After years of laying natural stone for walls, patios, walkways and dozens of other types of projects I’m proud of where I’ve taken my craft. More than that, I’ve come to understand some of the attributes that separate amateurs from true natural stone professionals. Let me share four of the qualities I think stone layers need to progress to this level.
Passion: The most creative stone layers have an undeniable passion for their work. It’s sometimes difficult for an amateur to understand why someone would want to spend their entire professional life working with natural stone. You need to apply strength, patience and a memory of the techniques you need and the characteristics that apply to a specific type of natural stone. Passion is an appreciation for that detail because you can see it all as part of one process that turns the raw stone into something perfectly suited to its function, whether that’s a stone retaining wall, patio or path.
Mastery of the Tools: A professional stone layer learns to orchestrate his tools efficiently, moving effortlessly from one tool to the next. This ability has to come from a love of the craft or it simply won’t appear, because it requires constant practice and the commitment needed to procure the right chisels, hammers, levels, squares and other tools for the job. Don’t underestimate the effort it takes to put together a truly complete set of tools! A good stone layer avoids using a less than ideal tool for a particular task and doesn’t get confused over his selection of tools. Once he has them on hand, the job may look easy – but nothing that looks so easy ever is without intense preparation.
Knowledge of the Stone: A true professional knows the important differences between each type of stone. This includes its relative weight, strength and how it reacts to different tools and environmental phenomena. This way, he can do more than just get the job done, but participate in choosing the correct natural stone. An expert stone layer is a valuable resource for an architect, landscaping professional or interior designer because he keeps those individuals from making poor choices about the stone to use. Furthermore, a stone layer learns about the cosmetic qualities of different natural stone varieties, including color and texture, and should over time know where to find them from a reputable stone retailer or stone wholesaler (depending on the type of job).
Creativity: Laying stone requires more creativity than you might think. A laid down surface is like a puzzle where the person solving it (the stone layer) gets to “cheat” by reshaping the pieces, but he must make the end result attractive and functional. There are countless ways to arrange stones in a path, but not all of them are practical. A stone layer can find the best looking option. He can build a wall with a beautiful pattern with its structural requirements.
The end result is that he’s created a piece of art out of natural stone. His solution shows the imagination and talent of the stone layer and the natural beauty of the stone.