In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall
by Dan Snow, photographs by Peter Mauss. Artison, New York, 2001, 128 pages, $22.50 softcover.
In the Company of Stone is a far cry from your average how-to construction book. It is an eloquent essay -- in words and photographs -- about dry-stone walling, providing philosophy as well as instruction on the craft. In dry-stone masonry, gravity provides the mortar; a well-built dry-stone wall will last hundreds, even thousands, of years. Lifetime Vermont resident Dan Snow is a master of the craft. Snow has been building dry-stone walls and sculptures for 25 years, mostly within a 25-mile radius of his home in Dummerston. His creations are shown and described in this stunning book.
I have had the rare good fortune to watch Dan at work. After spending weeks struggling to build a curving dry-stone wall around my vegetable garden, I hired Dan to build another section of wall in our back yard, including a series of steps built into the steep bank and stone ledge behind our house. What I did in weeks, Dan accomplished in hours. And while my wall is highly functional and looks just fine, Dan's is art.
Dan Snow's Zen-like approach to hefting the many tons of stone used in a typical project is reflected in his words. His walling techniques and strategies are interwoven with his reflections on life. With Peter Mauss's splendid photographs of Dan's work -- a mix of black-and-white and color -- you would be just as likely to find this book in the art section of your local bookstore as the construction section.
In the Company of Stone is a book to learn from, to be sure, but it is also a book to enjoy in a comfortable chair by the wood stove -- as you might a book of Robert Frost's poetry.
Alex Wilson lives in Dummerston, Vermont and is the founder and executive editor of Environmental Building News. He is a frequent contributor to Fine Homebuilding magazine.
Copyright 2003, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont