Spring 2010 Classes at the Arboretum

The new class schedule for the North Carolina Arboretum was recently announced. I am leading three stonework classes this spring. DIY Flagstone Paths & Patios will be offered twice, on Saturday April 10th and on Friday April 16th. In the morning session, we discuss the basics of drystone flagging: necessary site prep, the principles of good structure and varying joinery styles. In the afternoon we go outside to the stone classroom and practice the essential skills: moving stone safely, shaping individual pieces and leveling the patio.

I am offering a brand new class this spring, called Stonework Special Projects: Making a Bench on Saturday May 15th. In the morning we will discuss the design and structural issues of building a stone bench. In the afternoon we will build a freestanding bench ourselves. Topics of note including cutting stone with feathers and wedges and how to move large stones safely.


A Bench for Grandpa Tony

from the Chapel Hill News (Now The News & Observer)
16 December 2009

BY DAVE HART, Staff Writer
CHAPEL HILL – When Grandpa Tony went out for his walks, which he did nearly every day until he was into his mid-90s, he always made sure he was well provisioned.
He kept cookies in his right pocket for the neighborhood’s children and dog treats dogs in his left pocket for its dogs. For everyone he had a smile, a wave and a warm conversation.
“He lived here for 18 years and he walked miles every day,” said Virginia Saam, one of Antonio Marimpietri’s neighbors in the Ironwoods subdivison off Seawell School Road. “He talked to everybody. He knew all the kids. He knew all the dogs. Everybody knew Grandpa Tony.”
And when Marimpietri died last July, a month after his 98th birthday, everybody felt the loss. As word of his passing spread, in person and through the Ironwoods blog, the sentiment quickly grew that the neighborhood should commemorate his life and vibrant presence in some way.
“There’s a corner in the neighborhood where the road splits, and Tony would always sit on his walker at that corner and wave and talk to everyone who passed by,” Saam said. “It sort of became Tony’s corner. It occurred to me that maybe we could do something special for him there. That got such a response! Everybody wanted to contribute.”
Another neighbor, Deb Vacca, suggested that it would be a fitting tribute to remember Grandpa Tony with a bench at his corner, a resting place where neighbors could stop and visit with one another just as he always had.
“We settled on the idea of a stone bench, and then we did a Google search,” said neighbor Matthew Feldt. “We found a stonemason based in Asheville. He turned out to be exactly what we were looking for — somebody who is eco-centric, detail oriented, somebody who would really care about the project. And he did; he came to care about Tony.”
Marc Archambault makes exquisite natural stone walls, patios, walkways and other projects, using “dry,” or mortar-free techniques. He does most of his work in and around Asheville, but “for the right project,” he says, he’ll go just about anywhere. Grandpa Tony’s bench was a right project.
Archambault cut the 600-pound bench slab from a 3,000-pound block of Tennessee sandstone. He chiseled the support pedestals from smaller — though still substantial — blocks of stone, and on Oct. 30 he brought the whole thing down from the mountains in a pickup truck. With Feldt’s help, he unloaded the slab, prepared and leveled the site and constructed the bench. On a separate block he affixed a plaque reading, “For our friend, Grandpa Tony Marimpietri.” He covered the bench and block with a tarp so the epoxy holding the plaque in place could dry for 24 hours.
The next day was Halloween, when the neighborhood every year holds a potluck part. On an impulse, Ironwoods resident Ginny Thompson sent an e-mail out proposing to unveil the bench before the potluck.
“I sent out this note and went and bought a couple bottles of wine,” Thompson said. “I only gave everybody about two hours’ notice, so I didn’t expect much turnout. I figured, worst case scenario, I’d have a glass of wine with a neighbor.”
She should have bought more wine. Despite the short notice, more than 20 residents showed up, along, of course, with lots of kids and dogs.
Vince Norako, a good friend of Grandpa Tony’s, offered an eloquent toast, and Marimpietri’s son Tony, who lives with his family in Ironwoods, pulled the tarp off the bench.
“It meant a lot,” Tony Marimpietri said. “The neighborhood has been amazing.”
His father, he said, grew up in New York and worked in the restaurant business — “He said that during the Depression if you worked in a restaurant, at least you could eat,” he said.
Marimpietri the elder opened two restaurants of his own in New Jersey and eventually moved into the wine business, becoming a sommelier. He moved to Ironwoods in 1991 and immediately began to make friends.
“Dad was very gregarious, and people responded to him because he was authentic, because he was legitimately interested in them and their lives,” Tony Marimpietri said. “He always stopped to talk, and people were always visiting him at his home. They would take him to the store or to his favorite restaurant, Italian Pizzeria III. As he was going through the dying process, so many people went to Hospice to visit with him and say goodbye. The people at Hospice told me they’d never seen anything like it.
“Everyone was very, very supportive. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a village to care for the elderly, too.”


Memorial stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Memorial stone bench

New page and random images

Eight Stories, Nine Leaves

Eight Stories, Nine Leaves

I’ve just added a page about the Eight Leaves, Nine Stories patio pictured above.

Visitors to the Job Site

Sandstone wall detail

Working at night

This looks more like a crime scene than job site. I set up lights to work later on Monday, talking advantage of the lovely weather. Today’s nasty rain and tomorrow’s threat of wind gusts up 55 mph makes me glad I did.

Sister Cities, Brother Benches

These two benches were cut from the same slab of Tennessee sandstone. The first was built as a free-standing structure in a Chapel Hill neighborhood to celebrate the life of one of their most beloved members, Grandpa Tony. The bench is mortared and features an adjacent boulder with a small plaque. I call this type a castle block bench, named after the material used for the base stones.

Memorial stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Grandpa Tony’s bench

The second bench is in Asheville, adjacent to a sidewalk. The sitting stone, seatback and arm rests were all cut from same stone as Grandpa Tony’s bench. It is a drystone structure and built directly into the retaining wall.

retaining wall bench

A stone bench set into a retaining wall in downtown Asheville.

Next spring I will be leading a hands-on class at the Arboretum on making a stone bench. We’ll be building a castle block bench together that day. The official class date hasn’t been announced, but let me know if you’d like to be updated when the class registry opens.