Freehand Arches

lately I’ve had arches on the mind… I think they reappeared on my radar while i was editing my 2013 Gravity Glue compilation video recently…(viewable here)… anyway, I began playing with them again and decided to experiment a little bit with an upcoming snowstorm.. I made this in a more secluded location as to not attract so much human attention, and potential harm over the span of the process.. Arches are perfect for storms… they are much stronger than simple delicate balances… Although still delicate, arches are much more capable of enduring stronger winds.. They also do an excellent job supporting the large increases in weight brought on by snow and ice, assuming they are built with a little foresight..

Now, in order to get the arches to freeze the way I want, they need to be built in a strategic location where they have a constant spatter of water…  a vertical shift in creek terrain is ideal. The process is slightly, but still far from, predictable….  like I’ve always said, especially with this art….. no expectations.. and… experience is the best teacher.

I mention structured learning because the process of building this arch arrangement was very much interconnected… some arches depend on others for support.. vibration from one collapse could potentially torque one more domino out of position.. and so on.  i had to restart the whole process about 3 times.. extreme care and awareness to overall structure was required to finally pull it off….. Not to mention the high volume of water rushing and splashing all around me…

Arches can be fun to play with in relation to perspective and arranging them across three dimensions, they can form quite interesting designs.. i imagine the possibilities are endless…

Most freehand arches are extremely precarious in their purely balanced states… therefore, when expecting more weight, it helps to *very carefully place smaller wedge rocks in important places to brace some of the weak points…. creek rocks are highly imperfect… they “wiggle” …as with rock balancing, and all of land art… It is up to the wiggly human to select, learn, and arrange a series of wiggles into a unified whole….

One really cool aspect of this arrangement is the slight matrix of arches… stillness layered over turbulent creek water… although hard to see the interaction through photos… the dance is slightly entrancing.. and I love how the water transcends the gaps…. highlighting the arches…

excited to see how these arches interact with the coming snowstorm and freeze.. :)



4 Responses
  1. Beat

    Hi Michael,
    I have been doing a few years also country style with stones in switzerland, i usually put only single stones. You got me inspired now! Thank you! if you send me a mail, i will send you a few pictures with my stones! Sorry, bad english!

  2. Charles

    Michael, I have done some rock balances, lots of fun. I don’t get how you are building the arches – it looks like you’d have to stack all the rocks at once to get the pressure to keep them there. Do you put rocks underneath, then build the arch and then remove the supporting rocks? Would love to see a video of you building an arch. Thanks for your beautiful and inspiring work. Charles

    1. Hi Charles, the arches are built one at a time in sequence so that each arch has necessary support from those before it…. there are no forms of any kind.. it is simply freehand balancing… but, the process basically involves selecting rocks with surfaces and angles to build an arch.. then i go one rock at a time from one side to the other.. place a rock with one hand.. hold it with the other.. repeat… bracing hand must somewhat mimic the balancing vectors that would normally come from the other side… once the last rock is placed and connection is made.. the whole thing wiggles all over the place… i cradle it slightly with bracing hand/arm… until i have all the rocks’ torques balanced into equilibrium.. hopefully that makes sense.. i will work on releasing a POV tutorial for freehand arch building.. :)

Leave a Reply