Topography Steps and Path

Topography Steps and Path

Topography

Photo by Jonathan Frederick

We recently completed a pair of small projects for a customer on Beaucatcher Mountain. They were both short walkways with steps in them. The client was familiar with our work and a fan of our cut flagstone mosaic patios and paths.  He asked us to incorporate a design into the first project, a set of six steps that led from his driveway into a grassy yard. His design mandate was very generous- “Make me something cool.” We can do that! (See also “Stone River Step,” another of Hammerhead’s cut flagstone mosaic patios and paths.)

The inspiration for the pattern comes from topographic maps. If you’re familiar with such maps, you know how endless lines loop and circle back to show the contours of the land. When the lines are close together, the land is steep. Lines that are far apart indicate flatter ground. They are beautiful to look at and each bit of land has its own profile; the maps look something like fingerprints.
Topography is important to us here in the mountains, and good bit of our work at Hammerhead is contending with steep ground. Sometimes we have to retain them with walls, other times, like this project, we install steps to help people navigate them. And even when we build a mostly flat patio, we have to deal with issues of rain water and erosion. Our job is topography.

Individual stones have topography too, though we perceive that more as texture. Sometimes you’ll find a stone in the pile that you can imagine could be a complete cliff face, hundreds of feet tall.
I called this set of steps “Pisgah-ish” because the design was loosely inspired by the topographic map of the celebrated Mount Pisgah. (It may even be visible in the distance from this grassy yard – I’m not sure, I have a terrible sense of direction.)

Topography
For as simple as the design is,it was very complex to execute. Probably the biggest issue was the fact that the stone we used was almost 3 inches thick. That made cutting it to such tight tolerances time consuming and delicate. A couple of the stones were cut to resemble donuts, with an opening inside them for other stones to nestle in. That was just straight up twitchy. Fred and Jonathan joined me at the shop to cut all of these pieces.
After all the stones were cut, I stacked them up, taking the flat map and making it back into a typography. It would be a hard walkway to navigate if we left it that way, but it is probably my favorite image from this project.

Topography

Topography

Topography

Stone Stoop and Patio with Heron Mosaic

Natural stone stoop and heron mosaic

A stone stoop and patio accented with a mosaic inlay of a great blue heron.

Our client in Mills River sent this photo recently of her new patio and stone stoop. Completed late last year, the area is finally getting landscaped. Decorative grasses surround the Great Blue Heron mosaic inlay I made for her. I call these pieces Garden Guardians. They are fun to build but very complex. I detail the process at this link.

All of the horizontal surfaces- patio, stoop, and step treads- are Pennsylvania stone, with a blend of the full-color and some nice blues. The patio is laid dry while the steps and stoop are mortared. The vertical surfaces are Hooper’s Creek. What’s shown is all mortared, though there is a drystone wall of the same material that holds up the patio. I like this combination of colors and materials quite a lot.

Stone Benches With Glass Marbles

stone bench with glass marbles

Glass marbles inlaid into a groove in the base of this natural stone bench provide a splash of color.


We recently installed two natural stone benches at King Daddy’s, an excellent little chicken and waffles restaurant in West Asheville. The two benches rest on the edge of their covered patio/outdoor seating area. Two large bluestone bases support slabs of Tennessee sandstone. The bases have glass marbles (mostly glass anyway- the ones on the corners are banded onyx!) laid into them. It’s partly inspired by my fascination with benches that are super sturdy but look like they might fall right over (see the Harmony Benches we’ve built or the Floating Bench to see the start of this obsession. It’s also inspired by a tale I’ve heard, but never confirmed, that old school masons would put glass marbles or lead balls between large stones when constructing a building. The marbles acted as spacers and prevented the heavy stones from squeezing out all the mortar between them. And I’ve always had a fascination with marbles in general; we find them all the time digging in people’s yards to install a patio or wall. I had a great deal of fun buying all these marbles. It’s a good time when you can go buy toys with the company credit card! Shout out to Dancing Bear Toys!
stone bench with glass marbles

Glass marbles are inlaid into the base of this stone bench to suggest a delicate balancing act.

Thimbleweed Stone Mosaic

Thimbleweed Stone Mosaic

Thimbleweed Stone Mosaic

This thimbleweed stone mosaic is a small part of a very large mosaic that I’m currently building for the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella in Norfolk, VA. It’s part of a public art project that entails designing and installing six natural stone mosaics in various elementary schools there over the course of the next couple of years.

The thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana) is a native flower to Virginia. The mosaic was crafted using white marble, green marble, scabos travertine (yellow inner), and ocean pebbles.

Praying Mantis Stone Mosaic

Praying Mantis Stone Mosaic

Praying Mantis Stone Mosaic

This praying mantis stone mosaic is a small part of a very large mosaic that I’m currently building for the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella in Norfolk, VA. It’s part of a public art project that entails designing and installing six natural stone mosaics in various elementary schools there over the course of the next couple of years.

The eyes of the praying mantis are a fossilized coral called Petoskey stone, while the mantis itself is primarily a native North Carolina stone. Each of these pieces is about 34″ in diameter.

 

Speckled Crab Claw Mosaic

Speckled Crab Claw Stone MosaicCrab Claw Stone Mosaic

This speckled crab claw stone mosaic is a small part of a very large mosaic that I’m currently building for the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella in Norfolk, VA. It’s part of a public art project that entails designing and installing six natural stone mosaics in various elementary schools there over the course of the next couple of years.

The claw itself is made mostly of various marbles from Tennessee.

Sand Dollar Mosaic

Sand Dollar Mosaicsand dollar mosaic

This sand dollar mosaic is a small part of a very large mosaic that I’m currently building for the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella in Norfolk, VA. It’s part of a public art project that entails designing and installing six natural stone mosaics in various elementary schools there over the course of the next couple of years.

sand dollar mosaic

This mosaic is made exclusively of Quaker Gray marble from Tennessee Marble Company. Since I used only only one type of stone, I tried to explore texture and profile. The radiating arms of the star design all rise above the plane of the mosaic. This will will be installed at ground level and will encourage kids to touch and interact with the mosaic.

Cicada Mosaic

Cicada MosaicCicada Mosaic

This cicada mosaic is a small part of a very large mosaic that I’m currently building for the Southside STEM Academy at Campostella in Norfolk, VA. It’s part of a public art project that entails designing and installing six natural stone mosaics in various elementary schools there over the course of the next couple of years.

The cicada mosaic is about 33 inches across and will be one of seven circular panels surrounding two kids who are exploring nature with magnifying glasses and sketchbooks. When completed, the mosaic will be applied to a wall in the main hallway just inside the front entrance to the school. The entire mosaic including the cicada panel is called The Tiny Kingdom.

The Boy With Antlers

The Boy With Antlers
The Boy With Antlers

My mosaic entitled “The Boy With Antlers” was recently selected for a the North Carolina Artists Exhibition Opening sponsored by the Raleigh Fine Arts Society. This show specifically showcases artists from all over North Carolina. The piece is 24″ X 36″ and weighs about 55 lbs.

It will be on display at the Betty Ray McCain Gallery at the Duke Center for Performing Arts from March 4, 2018 until April 22, 2018. The juror’s lecture and awards take place on March 8 from 4:00 – 5:00 and will be followed by a wine reception and art sale from 5:00 until 6:30.

Read more about “The Boy With Antlers” as well as other original mosaic art here.

Great Blue Heron Garden Guardian

Great Blue Heron Garden Guardian

The Great Blue Heron Garden Guardian is now installed. The body is made of blue Bahia tile, while the bill is yellow travertine. The legs are made of a marble from Tennessee. The heron is inlayed into a piece of scrap stone from a former project. Read about the stone inlay process of this piece here.

Great Blue Heron Garden Guardian

Garden Guardian in Place

Great Blue Heron Garden Guardian

Prepping for Installation – Photo Credit: Jonathan Frederick

The Great Blue Heron is one of a few Garden Guardian projects we have designed and installed. Explore some of our other Garden Guardian projects here.
Call Marc at (828) 337-7582 or email him to have your own Garden Guardian commissioned.