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What Is Rock Balancing?

A.M. Boyle
A.M. Boyle

Rock balancing is a natural art form in which the artist piles and stacks boulders and stones to create various sculptures and designs. Generally, it is done in an outdoor environment using rocks of various sizes and shapes. The artist puts rocks in place using various stacking techniques. He or she uses no glue, rods, or other devices to hold them in formation.

Many people enjoy rock balancing as a hobby and a style of artistic expression. Often, the process is said to be meditative in nature, giving the artist a sense of calm and inner balance. Those who view the sculptures created may get a similar feeling of reflective calm and inner peace.

Woman painting
Woman painting

The geometric shapes and towers created often seem to defy gravity, but it is actually gravity that holds them in place. No adhesives or other materials keep the rocks from falling over. Rather, the artist generally determines three natural points of balance on the rock being stacked and fits one of the points into a natural groove or indentation found on the base rock. He or she then gently manipulates the boulder, turning and shifting it until it offers no resistance and will stay in place using only innate balance and gravity.

Different techniques can be used in rock balancing. For instance, sometimes height is achieved by a simple stacking of flat-based rocks on top of each other, forming a sort of pedestal. Other times, larger rocks stack on top of smaller ones, using the weight of the upper rocks to hold the lower ones in place. Often, though, artists use a pure balance technique, finding the stone’s inherent balance points and letting those points dictate the rock's placement and angle.

The sculptures created by rock balancing can be very small or quite large. Some artists enjoy stacking huge boulders, while others prefer much smaller creations. Regardless of size, the sculptures are generally temporary, eventually being dismantled by natural forces, such as wind and waves. Still, although many rock sculptures look precarious, the weight and gravity that hold them in place cause them to be a lot sturdier than they appear.

The art of rock balancing can be a dangerous one. It involves heavy lifting and climbing in order to reach and stack the stones. Further, rock balancing is usually done in areas that have uneven or difficult terrain. Consequently, it is very easy to get hurt, and a person wishing to undertake the hobby must usually be in good shape.

While the techniques used in rock balancing can be taught, many believe that it involves a certain degree of natural instinct. Some people might have an inborn talent for the craft and will have an easier time than others when it comes to finding the balance points of various rocks. Others feel that rock balancing is actually disruptive to the natural beauty of the landscape and do not approve of it. For the most part, though, the formations created are amazing and inspiring, enjoyed by many as a way to reconnect with the true balance of nature.

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Discussion Comments


The beauty of nature often takes my breath away. I look at its perfection, like in this natural rock sculpture in the middle of the Algerian desert, and get to thinking once more at how much inspiration can come from the nature surrounding us.

It's no wonder that so many artists have studied nature, no matter the scenery, analyzing light, colors, shapes, shadows, and reproducing them in a work of art.

A ‘simple’ rock sculpture can tell so many things and evoke so many images. The truth, however, is that nothing is simple in nature, as it took thousands of years and the effect of wind, sand, erosion, and more, to create the beautiful rock sculpture I admire today. While I look at such beauty, I can’t help thinking at how easy and quick it is to destroy everything. Unfortunately, the human being's destructive power is by far stronger than its creative talents. How much of all this natural beauty will be left in 100 years is a big question mark. This is something we should all be thinking about.

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