Jan Johnsen: The Spirit of Stone

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.

Jan Johnsen: The spirit of Stone – audio only

Joe Dinwiddie: Education,Education,Education.

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.’

Joe Dinwiddie: Education, Education, Education. Audio File only