Garden Designers Roundtable: Rock Stars

Last week I was at an event where more than 100 designers went mad for their industry’s stars.  I mean paparazzi mad.  Photo ops, flashes everywhere, one on one moments and book signings for all who wanted.  I lamented that the U.S. landscape design industry doesn’t cultivate that type of celebrity. We should.  If we did, and our greats were famous, we might get some of the lucrative licencing deals that architects, interior designers and even fashion designers get for outdoor products.

Here are three who work with stone in the Northeast who are deserving of even wider celebrity status than they already have.   They are artists and dry stone wallers.  They make the most rigid of materials fluid.  Their work dances across landscapes and their craft is slowly disappearing yet their work will stand for centuries.   They are our Rock Stars.

Lew French works on Martha’s Vineyard.  He uses stone in unusual and surprising ways.  Here’s a link to a profile done several years ago on CBS Sunday Morning.  He, like the NYC designers I saw, has big name clients and a book.

All photos above via Lewis French

Dan Snow works from his base in Vermont. He has written two books and the first, In the Company of Stone, has been in my library since the day it was published. There is also a film about his work called Stone Rising, The Work of Dan Snow.  He is a master at bending traditional techniques and making them into something else entirely.

Photo above via The Gardener’s Eden

Two photos above via In the Company of Stone

Andy Goldsworthy isn’t a dry stone waller. He is an artist who sometimes uses stone.  Yes, he’s British, but much of his work is here–he spent three years as a visiting professor at Cornell.  There are films and books galore.  Wall details the project shown below at Storm King Art Center.  This wall is legendary among local artisan masons.

Photos above via Susan Cohan

If you’d like to see Goldsworthy’s  last lecture as a visiting professor at Cornell, click here.

If you’d like to read our other posts on stone…this month Garden Designers Roundtable is thrilled to have guest bloggers Deborah Silver and Sunny Weiler blog along with us. Everyone’s links are below.

Deborah Silver : Dirt Simple : Detroit, MI

Sunny Wieler : Stone Art Blog : West Cork, Ireland

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Jenny Peterson : J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Tara Dillard : Vanishing Threshold : Atlanta, GA

18 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Rock Stars

  1. Susan, I love your ‘stoners’ take on the topic this month. The photos you’ve choosen really highlight how artisitc stone work can be when created by someone who understands stone. I’ve seen Andy Goldworthy’s stone wall at Storm King and it truly is a wonder. When I saw the first few sections, I remember thinking ‘oh, that’s neat the way it curves around the trees,’ It wasn’t long before I realized how amazing it actually was in its size and simplicity.
    There’s so much mediocre stone work out there. I love stone so I decided it would be best to show what it can really be.–s

  2. Why don’t we have superstar GARDENERS? Alexander Pope, centuries ago, “Men come to build sooner than garden finely as if gardening were the greater art.”

    Perhaps Garden Designers Roundtable should do a post about champagne budgets in the landscape with decidedly beer budget creativity.

    Will be showing your post to my contractor, love the pics.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara
    Thank you for the lovely quote Tara. I had completely forgotten about it. Champagne budgets and beer creativity…ROFLOL!–s

  3. There’s something immensely satisfying about seeing how the stones fit together so cunningly when put together by stone masters like these. You just want to touch it. Is there anything more lovely than a stone wall well laid?
    I’m with you so totally about a well laid wall. Too many pretenders out there!–s

  4. Hi Susan,. You know I had to chime in. These guys are my mentors! Dying art maybe, but not dead; We’re out there. The craft is getting diluted quite a bit with cultured and veneer stone. Also, people not believing in the ‘dry’ part of Drystone Walling. I see so many ‘mortar assist’ walls these days and I’ve got to say they’re all show, no go. Connecting stones by way of traditional drystone walling techniques brings a soul into the wall. A new flow of chi is created, you can feel it. It’s why you cant stop looking at it and want to touch it. Thanks for inspiring me. You know what I always say…Be the Stone.
    Dan you know you Rock MY Garden World. Hope to see you back to it full time. You are also a Rock Star!–s

  5. Those are fabulous works of stonework – simply marvelous. As someone who has labored over the same material, I can see their gifts.

    Kentucky also has a special group of “rockanteurs” 😉 I spoke with a couple of these guys recently. This is a cool group of humans. Dry Stone Conservancy.
    I suspect there are pockets of these dry stone wallers everywhere stone is abundant. The Stone Foundation is working to keep the stone arts alive and kicking! They have an annual conference that’s listed on the website I linked–s

  6. How marvelous that you chose to feature these designers, Susan. I didn’t know about them, and I agree: Rock Stars indeed!
    So happy to show you something new Debra! Michelle Derviss posted a Goldsworthy wall at Stanford yesterday on Garden Porn…a bit closer to you!–s

  7. Yes Susan!
    You know your photos reminded me of old field walls built in Cornwall and also Pembrokeshire, which I guess says it all!
    Some of those who built those walls emigrated to the colonies and continued to practice their craft on this side of the pond. Those 17th and 18th century walls are protected in many states to prevent stone removal.–s

  8. Oh Susan,
    As a big time stone lover, your article really spoke to me. If I had to choose one, Dan Snow’s stone hut would be the winne. Thanks for writing about a subject that can help expand how stone can be used in the garden creatively!! Fran
    I will pick stone over every other material than plants for a garden every time! I’ve been fortunate to work with Dan Lupino who commented below on two incredible dry stone projects.–s

  9. Oh my gosh, Susan–I’m in love. Those are like rock sculptures–works of art! I can only dream of a) having that kind of talent and b) finding a client who will pay for it! Thanks so much for highlighting these artists.
    The real underlying point is that they are masters of their craft. We can all aspire to that!–s

  10. Wow – Lew French is amazing! I’ve never seen his work before – thanks for the introduction! I’m so fortunate to live about 10 miles from one of Andy Goldsworthy’s winding stone walls (over here at Stanford) – truly inspirational indeed.
    I think the two differences might be the stone–bet your’s is local to NoCal and the length. The one at Storm King is almost a half mile long, undulating up and down hill and ‘through’ water to come up the other side. A truely amazing sight when you first see it.–s

  11. Gorgeous photos. I kept scrolling up and down your post to view them over and over. We talk so much about texture contrast in reference to plants, but these artists take that concept to a whole new level in the exciting way they combine their chosen medium. Thanks for sharing.

  12. While I think all of the photos are marvelous, there is something about the pebbles stacked in the crack between 2 stones that is really, really eloquent. How completely beautiful! Thank you for this wonderful post!

  13. Susan, I am beyond excited to become acquainted with the work of these masters. Thank you so much! I’m purchasing some of the books their work appears in so I can develop a greater skill in designing with stone. Beautiful, inspiring photos.

  14. Oh Susan you are just too brilliant. Thank-you for gathering these beautiful examples of the stone art. Lew French’s window set into the stone shed/cottage, is a wonderful composite of ancient references and contemporary sensitivity to the material.

  15. Susan, Three excellent choices, I’ve always admired Lew French for letting a stone be a stone, his fireplaces are incredible. Dan Snow is a real purist. His dry work stands alone. That hut is a great example of knowing “the rules” and then breaking them. When I first saw the Goldworthy wall at Storm King, I was P.O’d that there were people in the area that actually knew about real stonework .When I met Neal Rippendale, a scotsman who worked on it, he told me that the masons went back to Scotland, I was relieved.

    Here’s why I love blogging. I never even knew you were out there and you’re local to me…relatively. Let’s try and connect!–s

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