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Posts Tagged ‘basalt’

Jorge Yazpik Miscellany

This is a selection of Jorge Yazpik’s work that was on display inside the museum, an interesting mix with a progression from sculptures to architectural models. I won’t say much about them, which is apparently what he prefers. He doesn’t give titles or explanations or even call out his materials, and in videos talking about his work (in Spanish), he talks about letting people interpret the works however they want, letting them see without predisposition. He says when you listen to music, no one tells you how to listen. So, I guess, just have a listen, take a look. (more…)

Natives, Mosaics, and a New Sitting Area

SeatingAreaAfter

I recently did a couple of small projects in an established native garden, a pleasant space with a laid-back, informal feel. Oaks, Bay Laurels, and annual grasses are visible outside the deer fencing. Gravel paths weave around berms overflowing with natives, some of the usual plants like Manzanita, Iris, and Buckwheat, but also some of the less common plants you only see at plant sales.

PathFinesPatioBefore1

My primary project was to create a little sitting area with blue path fines. We also cleaned the existing concrete patio next to the new sitting area and we redid the joints with blue path fines. I’ve done that a few times for this kind of old patio; a few bags of path fines and some scrubbing and the concrete looks pretty much as good as new.

PathFinesPatioAfter1

When I finished, I was thinking that with some furniture, a little mulch, and maybe some Snowberry in the narrow space against the fence, this would be a nice little sitting area. This past week I saw the finished result, cheerful and inviting.

SeatingAreaAfter2

EdgingAfter1

I edged the path fines with scrap pieces of basalt leftover from the stoneyard’s fabrication projects. It’s inexpensive and easy to install; the hardest part is sorting through the scrap pile figuring out which pieces to use.

EdgingAfter2

The garden has some other interesting elements, including a variety of mosaics made by the client. The wall piece is quite nice.

wallpiece

mosaictile1

My mom recently made one of these mosaic balls, so it was interesting to see that someone else had made one too. I guess I’ve seen them before, but I didn’t realize they were an established thing.

mosaictile2

dogwood

There’s a cone shaped one at the base of this dogwood. I like the look of the limbed-up dogwood; the trunk is almost like a manzanita.

stonelithograph

The client’s father had been a stone lithographer. The press is now an element in the garden along with several of the old stones.

stonetablet

NeviusiacliftoniiFlower

I was glad I got to see the garden this week, because a number of plants were in bloom, including Neviusia cliftonii, Shasta Snow Wreath, a rare deciduous shrub that was only discovered in the 90’s. I’d seen it at plant sales, but never established in a garden. It’s not the showiest plant I’ve ever seen — it’s easy to understand how it went unnoticed for such a long time, especially if it tends to grow intermixed with poison oak — but fun to see in a garden.

NeviusiacliftoniiShastaSnowWreath

Styraxoficinalis

I was also glad to see the California Snowdrop, Syrax oficinalis, in full bloom. These take patience to establish, but have such an elegant flower and fragrance.

PCHIris

Buckwheat

Buckwheats, Foothills Penstemon, and California Poppies were also blooming, with other plants like Coyote Mint getting ready to follow. And photographs of course don’t show the bird calls and all of the bird activity around the natives. A lovely little garden.

Making the Stone Fountain

The Fountain Concept

This should be my last post from the garden show, though I’ve been installing a lot of the materials used in the show — the basalt, the limestone pavers, many of the plants — into real gardens, so they’ll probably show up again in photos at some point. But this is the last post specifically from the show. And actually this fountain was the starting point for the garden; before I signed up for the show, this was the first idea that got me thinking I might actually want to do a garden and what kind of garden I might want to make. It’s a fountain I had seen in photos from a temple in Japan where the monks place a leaf each morning for the water to spill from. I loved the concept — plants and stone and water joined in a single simple ritual — and the closeup image, but the actual fountain is not very graceful. I wanted to do something similar, but with a less formal piece of stone. I spent some time looking around for a suitable piece, but I couldn’t ever find anything I liked. Everything was either very rough or very slick, nothing in between, and nothing had the lip or overhang that I was looking for. I ended up having to fabricate the stone for the fountain myself.

The Original Block

The best prospect I could find was this chunk of basalt at the stoneyard. The stone had a weakness in it that I thought I could exploit to get a suitable shape for the fountain. I went all around it with a big chisel and then a heavy sledgehammer, tracing the weakness, hitting it softly at first and then harder and harder. I was very patient with it, so slow that the folks at the stoneyard who were watching me work got bored and wandered away. It was far and away my best prospect for the fountain, so I can’t describe how pleased I was when it finally broke in the shape I wanted. In the photo below, you can see that it didn’t break perfectly straight, but the ragged section of the break was low on the stone where it would be out of sight, so I was immensely satisfied. I may have even danced a jig.

The Block Split in Two

Reverse Angle of the Split Block

After breaking it out of the block, I had the stoneyard drill a hole through it, and then I carved out a basin at the top. I cleaned up the edges at the top a little with my chisels, but I left the shape pretty much as it came out of the block. After that, I fed a hose into the hole, hooked it up to the pump, and tested it. I thought it might take some finagling to get the water to spill properly from the leaf, but that worked fine almost from the beginning. I tried a Camelia leaf first — the leaf the monks use in Japan — and then switched to Arbutus ‘Marina,’ a plant that’s more to my taste. Toyon and Madrone would also work but I couldn’t find good specimens to include in the display garden and I wanted the leaf to be from a plant that was in the garden. In the future I plan to try Western Spicebush and Redtwig Dogwood leaves as well, but they weren’t yet in leaf at the time of the show. The stone holding the leaf in place is one I found on the beach in Baja. The flower is a Hellebore. I think a Spicebush flower might work; I’m not sure what other natives to try. If anyone has one to suggest, please let me know in the comments. I’m pleased at how it all came together, and I got a great response from people at the show, so I’ll probably make at least one more like it in the future.

The Final Stone Fountain

Basalt Pieces

Getting ready for the garden show, I’ve been having fun playing around with some large pieces of scrap basalt from the stone yard. Their fabrication shop has been making benches out of hexagonal basalt columns; they cut big rectangular pieces from the center of the hexagons and then sell off the parts that they cut away — the irregular outer ‘skin’ of the basalt column — for cheap. The skins are really interesting stuff, unusual shapes with a smooth cut face and several rough natural faces that contrast nicely with the cut face. I bought a bunch of the long pieces to use as a low retaining wall and edging, and also some randomly shaped ones to play around with. I need to make an upright fountain basin by the time I’m done, but to get used to the stone I made a couple easier pieces first.

I hadn’t really done this kind of stonework before. Building walls, I mostly just clean up the stones, shaping edges or squaring corners or removing high points. I hadn’t ever really tried to break into the mass of a stone like this, so I started with this relatively small, trapezoidal stone as an introduction. I scored a grid into it with a grinder and then knocked the pieces out with a point chisel. I hadn’t worked with true basalt before, and it has a much different feel from other stone I’ve worked with. It’s hard stone, with a high, glassy sound when I hit it, and it’s noticeably heavier than other stone, always taking a little more effort to move than I’m expecting. But the work actually went pretty quickly.

The photo above shows the basin after the first pass. I scored it a couple more times after that, making it deeper towards one end and in the middle. Apparently, larger birds like a two or three inch deep birdbath, while smaller birds like the water only an inch deep. So far, though, with it set up temporarily in our yard, I’ve mostly just seen our dog using it as a water dish, though I have found bird droppings on the rim, so I know at least one bird is using it. In the garden show I’m going to site it at ground level, but after the show I might give it some sort of pedestal to raise it up out of cat range. I still need to sand the rim to make it darker, and I might change the surface below the water level, where you can see chisel scars and one cut mark from the grinder. I could polish the part under the water so it gets dark and glassy, but I kind of like the chisel marks and I might pock mark the whole surface for a bigger contrast with the smooth rim.

After the trapezoidal piece, I moved onto this larger one. I liked its polygonal shape well enough, but I wanted to see if I could make it round. I thought I might have to cut around the edge with a grinder, but it was surprisingly easy to shape with a big handset chisel.

Like the trapezoid, it still needs to be polished. I’ll probably do that next weekend, and then a week after that it will be in the show. I’m pretty excited to see how it looks with plants around it. I’m about halfway finished with the fountain basin I need, and I have a large block I want to make into yet another basin, but so far the large block has pretty much laughed at my efforts to shape it (my sledgehammer broke instead of the stone). I’ll have the fountain ready for the show, but the block is probably going to sit in front of my house for a while. It’s been fun working on all of it, and should be fun finding a final home for each of the pieces after the show.

— Update — Here’s a photo of the finished piece in the garden show:

GSChozubachi1

The Devil’s Postpile and Patio

Devils Postpile National Monument

Devil's Postpile National Monument

Probably the most striking geological feature on the eastside, an area full of geological features, is the Devil’s Postpile, one of the world’s best examples of columnar basalt. Columnar basalt is one of those natural elements that looks unnaturally geometric. It forms when it lava cools very, very slowly and evenly. The lava starts to contract and then crack, and because it cools so evenly the cracks form into hexagons, the most stable and efficient shape. As the Park Service page about the formation of the Postpile explains, “a hexagonal system provides the greatest relief with the fewest cracks.” (Bees use the same hexagonal system in their honeycombs because it forms a matrix with the largest amount of storage space for the least amount of wall.) Devil’s Postpile isn’t the only place where this has happened — the Wikipedia entry has links to many other columnar basalt cliffs, and pieces of columnar basalt regularly show up at stoneyards in the Bay Area –but the columns at the Devil’s Postpile are especially long and regular.

The Devils Talus

The Devil's Talus

The base of the cliff has the world’s coolest talus in my opinion. My crew was so well trained/indoctrinated that their first comment was how great these pieces would be for building steps. The park service doesn’t even let you climb on the talus, though, let alone build with it.

The Devils Patio

The Devil's Patio

Possibly the best part is that a glaciar carved off the top and made a natural patio.

The Devils paver pattern

The Devil's Paver Pattern

It’s uncanny how much they look like rough-cut natural stone pavers. Hexagons are stable because three joints come together at every vertex, making for a nice oblique 120 degree angle. The park service says that at Devil’s Postpile 55% of the pieces have 6 sides, 37% have 5, 5% have 7, and the remaining 3% have 4 sides or fewer. That’s a high percentage of hexagons compared to other sites in the world.

the Devils grading

The Devil's Grading

The grading is a bit extreme on parts of the patio.

Surprisingly Comfortable

Surprisingly Comfortable

Ahhh, nice, soft basalt. My crew never saw a flat surface that couldn’t be slept on.

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