Stone Art of Lew French Suru-Pa-Maerl
There was another way cool story on CBS Sunday Morning, it was about Stone Artist Lew French, and his practice of an almost unknown art. Unknown in our world anyway, but well know to fans of Stephen R Donaldson and his Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever books.
In the first book, Lord Foul’s Bane, we meet Lena, a tragic figure in the history of The Land. She practiced the stone craft of suru-pa-maerl. This was a skill that some Stonedowners of The Land learned. This is a small bit of business in the books that shows up from time to time. The Land is full of odd little wonders like this. Like Lew French, Lena wanders the countryside looking for rocks that have a certain shape and feel to them. She doesn’t set out to make the rock fill her vision, rather she let’s the rock tell her what it wants to be.
So watching the story of Lew French on CBS I couldn’t help but think about Lena and The Land. Here is a man that spends years building a wall out of thousands of small rocks, each of which has to fit perfectly where it belongs, as he does not shape the rocks to fit the task. I wonder if he read any of Stephen R Donaldson’s books, or if Stephen R Donaldson has seen other stone workers doing this kind of rock yoga.
I’m one of those people that always goes to a craft mall and looks at everything there and says, Hey, I could do that! I got a very similar feeling watching the story about Lew French and his stone fireplaces and walls. Even the Lew French houses looked like something that anyone with a bit of time could do. If anyone wanted to take the time to do it. But no one would pay me a small fortune to make them a fireplace. I have to wonder how Lew French got started. What did he do for food while he spend weeks wandering around looking for rocks? How much did he charge for that first fireplace that took him months to complete?
Lena and The Land created her art, all the suru-pa-maerl was part Earthpower and part letting go. Do I need to mention that the people of The Land don’t have jobs, or bills, or lives as we know them? Ah, fantasy. Still, it is a bit of work searching for stones to make art objects. The art was almost always a gift of some kind, as I recall.
Anyway, more important than Lew French and Lena how they make their art- how could I do what he does and get paid for it? I guess I need to start with a walk in the woods and pair of pants with some really big pockets.
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