The Braided Rivers Project

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An aerial view of braiding within the Dart River I took from a helicopter
Sitting on the finished polished Braided River mosaic within the Greenstone Room

Within the Autumn of 2015 and Spring of 2016 I constructed what I take into account to be one in all my most significant works, the Halls Hill Labyrinth on Bainbridge Island within the State of Washington ( ).  In the midst of that undertaking my purchasers bought a foreclosed campground and basic retailer within the city of Glenorchy, north of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand close to their second house.  Unbeknownced to me they launched into a significant undertaking growing the world’s first Zero Web Vitality Campground improvement, with the aim of assembly the stringent requirements of the Dwelling Constructing Problem (

Building web site at Camp Glenorchy once I first arrived

We have been capturing footage up on the labyrinth for an episode about my work as a mosaic artist for Oregon Public Broadcasting’s present Oregon Artwork Beat (, once we ran in to my shopper in a restaurant, and she or he advised me that they wished to deliver me to New Zealand to work on an set up referred to as “The Braided Rivers Venture” at Camp Glenorchy.  I had by no means been to New Zealand and was excited in regards to the prospect of spending time on this legendary nation.  So the next November, I flew to Queenstown and was picked up and brought to the city of Glenorchy, on the Head of Lake Wakatipu, an 80 kilometer lengthy stretchJust bought house of breathtaking water, the longest lake in New Zealand.

Lake Wakatipu trying within the route of Queenstown, with Pigeon Island within the distance

Lake Wakatipu and the mountainous space surrounding Glenorchy are legendary on this nation.  Many movies have been shot within the Paradise Valley, together with scenes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit, The Chronicals of Narnia, the lastest episode of the Mission Not possible collection, and a wickedly darkish miniseries made by the famed Kiwi movie maker Jane Campion, Prime of the Lake.

The Paradise Valley, Diamond Lake, and the Rees River

After I first got here to Glenorchy I gave a presentation to the group on my work, and later participated in a design workshop with plenty of locals to broaden group involvement.  I somewhat candidly requested folks to ask me over for dinner since I had been dwelling in a caravan trailer behind the shop for a number of months whereas I labored on the undertaking.  This enabled me to get to know the wonderful native folks higher and to listen to tales about their connection to the encompassing panorama and opinions about what is going on on the camp.  I’ve since had many scrumptious meals with folks I now concider to be good associates.

A flyer for my first presentation to the group of Glenorchy

On my first journey I did not have a car so I dragged logs down the road from the city golf course the place they’d been reducing up fallen bushes and constructed a pair of sand packing containers to do mock ups with stone I collected in procuring baggage alongside the river and lake shores.

A pattern mosaic set in sand, experimenting with stone gathered from the realm

I studied the wealthy historical past of the area, studying plenty of books in regards to the pioneers who first got here to this wild land.  My grandmother on my mom’s facet had family who arrived in Invercargill on the South Coast in 1860.  They solely lasted a few generations earlier than shifting to Oregon, as life was fairly difficult on this moist and wild nation at the moment.

The Laing household plot within the Wallacetown Cemetery north of Invercargill

I additionally immersed myself within the area’s wonderful geology.  The phrase geology has historic Greek roots, which means “the examine of the Earth”. I spent a substantial amount of time accumulating stone to make use of within the mosaics and landscapes that I constructed to make the camp not solely extra lovely, however to determine a direct relationship with the forces of Nature that created this wonderful a part of the World.

Considered one of my favourite areas for accumulating stone alongside the Dart River

The South Island is a geologic wonderland, an obduction zone the place the Pacific Plate is sliding over the Australian Plate, principally scrunching the island and faulting the huge mountain ranges of the Southern Alps in to a rugged panorama.  There’s a predominance of metamorphic schists veined with white quartzite within the Glenorchy space.  Its a wild and sparsely developed area and I had entry to wonderful quantities of gorgeous stone unfold throughout broad braided river plains and miles of lake shore.  Large glaciers coated the area over the last ice ages, scraping and depositing huge deposits of rock as they receded to the small remnants clinging to the best mountain slopes in the present day.

A photograph I took from the aircraft flying in over the Dart River in a glacial carved valley within the Southern Alps

I used to be in a position to take a couple of good helicopter flights over the area to the panorama from above and picked up over 100 photos of braided river patterns, which I studied intimately as a way to higher perceive the advanced flowing and everchanging patterns I’d be emulating within the mosaics I deliberate to construct.  Braided rivers type when giant quantities of sediment are deposited in a river mattress, forming shallow river channels separated by gravel bars that steadily change form as water ranges rise and fall.

An epic view of the Dart and Rees Rivers flowing round Mt. Alfred above Lake Wakatipu

The dimensions of this undertaking was so enormous that I made a decision it will be helpful to make use of minimize stone somewhat than looking for the large amount of naturally flat confronted stones that may be required to constructed the mosaics.  The graceful. minimize surfaces would additionally properly depict the reflective high quality of flowing water that I wished to realize.  The camp purchased me a fantastic diamond blade rock moist noticed with a sliding desk and miter noticed on which I and a helper minimize hundreds of stones that may ultimately be laid to create the braided rivers.

My Porta-Brickie Rock Noticed

I minimize so many rocks thick layer of rock silt needed to be recurrently shoveled off the bottom and hauled away.  Generally a rock would catch within the blade and shoot like a bullet hitting the wall of the warehouse.  It was arduous to search out folks keen to strive reducing because it was doubtlessly terrifying, however I used to be very cautious, carrying rubber gloves, head telephones, and rain gear to guard myself from the spray of water and noise, at all times preserving my fingers away from the quick spinning blade.

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We minimize giant portions of inexperienced schist that may be used to make the river channels, and white quartzite stones to create the sinuous islands and shorelines of the braided rivers.

The primary part of river mosaic that we constructed occurred the day earlier than I left on the finish of my first 6 month keep in Glenorchy.  I had been working primarily on landings to the porches and doorways of the seven cabins and spherical medallions that may be set within the intersection of paths that may be constructed whereas I used to be away.


Dart River mosaic touchdown on one of many cabins
Stepping stone path made with stones collected from the Dart River

I had proposed that the Dart River mosaic run by means of the Homestead constructing, which is the principle lodge for the camp.  It could move by means of three glass doorways in to the Conservatory sunroom, after which throughout the Greenstone Room and out the again facet of the constructing throughout a terrace linking to a curved bridge over a gray water remedy wetland.  The camp treats all of its waste water in a collection of three wetlands, which I embellished with stones and logs to imitate the shorelines of the lake.

The foot bridge over a gray water remedy wetland, with the uncovered liner alongside the sting coated in logs and stones

The Conservatory flooring was shaped up and reinforcing metal positioned after which a cement truck arrived and funnel formed buckets of concrete have been lifted in with an enormous development crane and poured.

The braided river design sprayed on the bottom that the concrete was poured over.


Pouring and spreading the concrete for the Conservatory flooring

The Conservatory flooring was a single pour of concrete, so logistically we needed to lay all the minimize stone for the river mosaics as shortly as doable.  This was not a enjoyable job however I had a crew of of 5 diligent helpers who labored tirelessly for eight hours from planks spanning the pour.  It was a chilly moist day, which gave us extra time to work earlier than the concrete set, but it surely was arduous to see what we have been doing in an general sense as we have been scooping out handfuls of moist concrete and urgent the stones in as flush and stage as doable.

Setting  stones in a single pour of concrete to create a braided river mosaic

All the stone used for the Dart River mosaics have been collected from the Dart itself, in order that it’s actually from the place it represents.  The ground would later be floor by flooring polishers, revealing the river design, like an natural terrazzo.  I flew house and it was a interval of months earlier than the grinding commenced, however the work turned out to be fairly thrilling, particularly for the ground grinders who had solely labored on plain concrete flooring as much as that time.

The polished flooring within the Conservatory

After I returned in early November, 2017 I started work on a significant path set up operating from the Campfire Shelter, down by means of a breezeway that covers the doorway to the Homestead Constructing, and out to the entry driveway.  This mosaic represents the Rees River and the way in which it lies geographically within the valley, superimposed on the structure of the camp.  It flows, in an antigravity manner up a slope to a large house between the stone walled greywater wetland and the shelter.

A crew shaped and poured an uncovered mixture concrete path inset with flat stones, leaving a recess which was crammed with minimize stone mosaic later.

At this level I  created a metaphor for the way the rivers movement in to Lake Wakatipu, constructing a mixture of mosaic from the lake shore and bigger stones I collected from the Earnslaw Burn river.  I needed to wade throughout this small river in rapids and carry again the great flat stones after which trim the perimeters to make them completely flat.  Sooner or later when the climate was sizzling the river was operating excessive from glacial soften and I fell within the rapids and was swept about 100 meters down stream.  The perils of untamed stone accumulating!

Beginning work on a lake shore mosaic, together with an awkwardly positioned water tank entry gap which I used to be in a position to disguise.
The Rees River mosaic flowing from a mosaic depicting Lake Wakatipu

It took about two months to finish this very lengthy mosaic, utilizing hundreds of noticed minimize stones.  It was thrilling to see the river take type because it flowed down the slope.  The sides of the river have been shaped utilizing versatile hardwood boards with uncovered mixture concrete poured with wooden enlargement joints, leaving a four inch melancholy for me to fill with mosaic.

Type work for the trail resulting in the entry driveway

As soon as the mosaic was set, I replanted the slender beds on both facet of the trail with Silver Tussock grass (Poa cita), Cabbage Timber (Cordyline australis), and Lancewoods (Pseudopanax crassifolius), which grow to be small, very slender bushes.  I surrounded these with lovely stones collected from the lake shore and the Buckler Burn and Dart Rivers to present the texture of river banks.

The Rees River mosaic flowing from the Campfire shelter

My goal was to seize the essense of the rivers that movement in to the lake, mirroring how they lie within the panorama, superimposed geographically how they’d movement by means of the camp’s panorama.

A element of the Rees River mosaic


A view of the Rees River mosaic because it flows in the direction of the breezeway connecting the Facilities Constructing to the Homestead Constructing

Over the Christmas vacation, whereas a lot of the development crews have been on break, I started work on the part of the Dart River mosaic flooring of the Greenstone Room.  It is a lounge space between the gorgeous camp kitchen and eating space, and the Humboldt Room, which is used for gatherings.

A clean slate recess prepared for me to start out laying out the Dart River mosaic within the Greenstone Room


Laying minimize stone for the ground within the Greenstone Room

I needed to minimize hundreds of stones collected from the Dart River in to flat slices that I set in a factor mattress of mortar, attempting to maintain the floor as stage as doable in order that it might later be grouted and floor clean.  It was a laborious and tedious course of that took a few month to finish.  Each morning earlier than I went to work I’d take a look at images I had taken on helicopter flights to check the patterns discovered within the Dart River in order that as I laid the stones I might organically seize the essence of the river.

Braiding on the Dart River

The person slices of stone are in themselves very lovely.  I do not suppose a flooring like this has ever been constructed earlier than.  The cuts reveal a wide range of patterns within the stone relying on what kind of mineral it’s, with many quartzite inclusions.  Just a few are conglomerates, whereas most are sorts of inexperienced and epidotic schists.  The white quartzite stones have a number of character with darkish veins operating although them, displaying their geologic construction.  The river channels movement by means of the doorways of the Conservatory and hook up with the outside terrace.

The finished laying of stone for the Dart River mosaic earlier than grouting
A element of the set stone within the Greenstone Room

The ground was then grouted with a gray polymer grout with small mixture added as beneficial by a person from the ground grinding firm.  I had spent three days cleansing out the gaps between the stone with a masonry drill bit so I might use mixture I collected from the Dart River, however as a result of this undertaking was managed by opinionated individuals who did not belief my theories the grouting did not approximate the look and spirit that I had meant, and I wasn’t proud of the top end result.  The grout he combined and I utilized on a Saturday was gooey and thick and coated the complete flooring.

Gray polymer grout troweled in to the gaps between the set stones coated the complete mosaic

Two hardworking younger males from Queenstown Concrete Grinding Firm took on the arduous job of grinding down the overlaying layer of grout to reveal the stone beneath.  Some further filling was required, and one stone popped out and needed to be reset, however after a number of days of grinding a fantastic flooring mosaic was revealed.  They then polished it to a superb shine.  A few of the stones I set have been decrease than others, however grinding down to reveal them made a rippling impact within the reflection of sunshine that compliments the watery look of the mosaic.

I had hoped that a big print of the picture I took of the Dart and Rees Rivers flowing round Mt. Alfred could be held on the wall above the ground so that individuals might see the direct relationship between my muse and the ensuing creation, however this to my disappointment by no means occurred.

The finished flooring within the Greenstone Room with furnishings for the lounge space

Exterior of the Conservatory, a terrace was poured leaving recesses for me to construct river channels that flowed from the doorways of the room out to the sting of the backyard I later in-built entrance of the Homestead Constructing.  This terrace has a trellis that may sometime be shaded with a grape vine.  The channels somewhat awkwardly finish on the fringe of the terrace however I needed to cease someplace.  The unique intention was to proceed the river by means of the backyard and throughout the street to part 2 of the undertaking, which will likely be constructed at a later date, however I do not suppose I will be taking over this formidable extension.

The Conservatory Terrace pour with recesses for Braided River mosaics
The official opening of the camp was set for mid March, so I labored lengthy hours to finish the river mosaics, and an unimaginable Geologic wall within the Conservatory that I’ll write about in a seperate essay.

Dart River mosaics within the terrace off the Conservatory

The terrace between the Greenstone Room and the Gray Water Wetland was poured leaving a recess for a mosaic that may join the Dart River mosaic to a double radius curving wood footbridge over the wetland to the Campfire Shelter.  I pushed myself to finish this pretty giant mosaic with a couple of days of assist from a lady who took one in all my stepping stone workshops.  She was a pure and shortly mastered the strategy of laying stone.

Type work for the Homestead Constructing Terrace


The finished closing part of the Dart River mosaic

I then returned to engaged on the Rees River mosaic, finishing the part from the breezeway to the entry driveway.  The ultimate part was beneath the breezeway itself, which had been poured in order that usable entry to the doorway of the Homestead Constructing was accessible.  So this part needed to be noticed minimize and eliminated in order that I might set up the mosaic.

Fashioned recesses for the braided river mosaics and the breezeway paving earlier than this part was minimize and eliminated.

Lastly this lengthy and arduous undertaking was full in time for the Camp’s opening ceremonies.

The ultimate part of Braided River mosaic operating by means of the breezeway


The finished Rees River pathway

A feminine Paradise Duck would typically land on the river mosaic, and even got here in to the Greenstone room at some point.  I noticed it as a blessing by the Spirits who I wished to appease by constructing this illustration of the spectacular rivers flowing in to the lake.  She would drink water from the shallow gaps between the stones and was unfazed by the closeness of individuals.  Paradise geese mate for all times and I assume that she in some unspecified time in the future misplaced her life companion, and commenced to socialize with people.

A feminine Paradise Duck on the Rees River mosaic

As a result of the Rees River mosaic ended at a somewhat bleak trying expanse of gray concrete blocks laid in a herringbone sample to pave the entry driveway, I constructed a multi coloured stone mosaic curb to frame the sting of the backyard that I in-built entrance of the Homestead Constructing.  This was finished distract the attention from the tasteless paving.  For me it emulated the sting of the lake in order that the driveway would learn extra like a physique of water, connecting it to the pure panorama.

A multi coloured stone mosaic curb edges the entry driveway and the Homestead Constructing Backyard

I laid giant flat schist flagstones to type a beneficiant path by means of the rigorously composed native plant backyard.  I laid the stones in an zen association, with every stone regarding the following in a naturalistic manner.  The intent is to create a contemplative stroll by means of the backyard.  I had giant, spectacular boulders collected from the Paradise Valley positioned within the backyard by expert heavy tools operators, which converse to the mountains within the distance.  As soon as this backyard was accomplished, we have been prepared for the grand dedication of Camp Glenorchy and its switch to the Group of Glenorchy.

The Homestead Constructing Backyard

Any earnings generated by the camp will now go in to the Group Belief, funding future initiatives to learn the city and its residents.  Camp Glenorchy is a philanthropic enterprise like no different in New Zealand, a mannequin for environmental expertise, progressive structure, and an inspirational melding of ideas to create an accomodation expertise like no different.

My aim for the work I did on this undertaking was to combine the magnificent energy of the encompassing panorama in a manner that speaks on to it, and brings it in to the positioning in a manner that honors the sweetness and geology of this unimaginable setting.  I labored on a shamanistic stage that was typically difficult throughout the logistical confines of a significant development undertaking.  The degrees of understanding that I embued in my work will take time to disclose themselves to the individuals who work right here, go to, and keep as company.  Intuitive and observant folks I’ve met have expressed deep religious feeling illicited by what they see right here.  It’s my hope that the Braided River mosaics and the Geology Wall and Driftwood Wall I constructed present a car for higher understanding the forces of nature that make this place so particular.

The Dart River, Rees, and Buckler Burn Rivers flowing in to Lake Wakatipu with Glenorchy and the camp on the prime

Whereas I used to be engaged on the undertaking, a good friend despatched me this lovely poem by Beat poet Gary Snyder.  It speaks superbly to the expertise I had whereas constructing the Braided Rivers:

Lay down these phrases
Earlier than your thoughts like rocks.
positioned strong, by fingers
In alternative of place, set
Earlier than the physique of the thoughts
in house and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf or wall
riprap of issues:
Cobble of milky manner,
straying planets,
These poems, folks,
misplaced ponies with
Dragging saddles —
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an infinite
Recreation of Go.
ants and pebbles
Within the skinny loam, every rock a phrase
a creek-washed stone
Granite: ingrained
with torment of fireplace and weight
Crystal and sediment linked sizzling
all change, in ideas,
In addition to issues.
Gary Snyder
A good friend’s lovely little one on the Greenstone Room flooring


My lonely little Ute.  Accumulating stone on the Dart River in Paradise

Thanks for studying, Jeffrey

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