|A sidewalk in the center of Lisbon, Portugal|
In the morning I went out for a walk and was astounded by the extraordinary sidewalk pavements. I've never fully recovered. Mosaico Português, or calçada portuguesa has been used to express design in outdoor urban paving since the 1,800's. The patterns are diverse and cover a multitude of styles from Baroque to modern. It seems that every city block had a different motif and you can tell where you are depending on the designs on the sidewalks. Here I was in a city you could visit just to see the sidewalks. This was a rather profound shock to my psyche. We didn't have sidewalks worth looking at where I grew up. Pavement can be beautiful! This is a video I found that uses an acrobatic cyclist to showcase a number of stunning pavements in the city.
The classic wave pattern was originally used to pave areas redeveloped after the tsunami following the Great Earthquake of 1755. A third of the city's population perished in the earthquake and 70,000 died in Morocco, Spain, and Portugal from the tsunami that followed. The quake occured on All Saints Day when the cathedrals, which all collapsed, were full. Most of what you see in the city today dates from after the earthquake, which opened the earth 15 feet in places. There is an in depth article on the event at https://www.sms-tsunami-warning.com/pages/tsunami-portugal-1755#.XoAWEC-ZNsM
From Lisbon we traveled to the Algarve in the south of Portugal, and then in to Southern Spain and Andalucia. I took some very academic classes in the landscape history in college and was tantalized by images from lectures on gardens in Spain, Italy, and India that I would later journey to as a form of pilgrimage. A visit to the Alhambra forever changed the way I would design gardens from then on.
|The Patio of Yussef II in the gardens of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain|
|Mosaic walkway of the Parador, the Alhambra|
|A late 19th Century Persian Carpet in my living room with Arabesques of Grape Vines, I've stared at this for hours|
|This carpet mosaic is about 11 x 18 feet in size|
|A DNA Molecule mosaic in the parking strip|
I hired two people to help me, one who sorted pebbles by shape and color and the other who mixed mortar and infilled the patterns I laid out with the field of black that makes up the majority of the mosaic. I had found a fairly good quality pile of drain rock at a stone yard that I could buy by the cubic yard, and Erin would sort through the pebbles with me until she thought she would lose her mind. Sorting is tedious work that many of you won't have the tolerance to do if you ever try this. It took a couple of weeks to lay the drainage pipes and grade and compact the base for the patio, and 3 weeks to form and build the mosaic. I left permeable gaps between the border and main body of the carpet so that water could nourish two large trees growing by the patio, and make it easier for the large area to drain. Labrador violets have seeded in to the gaps over time. The Adirondack chairs in the photo have since gone away.
Garden photographer Alan Mandell photographed the patio, which later appeared in Fine Gardening magazine and on the cover of Landscape Architecture accompanying articles I wrote on building pebble mosaics. Its shown up on a number of websites and Pinterest since then.
I like creating small gardens, and often develop room like spaces. Garden carpets are a great way to make that room like space more literal. But the first one I built was by far the largest. Most of what I have built since then are more like an area rug. Portland garden celebrity Lucy Hardiman arranged for me to give a pebble mosaic workshop for the Hardy Plant Society where I built the first of her "Flying Carpets" in a garden parking strip in front of their Victorian Home. For the record I don't give workshops anymore. They are exhausting endeavors.
We used cut Indian granite cobbles for the border that came from Lakeview Stone in Seattle, and Mexican Beach Pebbles purchased by the bag. I hand collected the gold and red pebbles from a beach on the Columbia River as well as the larger accent stones. The second carpet I built was based on an Anatolian Turkish Tribal design, as was the third.
|An Anatolian tribal carpet design I built along with two others in the parking strip of a well known garden in Portland, Oregon|
I later built another carpet mosaic in the French Aubusson style for Lucy's friend Nancy Goldman at her garden Nancyland, for an article being written for Better Homes and Gardens magazine. We placed glass doorknobs in the corners ringed with pebbles to make flowers and a cut crystal coaster in the center medallion.
|Moss overtakes a carpet mosaic in the parking strip at Nancyland|
|The Beacraft Levy patio incorporates tiles in to the design|
|Persian Sarouk Carpet with Cypress Trees and a Tree of Life|
Because the carpet design is directional it is viewed from the entry walk. A sandstone carving of the Sarnath Buddha I brought back from Bubaneshwar, Orissa, in India sits at the end of the carpet, maximizing the visual potential of this tiny garden space.
|The Sarnath Buddha holds his hands in the teaching mudras, with the Wheel of Law behind his head and his diciples at his feet.|
|Sam's carpet at the entrance to his garden|
I then removed the pebbles, keeping them sorted in piles, and reassembled the mosaic, setting it in wet mortar using 1x4 forms to set the sections, maintaining the straight lines in the design.
The finished mosaic is very fine. It has undulations that translate well to the character of a woven carpet. Its held up well over the years. The climate in LA is mild so the tiles haven't popped out as there aren't freezing temperatures.
When my clients who I built the Birth of the Universe carpet decided to build an underground garage for two cars, we adapted the design so that it would have a flat patio roof you could walk on to from the narrow area around the house. This was technically the most difficult patio I have ever built. We used cut stone tiles in 4 colors that matched the color scheme on the house. The clients had traveled to Spain and Argentina and liked the idea of a ballroom floor with Moorish 8 pointed star medallions centered in a field of golden stone tiles from India that have wonderful fossilized patterns in them that are sometimes remenscent of Japanese landscape paintings or fern fronds. The patio drains perfectly in to two small drain holes on one side.
|Laying out cut stone for the patio design|
At the entrance to the garage I built an inset mosaic carpet with some similarity to the Birth of the Universe carpet to bring some continuity to the garden. It is like a mat in front of the nicely crafted garage door and can be seen from the roof terrace when looking over the railing. There is a lot of foot traffic on this street and people often stop to admire the mosaic. The stones we used were chosen for their larger thickness so that they would embed well in to the mortar and not pop out when driven on.
|Driveway inset carpet mosaic|
|The entry area and site of a proposed pebble mosaic|
|A classic Chahar Bagh garden carpet divided by the four rivers of paradise, Museum of Islamic Arts, Istanbul|
I used 1x4 inch boards to form the areas, and constructed the border of the carpet, using red pebbles and 8 pointed glazed tile stars. 8 pointed stars are an Islamic motif comprised of two overlapping squares, representing the overlaying of time (the four seasons) and space (the four cardinal directions).
I again used Montana Rainbow Mix pebbles as a source and spent many long tedious hours sitting on the pile at the stone yard, wetting them so that I could see the colors. I was able to collect enough green to make the rivers and plants. I used small black Mexican Beach pebbles for the borders. They come in black and a kind of olivine green, which I used for tree trunks and for the Cypresses. I had to rent a vehicle to do the 900 mile drive so that I could fly back, and rented an apartment on Airbnb for 8 nights. Out of town projects are expensive for this reason and these costs need to be taken in to consideration when proposing out of town commissions.
|Montana Rainbow pebbles at All About Stone in Portland|
|Central Medallion with 8 pointed stars|
|The Four Rivers of Paradise in place|
I finished the work right on schedule, with a sore back and a mess to clean up. I had to leave the acid wash cleaning to a maintenance contractor as I flew home the next day.
I instructed them to let the mortar cure for two weeks before pouring a diluted mix of one part Muriatic Acid mixed with two parts water, letting it disolve the mortar film that make a greyish cast on the pebbles. The acid also exposes some sand in the mortar so it isn't a white cement look between the stones. Adequate protection, long sleeves, chemical proof long gloves, and a respirator are needed. The fizzling mixture of the acid reacting to the base in the mortar is hosed off with a spray nozzle which further dilutes and neutralizes the acid.
|Freshly acid washed mosaic|
|The completed Four Rivers of Paradise Carpet Mosaic|
|A magnificent Persian carpet with Cypress trees in a lush garden|