Jan Johnsen is a professional landscape designer and a principal of the established design/build firm, Johnsen Landscapes & Pools, in Westchester County, NY. She is also an award-winning instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and a contributing editor for Garden Design Magazine. For the last several years, Jan has written the popular garden blog, ‘Serenity in the Garden’ and Facebook page, ‘Serenity in the Garden blog’. Jan was awarded a 2014 Merit Award by the Association Professional Landscape Designers (APLD).
Ever since she worked in Japan as a college student, she has been an advocate of the transformative power of Nature upon our well-being. Her initial experiences of walking through ancient Japanese gardens made her aware of the power that serene outdoor spaces have to calm and refresh us. Jan went on to study landscape architecture at the University of Hawaii and was further influenced there.
Her travels took her back home to New York State, where she worked under a Versailles-trained French gardener at Mohonk Mountain House, learning the secrets of French horticulture and its rigorous, all-natural standards. In 2017 she published her 3rd book – ‘The Spirit of Stone’ a deep dive into the WHY? of using stone within our designed landscapes. Referencing historical precedents of man’s connection and use of this most basic of material she explores the deep relationship and resonance it obviously has and even in a little way within our own gardens we can benefit from continuing on that tradition.
As the old Four Aces song says, ‘Love Is a Many Splendored Thing.’ The Ancient Greeks identified 6 separate forms of LOVE; romantic love, familial love, platonic love, self love, guest love and divine love, for those of us with a certain passion we know that there is one missing from their list , STONE LOVE! Radiating this out to the wider world is a brotherhood formed through stone, Zach Johnson and John Engelland. Universes mysteriously aligned and these two serendipitously found one another in the same place, at the same time with the same philosophy and outlook. Combining their forces they produce work together under the apt title of Rising Star. Their approach is unique they bring to the craft a spirituality and humanity that speaks to the best of what is inside us all, if we would only the take time to listen and appreciate. Spreading STONE LOVE and positivity is a key component of their message, they express that daily through their intimate relationship with the earth and their own processes, sharing their thoughts with the wider world through thoughtful posts on social media about the glory and beauty to be found in simple things. One time Chairman of the Stone Foundation, Zach now concentrates on the day job. With a love for 60’s & 70’s funk he Dj’s a spot on a Boulder based radio station the DustyGrooves show. John spoke bravely and honestly about his relationship with stone, at the Stone Foundation’s Cottonwood Falls, Kansas Symposium in 2017. It was a talk that changed my whole attitude to the material and opened my eyes to why it is such an important material to us all. In this episode they dive deeper into their thinking and approach to their work, it’s substantive, it’s challenging…its significant.
Passing on knowledge is a gift from one person to another; that which was hard won is shared with others unselfishly with the aim of enriching the lives of those being taught. Joe Dinwiddie, now based in Santa Fe, describes himself as an educator, through the teaching of dry stone walling he aims to inform and inspire. Looking at best stone construction practices across the globe he has used his background in Vocational training to develop his own methodology for passing on the skill and worth of the technique. Employing innovative teaching methods, (keep an eye out for the dancing masons!) he has extensive experience of delivering dry stone walling and stone construction workshops. The collapse of the stone trade from the mid 20th Century and the subsequent growth of manufactured products has conspired in the demise of the conveyor belt of talent emerging into the trade. The traditional route into the craft of master handing over their skills onto apprentices is all but bust. Routes into the craft of stonework are not as easy as it once was, education of the younger generation into the joy and interest of the trade is essential if it is to thrive. Joe has over the last few years designed a stone arch teaching aid that he uses in school settings to engage students. What at first could be seen as simply a little toy, in Joe’s hands it is transformed into a ‘gateway’ for developing minds to step into and through to explore the wider wonders of maths, science and the arts.
Furthering this learning he has worked with schools and teachers to build outside learning spaces designed around astronomical and calendar observations. As stone is used less and less especially within commercial situations those professionals that are essential for support, clients, architects, structural engineers, they too have lost the knowledge and confidence in the material, it has become an unknown quantity to them, Joe sees this as an area of practice that requires some additional focus in the future, a responsibility for those committed and versed in stone to educate those they need to realise municipal and commercial projects. It is endlessly fascinating to me how others use their knowledge of stone, how from learning their craft scrabbling around a pile of rocks they expand it into so many other interesting fascinating and rewarding areas of endeavour. Joe’s enthusiasm is taking him in directions he probably never foresaw when he started loading those first rocks into a wheelbarrow, that he is opening up the field to so many others is to his great credit, as Yeats said – ‘Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.’
20th January 2021 – I had the pleasure to chat to one of the big personalities in the dry Stone Walling World, John Shaw-Rimmington.John as we Scots would say is a well kent face of the stone tribe, a man who does his – ‘Thinking with his hands.’ President of Dry Stone Walling Across Canada he is a real advocate for the craft. His journey into a life of dry stone walling, and building ‘Walls without Mortar’ helps illustrate to the uninitiated the draw and appeal of this most fundamental material and technique. From troubled teen to a magical ability to play about with the craft, his story teaches us something important about searching for your space within that Grand mystery that is elusive to us all.
Finding yourself is often a meandering path, some miss their destination others only realise in hindsight the significant markers along their way that pushed them forward to their true calling. Nothing is random, John heard the silent whispered messages of the rock and stones, drawing him deeper under their influence, a positive relationship that has led him from solid skill with the material to the freedom to explore its artistic possibilities. Full of stone passion he has always been willing and keen to share that with others through workshops, talks and writing. His blog …https://thinking-stoneman.blogspot.com/ is a deeper dive into his work and motivations but there’s nothing like hearing the story from the man himself, enjoy.John can be followed on Instagram at @Drystonewaller
Pieter Schaafsma: The man beneath the stetson. Founder of the popular Facebook Group Custom Creative Stonework, Pieter is a true stone enthusiast. A multi talented designer and artist he is an advocate for the use of natural stone. With a passion for creating ephemeral stone balances he also enjoys building dry stone walling projects around his properties in Arizona and his Ranch in Southern Utah. He also has a cute wife!
Interview with Norman Haddow – Churchill Fellow, DSWA Master Craftsman. Learn more about Norman’s personal journey into the ancient skill of dry stone walling. A fully qualified Botanist he enjoyed a varied early career in Industry in London and Scotland, before transitioning into a life dedicated to ‘building walls without mortar.’ After attending a DSWA training event he has gone on to establish himself as one of the elder pillars of the craft, with some particularly eminent clients. Receiving a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 2011 he travelled to Slovenia to research traditional shepherd huts. Still dyking into his 80’s his story is an inspiration to those interested in this most ancient and fundamental craft. To those of us who want to work as long as possible he shows its possible to remain fit healthy and still able to follow your passion. Follow Normans Facebook page where he shares his passion for the craft in …wallsaroundtheworld by clicking the icon below.
Some memories just stick. My soon to be wife and I were sitting on a plane heading out to Turkey for a seaside holiday in what was then a relatively new tourist destination in 1987. Ahead of us stretched long hot lazy days flopped on the beach topping up our tans, eating, drinking, whiling away the time dozing and reading.
It’s factual books over fiction for me, Danzinger’s Travels was a book I’d heard discussed on the radio it was first on my reading list. A graphic hair-raising account of travelling alone through Asia and on into war torn Afghanistan by Author/photographer Nick Danziger it is a powerful account filled full of daring-do approached with warmth and wit.
Apart from it being a terrific read what I remember most about it was his introduction where he explained how his adventure started. Describing how he sat anxiously in a corridor belonging to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust waiting to be interviewed for a Travelling Fellowship that ultimately funded the trip. Wow! I thought how nerve-wracking & amazing would that be. Perhaps you can imagine my excitement nearly 30 years later when ‘little old me’ was sitting in the exact same corridor awaiting to be interviewed for a WCMT Travelling Fellowship then the thrill when the letter informing me that I had been successful popped through the letterbox.
Various things have delayed my travels but they are finally upon me. Summer 2017 sees me and my wife Jane heading off to the USA & Canada to undertake my research project – ‘the contemporary use of stone and how traditional skills & modern creativity can make a positive contribution to the shared built environment.’
Over the last 30 years I have focussed solely on my own career and worked at developing my stone working skills. The Churchill fellowship is the most brilliant opportunity for me to take some time out to meet other talented members of the ‘Stone Tribe,’ to spend some time with them, hear their thoughts on the craft and see the results of others working in a similar way. Over the course of 5 weeks (not long enough) we are going to be zipping about the USA and dipping our toes into Canada with the hope of seeing lots of ‘Custom Creative Stonework’
My belief is that stonework still has an amazing lot to offer Society and a personally fulfilling creative outlet for those willing to dedicate themselves to it. Along the way I’ll be showing the odd pic of my own work I may even get dusty a few times. I’ve set up a specific page to record the journey – come along join us on our trip of a lifetime…read more.
I’d like to thank the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for this wonderful life opportunity and of course not least thank the great man himself, Winston who as the picture shows dabbled a bit in the craft – I’m not too sure about his tools or his pointing but good effort!!!
Spring 2016 proved to be a long, hard & busy one. Set the challenge of constructing a series of Basalt stone ‘Mounds’ by rising young designer Hugo Bugg for his 2016 Chelsea Flower Show Garden; it was one of the most difficult projects I’ve created, it proved to be a very demanding but nevertheless interesting build. The Garden is now on it’s way to be replicated on a public site on the Channel Island of Guernsey. (read more about the garden)
My final contribution to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail is a feature stone sphere with some carved birds upon it, to be sited between the two feature benches I previously installed at the East Brackley viewpoint. This is to be carved from a 5ton block of Indian Galaxy Green granite that I nicknamed ‘The Beast.’ Working this block was a trial in itself, follow the process & challenges on the dedicated blog page – East Brackley Sphere Carving.