Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Four Elements Mosaics

The Four Elements Mosaic panels set in front of the Potting Shed

I've just returned to the USA after working for 5 1/2 months on a project on the south island of New Zealand, in the small town of Glenorchy in the Otago Province.  It is a place known for its breathtaking scenery, located at the head of Lake Wakatipu, the longest lake in the country.  I will be building a number of mosaic related projects for the Headwaters Project at Camp Glenorchy over the next few years.  While waiting for the finished grades to be completed in the development, which involves the construction of a number of cabins, a campfire shelter, campground, and lodge commons building, I built a series of precast mosaics that can be used later on the site.  Many of those are stepping stones surrounded by river stones to create water permeable walking paths or for insets to puctuate smooth exposed aggregate concrete paths.  https://www.theheadwaters.co.nz/whats-coming/camp-glenorchy/

A stepping stone made with stone collected from the Dart River
A path of stepping stones from the Dart River
A wet saw was purchased so that we could cut stones in to slices to create more flat material as many tons of flat stone will be needed to complete the many mosaics proposed for the project.

A Wet Miter Box Stone Cutting Saw with a sliding table is wonderful for cutting stones
I completed 21 Mandalas to inset in to the exposed aggregate path that runs in a loop around the campground to create a ring of energy.  Each mandala is made from stone collected from an area that the intersection is directionally oriented towards in the landscape, in addition to stone collected directly from the site.

A mandala made from stone from the Buckler Burn River inset in to an exposed aggregate path

Stepping stones set in gravel in front of Mrs. Wooley's General Store
I was also asked by my clients to create a carpet like mosaic as a kind of threshhold for a structure.  I have built a number of these carpet mosaics in the past, a few of which have received a lot of attention through publications and the internet.

One of my first patio projects modeled after a Persian Carpet on the cover of a magazine
The concept I decided to realize was to represent the four elements found in Nature, Earth, Fire, Water and Air, as they encompass the forces which created and sculpted the region in to what it is today.  There is a 5th Element, Aether, which I opted out of as it applies more to space than to the planet Earth.  To make these panels I created a square form to cast 32 x 32 inch (81 centimeter) mortar set pavers, a size that is substancial but still managable to move with a hand truck.  I built the form on a recycled pallet with a sheet of plywood attached to it.  I've been using recycled wood from the project so this form didn't turn out to be the most professional looking box but when I am creating mosaics that emulate textiles and weavings, like carpets, I find that some imperfection and undulation gives the impression of some fluidity.

An Islamic Prayer Rug with two Cypress Trees and a Tree of Life in front of my house

On my first exploration of the South Island I drove up the beautiful West Coast and then back across the center to the East Coast.  When I was in the city of Christchurch, I saw a series of paintings inspired by patterns found in Maori Flax weavings.  New Zealand Flax is a common grass like plant of the genus Phormium found all over the country.  Its long fibrous blade like leaves can be split in to durable strips and woven to make mats and clothing.



New Zealand Flax growing along the shores of Lake Matheson on the West Coast of the South Island
Tukutuku is a woven panel used to decorate the walls of buildings.  Because the the nature of the material, patterns naturally form in triangular shapes.  I had originally intended to create naturalistic scenes depicting landforms but I didn't like the way they read so I experimented with abstraction using the influence of these triangular patterns, which I loved.

Maori textile weaving with triangular patterns
One of my primary goals with this project is to incorporate and celebrate the breathtaking landscapes that make this region a popular tourist destination.  Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains have drawn people wanting to experience the profound beauty of the area since the first European settlers arrived in the latter part of the 19th Century.  The first pioneers followed the routes established by the original Maori people who came to this region to collect a type of stone sacred to their culture, called Pounamu.  Pounamu, which is also called Greenstone, is Nephrite Jade, a hard, carvable and durable stone that ranges from pale white to the deepest greens, and is used to make blades, axes, and jewelry.  The Dart River, which flows in to the head of Lake Wakatipu is considered one of the finest sources of this type of stone because of significant veins in the mountains exposed by landslides.  The river and lake reside in a valley carved by once vast ice age glaciers.  The lake bottom at its deepest point is 380 meters (1,250 feet) below the water's surface and the sides are quite steep except where rivers and streams enter it, creating alluvial deposits.  Queenstown is the principal town, once a sheep station, then a center for provisioning regional gold miners, and now a major adventure tourism hub.  A 35 minute drive on one of the most scenic roads in New Zealand takes you north to Glenorchy.

A view of Lake Wakatipu from the Glenorchy Road
The first panel the I constructed represented the Earth element.  The tallest mountain in New Zealand is the highly revered Aoraki, or Mt. Cook, which is surrounded by a National Park of the same name. My time camping there was epic and will always be imbedded in my memory.  The weather was all over the place, still and clear and beautiful one day, and intensely stormy and windy the next.  One evening I hiked up the popular Hooker River Valley trail as the wind howled down the river.  There were only a few people scrambling out as strongs gusts hurried them along, leaving me to be the last one out there.  The last rays of sunlight illuminated the very top of the peak in an orange triangle, which reminded me of the color in the pattern on a weaving I photographed when I was at the Otago Museum in Dunedin.

Aoraki, or Mt. Cook when I visited the park in December, 2016
I recreated this in the mosaic panel, using triangular lines to form the forests at the base of the mountains, the tussock grass alpine regions beyond the treeline, and the snowfields and glaciers soaring to the summit of this magnificent mountain.  The top is red to capture that moment when the last rays of sun struck the top of the peak.  This single triangular design represents the number one in  the series of four panels.  I framed each panel with small even sized pieces of schist.

The Aoraki/Mt. Cook mosaic panel
The orange and yellow stones are small pieces I collect from a gravel spit at the head of Lake Wakatipu where the Glenorchy Lagoons flow in to the lake, fed by the braiding of the Rees River.  The lagoons are filled with vegetation which adds significant organic detritus to the water, creating tannin, or blackwater, the color of tea, which stains the white quarts pebbles commonly found on the shorelines with a distinctive rust color.

Rust colored stones stained by tannin along the shore of Lake Wakatipu fed by water from the Glenorchy Lagoons
The second panel I created depicts the element of Fire.  I was trying to find a landscape that would relate to this concept.  I considered the volcanos found on the North Island, as they are not a prominent feature on the South Island.  Then one morning in January the power went out in Glenorchy.  Campers on the lake shore at Rat Point, 2/3rds of the way towards Queenstown had built a fire that got away from them and swept up the slopes of the hills, burning a significant area.  http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=11781312  When I drove through the area a couple of days later it was rank with the smell of a scorched Earth.  Charred brush and Cabbage trees sillouetted against the blackened hills made for an eerie and impressionable landscape.  It was here that I found my inspiration for my next work.  There are two rocky outcrops on the ridge at Rat Point, so in my abstraction, they formed. the number two in my series.

Rat Point after the Fire in January, 2017
In the sand based mock up I made a frame of tiny uniform pieces of dark schist, and then made two interlocking triangles to depict the two peaks.  I used orange and yellow pebbles collected from the lake shore to represent the fire, with the sillouettes of burnt Cabbage Trees (Cordyline australis) centered in each divided triangular section.  The stones in the base of the mosaic were collected from the burned area near the road at Rat Point.  I used mottled veined stones that looked to me like smoke to create the sky.

Mock up in sand of the Fire Element Mosaic
Then I removed the stones, keeping them sorted and filled the form with mortar, first adding a layer that I added reinforcing rebar.  On top of that I've been imbedding various types of non recyclable garbage to keep it out of the landfill, and then another layer of mortar to cover that.  Some day if these stepping stones are excavated, archaeologists will probably be more interested in the debris found inside that the mosaics themselves.

Reinforcing rebar and debris imbedded in the base of mortar
I replaced the stones from the mockup in approximately the same arrangement.  This was allowed to cure for two days before I removed it from the form, which I reused to make the third and fourth panels.

The completed Fire Element mosaic
The third panel depicts the element of Water.  I spend a lot of time collecting stone along the banks of the areas rivers and streams and the lakeshore, so I decided to make a mosaic of the lake, with mountains in the background.

The Humboldt Range reflected in Lake Wakatipu
Once again I filled the form with sand and drew a design concept, with the Tooth Peaks of the Humboldt Range depicted in a stylized form using the number 3 for the order of the sequence, and made a mirrored reflection in the lake.  I trimmed the edge with small even sized schist pieces to make a frame.

Drawing the design on the sand in the form
I filled in the design with a cloudy sky, as I don't have access to blue sky colored stones and it has been an unusually wet summer.  The lake on cloudy days takes on a greenish cast, especially up where the Dart River flows in adding glacial silt to the lake water.    The green shist in the area approximates this color well so I will be using a lot of it as I build braided river and lake mosaics to honor the surrounding landscape throughout the project. I added bits of the color of the mountains to allude to a reflection in the ripples of the water.  The orange stones represent Red Tussock Grass that grows in the alpine areas on the mountain with forests on the ridges and snow on the peaks.


After I completed the mock up I removed the stones in sorted piles and then filled the form with mortar, adding rebar for reinforcing and the garbage I've produced as a consumer to keep it out of the waste stream, along with scraps picked up around the site, like strapping tape from bundles of lumber.

Reinforcing and debris in the Water Element panel
Then I added a layer of wet mortar on top of that and set the mosaic in approximation to the mock up.  This is how it turned out.

The Water Element mosaic depicting the Tooth Peaks reflecting in Lake Wakatipu
The fourth panel is dedicated to the Element of Air.  I decided to use the landscape up on the Paradise area of the Dart River Valley as the scene.  This is an epic region where many films have been set, including parts of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.  Since air is transparent, I depicted a cloudy sky.  Clouds gather against the mountainds coming from the Tasman Sea to the west and build up against the mountains.  Strong winds whip down the valley with great force.  During storms the Caravan trailer I was living in would rock like a train car rattling down the tracks.  Four peaks frame the narrows through which the Dart River passes before it spreads out in to a classic braided pattern across the broad plain before flowing in to the lake.


I used the same bed of sand, filling the form to create a mockup of the four peaks interlocking in triangles with crossing lines, framing alpine valleys filled with red tussock grass and tree covered ridges forested with the genus of Nothofagus Red and Mountain Beech and Podocarpus Totara forest.  I made the bare flanks of the mountains where the snow had melted with dark schist, with traces of quartz snow near the mountaintops.  I filled the sky with puffy white clouds made from white quartz stones.  Its always interesting to convey concepts with tumbled stone, a material that has been on a unique journey of its own, one that possibly took millions of years to get where it was when I plucked it from its path.

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I set the stones from the completed mock up aside and repeated the filling of the form with mortar and debris before adding a layer of mortar in which to recreate the pebble design.

An array of debris and reinforcing bar in the Air mosaic panel
When I set this mosaic in mortar I made the modification of adding the Dart River passing through the Narrows at the bottom of the scene.

The Air Element Panel
And now the Four Elements panels are complete.  They are quite heavy but I was able to move them by myself, hoisting them up vertically and then rolling them around to the front of the potting shed by the store on a hand truck.  I'm very strong, and have been getting a lot of exercize working on this project.  The Potting Shed is a beautiful rustic structure that can be moved with a heavy duty GCV fork lift that operates onsite.  It was built by a talented Glenorchy based builder named Matt Hood in partnership with a guy named Mike.  Lots of people walk on the panels.  Some don't even notice them but others who are more intuitive are captivated by the stories they might tell.  I did it for them.

The completed Four Elements Mosaics arranged in sequence in front of the Potting Shed at Mrs. Wooley's General Store
Thanks for reading...I haven't written anything for a long time because I have been so busy, but it is alway a pleasure to be able to put the time in to describing the thought that lies behind what I've been up to.  Cheers, Jeffrey







Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Braided Rivers Project; the beauty of stone

A marvelous skull shaped rock covered in paprika and grey colored lichens on the banks for the Brockleburn River
I've been working with stone for over 30 years, and I have to admit it is something of a love affair that I'll never tire of.  I'm just beginning to work on what is called The Braided Rivers Project at Camp Glenorchy in the little town of Glenorchy, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island of New Zealand.  I flew here for a few weeks to meet the many people involved in this amazing project and to familiarize myself with the lay of the land, and see what is available in the realm of stones and pebbles that I will be working with to create mosaic paths and walls that will grace this wonderful endeavor.  The camp when completed will be a model of energy self sufficiency and will supply its own water needs.  You can read about the overall project by going over the extensive website at
http://www.theheadwaters.co.nz

A pretty green stone from Bucker's Burn River
I love gathering stones and imagining the stories that might be attached to them in their geologic journey from the mountains to the sea.  There are three kinds of stone on Earth, Ignious (Volcanic), Sedimentary (layers formed under water), and Metamorphic (Ignious and Sedimentary rocks changed under intense pressure and heat).  Much of the stone in the Glenorchy region is Schist veined with quartzite, a Metamorphic rock group formed from both sedimentary and volcanic stone.

My first collection of stones on the shore of Lake Wakatipu
My first trip to Glenochy was for 2 1/2 weeks to familiarize myself with the area and meet a number of people working on this project.  I gave a presentation on the history of my work with 180 images, drawing connections between where I am from in Oregon with the natural landscapes of New Zealand and their link via the Ring of Fire.

Flying in to Queenstown over Lake Wakatipu
Flying in to this spectacular region of the South Island of New Zealand is a breathtaking experience.  The weather was stunning the day I arrived, with crystal clear skies freshly washed by recent heavy rains and even some unusual late Spring snowfall.  I arrived in Queenstown, set on a bend of Lake Wakatipu, the longest lake in the country.  We then traveled one of the most scenic roads in the country, above the lake shore to the town of Glenorchy, at the Head of the Lake where the Dart and Reese Rivers flow down from the mountains to the north in braided patterns that will inspire the design of the paths we will be building.

Braided patterns on the Dart river I took from a helicopter
It didn't take me long to start exploring the area and finding out what it offers in terms of stones ecosystems, and geography.  I am like a sponge when it comes to landscapes.  I try to take everything in and read what I'm seeing and what those things have to tell me.  Lake Wakatipu is 380 meters deep (1,250 feet) filling a glacial valley formed during the Ice Ages.  A Maori legend says that the lake was formed when a giant Ogre, named Kopu-wai, was burned while he was sleeping.  Waka can mean canoe in Maori and Wakatipu has a few potential meanings, including 'growing canoe' or 'sacred vessel' depending on the spelling.

Stones on the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy
The Dart and Reese Rivers flow down wide valleys, coming together in to the Head of the Lake.  A trail has been built leading from the town up around the beautiful Glenorchy Lagoons, where waterfowl glide.  A slender boardwalk winds through the marshes and out over the ponds.
The Rees River flows parallel to the larger Dart River before merging at the north end of Lake Wakatipu
The Glenorchy Boardwalk
When I tramped the Glenorchy Walkway I found a place to access the banks of the Rees River.  The non native willows were freshly leafed out in brilliant green with the dramatic backdrop of the Humboldt Range and Mt. Earnslaw.  The gravel bars along the rivers can be a great place to look for the right shaped stones for my mosaic work.

The Reese River braids its way to Lake Wakatipu


I destroyed a few durable shopping bags collecting stones and carrying them the long haul back to and area where I would later begin to mock up sample mosaic designs.  I didn't have access to a car on this first trip so a lot of the collecting I did had to be carted on foot.  It is imperative to me that I leave no discernible impact on the landscape when I collect stones.  It there is life attached to it I leave it where it was.  If the shape is not what I am looking for, I will put it back in the indentation from where it came.  This can sometimes lead to picking up the same rock later to inspect it again.

Selected stones from the Rees River chosen for their shape and character
The stones I use for mosaic paving have to have a flat top surface and straight sides.  I set them vertically rather than flat so that they are firmly imbedded in the mortar and wont pop out later.  People often think that the stones I would use would be flat like a pancake, but from experience these will pop out of the mortar over time, so I set everything on edge unless the stone is at least 2 inches thick (4 cm).

A temporary blessing starburst mosaic that I built outside the gate of the construction site of Camp Glenorchy made from stones picked from the parking area
I've been gleaning the usable stone from the construction site to use later in the mosaics that will ornament the paths
Stone is everywhere in this region.  When you excavate, the ground is full of rock from the alluvial deposits of streams, rivers and slides flowing from the surrounding mountains.  Shorelines and gravel bars in rivers are great places to look for nicely shaped stones.

Pebbles and stones on the shoreline of Lake Wakatipu
For many people over the centuries, the only time they may have arranged stones would have been to build a fire ring for camp fires.  Even today a ring of stones and some charcoal will mark a popular place to gather just as they have for countless generations.

A campfire ring along the shores of Lake Wakatipu
This region is known for its schist building stone, which is shipped throughout the country for constructing walls and paving.  Many homes in the area have stone walls made from rock quarried nearby or even on site and beautiful garden terraces are usually made from dry laid or mortared local schist.

Walls built by a man as a form of therapy in Glenorchy.  I love the built in seat.
A schist bedrock formation on the slopes of the Wyuna Preserve
Exposed Schist with veins of white quartzite from a quarry on the Wyuna Preserve
Beautiful lichens growing on Schist
Old Schist walls from a ruined building in Glenorchy
I will get to help place boulders on the site.  There are a number of beautiful pieces lying around, and I will be looking for others when I go out to gather stone during the four months I will be in Glenorchy over the New Zealand summer.  I hope to have the opportunity to create river like mosaics that flow around the edges some of these boulders that act as places to sit or for children to climb and jump from.

A beautiful Schist boulder near the Glenorchy Library
Large stones stockpiled in the storage yard at Camp Glenorchy
One day I had the opportunity to go up in to the mountains on horseback with a local guide to visit the historic scheelite mines up on the slopes above the lake.  Scheelite is a crystal mineral used in the production of Tungsten, a heavy substance with the highest melting point of any element and a density equal to uranium and gold.  It was important in the manufacture of projectiles in ammunition and missiles, so the mining of scheelite here boomed during World War I and II.

Riding up in to the Richardson Mountains with Ruth Anne
Its a beautiful area with the visible scars of mining softened by time.  A number of historic miner's cabins cling to the slopes, remnants of the remote and difficult life hoping to wrest wealth from the Earth.

Flattened oil drums clad a simple miners hut 
I have proposed recreating the use of flattened oil drums for cladding sheds or for screens in Camp Glenorchy as a way to honor the history of scheelite mining in the region.

The rustic interior of a miner's cabin
A local metal artist, Dan Kelly will be creating a sculpture that plays off of the mechanics of a scheelite battery treatment plant next to the Campfire shelter at the heart of Camp Glenorchy.

A restored battery where sheelite was processed and bagged for transport 





An interpretive sign shows the process used to screen, crush, and roast sheelite to remove impurities
















The flora of New Zealand is fabulous, most of it indemic to the islands.  Flax (Phormium tenax) and Hebes and Sedges frame cascading streams in rich textural blankets.  I hope to tap in to the  essence of these iconic local landscapes to embellish the edges of the paths we're building for the project.

Flax and Hebes frame a small cascade in the foothills of the Richardson Mts.
Another outing with a neighbor to the cottage I was staying in took me out to the Beech forests of Mt. Aspiring National Park.  The beech forests here are of the genus Nothofagus, which are also found in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina, indicating the connection the two land masses once had when they were joined in the ancient continent of Pangea.  The land mass of New Zealand separated from South America 80 million years ago.  Its amazing the tree genera could survive such an epic journey.

Beech forest along the Sylvan Lake trail in Mt. Aspiring National Park
New Zealand is the product of the collision of the Pacific and Australian plates, forcing the rise and fall of the many mountain ranges and volcanos found on the islands.  Along the Fiordland coastline of the South Island, of which Glenorchy lies inland, the Australian plate is being subducted under the Pacific plate, while the opposite is true of the North Island.  Because of the friction between the two plates, earthquakes and landslides are frequent in the region.  An earthquake measuring 7.8 on the richter scale struck the west coast of the south island just two days ago as I write this.

The Buckler's Burn River flows down from the Richardson Mountains
In every direction there are spectacular mountain views.  The Buckler's Burn River flows out of a steep canyon in to Lake Wakatipu just to the south of Glenorchy.  The thick layers of stone imbedded with boulders reveal the dramatic and violent forces that created the region, faulting mountains, glaciation, a change in the Lake's level, flooding and landslides interplaying to build up and tear down the mountains.  The Buckler's Burn is for me an art gallery of rock.  Brilliant lichens and tufted mosses colonize the displaced stones on thier journey to the lake.

Colorful lichens on a schist boulder on the banks of the Buckler's Burn River
Quartzite stained with mineral iron glows with rich oranges, reds and yellows
Another outing took us to a beautiful lodging retreat called Punatapu on the road back to Queenstown.  Once inhabited by Maori tribes, Punatapu is a cluster of lodgings and living spaces built around a generous courtyard.  Stone cobble blends the surrounding pavements with the lower walls of the buildings.







I'm hoping to introduce stone cobble in to the framing of the parking areas at Camp Glenorchy.  I've always loved the look of old cobbled roads that I encountered in Europe and colonial South America but have never had the opportunity to build such a thing.  If thicker stones are carefully laid to form a flat surface in finely crushed rock, they would create a durable, permeable pavement that can handle the weight of heavy vehicles.

A cobbled road in the old mining town of Igatu in Bahia, Brazil
Punatapu was believed to be a trading center for Greenstone, a type of Nephrite Jade the Maori call Pounamu.  It was used to carve spear heads and ceremonial pendants.  Today Greenstone is designated the exclusive domain of the Maori and traditionally must be gifted through them.  The smooth transluscent stone is carved in traditional designs.  The upper Dart River is one of the main regions to find the mineral, which would have been transported down the lake by boat to this trading site.

A seven circuit walking labyrinth edged in gathered stones on a slope near a charming cabin was created by Auckland based artist Caroline Robinson.  Caroline and I are working together on the Braided Rivers project and engaged in conversation and ritual during the 3 days she was in Glenorchy. She had visited the Halls Hill Labyrinth that I had built for the same clients on Bainbridge Island in Washington.  It was a beautiful day and our group walked the seven circuits with reverence and intention.  My wish is to incorporate ceremony and frequent blessings into the development of the projects to keep them meaningful.

Carolyn Robinson's Labyrinth at Punatapu
For Camp Glenorchy I wanted to create something visual for people to get a sense of what my vision might be for the Braided Rivers Project on this first visit, so I built a pair of sand boxes next to Mrs. Wooley's General Store.  I hauled logs cut from fallen trees to the site and made frames with large stones anchoring the corners.  The frames are rustic and the stones remind me of miniature mountains connecting to those seen in the distance.  I filled the frames with several wheelbarrows of sand and screeded them flat with a board.

The first sandbox I built is framed in logs scavanged from a woodland next to the golf course, braced with stones I found on the site.
The sandboxes are a place to mock up mosaics to see what they might look like using the stones I collected over the previous two weeks.  Its an opportunity for people to see what shapes of stone I like to use so that they can contribute their own collections in to the work.  I will be able to do hands on workshops where people can learn to compose stone in to mosaics that we can later set in mortar in forms that can be used as stepping stones in the project.

A stepping stone I created in a form at home for a garden project
These stepping stones can be set aside and used later when the final grading is ready in the Campground since I probably wont be able to build anything permanent on the site this year.

A path of mosaic stepping stones I built in a client's garden last year
I started out building a starburst in the sand box like those I've made in the round stepping stones, and then began to lay out the flowing patterns of a braided river around it.  I did colored sketches of a braided river while studying photos I had taken on a helicopter ride over the region and then tried to capture the essense of the Dart River in a temporary mosaic.

Green stone river channels flow around a star burst, creating an eye
Because the stones are shapes that fit tightly together with a flat top, the mosaic is durable enough to walk on even though it is only set in sand.  In two days I was able to build a picture of what can be done using stone from the region.

Braided River mockup
I now want to experiment with cutting flat schist flagstones to make the river channels so that they read more clearly.  Schist has a reflective quality that could work well to recreate the way sunlight reflects on the water when seen from above.


In the second sand box, I built a set of starburst mosaics using stones that taper to a point at one end.  These can be laid like slices of a pie to create rings of radiating stone.  As the cluster of starbursts grew larger the results were visually exciting.  I posted a photo that evening on my Gardens by Jeffrey Bale page on Facebook and it went viral, having 180,000 views in two days.  I envision using this kind of pattern at the junction of three or more paths, where the lines can point you off in a number of directions.  I will also be building a pad for a telescope for viewing the brilliant night skies found here.







 My first donations of stones arrived.  A woman who works in the General Store brought me a few beautiful pink veined stones from the Shotover River in another valley to the east on the other side of the Richardson Mountains.  I'm excited to explore this area when I go back in December.


 On my last day in Glenorchy we drove up the Reese River to Diamond Lake to meet the people who own the expansive sheep ranch at Paradise.  This area gained international fame as the setting for parts of the film series Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.  Most recently the pastures above Diamond Lake were the site where a group of women lived in shipping containers in Jane Campion's six part series, Top of the Lake on Netflix.  There were film crews working in the area the day we came up here.  The Dart River winds its way up in to Mt. Aspiring National Park between breathtaking mountains.



This was an incredible day for me because we drove up to a slope where vast amounts of tumbled stone  deposited by flash floods is spread out in a wide area.  The owner of the ranch gave me permission to collect stone here.  There are lots of flat shapes, perfect for mosaic in a freshly distrubed area so that I wont disturb any life forms as they haven't had time to establish themselves.  I get the sense there is far more stone here than I will need to do the entire project.

A slope covered in tumbled loose stone deposited by a flooding intermittent stream
Its thrilling to know that I will be able to spend afternoons in this gorgeous setting collecting what I need to build beautiful mosaics for the paths in Camp Glenorchy and later the Glenorchy Marketplace.

A more detailed view of an area where I will be collecting stone for my pebble mosaics
We visited another area where slabs and boulders of schist are quarried from a stream bed for building construction and paving.  The heavy equipment is available on site to lift and transport large boulders.


Its yet to be seen what I will be able to create in Glenorchy over the next few years, but I'm excited by the possibilities.  One of my favorite mosaics is one I built over a decade ago to look like the sea below the garden I built it in on Puget Sound.  I sorted out various shades of green stone collected from the beach there and set them in undulating waves.  I made orange red starfish that I could see crawling across the rocks in the clear water.  For me it captured the essence of what I was trying to allude to.  I hope I can create something that captures the soul of the braided rivers at the Head of Lake Wakatipu in Glenorchy as well.  It all relates to the way we flow through life.  I will always be collecting stones.

The water mosaic at Windcliff on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington State


Thanks for reading, Jeffrey