Top Ten Stonework Photos

Top Ten Stonework Photos

Photographs are an important part of my stonework. They are essential tools in sharing my work with others. A strong portfolio drives business.

Photographs are part of my process as well. I take pictures throughout a project. Studying them later- that same day, or months on- helps me troubleshoot problems and see where potential lies. They show flaws and places to grow as well as the tiny little details that make all the difference.

Photographs act as my memory. I don’t have any stonework of my own. Much of my work is hidden in backyards and hard to get to. My archives- a disorganized mess of over 20,000 images- help me see what I’ve done. This helps me keep things in perspective; in the depths of winter it’s a nice reminder that the weather will someday break and we can get back to making things.

What follows are my favorite ten images from the first ten years of Hammerhead Stoneworks. These are not the best pictures or the ones that make up the strongest portfolio. These are the photographs that speak to me of the process and the materials and why I love what I do. Click on the titles to read the story behind each of the top ten stonework photos.

John’s Exploded Mosaic

Top Ten Stonework Photos

This might be my favorite image of the last ten years. It’s a memorial mosaic I made, resting in the back of my truck ready to be brought to Riverside Cemetery for installation. There’s something about the exploded, expanded view that I really enjoy. It doesn’t hurt that it’s in the back of my favorite old truck, which now rests dead in the driveway. Residual bright blue spray paint pokes through seams. The name plate at the bottom was carved by me. It’s not at all expertly done done but I was proud of the accomplishment. The family decided to add the dates of John’s birth and death, which wouldn’t fit on this piece. I cut a new stone and had it engraved. I may still have that nameplate somewhere at the shop.

Feathers & Floors

Top Ten Stonework Photos

Twenty years ago Kristin I took an off-season trip to Italy. I had just started stone work and was mesmerized by the craft on display throughout the country. The floors in Venice, especially at Basilica San Marco, were breathtaking and completely changed the way I thought about stone. Their color palettes were bold and clashing, their patterns chaotic and busy, and yet the end result was endlessly fascinating and beautiful. My pursuit of mosaic goes back to the moment I first saw those floors. This small section of the Phoenix Rising mosaic reminds me of those floors. It is a thread- however modest it might be–that connects my humble pursuits to the master craftsman of that bygone age.

Textures

Top Ten Stonework Photos

When I take pictures of my work for my portfolio, I always have to be reminded to show the contacts surrounding the finished piece. Future customers want to see how the wall interacts with the landscape. They want to see how the patio looks with tables and chairs. But I am always drawn to the close-ups, to the images that explore the stone and the stone alone.

This particular image is from my first public art commission”The Blue Spiral” in Gainesville Florida. This shot was taken in the shop during the fabrication process. I love the textures in the tight lines. In this image I saw the potential of the idea being realized.

Frogger

I made a mosaic for the North Carolina Arboretum. It lines the floor of a water feature and includes native species like this bullfrog. As is often the case, my favorite photograph is early in the process, when I recognize that the idea will work. I love the colors here. Most of the stone is regional and in its natural state. The tympanic membrane is a highly polished scrap of marble salvaged from a company that makes countertops.

GreenMan at Rest
Top Ten Stonework Photos

There are so many better pictures of the GreenMan mosaic, Hammerhead’s first large scale wall piece, but this is a favorite. I took this picture at the shop, while we were fabricating. The whole face is there except the eyes, which went through several iterations before I got them right. Even without the eyes, I could tell that this was going to work. This was a crazy time for Hammerhead; GreenMan was built on top of the labyrinth at our shop.

Little Men

Top Ten Stonework Photos

This is a sentimental choice. I don’t love this wall- one of my first- but I do love those little dudes, who are not so little anymore.

Marbles Inlaid

Another shop shot, another moment when a weird idea came together. I had tried prototypes of this idea before, with limited success. Prototypes aren’t supposed to work, I guess. They’re give you the info you need for when you convince a customer to let you build something crazy, like a bench that’s supposed to look like it’s balanced on a bed of marbles.

Alien Landing Pad

Top Ten Stonework Photos

There’s not even any stone in this picture, but I still love it and wanted to include it in the top ten stonework photos. It’s the layout of a hexagonal folly that we built for clients in Biltmore Forest. When we were done, they were married there. I like the vivid colors. I discovered the secret to laying out a hexagon on Wikipedia. It involved aligning the centers of three circles with identical radii. The points where the circles kiss each other become the corners of the hexagon- whose sides will be the same as the radius used. This very simple and practical approach to geometry spurred an ongoing fascination with old school Islamic tile mosaics which are incredibly complex and are designed with only a compass and a straight line.

Labyrinth With Red Leaves

This one soothes me. It’s really the only portfolio-ish shot amongst the top ten stonework photos. It’s been my desktop wallpaper for months now.

Worshop Pegboard

Order is fleeting; chaos always wins. This was taken the day we hung pegboard in the shop. It’s been a mess ever since.

Bonus Image: Hovering Stone

Jonathan Frederick took this shot of me as we were installing 3000 pound chunks of granite at the entrance to the labyrinth. Bodie is running the crane as I escort the big guy to its new home.

Lakeshore Bench

Lakeshore Bench

lakeshore bench hammerhead stoneworks
This backyard bench was designed and installed in North Asheville’s Lakeshore neighborhood. It is featured in the yard of a very avid gardener. It is a mortared bench that curves to round off the corners of the yard.

All the stone used for this bench is local with the end caps and wall portion made of mountain field stone and the seat made of Hooper’s Creek, which is quarried in Fletcher, NC. (We often use Hooper’s Creek as featured here.)

lakeshore bench hammerhead stoneworks

Modern stack bench – First Baptist Church of Asheville

At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics, and we like our benches to be whimsical. The labyrinth project we competed for First Baptist Church of Asheville is comprised of four of our bench designs, including our modern stack bench.

The columbarium area of the Memorial Garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville contains four modern stack benches. The benches have a very clean, modern aesthetic. The design committee requested something more formal while not overtly like a highly polished memorial bench found in a graveyard.

Materials Used for the Modern Stack Bench

A rough hewn granite block anchors the bench to the concrete. Pennsylvania Bluestone comprises the seats, topped with reclaimed black granite. The granite serves as a spacer, which creates a shadow that suggests that the big blue slab is floating over the granite.

All of the materials used for the benches figure heavily in the overall design of the garden. We wanted the benches to help unite the various elements of the design. The black granite used in the benches resembles the granite used for the columbarium vaults as the place where names will be engraved. This provides a unifying element with other areas of the Memorial Garden.

Modern Stack Bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

Modern Stack Bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

Boulder Bench – First Baptist Church of Asheville

The Boulder Bench

At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics, and we like them to be whimsical. We created four bench designs for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for the labyrinth project. The boulder bench is one of these designs.

There are four boulder benches spaced around the labyrinth at First Baptist Church of Asheville. The benches are drawn from Hammerhead’s traditional design of a boulder bench, which is a large slab of sandstone seated on top of a pair of funky sandstone boulders. At First Baptist Church of Asheville, we cut the tops of the benches to have the precise radius of the outside edge of the labyrinth in order to provide visual continuity with the radiating circles of the labyrinth.

One boulder bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville

One of four boulder benches at First Baptist Church of Asheville

Read More About Benches by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Stone Bench: The Harmony Design

Hammerhead Stoneworks designs and installs innovative natural stone benches.

Harmony Stone Bench

Stone benches are wonderful addition to outdoor spaces and a unique design opportunity. At Hammerhead, we enjoy the challenge of creating new designs for stone benches. We seek a balance between bombproof structure and graceful aesthetics. And we like them to be whimsical. The harmony stone bench is one of four designs we created for the memorial garden at First Baptist Church of Asheville for, as we call it, the labyrinth project. This is a favorite design of mine, because of how delicate they appear and how strong they truly are. There’s something a bit magical about that to me!

We created two of these harmony stone benches for the memorial garden, and both are made of river rock and a blue stone slab with a hidden steel armature supporting the overall structure. The waterworn pebbles and crisply cut top add an eclectic juxtaposition. These benches are adjacent to the water feature Hammerhead is currently constructing in the labyrinth. River pebbles echo the flowing water and river path that leads to the feature. The blue slab of the bench ties to the stream path that leads to the feature. One feels connected to the water and its movement in the space. The delicate balancing act is deceptive; these benches are super sturdy!

Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Harmony stone bench at First Baptist Church of Asheville by Hammerhead Stoneworks

 

Read More About Benches by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Formal Stone Steps

Formal Stone Steps

Mortared sandstone steps create s stunning entryway to this home in Arden, North Carolina.

Earlier this summer, Hammerhead Stoneworks built a set of formal stone steps leading into a home in Arden, North Carolina. The steps are mortared and utilize a couple of varieties of sandstone to achieve the desired aesthetic. Hidden from sight are several changes we also made to the drainage in the area.

The existing steps were of pressure treated lumber and were rotten through and through. The old steps sat in so much puddled runoff that there were supporting uprights that had wicked water up vertically over two feet. We could squeeze pieces of lumber and water would seep out like a soggy sponge. Stone, subjected to the same abuse would also eventually suffer, so we put in a trench drain immediately next to the steps and reshaped the planting bed to discourage water from accumulating there.

Formal Stone Steps

The formal stone steps from above

 

stone bench, wall, patio

A stone bench, retaining wall and patio built in Arden North Carolina.

Behind the house we built a small patio with this bench and a short retaining wall to address the general slope of the yard. While the bench uses some concrete and mortar for anchoring, the wall and patio are laid drystone.

Water Feature, Stone Paths, Steps & Bench

Asheville stone masons Hammerhead Stoneworks recently completed this water feature with a natural stone bench, paths, drystone walls and steps.

Dry Stone Paths & Steps

This dry stone pathway connects the homeowner’s driveway with their favorite hangout spot, on their back deck. A single slab of sandstone provides an easy step up to the deck. The regular shape of the slab lends an air of formality to the entrance, sometimes used by guests. This serves as a counterpoint to the more natural looking stones that make up the adjacent steps, walls, water feature and bench.


The bench is found at the bottom of the water feature. It is very organic, a natural slab with a patina of lichen. The area is fairly shady and so I am hopeful that the lichen will survive. Two rugged boulders were topped and anchored in concrete to provide the bench supports.

Water Feature Before and After

 

This pair of images shows how we transformed this unused space. The drystone retaining wall at the bottom raised the overall grade. This allowed us to hide drainage pipes running from the house’s many downspouts. We used heavy duty solid white PVC pipe to extend the drain pipes. Though more expensive, these pipes have never failed me. Everytime I have dug up a black corrugated drain pipe it is either collapsed, perforated or clogged. Or all three. Next spring, once the plants have been chosen and given time to establish themselves, this will be a lovely view.
Click on the image above for a larger view of the water view and overall design.

Coming soon: more pictures of the water feature itself.

Bench Class

A couple of weekends ago, I led a workshop at the NC Arboretum on building stone benches. First thing in the morning we studied images of various benches, stone-cutting techniques and ways to move heavy objects safely and with relative ease. Safety was a recurring theme throughout the day. After the classroom presentation, we went outside and built a free-standing bench, a style I call castle-block for the big chunks of stone that make up the supports. The bench we built is now a permanent fixture at the Arboretum, a rest station along one of the trails.


To facilitate ease of movement, we cut the big stone down in the back of my truck. In this image, Ronnie is using a star bit chisel to notch shallow guide holes in the top of the stone. This gives the drill bit a place to sit, reducing the likelihood of the bit bouncing around and scarring the stone.


Everyone got a chance to use the drill and work at cutting stone. Here Judy leans into the drill to get the proper placement.

Since our cut edges were going to be exposed, we took some time to clean up the drill holes. Here Carol is using a handset chisel to knock off the cut edge of the bench stone. We put the cut edge to the back of the bench, less visible to passers-by.

We spent some time doing bench math, designing everything so that it would be the proper height and balanced as a structure and as an aesthetic object. Here Carol measures the thickness of the slab, the starting point for figuring out the math. I handed out the following worksheet to guide the design and layout process.

By cutting it in the back of truck, we made the stone more manageable, but it was still a heavy chunk. Jason uses a rock bar to move the stone from the pallet onto the ramps we have set up. Using 2″ by 12″ pressured treated lumber as ramps, we slid the stone down to waiting blocks and from there into place.

We used mortar to set the bench. This design can be done dry, but the mortar reduces the risk of movement, particularly since the bench is in a public place.

We all felt good as we finished up. The bench looked great and we had built it efficiently and safely. It felt good to be leaving something cool and useful for everyone to enjoy. Tre and Ronnie test drive the bench and pronounce it good.

Grandpa Tony’s Bench: follow up

Memorial stone bench by Hammerhead Stoneworks

Memorial stone bench

My friend Matthew in Chapel Hill sent me this image recently of Grandpa Tony’s memorial bench surrounded by spring time flowers. He mentioned that some neighborhood kids circulated a flyer announcing a lemonade and cookie sale at Grandpa Tony’s bench, suggesting it’s already become part of the character of the place. That’s always gratifying to hear.

On May 15th I’ll be leading a workshop at the Arboretum on making stone benches similar to Tony’s.