Birds of Every Feather

Natural Stone Mosaic Birds of Every Feather: Fabrication Process

natural stone mosaic birds

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

This collection of images is from the fabrication process of natural stone mosaic Birds of Every Feather, which was designed for Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, VA. It is the first in a series of six mosaics I will make for schools in this area as part of a public art commission.

natural stone mosaic birds

American goldfinch, white-breasted nuthatch, American robin

natural stone mosaic birds

American robin, red-bellied woodpecker, mourning dove

As with all of my mosaic work, I fabricated this at my shop before bringing it to the installation site. Making the birds was so much fun! The background, not so much. The eyes of the birds are either glass marbles or small pebbles. In order to save epoxy, I would do several eyes all at once, leading to this weird-looking photograph.

natural stone mosaic birds

The little brown bird is the Carolina wren. While building this at the shop, a Carolina wren built a nest on one of the shop’s storage shelves.

Read more about Birds of Every Feather here and here.

Elk Mountain Wall & Frog


I didn’t have a jar of marbles with me, so I made one from some red clay and cured it in the sun.


A Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor) is an uncommon sight at any time, as they are well camouflaged, hide way up in trees and are entirely nocturnal. Odd then to find this little guy way out on a branch on a cold November morning. He was chilly and not inclined to move much. Once the sun hit him around lunch time he got more motivated and went into hiding.

Radial Steps: A Gneiss Wall

Radial Steps Gneiss Wall

Radial Steps Gneiss Wall

This drystone wall connects two columns in a Montford backyard. The redial steps are visible in the distance. Another wall segment will continue from the furthest column and turn at the bank. Most of the stone is a granitic gneiss: heavy, sharp and cantankerous. And it makes a lovely wall. Quarried a few miles outside of Asheville, it looks like it belongs here because it does.

In the photo below, find the green marble tucked in the joinery. In the bottom photo, there’s a pool ball.

Radial Steps Gneiss Wall

Setting the lintel


Today I set the lintel on the fireplace at the cabin in Mars Hill. The lintel is 46″ long and approximately 9″ by 9″ square. I cut it from a large slab, that weighed just shy of 1900 pounds. Here I am waiting for a fissure to emerge. I’m cutting the end of the lintel off using feathers and wedges. It’s very gratifying to listen to the stone as it splits; it sounds like ice.


Reid and Zach were on hand to help with all the lifting. We used 6″ by 6″ blocks to make a very sturdy tower in front of the fireplace. This made it much easier to lift the stone into and out of place, three times total. The first time I saw the general placement and marked the bottom of the stone for shaping. The second lift was to check the fit. I made some minor shaping adjustments and then the third lift was onto a mortar bed.


The lintel leftovers, all 1,000 pounds of it, made a good step onto the cabin porch. We will adjust grade so that the step down is consistent across the face of the step, which will effectively hide the oddball build up stones.

A couple of the drill holes on the face of the steps broke such that they can hold marbles. These are easily removed by kids, but the others are a couple of inches down a hole that didn’t break open at all. Those will be tougher to get.

Below is a detail of the break between the lintel and the step stone, just after I split them.