The Precarious Artistry of Balancing Stones

Published on December 24, 2015

The art of precariously placing stones atop one another, usually in creative and highly improbable formations, with the assistance of nothing other than gravity. For some it’s a hobby…for others, a form of meditation, a way to exercise creativity or even a profession. It is stone balancing…and it is my passion.

Below is a compilation of the most commonly asked questions I’ve received about stone balancing over the last several years.

“How do you do that?”

The answer is always short and simple: tons of practice and patience! To the youngsters, I always just say that it’s magic, which almost always puts smiles on their faces.

“How long do they last?”

Pond BalancingIt ranges from a few seconds to a few weeks, depending on environmental factors. The most common causes of demise are wind and humans. Despite what most imagine, rain has very little effect on the balance —“ even less so if it’s coming straight down. Many times those who come upon a stone balance can’t resist a brief touch to see if it’s been glued. Usually, to the surprise of the individual, the formation tumbles and they’re quite shocked. Not many people have witnessed stones sitting in the fashion set by a highly skilled stone balance artist. As if they defy the laws of physics, many balances are so precarious that the slightest breeze sends them tumbling to the ground.

“Does it make you angry when they fall?”

Balances falling is something that one gets used to quite quickly. It’s almost humorous, in a way. Personal satisfaction is quickly obtained the moment you remove your hands and realize no further support is required. Given their often short life span, permanence of the stone balance is best achieved through photography…if you can get to the camera quickly enough.

Stone balancing

“How long do they take to create?”

After the stone selection process, most take less than 30 minutes or so. Some of the more complex configurations can take several hours. For me, I personally prefer to work in rivers, creeks and streams. The atmosphere is very soothing and allows for the full concentration required for the most delicate balances. Besides the calming effect, they contain beautiful, polished stones that have been tumbled and smoothed over millions and billions of years, each one unique in shape and texture. These locations are always amazing and make for an incredible studio, or “office.”

>> Video | The Artistry of Balancing Stones

Amazed at Their Amazement

“Do you get nervous when people watch?”

Not at all; I enjoy performing in front of people. It’s an experience for the onlookers as much as it is for me. I’m amazed watching people be amazed. People become captivated by the process. There’s often a crescendo of emotion, or even disbelief, when they see an incredibly large top stone picked up one-handed and gently placed upon a teetering, unstable grouping of stones, each being steadied by the other. “No way” is often heard during this moment.
Barely visible micro-adjustments take place as the stones are moved into the exact alignment required to achieve balance. As I move my hands away, an eruption of satisfaction comes from the crowd, usually through applause. The disbelievers become believers and are quick to verify the reality-bending madness that just took place to all those who arrive after the stone balance is standing free of support. It never ceases to surprise me how a few balanced stones can break down barriers between those stopping to admire. The balances themselves are conversation-starters and crowd-attractors. On an average summer day of balancing, hundreds stop to admire my creations. Most sit and watch as I continue to create, inquisitive about the process of me wandering the water, seeking out unique and interesting stones to be used in the next balance. Upon completion, the compliments and questions start flying. I’ve found that most people are genuinely excited to express their amazement about what they’ve just watched.

I’m always happy to talk, explain and hopefully spark some creativity in those who otherwise consider themselves non-creative. Kids are quick to try to emulate, while the adults are a little more reluctant. Usually, after about 10 minutes of watching the kids working on stacking rocks, adults can’t help but offer guidance … and then begin their own creations. At the day’s end I almost always dismantle my work to prevent accidental topples that could injure people or animals. It also returns the pristine natural area back to the way it was before my arrival.

Rock BalancingAs much as I enjoy creating these balances, at the end of the day it’s even more fun to allow the kids to throw stones at them and watch them go down.

Once, during an interview, I was asked, “Why do you stone balance?” I’ve been asked that question almost as many times as “How do you do that?” … the latter being a much easier question to answer. Being asked many times, one would think a canned response should just flow out. However, this question always sends me into a brain spiral, pondering my true objective.

After a moment, I obliged the interviewer with several answers that were all legitimate: to inspire; for my own creative outlet; to see what’s possible; because I’m curious; to spend meditative time in nature; and several others. We moved on to other discussions, but in reality I was left pondering the question in my head the remainder of the day. In an epiphany I came up with the most understandable answer: “Because of the pure magic that transpires.”

Japanese Koi Kodama

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