go through the motions of enclosing the central pillar. the shadow lines along the edges of the pillar worked out just like I had hoped, but I was losing stability as passers by felt the need to press down on the cantilevered arms that pierce the case of the pillar. I felt I had to finish the piece quickly and photograph before some overzealous inquisitor knocked my work over.

I often can get irritated when people come up to me while I work, because stacking is an extremely internal and subconsciously engaging process, where I need a certain level of meditative quiet to properly empty my mind in order to let the physics of the situation impress themselves on my analytic functions. in those moments of frustration, I have to remind myself as I work that my art is partially for my personal enjoyment, and partially to help spread my beliefs, especially to young people.
I think it is vitally important that we interact with our physical world, learning about the materials and relationships of forces that naturally occur in the world in relation to our human life. furthermore, I think that people need to be encouraged to act; most young people are constantly told to “behave”, which usually actually to be “passive.” this makes for a miserable life, in the long run. people who take chances and experiment with the world will learn all the important lessons nature offers – cause and effect, the effervescent nature of human efforts and plans, how substances follow their own logic that, when studied by man, offer amazing opportunities, and simple confidence. to that end, when kids want to help or want help copying me, I think it’s partially my responsibility to foster their creative intent and curiosity. so perhaps my stack falls prematurely due to the interference of some kid, or I can’t stay focused due to the questions of some tourist – if they are driven to a less passive existence, a greater purpose has been served. also, how can you resist sharing your experience when you make someone happy? I’ll let the faces of a pair of kids who tagged along the entire time speak for me. sure, they were the ones who compromised the structre and eventually made it topple, but we had fun.

more stacking to come. I hope you find something you want to build in your life.



no stack here, just some thoughts.

the beach is strange in the winter. it’s a giant collection of rocks on top of sand, dirt, and ledge, and the tide stratifies the different sizes of rocks by their granularity, to an extent. sand is (to the human eye) pretty uniform, so it freezes together in a fairly uniform way along a gradient. the rocks, however, seem to follow their own rules in different zones, and move pretty unevenly.


here we see a spot where the rocks above are snow covered and frozen together with a sheet of ice flowing through them, and another spot underneath where the rocks were submerged by the tide and have another layer of ice, but the middle portion is dry as a bone and all the stones are loose. I could rummage down below the tidemark here, and still saw no signs of ice. did the tide waters not manage to percolate through? why just in this spot? there are spots at the same elevation that behaved nothing like this.


this spot, for instance. is there a freshwater stream coming through at this point of the beach? (fresh water freezes at a higher temp than salt water, if you’re unaware.) there are a bunch of spots that formed this icy travertine at various elevations on the beach, while surrounding spots are dry or snow covered. the dry spots sometimes produce little natural stacks like these, frozen together by tiny amounts of water:

these little guys were really cute to me.

then you have your large stones, covered in sheets of ice. if you look close, you can see where water has melted through and carved rivulets combining with the natural crystallized patterns in the ice. I really want to get a camera to do time lapse images of ice formations.

ice completely changes the game as far as stacking is concerned. the most important aspect of dry stone stacking is actually friction; I’m relying on the roughness of the rocks to negate the incidental lateral or rotational forces I introduce by touching the work or adding a new piece. ideally all the forces are channeled vertically, but in reality there are off balance and uncentered pieces everywhere, being held in place only by friction. making your rocks icy completely removes this restriction, and things are much more liable to spin or slide from the tiniest movement.

contrarily, one could utilize rocks that are frozen together in a configuration that would normally not fly, changing the game from dry stacked to mortared masonry. water mortar… hm. it’s a completely different idea, working with mortar. I haven’t have the patience to purposely glue rocks together with water – that would be wicked time consuming – and I don’t really have a grasp of the strength of an ice connection. it might be something to study later on. what would be really cool would be to make a small stack in a bucket, then slowly and gently fill it with water, let the whole thing freeze solid, then take the block out of the container…. hmmm…

anyway, winter beach is strange beach. more ideas coming.


a frame for flotsam


as I was working on another project, I continually passed this piece of aquatic matter. It had an air of wabi-sabi to it, which I feel pervades my work. Even my most precise work it rounded and fragmented, just by the very nature of the elements used. (I’ve had people suggest I try using bricks in my art, but they’re to regular and uniform for me to enjoy myself.) With each pass by the fungus, I felt more drawn to using it in a piece. I settled on a simple frame to encase it. The box was tucked behind the tree trunk I built my sandwich on last summer – that massive piece of drift wood has been pushed down the hill along with a few other large logs since then. I figured it was sort of a private build, something a little harder to exhibit to others, but anyone who decided to stop and sit might find their focus narrow and their mind settle to a calm place where this little build might be interesting to them, as well.

decayed and discarded objects are very interesting to me. there is a natural impermanence to things; each object has a context and a “home” when it is originally formed, and when the context is lost or changed, the boject takes on new meaning itself. this piece of vegetation is very out of place on the frozen beach, sitting unexpectedly on top of the snow, more yielding and spongy than  its new stone neighbors or the sheets of ice it’s been thrown across by the rising tides. to me, it seemed to be a traveler, lost and unsure. it reminded me of this song.

I’d like to do more frames for small objects later; maybe I’ll revisit this next time I head to the beach.