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April Medley Weekend: A Buzzing Five Days of Workshops

The April Medley Weekend at the Stone Trust Center offers an exceptional way to hone your skills as a waller. Five five days of workshops span a variety of fundamental dry stonework elements. The medley includes an Introduction to Dry Stone Walling, Introduction to Stone Shaping, Retaining Walls, Steps & Stairs, and Flatwork. This year’s medley weekend added Level 1 and Level 2 Test Prep Workshops, as well as a special Landscape Architect and Designer 1-Day Intro. Multiple days of simultaneous workshops made for a great buzz around the training site with so many people excited to learn about dry stone walling.

On Wednesday, the 1-Day Intro took place in the barn due to the weather. With a full group, instructors Judy Rand and Ethan Bodin began by discussing walling theory and the five basic principles of dry stone walling. The group then got their hands on the wall and it was off to the races! There is a lot of ground to cover in just one day. Beginning wallers formed the largest part of the group, having arrived to learn what they need to know to complete home projects. A couple of folks came to add dry stone walling to their professional skills. By the end of the day, most participants felt that they had mastered the basic concepts. One said the instructors were “a joy to work with.”

Days 2 and 3 were unique this year, as the Stone Trust tried a new strategy of having two days of Stone Shaping and Retaining Wall workshops. This allowed instructors to give more attention to smaller groups and created more space for each builder on the retaining wall. Stone shaping workshops included many wallers who had attended Stone Trust workshops previously. Understanding how important stone shaping can be in dry stone walling, they had come back to learn. Other participants experienced in walling or trail building came to Stone Shaping as their first Stone Trust workshop. A landscape architect sought continuing education credits, as the Stone Trust is affiliated with LACES to enable this connection with the landscaping world. Rob Faraone, with years of experience of walling and shaping stone, led both stone shaping workshops. One participant said that they “appreciated [Rob’s] passion for the art of shaping stone.”

People from all over New England and New York filled the two days of retaining wall workshops. One person came all the way from Florida! A few wallers who had attended the 1-Day Intro continued on to a retaining wall workshop, needing the knowledge for their home projects. The Stone Trust requires an introductory workshop as a prerequisite, because the retaining wall workshop builds on the five basic rules of dry stone walling, adding information about what goes on behind the wall and how to build it strong enough to hold back the earth. One participant said it was “a nice mix between theoretical principles on the whiteboard and practical on-site application with real non-dimensional stone.” Thank you Seth Harris for leading the retaining wall workshops and sharing your knowledge across the two days. Thank you also to Ethan Bodin and Judy Rand for your assistance during these two days of stone shaping and retaining wall workshops. Your help was invaluable.

Day 4, Saturday, was a busy day with three workshops going on across the Stone Trust Center site. The Steps & Stairs workshop included trailbuilders, stone sculptors, and a couple from Pennsylvania who had discovered a passion for stone after buying a property with lots of stonework to be maintained. Master Craftsman Michael Weitzner brought a wealth of knowledge and friendliness to teaching this workshop. In addition to Steps & Stairs, seven wallers gained an understanding of the criteria and timing required to pass their Level 1 or Level 2 certification tests in May at the Test Prep Workshop. This workshop is designed as a supervised test day, with guidance and feedback from an instructor, giving the wallers the opportunity to practice a timed test before certification day. Thank you to Russell Autrey for managing the different levels of preparation so skillfully. Dan Morales-Walsh and Brian Post led the third offering on site, the first-ever Landscape Architect and Designer Intro. Both waller-teachers bring extensive experience working with landscape professionals. You can read more about this workshop here.

The Medley Weekend finished with a Flatwork workshop, where walling enthusiasts learn how to build a patio. The group included some who had attended other workshops in the Medley, while others arrived on Sunday specifically to learn how to prep, design, and install flagging. Both homeowners and professionals engaged in the training, as many projects incorporate it. This course does not involve the usual prerequisite. Flagging involves a different skill set and does not apply the same principles that building vertically does. Thank you to Curtis Gray and Ron Neil for leading this workshop and taking time out of your lives to teach others.

Thank you to everyone who attended these five days of workshops at the Stone Trust Center. Everything you learn about dry stone walling helps to preserve the art and craft of dry stone walling. Your kindness and enthusiasm help make Stone Trust workshops enjoyable for everyone.

If you are looking for other opportunities to come to a medley weekend and learn multiple skills in one trip, you can find other 2024 Medleys here.