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.

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.

Hammerhead Stoneworks Featured in Asheville Lifestyle Magazine

Following up Hammerhead’s recent feature in the Slippery Rock Gazette, Asheville Lifestyle magazine’s September 2016 issue features our Green Man mosaic as well as other projects. We completed the Green Man Mosaic for Green Man Brewing in downtown Asheville, NC. The mosaic greets brewery visitors immediately upon entry to the building.

The full size mosaic in the space as featured in Asheville Lifestyle magazine

The full size mosaic in the space as featured in Asheville Lifestyle magazine ©2016 David Dietrich

The article describes in detail the process of designing and creating the Green Man mosaic. It covers Marc’s attention to detail and quality, it elaborates on the local materials used for the project, and it gives an introduction to the full Hammerhead crew. The feature also includes a glimpse into one of Marc’s personal pieces entitled The Boy With Antlers (pictured below).

"The Boy With Antlers" is a natural stone mosaic.

“The Boy With Antlers” is a natural stone mosaic

Read the full feature in Asheville Lifestyle magazine here.

 

In the mosaic workspace

In the mosaic workspace

 

Contributors to the Asheville Lifestyle Magazine Feature

We would like to extend our gratitude to Tom Rogers for authoring this piece as well as to David Dietrich, Emily Glaser, and Kristin Cozzolino for their photo contributions.

 

At the Home Show 2012

Stonework at the Home Show

Since I founded Hammerhead Stoneworks in 2009, I have been showing my stonework and materials at the Western North Carolina Home and Garden Show at the Civic Center in downtown Asheville, NC. I have shown stone benches and some art pieces. The last couple of years I have shown flagstone patios, including a koi-inspired patio design. Flagstone sections like this are much easier than stone walls to build at my shop and then bring in and install quickly.


This year’s Home Show happened a couple of weekends ago. I drew this sketch of my planned design over the winter and then went to work on it, as time allowed. The plan worked out well, the only major difference being that I had intended a metal table, but built a wooden one myself.


The special stone art piece for this show was “The Sultan”, a mosaic made of highly polished granite and marble scraps and Pennsylvania bluestone with a natural finish. It’s a relatively small piece, at about 11 inches by 17 inches, but it suggests to me the direction I want to take my work.

Ironwoods Stone Entry Sign: Done and Dusted

Stone entry sign

Finished product

Earlier this week, blacksmith Lynda Metcalfe and I drove to Chapel Hill to put the finishing touches on our collaboration, the Ironwoods stone entry sign. It was satisfying to see this project through; discussions with the homeowner’s association had started a year ago November. The time invested was well spent. This sign is a work of art.

Stone entry sign

The sign sits on an island and is visible to traffic in both directions. Each side of the sign has its own flow of vines and is its own piece.

Stone entry sign

Lynda’s work has great depth. The letters are raised from the back panel and vines wind their way behind the letters, poking through here and there.

In this image from Lynda’s shop, you can see how she lined up the lettering on each side so that one set of fasteners reached through to catch the word Ironwoods running in both directions. Lynda’s primary focus in architectural metalwork; it was great to work with another artisan with such a strong construction ethos. We both aspired to create something strong and beautiful. Craftsmanship should be more than pretty.
(photo by Lynda Metcalfe)

All in all, the experience of working at Ironwoods was unlike any other I’ve ever had in my career. They know how to treat craftspeople. Concerned neighbors brought out orange cones to protect us from distracted drivers. Virginia made me soup. A kindly stranger delivered me hot chocolate (with whipped cream!) on a cold day. Ethan and Logan supplied me with marbles, since I forgot my own back home. I am sincerely grateful for the kindness and enthusiasm shown for the process and the finished product. It is a great joy to create work for people who appreciate it.

Special thanks are owed to Matthew Feldt who saw this project through from a seed of an idea to a fully grown vine. He navigated the design process with grace, championed the project from start to finish and lent his strong back, his photographic eye and even his garage to the effort. The sign doesn’t happen without Matthew. Thank you.

All of the photographs in this blog posting, unless otherwise noted, are by Matthew Feldt.

Landscape Architecture Class


During the installation process in Gainesville, my friend Mary Padua brought a group of students from the University of Florida to the site. She is a professor in the Landscape Architecture program at UF and a gifted designer and photographer. The students are studying implementation and construction drawings. I talked briefly about the project, about the work in general and designing with stone. At the end of the conversation, I ran through my five suggestions for young designers:

Learn the local geology

Just as a designer moving to Colorado would set out quickly to learn the local plants, learning about the local geology can be an invaluable asset. The make up of the Earth varies more dramatically from place to place than many realize. Knowing what types of rock are present, their formation and structure can help a designer choose the best application for each. The finished product is stronger and more durable and it looks like it belongs to the place it built. Also, the more you knows about the local geology, the more you can understand about the forces that will actively try to destroy your work such as erosion and earth movement.

Connect with local craftspeople

Large architecture firms hire large builders. This is cost-effective and helps to ensure compliance with the myriad laws that control construction. But large builders don’t have the vision or the gift of invention that independent craftspeople do. Local craftspeople understand their materials intimately and create distinctive works that celebrate creativity and are meant to last. Employing local craftspeople is the sustainable choice for the economy as well; they spend their wages in their communities and often support other small businesses. Local craftspeople are a fantastic asset to the design process as well, adding a strong practical understanding to the conceptual development of an idea.

Build dry

Dry stonework is the sustainable choice for landscape applications such as retaining walls, paths, patios, and steps. A well-crafted drystone retaining wall will have a smaller carbon footprint and will outlast a similarly sited mortared wall. I offer a more detailed take on this here.

Water always wins

There’s a misconception that modern materials and techniques are so advanced and technologically sophisticated that they can withstand any assault, resist any force. This is patently false. Water always wins. The forces of weather over time should be a central consideration in the design and implementation of every project.

Learn about business and marketing

I expect that most young Landscape Architects will start working in larger firms and over the early years of their design careers get practice at the whole range of design tasks. Many will, at some point, strike out on their own. It’s an amazing journey and incredibly rewarding, but it can be very challenging to start your own business. I encourage everyone to start learning their way around the business side of the design and construction trades now. Project bidding, tax issues and insurance requirements sneak up fast when you set up your own shop. Marketing is often very difficult for the self-employed. Taking classes now and reading books can be helpful. Learning by doing is best, if you can find opportunities to handle the business side earlier

The Blue Spiral

Last week I traveled down to Florida and installed the “Blue Spiral” which I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.

I drove down on Monday and the stone arrived the next morning. It was a soggy day, but mild compared to the weather Gainesville had endured all summer. It never topped 90 on my whole trip, but the week before it had been pushing 100.


It took me a day and a half to pack up all the stones for travel. I used cardboard between each layer on a pallet and shimmed under stones to keep everything level and tight. Lots of strips of cardboard went between the stones on each layer, so that there wouldn’t be any movement and vulnerable points wouldn’t be broken. Then I shrink-wrapped the heck out of it. It all traveled beautifully; there was no damage to any of the 105 pieces. Thanks to Dennis at Dayrunner Systems for taking such care with my delivery.


It took three very full days to install, plus some final tweaks in Friday morning before I started my drive home. My favorite part of the installation process was seeing the stone in natural light. I had built it in the shop, but it was always deeply shaded in there, with a few florescent lights overhead. Thursday evening, when it was substantially complete and the sun was setting, I really got to see the richness of the color in the composition. It was a very gratifying moment.


Here’s the piece in its new home. I placed some sod around the edges, but I think the landscape crew will make some adjustments to that, maybe even add a gravel path. It’s sited at the Gainesville Regional Utilities Eastside Operations Center. It’s a huge new campus, with seven new buildings, all of which will be certified LEED Silver. It’s an impressive place.

On Thursday, my friend Mary Padua brought a group of students from the University of Florida to the site site. She is a professor in the Landscape Architecture program at UF and a gifted designer and photographer. The students are studying implementation and construction drawings. I talked briefly about the project, about the work in general and designing with stone. I’m hoping that someone took a picture or two that I can post here in the near future, with notes on the conversation.

I owe a debt of deep gratitude to John Hayes, the Public Art Coordinator of the City of Gainesville’s Art in Public Places Trust and his board for giving me this opportunity. I am also very grateful to Reid Rivers, GRU’s Project Manager, who was incredibly helpful and supportive in shepherding the project along.


It’s not exactly a maker’s mark, but I did sign the bottom of stone 8.1 with a Sharpie.

The Blue Spiral is an original Artwork commissioned by and in the public art collection of the City of Gainesville.