I’ve been casting about for a shift in how I see my life. Mainly, I’m looking for a way that work doesn’t rule everything I do or my definition of myself. I’d like to see art and creativity take over that role. I have a fair amount of frequently untapped talent for making things in a somewhat improvised but lasting manner. I’ve crafted a bench out of two pieces of limestone and a plank of wood, fountains from flower pots and scrap copper pipe, and innovative landscape features with nothing but piles of stone, a shovel and sweat. Most landscaping or garden construction techniques I have attempted I can master, adding a personal flair to them as I go. Much of what I do uses materials and tools I have at hand. Sometimes, however, I treat my lack of ability to buy materials as a handicap as opposed to the opportunity for craftiness it really is. I have to, at the very least, suppress that message of “lack” if I want to nurture my creativity.
Enter Berthold Haas. (Or in my case, hopefully re-enter.) I haven’t kept up my friendship with him in the years since I got married, but now seems like a good time to get in touch with him. I was indelibly inspired by his use of limestone in making everything, but particularly landscape features like fountains. I used to live next door to him as he transformed his rented house into a garden oasis of fountains, walls and a limestone grotto.
His particular rough-hewn, but classically-inspired forms are perfectly in line with my aesthetic given that mine is informed by Texas Hill Country landforms (lots of limestone and “cedar”, or ashe juniper) and an earlier life as a hobbyist caver (more limestone). And while I could never even begin to copy him adequately, there’s not a time I work with karst limestone (that swiss-cheese limestone named for cave-bearing landforms) that I don’t think of him.
It might be time for me to try my hand at more fountains and benches, stuff that’s a little bigger and better than I’ve already done. I’d love to try a fountain somewhat like Berthold’s – hulking slab of uncut, natural limestone with a perfect well and channel cut into it, water entering from a hidden source over a hand-hewn race or nozzle. I might not be able to match that scale – he works with pieces that weigh tons, and has the studio and employees to help deal with these thing – but I know I can at least create forms that are pleasing.