In Praise of Craftsmanship

As a landscape designer who runs a design only practice, I am dependent on those who build my work to realize my vision.  I have, over many years, through trial and error, found several contractors and artisans who embrace excellent craftsmanship and practice what they preach, but they are getting harder and harder to find.

Dry stacked locally sourced pudding stone
Dry stacked locally sourced pudding stone

Cheap materials and quick building techniques afforded by interlocking wall systems and concrete pavers are not part of my design vocabulary.  On all of the projects I have done over the years, I have only specified them once–and that was on the deal breaking insistence of a client.  I would not take that project today.  I believe in using local, natural materials but even those can be used in a slipshod and slap dash manner.

Which wall below do you think will stand the test of time?

Below are some photographs of the now three year old project shown in the video.  We  replaced ancient and crumbling concrete steps and walks with a terraced front yard built of native pudding stone and locally plentiful bluestone walks and steps.  Dan Lupino, dry stone wall builder, really made the project sing with his attention to detail and incredible artisanship. The old lawn area was reduced by fifty percent and is maintained organically by the homeowner.

Terraced Entrance
Terraced Entrance
Dry stacked lower terrace pier, steps and wall
Dry stacked lower terrace pier, steps and wall
Upper terrace piers with lamps
Upper terrace piers with lamps

6 thoughts on “In Praise of Craftsmanship

  1. I echo those sentiments exactly !
    It is getting harder these days to find dedicated craftsmen for our projects.
    I think there have been a lot of circumstances that has made it a hard row to plough for them such as competing with non licensed contractors, homeowners who don’t understand their value and the cost of just keeping a business alive these days.

    I’ve partially cut ties with a contractor that I once did most of my work with because of lack of dependability, it was a difficult decision to make in some aspects but the only proper decision to make for the good of the business in the long run, and certainly the best decision for my blood pressure and peace of mind.

    It’s frustrating when you know exactly what level of craftsmanship you want to achieve and can’t find anyone to build it. So many who call themselves masons or carpenters, for example, just don’t cut the mustard. Great craftspeople are truly becoming a scarce commodity in these days of instant gratification and ad hoc consumerism.

  2. Nice stonework on your wall!

    Thanks, Phillip. Dan is a master. He builds them by himself with a fetch and go assistant. The back of his old truck used to read ‘Be the Stone’–enough said

  3. Working at a nursery I get plenty of questions about contractors and landscapers and who I would recommend. Sadly the list gets smaller every few years because someone retires.

    Great post with perfect visuals. I wonder if the neighbors actually realize the inferior nature of the wall or if they are just proud that they got a much lower bid. Sadly saving money seems to impress people more than quality work these days.

  4. Wonderful inspiration, Susan. It’s sad that instant and cheap have become the norm. There are still pockets of craftsmanship, but you have to look long and hard to find them. But there are some young people taking up these crafts. The son of a friend, for example, turned away from a career in engineering and dropped out of architecture school before finding his calling in stone masonery. And he’s in demand.

  5. As the wife of a paving contractor who does all sorts of design work for commercial projects, I can echo your sentiments regarding finding true artisans in the field. It is getting harder and harder. We seem to be producing either young people who go to college (and become architects, designers and engineers) or those who aren’t steered into the labor end of the field. Where they end up I hate to think. There is a real need for people who understand how to build jobs and to manage the workers. I will say that we do use some concrete building materials because Oklahoma doesn’t have much stone (in our area) except sandstone. I love your bluestone and wish it weren’t cost prohibitive here.

    Very good post.~~Dee

  6. Love the strong welcom of the piers! Hope Dan puts ‘Be the Stone’ on his new truck. What was your inspiration for the curves?

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