Stonemasonry may seem a lost art, but one family has helped to keep the craft alive in Canada for over a century.
Saanich Peninsula resident Adam Kent is a fifth-generation master stonemason whose Polish great-great-grandfather passed the knowledge down after emigrating to Saskatoon in the early 1900s.
“My great-grandpa and great-great-grandpa had a farm in Saskatchewan in Fish Creek and they used to do masonry all around the area, building farmhouses and schoolhouses and things like that,” Kent said. “Then my great-grandpa worked for the federal government building monuments for 25 years and that’s how my dad started working with him.”
Kent grew up in Saskatoon and as a teenager began learning the trade alongside his dad. He fell in love with it, much like the men in his family before him.
In 2018, Kent and his wife moved to the Peninsula for a lifestyle change, seeing as work was slow through the long prairie winters. Here on the Island, his work is much more steady throughout the year, he said.
“It’s definitely a lost art and I want to build something that’s going to be cherished and loved through many generations,” he said. “That’s the beautiful thing about building with stone, it’s more permanent.”
Time is invested in every piece, he said, adding many skilled trades have been replaced by faster and lower quality means of production. “Many buildings and stone pieces are slapped together with very little care.”
Carrying on the legacy of his craft by taking time to ensure detail and quality are met to the highest degree is important to him.
Kent’s current primary focus is on building fireplaces – “the heart of the home” – with stones he forages himself in fields and valleys.
“I split those into smaller workable pieces and bring them to the site,” he said. “Every stone is different so you have to judge what you can and can’t do with each unique stone. You have to know how you can shape that stone before you even start working with it – I have to be able to read them.”
Sharing his passion and his art with the world is what brings Kent joy, he said, and he hopes to pass the craft on to his four-year-old son, who is already displaying curiosity about his dad’s work.
“To give that piece of me to people when I make them something is very near and dear to me.”
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