The Mystic Mosaic at Green Man Brewery
With name comes tradition. That’s why if you walk into Green Man’s new South Slope location, you’ll come face-to-face with the twenty foot tall stare of a figure on par with the Roman god of brews, Bacchus: Asheville’s own Green Man. The Green Man now overlooks the taproom of Asheville’s oldest brewery. But unlike Bacchus, this deity is entirely manmade. Assembled by local stoneworker Marc Archambault and his team at Hammerhead Stoneworks, the 20 by 16 foot mosaic covers an entire wall in the brewery, overlooking the mirth of pub crawlers, craft beer fans and casual drinkers alike.
The materials used in this undertaking unite Asheville’s geological surroundings of the Blue Ridge Mountains and its historic city dwellings. Stone and slate from North Carolina and Tennessee create the calm countenance of the Green Man while some of the leaves were salvaged from a downtown residence. The eyes themselves are serpentine–a stone used in some of the surrounding architecture. A closer inspection will reward one with the varying discrepancies between the rough and polished stones that make this mosaic, while small fossils playfully placed in the geological mix await discovery for those willing to take that closer look.
Archambault works much like stoneworkers hundreds or even a thousand years ago, only with the benefit of modern stone saws and precision tools. “It’s a grounding experience,” Archambault says. No pun intended? Like a brewer trying to find the taste, Archambault doesn’t know how the work will coalesce until he finds that “a-ha!” moment and all the stones fit together just right. The Green Man mosaic itself took two attempts before it was finalized.
Along with team members Gary Wilson, Fred Lashley and Jonathan Frederick, Marc has been laying technically elaborate and appealingly simple stonework all over Asheville, from brewery to Baptist church. The Hammerhead crew’s most recent work is a rendition of the French Chartres Cathedral labyrinth a little closer to home in the First Baptist Church’s new garden. While the meaning of this labyrinth will send one down a rabbit hole of medieval history, a walk along its winding path accompanied by the tinkle of wind chimes and the trickle of a waterfall offers an introspective respite from downtown’s daily grind. The labyrinth itself is contained in a 44 foot wide circle, but despite its sheer size the handiwork offers unique details every step of the way.
In this fast-paced day and age with information at your fingertips, it does wonders to give your smartphone some space and return to the rough mountain stone and chill of a cold beer. While we can’t whisk away to simpler times, we can at least consider the simpler things –whether it be the texture of a stone, a fossil hidden in the details or even a cold pint.