In recent years the dry stone walling scene seems to have been overrun with individuals claiming to be sculptors and artists, is this art for art’s sake? I have given this proliferation much thought and I have finally come to the conclusion that, albeit slightly disappointing, these “artists” feel that being a craftsman does not sufficiently describe their activities and they need a more weighty significant title to operate under. Granted using the designation of Artist may add a certain gravitas in the eyes of others and indeed may add value to any work commissioned or produced, but does merely assigning yourself the title of artist or sculptor make you one? I think probably not.
Having said this I do not think that on the whole any damage is being done, that is as long as any work carried out is of reasonable quality. I have witnessed atrocious work being passed off as acceptable by describing it as “art” or “whimsical”, the fact of the matter is crap is crap the world over what ever you choose to call it. I have made a good living over the years creating whimsical structures in dry stone, they were all built using tried and tested techniques and with the experience I have gained over many years of practice and I am confident they are safe and will stand the test of time. Actual artists such as Andy Goldsworthy and Bob Verschueren (both of which I have been fortunate enough to work with) will develop their ideas before engaging skilled craftsmen to realise their vision and build the final pieces. Poorly executed pieces are not only unfair to whoever commissioned the work but do the craft of dry stone walling a huge disservice. For decades modern day dry stone wallers have been promoting the craft and attempting to elevate it to another level, with a good deal of success. Today dry stone walling is no longer just an agricultural or rural craft it is used in high class landscaping, developments and dare I say it in artistic installations, all this hard work can be undone very easily by unskilled practitioners producing inferior work.
I feel no need to class myself as anything other than a dry stone waller, in fact I am incredibly proud to be just that, a craftsman. I do build a lot of sculptural forms that could be classed as art but in my eyes they are not, they have no meaning or symbolism they are just aesthetic, simple as that they just look nice.
The image included in this post is of an installation designed by the artist Andy Goldsworthy but built by a team of skilled wallers including myself.