Twice a year serious wallers present themselves as candidates for Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) certification. In May and September each year, the Stone Trust provides access to and administers the DSWA certifications at the Stone Trust Center in Dummerston, Vermont. The certification pathway consists of four levels: 1-Initial, 2-Intermediate, 3-Advanced, and 4-Master Craftsman. Test criteria are designed to ensure that dry stone wallers achieve the highest standards of craftsmanship.
Amazingly enough, test days seem to coincide with glorious weather. Spring Test Day, for example, presented cool, sunny, and dry after two days of sweltering heat. Great good fortune for the twelve men and women gathered to demonstrate their capabilities as dry stone wallers! An atmosphere of cheerful anticipation and intention prevails. Wallers prepare themselves with quiet conversation, readying their spaces, querying assessors, and contemplation.
Certification tests are rigorous and challenging at all levels. They consist of taking down and rebuilding a specified amount of wall in seven hours. The walls are built in the presence of certified assessors and must meet the minimum required score to pass. All tests are graded on a pass/fail system. Each part of the test wall is numerically graded, and must meet or exceed a minimum score to pass. The test wall as a whole must also meet a minimum score to pass. The required sections and minimum scores vary for each level of certification.
Spring Test Day, 2022
On Monday, May 23, seven people came to certify as Level 1 Wallers, having traveled from New England states, California, Ontario, and Pennsylvania. In the photos, they are the wallers rebuilding the double-stacked faces of the freestanding wall. Three arrived to test for Level 2, from California, Maine, and New York State. These men challenged themselves to leap the Level 2 hurdle, determined to strip out and reconstruct a vertical wall end that ties back neatly into the freestanding wall. Two Stone Trust instructors-professional members returned to attempt the Level 3 speed test, dismantling and rebuilding to standards a section of retaining wall. You can find criteria for each test level in the Craftsman Certification Scheme booklet.
Assessors Peter Isherwood and Chris Tanguay, both Master Craftsmen, traveled from the UK and the state of Maine, respectively. On Sunday, May 22, the day before Spring Test Day, they met at the Vermont Granite Museum–host site for the Stone Trust training center in Barre–to evaluate a Level 3A feature wall built over the course of several months by Alex Hoffmeier. Congratulations to Alex! He passed the first part of the test with flying colors! Now to prepare for the Level 3 speed test on a retaining wall. Master Craftsman Brian Post oversaw the test day, ensuring that everything ran smoothly.
Now for the results! All seven Level 1 candidates accomplished certification. Two of three Level 2 testers achieved certification. One of two Level 3 candidates achieved certification.
It is important to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of each test candidate. Certification testing is not for the faint of heart! At each level, some wallers make multiple attempts before they demonstrate the ability to meet test criteria within the time frame. We are proud of all of you and grateful for your help in preserving the art and craft of dry stone walling. Each of you carries the knowledge forward in your being, in your work, and in the ways you share what you know in the places where you live.
Level 1 Wallers
Cherilyn Bulger, Emily Burbank, Jennifer Corrigan, Charlie Day, Jesse Gretzinger, Tom Kirschner, and Clark O’Bryan
Level 2 Wallers
Nels Atkinson and Seth Corning
Level 3 Wallers
Jerry Coggin attained Level 3 Waller certification, becoming the sixteenth waller in North America certified at this level. He joined his wife, Kim Coggin, in the accomplishment.
As far as we know, Jerry and Kim are the only Level 3 Waller couple on the face of the earth!