We are making decent progress on “The Treehouse Orchestra,” our final mosaic for the schools in Norfolk. Here are some shots of what we’ve been up to…
Islamic Geometric Design is a book by Eric Broug. It is extraordinarily beautiful. It is filled with photographs of complex geometric patterns employed and tile mosaics, decorative metal craft, and architecture. The text is dense explaining the history as well as the significance of the various patterns. Best of all it includes instructions on how to make these intricate designs, using only a straight edge and a compass. (I just discovered his bookstore link; there’s some great stuff in there!)
Several years ago I built a hexagonal stone platform to support a cast iron gazebo. I had to figure out how to lay out a large hexagon in a wide open space. There was lots of rebar and string in different colored paint. Somehow it managed to be challenging and kind of easy at the same time. There’s something about using simple tools to achieve complex results that appeals to me. The same can be said for stonework.
This mosaic started as a drawing. I used graph paper to set my outer limits because I wanted a 9″ x 9″ square. That was really the only place where the graph paper proved to be useful. The final design emerges from layers upon layers of overlapping circles and connecting lines. I should’ve taken a picture of the whole messy thing, but I erased all of the framework before I took this picture from of the construction lines. Of note, this pattern is a tessellation; the weird half stars on the edges match up with each other to create complete stars and begin the pattern anew.
I cut the paper using my 1/16 inch shears. Typically used for copper foil stained glass, it removes a strip of paper 1/16th of an inch wide. In my mosaics, that gives me a little bit of room to finesse edges as well as leaving room for grout. (For the large scale wall mosaics we do, we use the 1/8 inch shears.)You would expect the identical pieces of the repeating pattern to be the same size. In fact, they should be! But tiny, tiny variations in my drawing left small discrepancies between some of the pattern pieces. I like to think that I work with fairly tight specifications for a stone guy, but this is next level. There’s a lot of room to grow.
My sons helped me cut the pieces and assemble the mosaic in my backyard shop. I don’t think either of them has a strong inclination to pursue stonework, but I still feel like it’s good for young people to learn how to use their hands and tools. This piece is now taped and ready for thinset. I think we’re going to make one or two more on the same pattern but with different color schemes. Then we’ll set them all at once. I intend to sell them online at some point.
The patterns that you can create from lines and circles is limitless. I’m looking forward to learning how to draw and build more designs.
The next mosaic for the public art project in Norfolk, Virginia is officially underway. This young fellow is jumping up to strike the triangle. I am hoping that we can actually put a triangle (or more?!) into the mosaic so the kids at the school can make it ring. That’ll take some figuring. The theme of this one is music. There are nine kids playing a variety of instruments.
“The Village” is a mosaic patio we made for the Boys and Girls Club of Henderson County. I had occasion to visit it recently after it was vandalized. As it was explained to me, someone had been told there was money hidden inside it, and was taking it apart looking for treasure. There’s no gold in there, I promise. One piece was broken and several were disturbed, but I was able to patch it up okay.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling when my work is vandalized.
I cut the background for the latest bird mosaic, what I’m calling the art deco owl. I used a piece of stone called Silver Wave. The next step is to finesse the joints, when I fit each piece individually, to make sure the whole thing is consistent.
I am offering a limited number of small mosaic commissions for this holiday season. These will be custom designed birds of your choosing, for the person of your choosing. The images shown with this post are samples, but these particular pieces already have homes. These are all 12“ x 12“, though a bit smaller or a bit larger are options. Pricing will vary depending on the size, the level of detail, the type of stone we choose, and whether or not you want the artwork framed. Pricing will include freight. I expect that most mosaics will cost between $500 to $1000.
If you are interested, message me directly. Thank you!
(I know his seems early, but I usually have this idea around Thanksgiving, when it’s too late to make and ship mosaics!)
“The Care Takers” is a natural stone mosaic installed at Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. It is part of my public art commission to create mosaics for the elementary schools there. This mosaic features a strong message on environmental stewardship, inspired by the school’s strong hands-on science programs, including aquaculture and water quality issues.
This detail photo shows a student who is placing a Red-Headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) into the tree. Originally it was going to be a Mourning Dove, but I thought the color might be too similar to the boys skin and the limestone background. The tree is a Live Oak, inspired by a handful of these majestic trees in a neglected bit of land near OceanView Elementary. I got to the tour that area- called a remnant dune- on one of my visits to the school. It was like an ancient forest tucked in a forgotten corner of this built up city suburb.
The tree trunk is made of a stone called Stalatiti Bronze, a marble from… I really don’t know anything about it. I found it online and I’m not sure it’s even available anymore. It has amazing grain. The stone is sliced very thin and mounted onto porcelain tile. That makes it very hard to cut. Fred cut the entire tree trunk, which made all the more challenging because so many of the pieces were long and thin.
One of the guys on the custodial staff at the school took this photo of us at the very end of the last day of the install. We are tired, pleased with the result, and ready to head home. From left to right: Fred Lashley, me, Jonathan Frederick, Johnny Greco.
This is a small project I’ve been playing with in the studio. The initial idea was to move away from birds that were so representative of a particular species, to not feel so loyal to my bird books. I imagined this as an art deco owl. Then the idea shifted to do the whole bird out of a single piece of stone, playing with the grain more than color. I like it, but am thinking about introducing another stone as the breast. The black stone to the left is likely the background once I get there.
Since I started this post, I changed out some elements, to create more visual interest, but stay tight in the same color family.