Daylily Mosaic Memorial

Fred made this quilt inspired mosaic inly for her Mom’s grave site.

Last week Fred installed the memorial mosaic she designed and built for her Mom’s grave site. Jonathan and I helped install it at the family plot in a secluded and gorgeous corner of Madison County. Fred designed the day lilies to be cut in a quilt pattern, to honor her Mom’s love of quilting. The mosaic is inlaid into pieces of Pennsylvania bluestone. I think it is a fitting and beautiful tribute to Fred’s Mom.

This mosaic inlay was inspired by Fred’s Mom’s love of quilting.

Here are a few images from the fabrication process. I think these show the progression nicely. You can also get a better sense of the richness of the colors. It was a bright afternoon when we finished the installation and the stone looked bleached out in the full sunlight.

Lay out of Fred’s memorial mosaic for her Mom.

The memorial mosaic is being inlaid into bluestone. The inlay is all cut and the first leaves have been fitted.

Fred’s memorial mosaic for her Mom is ready for grouting.

Birds of Stone

I like to make birds out of stone. I think it’s because of how weightless birds appear when in flight. It is fun to make them out of something as heavy and earthbound as stone. It also affords me the opportunity to play with color and texture in new and interesting ways.

Stone birds on the wall

These days I like to make small wall hanging birds. Most recently they have been 12“ x 12“ and I have them framed locally by Frugal Framer. Someday I will start selling pieces like this on Etsy. In the meantime, if you see one you like, or can imagine your perfect bird, contact me at (828) 337-7582 or e-mail

Travertine and marble combine to make this stone mosaic of a goldfinch

A stone mosaic of a Northern Cardinal.

Stone Mosaic Memorial Wall Hangings

Mosaic of a robin with some flowers

Stone Memorial Wall Hangings

Black-capped chickadee stone mosaic

Birds in the garden

I’ve made two garden guardians of birds. The great blue heron is still one of my favorite pieces; I loved working with the Blue Bahia, a very hard to find and vividly colored stone from Brazil.

This Garden Guardian, of a Great Blue Heron, is made of Blue Bahia, a gorgeous stone from Brazil

This Garden Guardian depicts three native birds hanging out on a branch.

“Birds of Every Feather

“Birds Of Every Feather“ was the first mosaic I completed for my public art project in Norfolk, Virginia. it’s all native birds. I used a variety of pebbles and marbles for the eyes. One of my favorite pictures is of a bunch of disembodied bird heads with shiny eyes staring at me.

natural stone bird mosaic

Natural stone mosaic completed for Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia.

Several different stone bird heads with eyes being epoxied into place.

Other mosaic birds

Birds turn up all over the place in my mosaic work!

Radiant white marble makes this flying dove glow.

Stone mosaic “Phoenix Rising” adorns the hallway of Richard Bowling Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. Image © 2018 Dave Chance

Relief Elements in Mosaic Design

Relief components of the next mosaic: a scallop shell and a fish that project out of the wall.

We are working on the next mosaic for the Norfolk schools. This one features a coastal theme and numerous sea creatures. On a previous mosaic I experimented with relief elements, parts of the mosaic that projected forward off the flat plane of the wall. I really liked the way it came out and am revisiting that idea in this mosaic. So far I have three elements that I ‘sculpted’ in relief: two scallop shells and a fish. All three were made from scrap counter top material, which is typically 3 centimeters thick. Most of the work I did was with a diamond blade on the angle grinder and then running through the polishing pads to get the shine back. It’s kind of fun, at least working small on relatively primitive designs like this. I have no sculpting acumen, so it takes me a minute to wrap my head around how to get the right shape without taking away too much material. I think it’s a nice addition to the mosaics; it enhances the tactile qualities of the mosaic and encourages the students to touch the piece to interact with it.

A stone scallop shell sculpted in relief to project out of the next mosaic.

The template and finished piece of a stone fish made in relief to project out of the next mosaic.

Camp Allen Dedicated

A full view of The Dragon Family mosaic. © Dave Chance Photography

Camp Allen Elementary School in Norfolk has been open for a while, but they just had a dedication ceremony there. I wasn’t able to attend, but they unveiled our mosaic “The Dragon Family” at the same time. There’s a clip of them showing it off in this video.

The Dragon Family Mosaic

A full view of The Dragon Family mosaic, reflected in the polished floor. © Dave Chance Photography

Of all of the mosaics I have created for Norfolk schools during this project, Camp Allen’s “The Dragon Family” was the most student-driven design. Before I started my work, I visited the school to meet with a leadership council comprising a small group of smart, thoughtful and articulate students. I told them about the project and they told me about the design. They wanted a dragon, the Camp Allen mascot.

I was not particularly keen on the idea at first. Every school has a mascot, a logo, a cartoon creature to rally the sports teams. I imagined the artwork to be something more quote unquote- serious than a mascot. Then kids made it clear to me why the artwork absolutely had to be a dragon.

The students told me what they saw in the dragon and what they saw in themselves: strength, courage, resolve, and fierceness. The dragon was a symbol, a powerful representation of them and their school. It was an illuminating conversation that guided my work.

But I wanted something more than just a dragon on the wall; I hope to make art that tells a story, that shares ideas, and has room for interpretation.

Many of the schools that I have worked with in Norfolk deal with high levels of student turnover. At Camp Allen, military families are routinely deployed to other parts of the world- regardless of the school schedule. New students arrive on a weekly basis. Camp Allen’s leadership has found innovative and creative solutions to help ease this transition for students. The kids told me about the houses with their names, colors and points system, so similar to the Hogwarts houses in the Harry Potter books. Every kid on that leadership council had a story about arriving at Camp Allen as a new student, nervous and unsure. They were welcomed. They were included from the first moment. They described the school as a family.

“The Dragon Family“ mosaic represents that story of Camp Allen. It is a place where young people are protected and supported and encouraged to learn, to grow, to create, and to make friends. To me the dragon on the wall is the school- its principal, its vice principal and administrators, its teachers and assistants, its custodians and volunteers, its amazing students, its parents- everyone who contributes and everyone who takes part.

Early in the design phase, there was some concern; we wanted an approachable dragon, but not a silly cartoon. Sometimes, fairy tales dragons can be scary, frightening beasts that must be vanquished, but that’s not the message we wanted to send. In this story about Camp Allen, dragons are caring and supportive. But I do hope some of the fierceness still comes through. Do not mess with a dragon’s family, because dragons will always protect their treasure.

A full view of The Dragon Family mosaic, in the school’s main hallway. © Dave Chance Photography

Detail from The Dragon Family mosaic, of a boy playing trumpet to the dragon. © Dave Chance Photography

Detail from The Dragon Family mosaic, of a girl writing protected by dragon’s wings. © Dave Chance Photography

A detail of The Dragon Family mosaic. © Dave Chance Photography

Detail from The Dragon Family mosaic, of a boy reading on the dragon’s back. © Dave Chance Photography

Ocean View Mosaic

The ocean in the Ocean View mosaic

We’ve started laying out our next large scale mosaic installation.

Our next large public art mosaic will be for Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s called “The Care-Takers.” Right now we are working on the ocean part of the mosaic, which is rich with sea life. We’ve all been working on the background, which is primarily bluestone, with some Blue Macaubas mixed in for flashes of brightness. Jonathan cut this sea turtle, which is made of serpentine and green marble.

Sea turtle mosaic in the early stages

This sea turtle will be part of the Ocean View Elementary School mosaic

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

Hammerhead Crew

In the end of October 2019 we installed “The Dragon Family”, a 130 square foot natural stone mosaic that resides in the main hallway of Camp Allen Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. This photo shows the crew just after we finished the install, before we climbed into the truck for the long ride home. From left to right: Marc (me!), Fred Lashley, Tony Costa, and Jonathan Frederick. This was Tony’s last gig, as he left to pursue his dream of being a firefighter. More photos of this mosaic and the construction process to come…

The crew after finishing the dragon mosaic

Hammerhead crew after finishing “The Dragon Family.”