The design on the steelpan from the Treehouse Orchestra mosaic is a reference to the Phoenix Rising mosaic, the first we completed for Norfolk.

phoenix stone mosaic

The Treehouse Orchestra

Current status on the mosaic at the shop

Here’s a quick update on the latest mosaic. We have all of the foliage cut, as well as the tree branch. Four of the kids are completely done. The background stone has been ordered and is en route.

Yellow travertine becomes very blonde hair

Persian Gold is the trade name os a very lovely yellow travertine that I like to use. In this case it’s crazy bright yellow hair. This was a tricky choice; I wanted blonde because there are already so many kinds with black or brown hair. The more muted ‘blonde’ colors were too similar to the stone I used for the face. It’s seems rather vivd on it;’s own, but I like the way it brightens up the foliage in the overall mosaic photo, above. At this point I’d say it’s 50/50 that we keep this hair or change it out for something else.

The mounting system for the triangle in the new mosaic

The boy in the lower center of the mosaic it jumping to strike a triangle that’s hanging from the tree branch. I thought it would be cool if there was a real triangle in the piece, and of course wanted it to be able to ring out if struck. This is the arrangement we’re working with for the installation. When purchased, the triangle had a single hole with a piece of sturdy monofilament through it. It rang beautifully with a long sustain. I needed this to be stronger and able to withstand some measure of abuse or misuse. We added a second hole. Being pinned like this will keep the triangle from hitting and damaging the stone behind it. It also makes it harder for young hands to grab at it and pull it loose. Two bits of stainless threaded rod poke through the background marble. They are welded to a thin plate. Little nuts behind the triangle help to hold it off the stone. Honestly, it doesn’t ring as well as it would were it able to hang freely, but it sounds pretty good. There’s less sustain. A little bit of tape over the threads inside the holes helps it ring longer than when it was just resting on the bare threaded rod.

Xylophone Girl

We’ve been finding time to work on the Treehouse Orchestra mosaic, hiding out in the shop on the rainy days that winter brings. The xylophone girl is cut and on the table awaiting detailing, which is when we tidy the fits so that it looks just so, and apply tape to the face of the mosaic for transport and installation.

Here’s the whole piece, laid out on the table. We’re working on the foliage right now. I have to order some background stone for down below; I think it’ll be a white/gray marble.

On the table at the shop

Mosaic Update

We’ve been working on the latest mosaic recently, for Larchmont Elementary School, in Norfolk, Virginia. Here are a couple of shots of the work. The tree trunk iamge uses a type of sandstone, appropriately called Teakwood. The girl playing the ukulele is wearing a short made of a marble called Lilac, which has purple veining. It is a gorgeous stone, almost luminous.

The Treehouse Orchestra

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…

Blue Bahia pants and Ostrich Gray for the shirt

Laying out elements of “The Treehouse Orchestra.”

A character from ‘The Treehouse Orchestra’ mosaic

Fourfold Design in Green

A mosaic pattern based on Islamic geometry

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!)

Top Ten Stonework Photos

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.

A mosaic pattern based on Islamic geometry

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.

Tile saw in action

Laying out mosaic

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 Treehouse Orchestra

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 first figure in our latest mosaic for Norfolk.