stair column

hey there, friends. I have something to share today that I’m relatively proud of.

spin gif


I have mentioned on a few occasions this year that I want to get into doing more three dimensionally engaging pieces. the problem that I often face is that I build something as a straight extrusion; I design a profile, and I give it thickness. that’s it. when I’m lazy like this, I still get my kicks out of the building process in general, but I don’t think I produces especially interesting results.

this stair column was an attempt at making something you want to travel around and see from different angles. it’s a super simple concept – peel away in stepped layers as the tower grows. the variables here are beginning  footprint of the structure, the angle of the taper, and the depth of the step size. changing these will change how many turns you’re able to make before you run out of space. I cheated a little in this iteration of the idea by having the column flair out from the breaking edge where the layer steps back, but I began to run out of light and height, as the resulting tower was around 6′ – hard to work well when it’s nearly dark and your area of effort is above your head.

I managed to do a little more, but I didn’t like the result, and it was far too dim to get a good shot.

I may revisit this idea with a larger base or a different size. I was also thinking about adding a lip to the outer edge of the structure, either vertically like a railing on the stair step or as an overhang. regardless, there are other areas to explore here, and I plan on using them in conjunction with other efforts. new tools in the toolbox always make me happy.

this stayed up for a while, and I got pictures sent to me from a few friends who happened to stop by the beach the weekend it was up, asking if it was me. it definitely brightened my mood to see it still standing for a while; in most cases, the moment I leave the beach for the day is the last moment I know the thing exists. I’ve scoped out a different section of the beach. might work there soon.

rolling flow

gif - curve

It was foreign to work on a smooth surface! In most circumstances I have to begin by shaping the terrain and stabilizing it so that I can be sure my efforts won’t go to waste when the base gives way half an hour into my work. This concrete ledge has always been an item of interest, and I’ve engaged with it tentatively a couple times – with the shelter, for example – but never built directly on it. It was so strange that at first all I could think to do was make some flat pattern and see how I could make random rocks fit together.

Once I had laid the initial layer down, it was time to decide where to go next. I have talked some about how I’m aiming to avoid straight extrusions of profiles, so I thought it might be good to consider tapering it upwards. I threw in a couple rounded objects to shape a couple voids, and I’d never put two in the same object before; I’m thinking about doing a series of pierced objects again soon, and this was good practice. once I’d started the slope up over the form work pieces, I felt that more of a continually changing slope was more fitting; I was doing it in plan, why not in elevation?

this build continually changed as I worked on it, growing organically into something more than I had hoped for. I liked the outcome a lot. it’s still standing, over a week later, and every time I go back, someone has made a copycat near it or added on to my original piece. as you can see, there are two different sets of photos here – one where it has rained, and one where the stones are dry. I’m sad to admit that even with two visits, I didn’t manage to take a good photo. I have real problems keeping my hands steady, and of late it seems to be getting worse. I don’t know what to say about that.

as usual, I think more exploration is needed. always more, more, more – the best part of this hobby is that it drives me forward, captivating my mind and filling me with a coursing passion for the world. my work is incredibly selfish – I don’t really care if other people see what I’ve done, I just want to figure out private questions of beauty, form, capability, the essence of material… useless questions, really, with answers I’ll never be able to articulate or share with someone else. these answers become part of me and spur me forward in other areas of my life; I may build with stone in the real world, but structures are forming in my mind that will be useful one day.

instinct – make an arch

this is what happens when you space out and go back to what you know. sometimes I want to stack without thinking, and the usually ends with me making some crappy little arch.

when I finished, I did work a little harder than usual on facing the top properly. I have been thinking about the concepts of “finish” and “direction” more than I have in the past; I think I need to pursue the use of a clean aesthetic, whether in matching material or in trying alternate orientations for my elements. here’s the top of the structure for my mediocre attempt at a smooth surface:

trabeation (5)


the other moment of enjoyment in the build was this little stone right here:

trabeation (4)


sandwiched between two large slabs, it was barely staying in place, and with a little nudge, it would have slid out and toppled the whole thing. it was the only unstable element in the entire build. so much about my stacking is about the search for stability and balance, structure and safety, etc; as such, purposely and (nearly) invisibly including such a useless and atypical element was a sort of private joke with myself as I continued to mindlessly build. it didn’t even fit stylistically with the rest of the build and yet – there it was. usually such conceits earn me a collapsed pile and frustration, but this time it stood through to the end.

as soon as I finished, I stretched, went swimming for half an hour in the freezing water, and then sat in the shade of my little creation for a while. I usually leave immediately upon taking pictures; staying made me realize how much I’d like to have an area to continually work with the stones I pull from the earth, slowly shaping a landscape into a private paradise, to which I could invite fellow dreamers to relax and contemplate life. perhaps one day that wish will come true. for now, there’s the beach.

while I wait

sat around talking to a friend and made a small stack while waiting for our other buddies to show up. I seem to go back to this alternating layer thing – small stones, big stone, small stones. I think of it as a single system of small stones with big stones serving as punctuation. a lot when I’m working mindlessly. we had a great discussion about literature, art, and science – everything and nothing. the stack wasn’t very interesting, but I still liked the way it looked.

rain stacks

I zipped to Fort Williams on a Saturday to take a walk along the coast and jump from rock to rock. there was no intention to stack in my head, but… well, the call of the stones is irresistible. it was extra strong as I moved across terrain I don’t usually work on. the surf was crashing mightily into the outer edges of the cove, and I wanted to put a focal point into the landscape to think as I watched the tide move. as I paused after the first stack, a simple one-element-per-layer dealio, I managed to get a quick snap as a seagull landed right next to it. it was strangely exciting to see the bird walking around eyeing my little doodle.

I began work on a second piece five minutes or so later, when the gull flew away; it began raining shortly after.  I had been harshly aware of the heat and humidity throughout the walk leading up to that. my first thought was to leave immediately, but the rain was so warm and refreshing that I couldn’t help but be energized. the rocks were slippery, but I worked on with a whistling, boundless energy. neither of these builds are anything special, but being in the location and enjoying the process often does more for me than the finished product.

you can see very little of the rain, as it was clearing up when I finished. strange how the very condition that would normally keep me from going outside was the very reason to remain under the sky that day. I love “bad” weather. it softens and meekens me, both things I am in desperate need of. I think going to this less protected area of the beach helped in that respect, too – maybe I should work out there more.

zigzag screen



this was made with the intent of making objects with more three dimensional character. I often work on things that are flat images, meant to be viewed from one vantage point; and I think I will be more satisfied as an artist if I embrace multiple vantage points.

the other goal was to make something that appeared more porous. much of what I make has a a solid appearance. even if I’ve formed openings in the project, the tight nature of my structures has been a consistent aspect throughout. this style, where the majority of the elements are only touching at a few points, is much more precarious; I was punished with multiple collapses throughout the build when I failed to carefully account for the immense instability of the long, thin structure. the two ninety degree turns stabilize the central section, but the end points were fit to go at any moment. I added an unusual section to the pattern of the center portion to highlight this fact.


this “keyhole” moment wouldn’t stay anywhere else in the build. the zigzags also allows for a different spatial relationship of person to wall. all in all, a very satisfying build. given more time, I’d like to continue working with this sort of style and have the wall twist all around the landscape.

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.