I had the pleasure of meeting Peter last April in Portonovo, Italy. We were both in attendance for the first international stone balance gathering/exhibition called “BAWI”…. Long before BAWI, I became aware of Peter’s stone balance work through photo sharing on Flickr. And I must say his style has influenced several of my own creations. Something I particularly enjoy is the fluidity and extreme improbability of Peter’s creations… Simply clever.
Peter has also recently published a book entitled: “Center of Gravity: A Guide to the Practice of Rock Balancing”
I recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the art.. beginner or advanced. Peter lays out all the basics, various styles, some more advanced techniques, and some hints based on his experience.
***All photos in this post are under copyright and ownership of Peter Juhl and require permission for use.
GG: How long have you been practicing stone balance? Where do you normally practice?
I have been balancing for about twenty years. The first ten years or so I was only balancing casually, on vacations or in my garden. Now that I’m more committed to the practice, I make the the four hour trip to Lake Superior several times a year, alone with my camera. I also balance at Lake Harriet, a beautiful city park in Minneapolis near where I live.
GG: Please describe your first experience rock balancing. How did you first discover the art?
I discovered balancing by accident, on a famliy trip to a rocky beach. Recalling how a junior high-school friend had balanced a salt shaker on edge in a little pile of salt and then blown the excess salt away, I tried it with a large rock and some sand. That did not work at all, but I found that I could use a little depression in the rock outcropping I was sitting on in place of the salt. I was immiediately intrigued, and have been passionate about balancing ever since.
GG: Please name 1 or more inspirational stone balance artists (if any) that inspired you initially and/or along your journey, and have contributed to your own style/interest/development with the art.
Bill Dan’s work made a big impression on me. I had been balancing a long time when I discovered his web site. Seeing his amazing counterbalances and groupings made me realize how much potential balancing had, that I had not yet explored. I met him in Sausalito a few years ago and he was very encouraging and kind. Also, Michael, your recent wide-ranging explorations have been inspiring as well.
GG: Do you feel a spiritual dimension to the practice? How has stone balance improved your life/ approach to life/ general well-being?
I feel a strong spiritual element. Creating the work is a process that brings me to a point where I clearly feel my relationship with the larger universe, and just looking at a completed work makes me feel in the presence of something transcendent. I’m convinced that balancing has improved my own outlook and life. Also, as a group, the balancers I know are some of the happiest, most generous and open people I’ve ever met.
GG: Do you think stone balance has therapeutic and/or academic applications? please explain.
Focusing on a complicated problem that involves the muscles and senses is a good way to free your mind from bouncing around, to invite stillness and quiet. Going into nature and solitude also adds to the serenity one can experience. Teaching balancing to children has revealed to me that, contrary to what many people believe, patience and focus are not in short supply in the young.
GG: Please offer some insight, if any, into how or why stone balance appears as a GLOBAL practice, despite geographic or cultural isolation.
For years, it felt like I was the only person in the world who balanced rocks. It’s such a simple thing, and rocks are plentiful in so many places, I was surprised that it wasn’t as common as building sand castles or snowmen. It was immensely gratifying to discover the other people all over the world who share it. Now I know that it just took the free communication on the internet to bring these isolated souls together to share and celebrate each other. A true global community.
GG: Lastly, please offer any comments/advice (if any) for beginners.
I love cooking. I used to watch the Food Network to learn about what good chefs were doing and how they did it. Then a bunch of competitive cooking shows appeared. I couldn’t and still don’t get why cooking should have a competitive element. I feel the same about stone balancing. It should not be competitive, but instead should be about discovery and surprising yourself. When you’re learning, you’ll probably feel some envy about what more experienced balancers can do. Tha’ts natural, but enjoy and focus on what you can do now. Let yourself be owned by the process; don’t try to own it.
“Just one more rock.” ;)
GG: Please give a brief description of your recent book ‘Center of Gravity‘.
For years I searched the internet for a book that would tell me more about my unusual interest in balancing stones. I was never able to find one, so I started working on one myself about three years ago.
I had a lot of indecision settling on just what I wanted to include. I have a hard time writing about the art because it’s very personal and the feelings are hard to put into words. There’s also not much information out there on cultural or ancient forms, so it couldn’t really be a scholarly book.
Writing about the mechanics of how it works turned out to be easier. I also found it fairly easy to write specific exercises or lessons on how to learn various techniques. So the book turned out to be kind of a brief introduction to balancing, a good-sized theory and instruction section, some tips and tricks, and a short essay on some fascinating things I’ve discovered in my relationship with the rocks.
I included lots of photos from various balancers I know, because not everybody has seen the great variety of work our balancing friends are capable of.
Someday it would be great to put together a photo book with work from the balancing community. Maybe that’s the next project…