The Beauty of Stone

Jeffrey Dungan

Stone for me simply IS the magical material I love to use perhaps the most.  I don’t know exactly why but i think it has to do with connecting to something ancient, something “other” than we can fully comprehend; but it seems to me as close to the eternal as we can actually get our hands on.  Intuitively it seems that if its been here for this long then maybe what we build from it will stay another millennia or two at least. That would give us some consolation from the human certainty of time and one consummate jab at mortality.  It won’t make us immortal, but its as close perhaps as we can come to leave something of ourselves, of our making- of our creative humanity.  

From my childhood I have collected all kinds of rocks and studied minerals, semi precious stones and their formation.  I organized a collection of about 300 different rocks from sulphur to pumice to pyrite and still have stones all over my desk, as I say they make me happy.  So perhaps it is from that ingrained fascination than I come to stone.  I don’t believe its only me however.  As one client said long ago, “you had me at stone”. When I speak of stone in this case I am talking about its use in creating architecture that speaks to us.  We are attracted to stone perhaps because of its rugged integrity; like we are drawn to certain men like John Wayne or Robert Redford or Johnny Cash.  They appear unfazed even as time exacts its toll on their visage;  yet their admirable spirit continues on.  We respect this in people, and feel uplifted and encouraged that perhaps stone will protect us with its rugged face against the weather and the uncertainty of the outside world.
Like faces, there are so many kinds of stone.  Sandstone has an almost salt and pepper beard to it.  It comes in khaki and ochre, even subtle pinks and peachy hues.  Limestone is grey or brown and almost a nutty color and can be cut and treated to an either very smooth or quite pock marked skin.  Fieldstone comes in a wide variety of colors and can be found locally almost anywhere and be shaped into a useable and indigenous facade. We have used moss rock from nearby streams or rivers and ancient coral rock formed the ocean; it’s local color blending perfectly with its surroundings because it is from the same “terroir” as my wine expert friends say.
Perhaps most fascinating to me about working with stone,  is the absolute endless and myriad combinations and applications of patterns, colors and textures there are.  Patterns of ashlar, randomly sized rectangles or polygons is a favorite, because it has a studied nonchalance and is impressive without appearing to try too hard.  Looser still is river rock; rounded and organic contrasted with the more dressy coursed limestone, in a brick pattern.  Then, there are variations on all those themes.  Adding to those permutations the combination of mortar- possessing its own color ranges and texture, also wide or narrow or fat or “squished” or brushed or tooled or… 
There is a lifetime of learning and unlimited experimentation to be had with the skin of stone.  Always the goal is to express something of a feeling that we are after in the overall composition.   As one easily bored with repetition, I have never found the end of my love affair with it; and don’t expect I ever will.