A wildlife walk with Gary Drostle

Since he was last featured in Tile Addict, Gary Drostle has created even more awe-inspiring work.  In particular, a notable contribution from this mosaic artist is present in Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in California.  The project aimed to create a welcoming, fun, and creative healing space; a far cry from the routine drudgery present in most hospital buildings.

To achieve this, its design incorporates level upon level of artistic representations of Northern California wildlife, from sea, to forest, to mountains, and so on. The ground floor is, naturally, the home of the California seashore.  And this is where Drostle made his first mark.

crab and mussels californian seashore mosaic hospital gary drostle
Crab and mussels mosaic
mackerel californian seashore mosaic hospital gary drostle
Shoal of mackerel mosaic

Using terrazzo to mimic the sand and sea, he designed ten unique wildlife mosaics to be dispersed throughout the floor.  The plan was to create a discovery trail for visitors, featuring animals such as seals, turtles, and seagulls, and to mimic rock-pools home to crabs, shellfish and seaweed.  Other creatures include sea urchins and shoals of fish to really imitate a walk along the seashore.

Tide pool mosaic walk along californian seashore gary drostle
Tide pool mosaic
tide pool californian seashore mosaic hospital gary drostle
Tide pool mosaic stairway wrap

The mosaic pieces were created using unglazed ceramic and porcelain.  Each tile was hand-cut and glued onto a paper version of the design.  After they were completed and the terrazzo laid, they were transported and sealed in place.

On the first floor he was enlisted again to represent the great Redwoods of the Californian forests.  With less space to work with, but just as much imagination, Drostle created the illusion of a meandering path, again with the help of terrazzo.  Individually cast glass leaves also litter the floor and connect the mosaic designs.

redwood glass leaf trail gary drostle
Glass leaf trail

A repeated leaf pattern mimicking the variety of freshly fallen to long decayed leaves on the forest floor became the basis on which the wildlife is represented.  The shadow patterns created by tall trees in sunlight was imitated in an alternative colour palette, and blue was used to help give a lift to the blacks and browns.


Much like for Drostle’s walk along the seashore, the trail through the Redwood forest features mosaic designs of forest life with flora and fauna to discover, such as butterflies, fungi, and bear tracks.  The feel of the outside is complete with streams and fallen trees.

redwood mosaic gary drostle
Burl outcrop mosaic
redwood-log-crossing
Redwood log crossing with frogs

Due to being brought into the project at an early stage, Drostle was able to work closely with the architects and fully integrate his designs into the building, including having the control to plan the terrazzo flooring which enabled the creation of an entirely immersive piece, rather than simple and separate individual mosaic panels.  The impact of the artworks is incredible and each element is stunningly realised.  Since the conception of the project, and with the help of his team, the two floors took seven years to complete, and the rewards of a collaborative creative approach are clear.

Otter river mosaic californian redwood forest gary drostle
Otter river mosaic

More on the project here:
A walk along the seashore
A trail through the Redwood forest

Gary Drostle

In Commissioning Creativity (11.45 to 12.30pm) at the Natural Stone Show (30th April-2nd May), Gary Drostle will examine the role of modern mosaics in contemporary architectural and landscape design. To secure a place at his talk click here.

A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, March 2019.

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