HSAD students turning stone into art


Dry stone artist John Shaw-Rimmington is returning to Haliburton County next month to add to his collection of natural sculptures.

With eight pieces already installed around Haliburton village and in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, Shaw-Rimmington will be working with a handful of students from the Haliburton School of Art + Design to create a new, hand-crafted work that will live outside the Dysart branch of the Haliburton County Public Library.

The week-long program will run Oct. 23 to 27, with Shaw-Rimmington, who lives in Port Hope, telling The Highlander he’s excited to get back to the Highlands after years away.

It was pre-COVID the last time I was up there completing a project… I am quite passionate about this. I think what I teach, more than anything, is the ability to work with what the earth gives you and turn it into something beautiful,” Shaw-Rimmington said.

He has been running courses periodically since 2008. The collaboration with HSAD, he recalls, came about after a fellow artist suggested he’d be a good fit to run his own arts program at the Haliburton-based college. He connected with former dean, Sandra Dupret, who gave the green light.

“There was no stopping me after that,” Shaw-Rimmington said.

The first project, he recalls, was a piece that still lives in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest today – two curved walls creating a pathway for hikers. He has another four pieces in the collection inside Glebe Park, including a stunning stone boat that sits on the shore of Head Lake. There are other pieces on the HSAD grounds, by the log cabin at the Haliburton Highlands Museum, and at Sam Slick Park, across from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.

Shaw-Rimmington said this latest piece will feature a Yin and Yang pattern with threefoot raised dry stone walls surrounding it. All stone is being donated by Dysart et al.

Erin Lynch, operations manager at HSAD, said there are still spots available to participate in the program.

“People will be working on this on-location, beside the library, and there is an in-class component, which will be held at the library. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn a really unique skill and put something together that will be in place, and enjoyed by people, for a long time,” Lynch said.

The program costs $431, though bursaries are available that Lynch says will cover most, if not all the cost. Anyone interested in participating and making use of the bursary should apply by Oct. 6. Other applications will be considered until Oct. 22.

Shaw-Rimmington said the course teaches the basics of masonry and helps people with their critical thinking skills.

“We usually spend at least a day discussing the general principals of masonry, and working with different techniques. Then we come up with a working idea for the project, which is tough because you never know what you’ll have to work with in advance, so a lot of this is done on the fly. You have to figure out how to work with a variety of shapes and make them fit together,” he said.

“It’s different from the usual painting courses, and other modes of art at HSAD – this is physically demanding, and we have a fixed time in which to finish the work. It’s a challenging course, but extremely rewarding when you’re able to look back and see the contributions you made to a featured piece of art.”

To learn more, visit flemingcollege.ca/ continuing-education/courses/dry-stonestructures.