Hard Rock Life
"I've been setting stones since I was 10," says gray-haired, bearded Ray Hall in a soft Southern voice. In fact, Hall still has a pebble he found when he was a kid working with his dad, a stonemason in Alabama. "I have an innate love of stones," he says.
Hall's work - which includes retaining walls, fireplaces, benches and bridges - is unique in Atlanta. He describes his artistry, dubbed Eclectic Stoneworks, as bringing together different elements of texture, type, color, size and style. Hall buys stones from a man who moonlights as a dairy farmer in Tennessee and collects other materials himself from "secret places in North Georgia and Alabama." He hand-sets every stone and mixes all cement by hand for each project.
Hall wanted to be an artist, but his father insisted that all his sons learn the family trade. It wasn't until an epiphany 25 years later that Hall came to fully accept his craft and realize he had in fact become an artist. Once that happened, his work evolved into the more organic, free design that is his hallmark.
"I don't like a rigid plan," Hall says. "I like the flexibility to change things, to see what is right as the project is going up. The less I think, the better it turns out."
Like a painter, Hall uses a varied palette of rocks in different thicknesses, colors, sizes and shapes, including flagstone, fieldstone, yellow and white quartz, marble and creek rocks. As he works, he listens for what he calls the "surprise element." "Stones do call me, speak to me," he says.
That communication pays off in stunning, one-of-a-kind works that are a pleasure to look at and to touch. "It has my name on it just by the way it looks," Hall says. Just to be sure, he often adds a "signature rock" into a finished piece.
"Sometimes I care as much or more than the owners about the work," he says. "I drive by and visit completed projects."
Hall admits that occasionally he finds a special rock he can't part with. "The rocks themselves inspire me," he says.