Carolina Wren

It’s been a year of Carolina Wrens. I had a nest at my shop, tucked in a set of shelves laden with my mosaic tiles. I saw the babies in the nest, but did not see them depart. A single egg was left behind, once the premises were vacated.

Today, Sunday as I write this, four baby wrens left the nest on our porch. It was perfectly timed just after breakfast, so we all could watch them take their first, unsteady flights. Zoe (our dog) got very agitated about it all and growled and barked at the back door. I think she was more tuned into our excitement than anything else. The fledglings all made it out okay, though one did end up stuck in a cabinet we have on the back porch for a few minutes.

Also, I’m working on a Carolina Wren mosaic. The bottom image is the nest that was at the shop with Momma sitting on the eggs.

A stone mosaic of a Carolina Wren

“The Boy With Antlers” Natural Stone Mosaic in Raleigh Gallery Show

mosaic art

“The Boy With Antlers” Natural stone mosaic including travertine, marble, sandstone, granite. 22″ by 34″ This is a personal piece inspired by a character from the bedtime stories I tell my sons.

“The Boy With Antlers” is a natural stone mosaic I made based on one of the characters from bedtime stories I tell my sons. He is one of four friends possessed of animal traits- an impressive rack of elk antlers, as well as an incredible sense of smell. Of the four friends, he’s the only one who is troubled by his wild nature. I have posted one of the stories I wrote about Bo (his name) that can be downloaded here as a PDF. I also have recorded a couple of stories about the friends and posted them here.

The mosaic is currently on display (from March 4th to April 22) at the Betty Ray McCain Gallery in the Duke Energy Center at 2 East South Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. The mosaic was selected to take part in the 2018 North Carolina Artists Exhibition sponsored by the Raleigh Fine Arts Society. It is an honor to be selected to this juried show of talented North Carolina artists. The piece is for sale as part of the gallery show.

The first cuts of “The Boy With Antlers” are completed.

I worked on this mosaic for over a year, finding time to cut a few stones on the weekends. The face is marble and the antlers are made of travertine.

The Boy With Antlers mosaic being assembled

The mosaic is mounted to a cement backerboard using thinset mortar.

Marc Archambault making a mosaic in the studio.

“The Boy With Antlers” gets delivered to the Raleigh Fine Arts Society show.

I had “The Boy With Antlers” framed once he was accepted into the show. It looks great! The good folks at Frugal Framer knocked it out of the park.

Sunflower Mosaic for Frankie

Frankie on her sunflower mosaic patio

Frankie on her sunflower mosaic patio

This mosaic patio was created for my friend Carmen. She needed something to cover the muddy space just outside the doggy door that leads off her porch. Frankie, the puppy in the picture, is an enthusiastic digger and was tracking in altogether too much mud. I had wanted to try a sunflower design in stone and this seemed like a good opportunity.
Sunflower mosaic made of natural stone

Sunflower mosaic made of natural stone

The seeds are Mexican beach pebbles anchored in concrete. I cast that piece in an retired plastic flower pot. The rest of the stone is laid dry on a bed of crushed stone and sand. The background is Pennsylvania stone and the flower petals are sandstone from Tennessee. I might simplify the design if I were to revisit it. There’s a slight “S” curve on the petals that required more time for cutting and shaping than a straighter line might have, though if it were bigger, that curve would be easier to cut.

Elk Mountain Wall & Frog

I didn’t have a jar of marbles with me, so I made one from some red clay and cured it in the sun.

A Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) is an uncommon sight at any time, as they are well camouflaged, hide way up in trees and are entirely nocturnal. Odd then to find this little guy way out on a branch on a cold November morning. He was chilly and not inclined to move much. Once the sun hit him around lunch time he got more motivated and went into hiding.

Fossil Floor: The story handout


I made this handout to accompany the fossil floor. The family has four kids and I hope that the floor piques their curiosity about geology. Maybe this ‘story’ will get hung up in a cabinet and forgotten, to be discovered many years from now, yellowed with age, when someone else takes ownership of the house.

Lablue II: Fossil Floor

Fossil Stone Floor

Fossil Stone Floor

A couple of weeks ago I finished the Fossil Floor in the house in the Ramble. (The blog inevitably gets neglected in springtime as work, garden and playing outside take precedence!) Fossils, like this goniatite, appear here and there throughout the floor. There are four kids in the household and I tried to include elements that would interest them. I think the best stonework has details in it that reward closer attention.

The lighting is a little funky, but this is a view of the finished floor in a small bathroom on the main floor. Mexican beach pebbles turned on edge run in trails in the main paths, but only appear as individuals in the smaller stone background that surrounds the paths.

One of the interesting challenges of the project was how to lay out the pathway. I couldn’t really do it in the space, as there was no room to spread out the stone to look at it all and I wasn’t going to work the stones indoors- too messy and noisy. I did the majority of the design outside. First I ‘drew’ the general shape of the path out of string on a mulch bed. Then I added the big plates of full-color bluestone to form the edges. I did both sides and some stones that led off the path to stairways and the laundry room. I didn’t do too many of the smaller fill stones, knowing that setting the stones would subtly shift their relationships to each other. If I over prepare, I end up with more variation in the joinery than I really want. I didn’t cut the doorway ends until I was ready to install them, to make sure that I hit my targeted edges spot on.

Fossil Stone Floor

As a result of doing the layout that way, I ended up with spaces in the path that required filling once the edges were laid in the thinset. Using construction paper, a big pencil and a pair of scissors, I created templates for each space/stone. Then I’d wander outside and find matches for each. Since the matches were rarely ideal, I wold then cut them down with the grinder before bringing them inside to install. It’s important to label the templates properly, because if they get flipped over, the stone won’t fit. And the bottom of a worked stone never looks quite as good as the top. The goal of this process was to find stones that fit with the fewest number of trips. It was probably twenty paces between the stone pile and the floor. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really slows progress to go back and forth that many times. Once I settled on this templating solution, I was fairly efficient with filling those smaller spaces.

Home Show Prep

The Western Carolina Home Show takes place next weekend at the Civic Center here in Asheville. This will be Hammerhead Stoneworks second year representing. I spent the entire weekend (and will spend much of the coming week) making ready. This year I’m showing off flatwork. The following images show some of the work thus far.

I’m very enamored of pebbles right now. This is a detail from the step that will welcome people into my booth space.

The whole step, 2′ by 4′.

About sixteen square feet of rustic flagstone paving using a locally quarried gneiss, called Hooper’s Creek.

Cabin Creatures

Cabin Creatures

These images have been sitting on my desktop for several weeks now, waiting for me to upload them. These are all creatures discovered while I was working on the cabin chimney in Madison County.

This is a Giant Leopard Moth just emerged from his cocoon and drying his wings on the cabin sill. These moths come from the Wooly Bear caterpillar. Notice the iridescent blue knee joints. His abdomen had bright orange spots on it.

Cabin Creatures

This Ringneck snake wasn’t much bigger than the moth. He was hiding under the tarp I used to protect the sand, meaning he had a steady diet of roly-polys and millipedes readily available.

Cabin Creatures

Cathy found this guy in the garden. It’s an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar. Those eyes are markings meant to deter predators.