Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Miniature stoneworks may look like the real deal close up, but they are in fact far more complicated to build and also cannot withstand the same abuse as large scale stonework. In general stonework can take a lot of abuse , only really taking damage by human error when being hit by a vehicle or if poorly built. Miniature stoneworks are a lot more fragile, a dangling sleeve,a strong gust of wind or even placing a stone with too much conviction can bring the whole thing crumbling down. This is why I think I will stick to the big stuff and leave the miniature stuff to the real pros, Below are a few examples of some great miniature stoneworks and a bit about a few of the artists as well.
American environmental artist Sally J. Smith builds these wonderful fairy houses below, and shares with me a little about her stone fairy houses.
The Emerald Mossy Fairy House was a relatively large construction built on a woodlands trail. It took a week to build… 2 of those days were spent gathering the stones and bringing them in to the site. The large mossy boulder-cliff already looked like a house in Sally’s eyes…“it just needed a little encouraging to bring it out!” A Weeping Willow twig branch was twisted and woven to make the large window. A shelf fungus was found nearby and used as an awning to protect the entrance-way. A small dormer room was added later. The stone walling portion is approx 30 inches high.
This was one of Sally’s first stone sculptures. Finding all different colours of stone along the river, Sally tried to graduate the shading as she built the tower up from a very special pothole which was now exposed along the bank due to the low water of mid-summer. “The tower took many pleasant days to build. I found a few very special stones that looked like fanciful gargoyles so I saved them to line the access bridge”. Moss was brought in as were some ferns and wildflowers. The house had a special visitor one day…can you spot it? The tower was enjoyed by a lot of people who saw it. “After it had been up for about 2 weeks, we had a flash flood. I rushed to the river and took one final image because I knew the river was going to flood over night. I came back the next morning and it was all down and deep underwater. A week later I came back to a pothole full of small stones. I cleared out the shards and distributed them along the banks….grateful for the experience”
“A sweet little Stone cottage to grace a rock garden. When I made it I had installed one window design, but eventually I figured out how to bend a Weeping Willow branch into a Celtic-styled window so I installed that one instead. A grey slate heart made by the wave actions of the nearby lake forms the back of the wee stone bench in the Faerie-sized garden out back. The “Standing Stone” is an homage to Scotland and the lovely stones I was able to meet on my many trips there. The last photo is mainly for fun and to also give a sense of scale…sometimes it is hard to know what the scale is on these houses…that is part of the fun! This house lasted for several years. Eventually the weight of an especially snowy winter killed off the moss and a cat landing on the roof went thru the moss and the house was not repairable…so the stones are waiting in a basket for another day”
The Shire House was built along a mountain stream. There was a trail nearby used by hikers and campers. The house took several days to complete. While it was under construction Sally left a small sign asking folks to please respect the artwork. One day Sally came to work and found a message written in pebbles under the mossy bank. ~”That was fun!” Several days later Sally returned to see how the house was doing….sadly, a wild animal had ripped it apart. “There were some VERY large canine tracks in the sandy beach…another message this time, not so nice. I suspect it was either a large wolf-coyote hybrid or just a hikers large dog. I took all the stones and put them back in the river and cleaned up the moss. It was sad to see it go but the river gives and takes all the time.”
These fairy houses are only a small part of some of the gorgeous work Sally does so be sure to check out her website www.greenspiritarts.com to see some of her other work. She also takes commissions if you want a fairy house of your own or just order on of her lovely calenders that have prints of the ones she already has created. UK based landscaper/ artist David Wood of Wood Landscapes has recently started making these wonderfully accurate miniature stonework. The detail in these is just astounding.
Slightly more abstract German land artist and stone balancer extraordinaire Volker Paul creates these unavailable miniature stoneworks. It is hard to even comprehend the hours and patience it must take to create these, as well as deal with all the failed attempts.
If you are into stone balancing (see my post on stone balancing here) I highly recommend checking out some of his other work as he is one of the most impressive balancing artist I have ever come across. (I called him a balancing artist rather than a stone balancer as some of the things he balances are truly mind bending!) Photos of his work can be found on his facebook page here
North Carolina based stonemason Michael Stephens custom builds these great little stone buildings for clients. Micheal began building miniature stone houses more than twenty years ago after visiting a miniature replica tourist attraction in Canada. Constructed dry-stack style with reinforced concrete, they are weather hardy and very durable. They can be used in a model railroad, terrarium, aquarium, fairy garden, miniature zen garden and in homes as a conversation piece or gardens for accent. If you wish to see more of his work or wish to order your very own one you can contact him through his website http://stoneworkbystephens.com/miniatures
For the traditionalists out there I have come across many miniature drystone walls also. Many of these built by dry stone wallers trying to pass the time during long winter nights.
The stone wall above was spotted my Mark Jurus of Rocking Walls. On his way back down from Vermont he stopped in to see his good friends from the DSC doing a workshop in PA. Mark spotted this great miniature Dry Stone Wall built by Ashley Meadows from KY. The size of this is about 5 inches high by 12 inches long.
When not in his printing press or rocking it out with his Bradford based band Terrorvision Tony Wright makes these great little miniature dry stone walls, complete with traditional features.
I thought that I could not end the post without representing some of Ireland’s unique dry stone walls, so I had a go at building a few miniature walls of my own. My first miniature wall is single stone wall common in Donegal and Down where large rocks are stacked and wedged together leaving large gaps between the stones.
The second wall I attempted was one of Ireland’s iconic dry stone walls, a feidín wall, usually found in the Burren in Co. Clare and on the Aran Islands. A ‘feidín wall’ has the smaller stones on the bottom with the big stones on top. This type of wall is made up of a double sided wall on the bottom with a large single stone wall on top. The double sided wall at the bottom is often made up of a series of large upright stones called mother stones, that run the full depth of the wall. The space between them is built up with smaller stones known as daughter stones. The upper part of the wall is then built using large stones only a single stone wide. The result is a extremely strong wall with a dense base to shelter animals and protect the soil from the strong prevailing winds, while the cracks and holes in the top of the wall let wind filter through. The light that shines through the cracks makes the wall look unstable, deterring animals from jumping on it.
This wall is also quite difficult to build in miniature, the hardest part being trying to ‘heart’ the wall. (back pinning the stones in the centre of the wall) Thirsty work too. And anyone who has been to Feile na gCloch will be able to tell you, you can’t build a feidín wall with out a pint of Stout (or maybe that’s just me)
Thanks to all the artists above for kindly giving me permission to share their photos with you.