Randy Clarke has a practiced eye for pavers. He knows how
regional differences in aggregate type affect color and
texture. He understands how their appearance changes with dry
and rainy weather, and he's quick to notice minor variations
between individual bricks within a given lot. He's been known
to sort through an entire cube of 400 pavers in search of
exactly the right shade for the job at hand. He's always on the
lookout for remnants of large runs of custom architectural
pavers, and he cultivates relationships with suppliers who are
willing to turn out limited runs of custom colors for
The irregular cutout in this
herringbone-pattern layout (left) provides the background for a
crossed pair of rose stems, complete with foliage and thorns
(right). The installer will sweep sand into the joints once the
assembly has been installed at the job site.
But then, that's his job. Clarke's business, RocArt, of Perth,
Ont., specializes in detailed mosaics that may contain up to
3,000 full-thickness pieces of interlocking concrete paver. The
process starts when Clarke scans a photograph, painting, or
other piece of artwork into a computer and uses a graphics
program to develop a workable pattern. The individual elements
that make up the mosaic — the smallest of which are
mere splinters of masonry — are cut to shape with a
14-inch wet saw equipped with a diamond blade.
The precisely cut pieces are then assembled in a wooden frame
(or, for a larger mosaic, a series of frames) that has been
lined with a tough mat material used in the pulp and paper
industry. Once the crated mosaic has been shipped to the job
site, the installation crew slides it carefully into position
within a previously prepared "background canvas" of pavers, or
a blocked-out recess in a concrete slab. While Clarke or a crew
member travels from the company's shop to supervise most
installations, he has recently trained three installers in
Florida and two more in the Chicago area, permitting him to sub
out some of the work.
Because individual elements aren't
mortared in place, creations are completely portable. If the
owners of these mosaics ever move, the pieces can be taken
apart and reassembled on a new site.
Most of RocArt's work consists of custom, one-of-a-kind
installations on commercial or high-end residential projects.
Still, some designs have evolved into standards. The rose
pattern pictured here, for example, is a hardy perennial.
Harley-Davidson motorcycles are also very popular, and a cache
of pavers in just the right shade of blue has landed the
company a number of commissions to install oval blue-and-white
Ford logos at car and truck dealerships. Prices for RocArt's
work range from about $65 per square foot to $300 or more,
depending on the level of detail.