Pebble Mosaic for the Garden

In June of 1987 I left the concrete and asphalt pavements of the United States for my first trip to Europe. I graduated 6 years earlier with a degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Oregon. In lectures, I had been mesmerized by images of the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada and Parque Guell in Barcelona, Spain, so I set off on a kind of pilgrimage to see that part of the World.

Handcut blocks laid in a mosaic sidewalk in Lisbon

I traveled first from Madrid to Lisbon, Portugal, where I had an epiphany. Here is a city encrusted in mosaics made from small hand split blocks of white limestone and black basalt. Every plaza and sidewalk has a different design, so anywhere I went I was looking at marvelous decorative pavements, something I never seen back home. Made popular after a wave pattern mosaics built during restoration of parts of the city destroyed by a Tsunami after a great earthquake in 1755, this style of stone mosaics has been used throughout the Portuguese Empire, including Brazil.

In Andalusia in Southern Spain I saw extensive mosaic work made of naturally water rounded pebbles. These were built using locally gathered pebbles in shades of black, white and brown set on edge in some kind of bonding medium, possibly sand mixed with dry cement. They seem to be a surface of choice for places of import. Much of the Alhambra and Generalife are paved in pebble mosaic, the current ones being restoration work from the last two centuries. Patterns are usually repetitive geometric forms, but there are some whimsical ones, like the one that mimics the shadow of an adjacent orange tree. A practical benefit during hot summer Mediterranean months is that water could be poured on the mosaics, cooling the surrounding air as it evaporates.

The buildings and gardens designed by Antonio Gaudi in the city of Barcelona are often embellished with mosaic of stone or tile or glass. His buildings are so organic and exquisite as to require such a medium to decorate them.

So when I returned home I set to work on a patio for my recently purchased home in N.E. Portland. The design was inspired after reading the ‘Tao of Physics’ by Fritjof Capra. Not really knowing the methods of construction in Spain, I developed my own technique, setting the pebbles in a bed of wet mortar that I mix in a wheelbarrow with a hoe, very low tech but successful. I built forms using staked flexible plastic lawn edging strips to make the curves of sub-atomic particular wave energy I was trying to allude to. Spirals occasionally spin off like smashed particles in an atomic accelerator. The overall composition looks like dividing cells. The patio project absorbed all of my extensive pebble collection along with most of my summer. The result was probably the largest pebble mosaic in the Pacific Northwest at that time.

Setting Pebbles in Mortar

A friend of mine asked me to build a Gaudiesque altar in her garden for her upcoming wedding, so I built a mini La Sagrada Familia in her back yard in the West Hills. But it wasn’t until a few years later that I convinced a client in Northwest Portland to let me build a pebble mosaic patio for him, along with a mosaic path and parking strip pavements. umerological pattern that symbolizes the Big Bang and the creation of the universe. I find myself alluding to creation in many of my designs, as I think that is basically what we are meddling with when we garden. That patio has been photographed by Alan Mandell and Jerry Harpur of England, and published several times. It even made the cover of Landscape Architecture Magazine in August of 2005.

Suddenly I was a pebble mosaic artist as well as a garden designer, and I frequently incorporated them in to my projects. I did two very laborious workshops for the Hardy Plant Society, the first at Lucy Hardiman’s, where we built one of four ‘Flying Carpets’ in her new Hell Strip, and the second in the one at Reed College with a planting workshop led by Maurice Horn of Joy Creek Nursery. The mosaic theater masks and a giant question mark are mostly buried in lush foliage now.

Though the pebbles are small, the work is not easy and I don’t do workshops anymore. I have built enough mosaics to merit a book I will eventually write, and I have been lecturing on the art of stonework for a few years now. Numerous winter trips to Asia and South America have inspired a variety of design ideas, melded with the stories of my clients lives and the environments they reside in. Hardy Plant board members Nancy Goldman, Joanna Fuller, and Vanessa Nagel all have pebble mosaics in their beautiful gardens.

I’ve spent a fair amount of my adult life gathering the materials needed to build these mosaics. Each pebble is selected for shape and sorted by color, whether beach combing or sitting on piles of rainbow rock in a stone yard. I have to look at every single one to discern whether it will fit amongst the thousands of it’s brethren.


Southwater Garden Mosaics Project Book: Stylish ideas for decorating your outside space with over 400 stunning photographs and 25 step-by-step projects
Book (Southwater)

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Most of those are Bad ideas....

Sell tupperware.
---Retail stores and dollar stores sell tupperware or similar products.
Landscape or interior design.
---Those are full fledged careers, not some part time gig any schmuck can pick up.
Professional organizing.
---So little demand.
Errand service.
---That's what 'wives' and 'the drive home' are for, and again, so little demand.
---Bargain craft stores cater to DIY, otherwise they buy premade there or elsewhere. Too much convenient, cheaper, competition.
Cleaning houses. Don't laugh or get insulted

Obviously you failed to read the link

Konso Cultural Landscape (Ethiopia)
Within the stone walled terraces and fortified settlements of Ethiopia's Konso highlands you'll find original living traditions that date back to more than 400 years. Over 21 generations, inhabitants have adapted to the dry, hostile environment by creating special social systems, engineering techniques and craft works—including wooden statues grouped to represent noteworthy residents and heroic events. The statues are amazing standing remnants of funerary traditions that are in danger of disappearing.
The Persian Garden (Iran)
It may not be the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but its influence has been no less notable

Urban Outfitters, Inc. : Urban Outfitters Now Live with TradeStone PLM  — 4-traders
TradeStone Software , delivering Merchandise Lifecycle Management (MLM) solutions that unify the design, sourcing, ordering and delivery of retail goods, announced that Urban Outfitters has gone live with TradeStone's PLM solution. ..

HomeView Design, Inc HomeView Design Green Turtle with Mosaic on Shell Garden Statue
Lawn & Patio (HomeView Design, Inc)
  • Sparkling mosaic shell
  • Charming turtle
  • Made of durable polystone
Easy Garden Crafts : Mosaic Stepping …
Easy Garden Crafts : Mosaic Stepping …
Hale pond garden design|Central …
Hale pond garden design|Central …
Garden table: mosaic design proposal
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Midwest Products Co. Milestones, Kids' Mosaic Kit
Toy (Midwest Products Co.)
  • A lasting and fun project. Kit contains bright stained glass and glass gems, 4 pattern design sheets
CICO Books Garden Mosaics: 25 Step-by-step Projects for Your Outdoor Room
Book (CICO Books)
Midwest Products Midwest Products Mosaic Butterfly Stepping Stone Kit
Art and Craft Supply (Midwest Products)
  • Create your own work of art to show off, indoors or out in your garden
  • Includes one 12-inch plastic reusable butterfly mold, a seven pound bag of stepping stone mix, genuine stained glass mosaic pieces, wooden mixing and writing tools
  • Contains enough colorful stained glass to completely cover the stone and includes design ideas and templates
  • Great for gift giving
  • Finished dimensions approximately 12-Inch by 12-Inch

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