Gainesville Public Art: Setting up shop & getting started

One of the great joys of getting ready for the Gainesville art project was tooling up. In addition to a wonderland of new blades and grinding wheels, I got another grinder and a tile saw that I can equip with a contour wheel- a cup shaped diamond blade used for cutting radii. And for all the tool sellers I found on-line, the grinder was $20 cheaper from Amazon and offered free shipping.

Templates are essential for efficient production. My friends at Henco Reprographics print these for me. This sheet shows the actual length of the patio and is over fifteen feet long. This sheet is the first of nine big templates I’ll need.

I cut the templates with pattern shears, three blade scissors that remove a thin strip (5/64th of an inch) of paper as they cut. These shears are used for creating templates for making stained glass with lead came. The thin strip of paper is equal to the thickness of the lead, keeping the pattern consistent with the original pattern, also called a cartoon. The thin strip of paper is the width of my joints.


I have rented a temporary shop for this project. It’s the first time I’ve ever had my own shop and I love it. I built a sandbox (filled with pea gravel really) to lay the patio as I cut it. By leveling as I go, I can detail the fits between the stones so that there’s a minimum of fuss and time spent when I venture to Florida to install it.


The first three stones, done and dusty.

Gainesville Public Art: Blue Spiral

Gainesville Public Art

Gainesville Public Art

Blue Spiral patio- an art project in Gainesville, Florida

In April I got a phone call from the Art in Public Places Trust (APPT) in Gainesville, Florida announcing that I had been selected to complete a public art project. I am going to build a mosaic stone floor in a courtyard adjacent to a new building on the campus of the Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU). In May I visited the site and met the APPT board and toured the campus/construction site. Back home, I set about drawing.

During my visit to Gainesville, I found myself drawn to the local stone. The area limestone is dense with the fossilized remains of ancient sea creatures. I took pictures of fossil-rich boulders and sketched from them, looking for forms and relationships that might translate into a patio surface. My source photographs and fossil books opened up interesting explorations, but always led me to the same place. By the very nature of seashells, their forms are instantly recognizable and iconic. I strived to sidestep that iconic nature, for fear of creating a floor that looked like wallpaper. The APPT encouraged me to explore natural shapes, but avoid graphic depiction. The seashells were too graphic, too decorative, too obvious.

The design I proposed for the Gainesville public art feature contains a central spiral element, drawn from my fossil sketches. I have shattered the form with other shapes, lines that intersect it and obscure it. It is a form emerging from a background. Like the process of discovering a seashell embedded in an ancient rock, so the nautilus shape emerges to the eye slowly. The intersecting lines suggest water steadily wearing away the matrix surrounding the fossil, stone slowly giving up its secrets. I hope to capture that same magic of discovery for people first venturing upon my mosaic.