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Stone Will Answer Beatrice Searle

A commemoration of rock

Beatrice Searle developed a passion for working with stone during her time studying fine art. She gained experience by volunteering at a stone yard, and eventually became an apprentice stone mason at Lincoln Cathedral. Her role involved transforming natural stones into functional architectural pieces by taming and translating them.

After completing her apprenticeship, she found inspiration in the medieval custom of becoming a journeyman. This involved newly trained craftspeople traveling to different locations to learn from various individuals. While at Lincoln Cathedral, she noticed that some of the stones bore the mark of a medieval mason from the Nidaros Cathedral workshops in Trondheim, Norway. The modern masons at the cathedral shared with Searle about an old pilgrimage route that was once traveled by nearly every Norwegian king on their way to the cathedral.

During her time in Orkney, she encountered an old stone bearing two footprints that were believed to belong to Magnus Erlendsson, the Norse Earl of Orkney in the 12th century. This inspired Searle to embark on a journey along the ancient Norwegian path, carrying a 40 kg siltstone from an Orkney beach that she had carved with two shallow footprints. Along the way, she invited others to participate in a ritual where they would stand in the carved footprints with bare feet, allowing their skin to touch the stone. This was meant to draw upon the knowledge and resilience of their ancestors and ensure a safe return through direct contact with the rock. The experience provided a moment of grounding and stability as they connected with the mobile stone.

On her challenging and risky trip from Oslo to Trondheim, she brought along the “footprint stone” (dubbed the Orkney Boat by Searle). The stone, which was a flat, diamond-shaped slab weighing approximately 60 kg, was pulled on a handmade trailer. She also brought a tent and food supplies. While she had planned to embark on the journey alone, her partner joined her. However, their relationship did not last through the 64-day journey, which was filled with difficulties.

Several individuals believed her concept was absurd. However, after maneuvering the heavy stone across mountains and navigating through challenging terrain, despite facing multiple setbacks with her trailer, she has no regrets about embarking on the journey. In fact, she admires Sisyphus and wishes she could be like him, constantly pushing his rock. She developed a strong bond with the stone she stood on every day, considering it her “chosen” home in the form of stone.

Searle shares a remarkable tale of carrying a nomadic and wandering stone to unite humanity and nature. This story is intertwined with her personal journey of falling in love with stone work, as well as in-depth exploration of the history and folklore surrounding her craft. Honest, primal, and occasionally poignant, it is a striking and one-of-a-kind tribute to the strength and magnificence of stone.

You can buy the item for £9.67 at the Guardian bookshop, which is a discounted price from the original recommended retail price of £10.99.

Source: theguardian.com