A New England artisan turns ordinary fieldstones into extraordinary keepsakes.
By Allie Herzog
Growing up in New England, Gerald Croteau developed a fondness for its landscape, in particular its miles and miles of crisscrossing stone walls. It was this fascination, along with his commitment to sustainability, that led to the founding of American Stonecraft in 2012.
The company’s unique stone goods are made from rocks hand foraged by Croteau himself at farms across New England and in New York. The process is time-consuming, but the entrepreneur doesn’t mind. He prides himself on finding the perfect piece and admits he sometimes sorts through thousands before finding a keeper.
What makes a rock a keeper you ask? According to Croteau, it’s what’s inside that counts. Over the years, he has fine-tuned the art of selection and knows what to look for in terms of color, texture, and gradient, qualities that hint at the beauty within. To him, no two rocks are alike; each is a work of art and a slice of nature.
Once the rocks are selected, they are hauled to the company’s studio in Lowell, Massachusetts, where Croteau and his fellow artisans get to work unloading and sorting. Then they use custom-made diamond hand tools to slice, sculpt, and hone the fieldstones. Even after years of working with stone, the team still gets excited for each first cut.
The idea behind American Stonecraft is simple and driven by science: granular convection to be exact. Every spring, fieldstones rise to the surface of farmland, driven by the winter’s repetitive freeze-thaw cycle, and lie ready for the taking (no blasting required). Historically, farmers stacked this rock to create the iconic stonewalls we see today.
Either American Stonecraft or the farm pack up choice fieldstones, typically the size of a volleyball to a large watermelon, in sturdy nylon bags. In return for the sustainably sourced raw material, Stonecraft creates handmade products for the farm to sell in its stand.
Ready-made products include trivets, coasters, cabinet pulls, candle holders, cooking stones, and food slabs, a customer favorite. Also popular are full rock sets, where a rock is sliced into six or eight pieces to create matching food slabs, plates, or coasters. Every item comes hand stamped with the company logo and native farm.
American Stonecraft also executes custom jobs for customers who prefer to find their own stone. They can search their own land or a special locale worth commemorating. Custom inscriptions complete these one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
All products are food safe and hand washable and are never treated with chemicals. The rocks get their shine from the polishing process, whereby the artisans use sandpaper with differing levels of grit to achieve the desired smoothness and shine.
Products are available for purchase online, at the company’s flagship store in the Boston Public Market, or by appointment at the Lowell studio.