Cairns: Caught between art appreciation and my Norwegian sides common sense! - Annika Rutlin

It seems such an inherent part of my childhood – stacking stones...building towers...challenging myself to create a stack higher and more beautiful then the one before. My childhood summers in Norway were full of a love for the landscape. Dramatic terrain, deep fjords, dense forests, majestic mountains but above all massive rocks that you never saw in the UK.

Stories of trolls and giant climbing stones...what more could a child want!

I can remember as a 7 year old finding a dark piece of glistening stone..probably just a black granite and quartz piece but I was totally in awe of the natural beauty of the material.

I recall the  joy of visiting Fossheims Stone Centre  a museum and shop exhibiting Norwegian minerals from over 700 localities, more than 30 unique gemstones and 20 faceted minerals.



And further north in Norway, Kristiansand, the Mineral Park, showing 1200 stones and minerals from around the world (plus a sculpture park, climbing area and camping).

In a variety of cultures cairns were traditionally used for trail marking and navigational guides. These stone stacks provided a simple yet effective method of inparting information,and also used for defence, ceremonial or astronomical purposes; In Iceland as markers for roads or paths that criss-crossed the island and as a hunting implement in Greenland

In Sweden (where they are known as kummel) and in Norway (varde), coastal cairns (sea marks) are placed along shores and on islands and islets. Usually painted white for improved offshore visibility, they serve as navigational aids, and are still indicated in many navigation charts and maintained as part of the nautical marking system.

 But believe it or not stone stacking can also be controversial nowadays ...The building of cairns along trails for recreational purposes, often used for marking a personal passage through the area, can result in an over-abundance of rock piles, thus distracting from those cairns used as genuine navigational guides. Indeed Norwegian authorities say that due to illegal cairns being built each year, to a large degree by tourists to Norway, individual stones are being removed from registered- and unregistered 'kulturminner' (cultural heritage marks).

This practice also conflicts with the 'Leave No Trace' ethic; principles of outdoor practice advocating that the outdoors be left undisturbed and in its natural condition.

Nevertheless I can't help feeling an affinity for, and love of, art involving this ancient act....

Our lives are enriched by the incredibly inspiring work of artists such as;

Andy Goldsworthy; UK artist, for whom rock balancing is a minor subset of his "Collaborations With Nature" series. 

Michael Grab; Canadian balance artist and photographer

Ishihana-Chitoku;  Japanese rock balancing artist.

My own jewellery Cairn collection is a play on the theme of stacking but also the tactile, faceted feel that pebbles and stones emanate.


This collection is intentionally only made in a matt satin finish to respect that soft, almost warm, texture that stones exude. The edges of the shapes are angular, the structure is one of balanced irregularity, whilst the effect is a reflection of nature.


Experience that exhilarating joy of creation by stacking and layering your jewellery. Play with combinations; maybe energise the ensemble with a special detailed piece featuring a small diamond highlight.

Specifically designed for this purpose, the Cairn collection offers numerous possibilities and permutations... find a combo that you really love!


Inspired by this theme a few places to visit on my 'still to do list' are definitely:

1. The Balanced art international festival – This looks totally FANTASTIC!!!!

2. Llano Earth Art Festival - Held on the banks of the Llano River in Texas this annual event includes a rock stacking competition; the "Rock Stacking World Championship" .

 3. And celebrating natures stone balancing talents on a very grand scale, one trip to Norway has yet to include a visit to Kjeragbolten, where a five-cubic-meter block of stone sits suspended above a 984-meter deep abyss, wedged in a mountain crevasse near the edge of the Kjerag mountain in Lysefjord.

Love nature - love creation - love your jewellery!

Annika Rutlin

tel; 01273 583485





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Meet the Author

Jeweller designer and maker Annika Rutlin has over 30 years at the bench and a wealth of experience creating customer's dream pieces. Her designs are guided by a unique sense of balance and proportion.

Goddess Tara articulated 'Goddess' multi chain necklace WTN51

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