Stone Walkway

A stone walkway leads to the front door of a lovely home in Leicester, NC.

This stone walkway is made up of Hooper’s Creek, a granitic gneiss quarried in nearby Fletcher. The steps are a different material- slabs of gray sandstone from Tennessee. The section of the walkway closest the camera- below the step & boulders- doubles as a parking area. To ensure they would support the weight of a car without shifting, those paving pieces are five to six inches thick. Shaping and leveling pieces that big was a challenging undertaking.

Stone Slab Bridge

A slab of sandstone crosses a small creek.

Here’s a better picture of the bridge we built- whose construction process I documented in the last post. The abutments are shown completed. The base stones are huge, easily 700 pounds a piece. Small drystone walls extend the abutments. These walls retain the yard as it approaches the bridge. They also provide resistance to erosion, should the creek rise. I’m looking forward to seeing it when the greenery grows back.

Slab Bridge

Last week we started this stone slab bridge. It took several trips to the stone yards to find the right piece for the bridge. It needed to be long and thick. The only one I found that seemed appropriate was 10+ feet long and five feet across. As it turns out, it was too big! They couldn’t really handle moving it at the yard and were unable to deliver it. We went to the yard and cut a foot off of it using feather and wedges. This also made the piece more in scale with the yard where it’s installed.

Old school technique for cutting stone.

We rented an excavator for the day, a 10,000 pound machine. It was strong enough to lift the stone, but not really extend it very far. Fred lifted it straight up and we pulled the truck out from under it. It was a very deliberate operation. We take great pains when moving a stone this big; everything has to be strategized. We talk a lot and work through scenarios. I think we all enjoy the process and challenges. Personal safety is a key component and doing everything we can to protect the stone from getting damaged. We moved it down the yard a few feet at a time.

The bridge slab is rigged to be hoisted from the truck by an excavator

The trickiest part of the operation was extending the stone across the stream. The excavator didn’t have the leverage to extend it fully across. We used a couple of 4″ by 4″ posts that rested on the abutments and stretched across the span. Fred would extend the stone a couple of feet and set it down on the beams. Then she’d move the excavator forward until she was right up to the stone and hoist it again, extending it a couple more feet, until it was all the way across. Then we lifted it enough to get the 4″ by 4″ posts out from under the slab.

The big slab just after being placed as a bridge

This is the slab in place but the bridge is not finished. Small retaining walls will flank the abutments and protect the structure from the rising water during a downpour.

Small Patio

We’ve had a run of smaller projects lately, including this patio in Arden. This was a former client who had moved and wanted a new patio. The stone is Tennessee sandstone, a rather variegated batch of it. You might see a couple of small steel eyelets tucked into the joints. The client likes to rig up inflatables for the holidays. The hooks are installed to help keep the decorations from blowing away!

Tennessee sandstone makes a colorful patio in Arden, NC

Carolina Wren Mosaic

I’ve fallen behind on updating the blog! This mosaic got done just at the end of June and is now awaiting framing. It’s a bit smaller than most of my birds, at 10″ by 10″. It’s a Carolina Wren, a favorite. We’ve had two nests this year- one at the shop and one on the porch at home. I like how the eye came out.

Natural stone mosaic of a Carolina Wren

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 Staircases

Here’s a few stone staircases we’ve done. This one was earlier this summer, in the garden of a friend of ours in Weaverville.

A stone staircase in Weaverville

This set of rugged steps leads down alongside a home in Black Mountain. We did this a couple of years ago. This is more of a rustic, trail feel than we usually do, but it was appropriate for this site. It connects to a trail that quickly disappears into the woods.

Big, burly slabs of sandstone make this rugged set of steps

These two steps lead up the main entrance of a home in Leicester. It was a very bright batch of sandstone!

A short stack of formal stone steps lead to the front door of this home

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.

Carolina Wren

It’s been a year of Carolina Wrens. I had a nest at my shop, tucked in a set of shelves laden with my mosaic tiles. I saw the babies in the nest, but did not see them depart. A single egg was left behind, once the premises were vacated.

Today, Sunday as I write this, four baby wrens left the nest on our porch. It was perfectly timed just after breakfast, so we all could watch them take their first, unsteady flights. Zoe (our dog) got very agitated about it all and growled and barked at the back door. I think she was more tuned into our excitement than anything else. The fledglings all made it out okay, though one did end up stuck in a cabinet we have on the back porch for a few minutes.

Also, I’m working on a Carolina Wren mosaic. The bottom image is the nest that was at the shop with Momma sitting on the eggs.

A stone mosaic of a Carolina Wren

Biltmore Forest Walls and Steps

Some more pictures from our friend Emily at BB Barns. They just finished this big project we worked on together in Biltmore Forest. It was our biggest collaboration to date! The picture at the bottom gives a hint as to what was there before. Not pictured- a dysfunctional water feature and walkway with treacherously large spaces between the stones.

A drystone wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks in Biltmore Forest, a collaboration with BB Barns.

A drystone wall by Hammerhead Stoneworks in Biltmore Forest, a collaboration with BB Barns.

The Biltmore Forest project before we started.