Vermonter Dan Snow is one of the best stone-wall builders -- wallers -- working today. He also is an articulate spokesman for a craft that has shrunk in scale.
But it has not diminished; it remains one of the purest human expressions on the landscape, a blend of utility and beauty.
Many who have taken up rural crafts call themselves masters or even artists. Snow can lay honest claim to both titles. Using found fieldstone, he combines his long-seasoned skills and the pull of gravity to knit stones together for a lifetime, at least.
Snow works alone and, presumably, spends long hours in silence in the countryside of New England. But in a book he has written, "In the Company of Stone: The Art of the Stone Wall" (Artisan; $35, $22.50 softbound), he proves he has a voice, and a fine one too. The prose weaves between practical and poetic observations with the same gentle twists as an old field wall, and the book offers inspiration to armchair waller and budding artisan alike.
Snow's collaborator is photographer Peter Smaus. His pictures, particularly the brooding black-and-white ones, leave no doubt of Smaus' kinship for stone.
"The skill one wishes to have," writes Snow, "is the ability to cast a gaze across a stockpile and immediately reduce the number of possible picks to one."
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