Everything in life is a balancing act — relationships, work, hobbies, pets, kids. No matter what it is, keeping it all together is like a man on a tightrope. Or a rock on…. well, another rock.
This is the philosophy of Mark Guido, a stoneworker who’s spent over 30 years as a mason, over 20 years as a rock artist and proudly bears the title of “Maine Rock Guy.”
Stonework, masonry and rock art are just like life: it’s all about balance.
Mark wasn’t always a rock guy. He first started doing masonry while attending UMaine Orono in the early 80s so he could pay for school. Eventually he graduated with degree in agriculture and a teaching certificate, and then worked as a high school agriculture and industrial arts teacher.
And then in his mid-20s, Mark started his journey as an artist — but not with rocks. With twigs. Mark would forage a cut fresh saplings to weave and bend into twig chairs during his free time. Very soon his life became a whirling balance of Maine forests, chair-making, art shows, teaching and masonry.
It wasn’t until later in Mark’s life that he became a rock guy — with a bit of help from Maine beaches. The rocks he found there, paired with a life spent on the craft market inspired him to apply his masonry skills in a totally new way. He started with vases, coring the rocks and smoothing the bottoms so they sat flat.
The rock art was an instant success, motivating Mark to slowly branch out and away from his first love of twigs. He made rocks into jewelry (always very popular at shows), then tried lamps, toothbrush holders, utensils, bowls, alcohol dispensers, sponge holders and more.
The common theme — functionality. And popularity. (And, well, rocks.)
Mark knows that people are more likely to buy his work if it has a use in their home. And he really enjoys the idea that people will use his art every day; he rarely makes anything that doesn’t have a true function. Even his kinetic sculptures are for gardens, made to sway gently in the breeze.
And everything Mark makes comes from approved sites all over Maine — part of his process is foraging through the beaches Blue Hill, Jonesport, Rockland and more. Whatever catches his eye comes home to get sorted into his many, many piles of rocks. When I asked him about his expansive collection he shrugged and said you can never really have too many.
Mark says some of the rocks he finds are so beautiful that he might never turn them into anything. He’s seen enough rocks to recognize odd color variations, strange shapes and sizes. Instead of coring them into vases or stacking them on a lamp, he keeps them around in his piles, picking them up from time to time to admire them.
What keeps Mark going every day is making stuff that people love, that people enjoy. He’s still a widely recognized face at Maine craft shows (he’s even the Belfast Arts in the Park 2016 Artist of the Year.) Not just because he loves the community but because, honestly, “how many people am I going to get in Montville? It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.”
It’s all a balancing act, sure, but one that’s proven completely worthwhile.