Asheville School Medallion Installed

A close up of the stone medallion after installation

It took a long time to fabricate, but the Asheville School medallion finally got finished and installed just before the Fourth of July. It is set in a patio of Pennsylvania stone. Initially that presented some challenges to me in choosing colors. I dark ring of granite surrounds the medallion providing some contrast. The granite is salvaged counter top material. I flip it over so the polished side faces down, which makes it less slippery and safer for walking. I used an ager/color enhancer to darken the stone. When we finish the project I will do some detail work to get the colors more consistent. It’s just so dusty right now.

The light gray surround is gray sandstone from Tennessee, often called Crab Orchard. It’s usually much darker, but I used the grinder to take off the top layer. The exposed grain is much lighter but still has traction for walking. That is a main concern for me when designing pieces like this; it’s a walking surface and can’t be too slick, especially since it will get wet on a rainy day. One little trick I used was to add cut line details, like the scrawled text on the book pages. By dragging the grinder across the surface I implied the written word- and I added texture for extra grip. I am hopeful that several hundred years from now someone will work tirelessly to translate my “text.” I’m curious to know what I was talking about.

The badge is made of Pennsylvania bluestone. The inverted V pattern is made of a marble that I believe comes from Georgia. It’s a material I get from my friends at Tennessee Marble. The braided cord, under the lamp at the top, is made of sandstone.

The Asheville School Medallion set into the patio of Pennsylvania stone

The Asheville School Medallion is aligned with the distant peak of Mount Pisgah

The medallion is the centerpiece of a large circular patio in the midst of a garden on the Asheville School campus. Designed by our friend Mardi Letson of Gardens by Mardi. She has deep ties to the school and this is a real labor of love for her. The patio itself is made of Pennsylvania stone laid dry in a bed of crushed gravel.

This inlay features a bit of pink granite from the chapel at the Asheville School.

This is the cross inlay before it was mortared into place. The red granite is from Sweden. The little square of pink granite os from the chapel on the Asheville School campus. The day I was there to first see the site they showed me the chapel, a sturdy structure of pink and gray granite. As it happened, there was a crew there working on the heating and cooling system. They had used a coring drill to put some holes in the wall of the chapel to run their piping. I was able to find a couple of the cores they had made, 3″ diameter cylinders of pink granite. Of course I snagged all I could find! I cut a small chip off and polished it to put into this inlay.

The Asheville School Medallion is the back of my truck ready leave the shop.

I love pictures of mosaics in the back of my truck.

Stone Mosaics In A Patio

My dog and a mosaic heart

We recently built a small patio of dimensional bluestone adjacent to a newly renovated home in downtown Weaverville. A seating wall wraps two sides of the patio and frames the space. I collaborated with the family on designing four small mosaics to be nestled into the patio itself. The patio is made up of 24″ by 24″ pieces of bluestone (people who work with bluestone will snicker; they are never quite 24″. Or close to square.) I cut six inch squares out of the center of four stones, to lay these mosaics.

These sketches inspired my mosaic designs for this patio

The family developed the concept. Their daughters, ages 4 and 8 led the way. The concepts were Kindness, Honesty, Intention, and Explore. They gave me some drawings and I revised them into forms that I thought could work in stone. Small mosaics can become illegible- and hard to execute- if there’s too much going on. They gave me good ideas and I think the translation works well.

Four small mosaics in process for a patio project in Weaverville.

These are the four designs while I was working on them; they’re not grouted in this picture. I like the bold colors and simple graphic compositions.

A small stone mosaic of a tree’s heartwood installed into an outdoor patio.

This was the design I had the most concerns about going in. It’s their vision of Intention; the heartwood of a tree. I wasn’t sure if it would read, particularly in comparison to the very clear images of things like a heart or the planet Earth. But I love the way the colors work together. The green slate is smooth but not shiny. The tree bark is sandstone from Tennessee, a material we use all the time for patios and walls. I forget the name of the stone I used for the wood grain. It’s remarkably beautiful though, even if I could not find a concentric ring pattern to more closely echo the heartwood. The stone itself is super thin; it is adhered onto ceramic tile.

Reclaimed Brick Walkway

We don’t really do brick work at Hammerhead, but sometimes we will to help out a friend. Last fall, our good friend Doug asked us to build him a walkway with a large supply of bricks he had salvaged over the years.

Reclaimed bricks can be challenging to set because they vary greatly in size. Even ones from the same company can be different shapes. Some aren’t even proper rectangles, but have a weird bend in them. And they are always different thicknesses. That variation is part of their charm, but requires some strategizing to get things to set right.

An odd assortment of old brick makes for an eye-catching walkway in Weaverville.

One thing we did here was sort the bricks into matching pairs, to make the the duos that alternate to create the pattern. We also put in several lateral lines to break up the pattern, which effectively resets the build every few feet. It’s easier to fudge the math in a pattern that’s made up of 60 bricks than a pattern of 600. The small errors don’t magnify too quickly. And by using this pattern, we were able to highlight a handful of very cool bricks that Doug had found and saved. Back before everything was all the same and on sale at a big box hardware store, brick-making companies had their own designs and many would have their names on the bricks. For the hardcore brickologist, there’s a huge amount of history in those impressions. My favorite says COMMUNITY. That one is at the street end of the walkway.

A reclaimed brick in a walkway has a valuable message.

Stone Walkway To North Asheville Home

We recently completed this small project with Mardi Letson of Gardens By Mardi. A sandstone walkway leads to a river rock house in a lovely North Asheville neighborhood. The stone is from Tennessee. The house numbers are engraved into a piece of stone set close to the sidewalk, a nice craft accent to the overall project. Though barely visible in this image, we did some pebbling in a few of the joints, where we use small, smoothed river stones laid on edge in the spaces between flagstone pieces. They offer a pleasing contrast in texture. In this case they also echo the river rock used to build the home almost a hundred years ago.

House numbers are engraved into this stone walkway leading to a river rock house in North Asheville

I don’t get a lot of chances to carve in stone. This was a fun little project, giving me a chance to dust off my sharp lettering chisels. My hand included for scale.

Carved letters in a piece of sandstone

Stone Steps

We were recently back in Leicester for a small project and got to visit a couple of older projects we had done. :ast year we built this staircase out of slabs of sandstone. I honestly don’t remember that lovely view from the top. My strongest memory from this project was having to do a lot of grinder work to get the steps to the right thickness so they would be the same height and walk properly.

A very straight shot to an incredible view

Slab steps that lead to the street, and a magnificent view

Top landing of a set of steps we built, Tennessee sandstone

Mud Season Current Project

I don’t like to share pictures of new projects in winter and spring because the stone work is always surrounded by fields of mud. And it has been very rainy of late. So to enjoy these images, you’ll have to mentally enhance the scenes with your favorite flowers. This is the first part of a large project we are doing in the town of Biltmore Forest. We are doing two large paths with steps and walls to provide access to the expansive backyard.

Stone pathway and steps through a hilly yard

The walls and step risers are made of Hooper’s Creek and the walking surfaces are Pennsylvania stone. The walls and paving pathways are laid dry, but the steps are mortared, which allows us the ability to create overhangs and create a more formal look.

Stone steps adjacent to a retaining wall.

Creepy-eyeless bunny in front of a lovely drystone wall.

The weird creep bunny with no eyes is a dog toy that haunts the job site. He is generally a benevolent, if soggy, presence.

Stone Dragonfly Mosaic Patio

The stone dragonfly mosaic patio installed and surrounded by our traditional stone paving.

The transformational aspects of the dragonfly had great significance for this client, who works as a Sacred Path doula. That means she works with individuals at the end of their lives and their families. The dragonfly, always a meaningful totem in her life, took on even greater significance as she started working with people who were reckoning with death. As she explained to me, the dragonfly and the larva can’t communicate with each other, they don’t know what they once were, or what they might become. The metaphor for the end of life is powerful. My own fascination with dragonflies is more mundane; they are beautiful and I am amazed at how the larva and the mature form are both amazing predators, in two entirely different environments. The larvae live underwater, stalking the bottom of ponds and creeks eating insects, tadpoles and tiny fish. The dragonfly itself catches its prey in midair. In midair!!! What other creature is master of two states of matter like that?

The ring is five across in diameter and the wings extend about six feet across. I like the way the wings break free of the ring, visually and metaphorically. Honestly, I love almost any project where we have to think metaphorically to achieve the greatest outcome.

Ariel view of the dragonfly mosaic in the patio.

Our friend Jason Hanna of B.B. Barns took these drone images of the whole project. It looks like a piece of exercise equipment called a kettlebell. It’s actually an infinity walking loop. The client practices walking meditation and wanted a path that she could follow. As you can see from the images, the space is limited. The loop idea, developed by the client and Jason, was a perfect solution. When walking the loop, you trace a circle around the dragonfly and onto the path. Of course, the dragonfly side can just be used as a regular patio hang-out space too. I hope to have another drone shot when the whole thing grows in.

A drone image of the dragonfly patio.

The dragonfly mosaic patio medallion in the back of my pickup truck.

I love the deconstructed view of a mosaic, loaded into the truck and ready for installation. The wings are a marble from Georgia called Etowah. The red body and eyes are scraps salvaged from a countertop fabricator. I don’t know anything about their origins. Pennsylvania bluestone makes up the background. The surrounding ring is Absolute Black granite, unfinished side up, giving it a grayer appearance and providing more texture than the slick, shiny side. The patio itself is sandstone from Tennessee.

The Village Stone Mosaic Patio, Reinstalled

The Village mosaic patio

“The Village” is a mosaic patio at the Boys & Girls Club of Henderson County.

“The Village” is a natural stone mosaic patio built for the Boys and Girls Club of Henderson County a few years ago. In the intervening time they built a new facility over the old patio site. They picked up the mosaic and stashed it away in storage. With the new building completed, they invited us back to reinstall the patio.
We laid the patio dry, without concrete, mortar or grout. It was easy for them to take it out and save it. Had it been mortared in place, I’m convinced that much of it would have been destroyed in the process of removing and relocating it. No pieces were damaged in the process. Okay, we broke one…

Reclaimed Granite

We made all the buildings of “The Village” from scraps scavenged from local granite fabricators. Such scrounging allows me to play with color in a way that local stones do not. Of course countertop material is usually highly polished and therefore slick, especially when wet. Sand blasting removed the sheen and provided better traction. That also took away some of the color, but periodically treating it with a stone enhancer or ager helps brighten the colors significantly.
We used Pennsylvania blue stone for the sky and Tennessee Crab Orchard Gray for the outer rings. We added another ring of stone for their Hall of Fame. They engrave the names of significant donors and important members of their community on this stone mosaic patio.
This new installation sits on a slope, so a retaining wall underneath supports the patio. As a result we used mortar to affix the Crab Orchard rings to the top of the wall as capstones. Notice the grout in those locations. The rest of the structure is laid dry.
The three greenish buildings at the very bottom of “The Village” – the top stone has the club logo- resemble the old buildings at this location. Above them you’ll see the historic Henderson County Courthouse.

This is an older picture of the piece, with a single outer ring, before it was engraved.
a mosaic stone patio

Bluestone Walkway Rehabbed

We were called to address this walkway which was starting to fall apart. Several stones were loose, including some at the edges that were becoming dangerous. In the image below you’ll see a flower pot blocking an area where a stone had completely flipped free. In my experience, it’s hard to fix mortared flagstone when it starts breaking down. Patching usually looks terrible and is only ever a short term fix. Mortared flagstone fails because water has gotten into the system; once in, the water is impossible to get out.

Old bluestone walkway

This was the walkway and steps before we started repairs. Several pieces were loose and becoming dangerous.

I was able to persuade the homeowners to switch to a drystone installation. We removed all the stone- after pressure washing it all first. We were able to brighten the colors and salvage enough stone to redo the walkway without purchase any new materials. Instead of rebuilding the mortared steps, we switched to sandstone slabs from Tennessee. The gray slabs blend wonderfully with the Pennsylvania flagstones. The steps are all single slabs, six feet across. It was a stroke of luck to find so many good stones at such a consistent thickness. The steps walk great.

Slab steps and bluestone walkway

The walkway after we rebuilt it with sandstone slabs and dimensional bluestone

We reset the flagstone in a bed of gravel. The steps and the surrounding soil hold the gravel so it will not squish out the sides. The gravel bed drains moisture away which will prolong the life of the stones. When we set dimensional flagstone like this, we abut the stones as closely as we can; there’s no need for a grout joint (because there’s no mortar or grout!) and I think it looks better.

Dragonfly Patio

We are working in the Oakley neighborhood of Asheville, building a backyard patio. The flagstone features a dragonfly inlay, made of natural stone. The wings are a type of marble quarried in Georgia. The body of the dragonfly itself is a scrap of countertop material that I found somewhere years ago. I find things like that and keep them around until they find a home. the inly is surrounded by a Pennsylvania background and a ring of Absolute Black granite. I put the granite in backside up, to increase friction. The other polished stones have some grooves cut in them, to increase traction for walkers and to create veins in the wings and segments in the dragonfly’s body.

Dragonfly Patio in Process

A dragonfly mosaic laid into a sandstone patio in Asheville, North Carolina. Photo by Jonathan Frederick

I always like the exploded view of a mosaic once loaded into the truck for travel. It really is a puzzle.

Stone dragonfly mosaic

The dragonfly patio inlay heads off to the project. There will be order of this chaos…