Many of Ray Corral's mosaics seem like echoes of another age — the Italian Renaissance, perhaps, or even the Middle Ages. And just like in the days of the Medici in Florence, the work is meant to grace and beautify the home of a patron.
For the last 20 years, Corral's company Mosaicist, based in Coral Gables, Fla., has been designing, manufacturing and installing stunning mosaics that turn the bottoms of swimming pools into horizontal art, framed by walls and coping.
Although he serves a very unique niche in the market, like anyone in the high-end backyard business, it all starts with the client.
"Once I study the actual design of the home, look at the pool or the plans, and get to know the client, the design usually comes to me," Corral says. "If I go to a client's house, and that client tells me he really loves a particular painting, I start to think about that. And maybe his wife tells me she really loves their 1950s house, and especially the design of the back doors, how they look, how they work. Shapes and ideas from their lives will find a way into the design."
Shapes, colors and lines come together in the mind and are expressed in an artistic drawing or plan. Once that is approved by the customer, the next step is to make it a reality. This involves a special step where the design is altered slightly to make the inlay tiles more manufacturable. This cuts time and expense from a very labor-intensive, expensive project.
"We work with a mathematical formula that allows us not to have to cut so many pieces on the floor to make the design because everything we do is by hand. This helps us offer reasonable pricing and very fast lead times," Corral says.
"So, in other words, if you were to give me the painting that you love and say, 'I want this on the floor of my pool.' I might have to tell you, 'Hey, I know this is exactly what you want, but let me come up with the same design, but let me change it a little bit so we don't have to cut the pieces as much, therefore saving you a lot of money and lead time.
"It looks almost exactly the same, and it's changed. The design we manufacture is also slightly different in order to account for the change in water depth from the shallow to the deep end, and also the curve of the concave bottom. We use design formulas to correct for the magnification due to changes in depth, so that when you fill it with water, it looks like it's flat."
We worked with Aquatic Consultants on this one — Andy Kaner and Brian Van Bower.
The clients wanted a clean, light blue pool, but they didn't know what they wanted for a design. So we went to work on it.
People usually think that a mosaic pool has to be gaudy, decorative, Versace-esque, but as we looked at this modern pool, with all its hard, straight lines and geometric shapes, we knew we needed something different.
With this particular job, we made mathematical models of the actual shapes of the pool and the home, and we started working with them and mirroring them in the design until we came up with an actual pattern, which you see on the bottom of this pool.
It's a modern day Cosmati. [The Cosmati mosaic technique, pioneered by the Roman family of the same name in the 12th Century, uses tiny triangles and squares arranged in patterns to produce geometric designs.]
The reason why we colored it so lightly is because we wanted to create a silhouette effect at the bottom of the pool — a very light, modern silhouette that would not compete against the architectural details and shapes of the pool.
To be honest, when we went into the conference room to present the design with Andy Kaner, the client, the client's wife, the landscape architect, the builder and some other people, and went up to the overhead projector and showed them the entire thing, they just looked at it for a while. They couldn't figure it out. They were like, 'What is this?'
But when I started explaining the design, saying, 'You see this shape? We took this shape from the elevations at the front of the house. And you see this angle here? Well, we flipped it and flipped it and came up with this design.'
And suddenly the light went on, and they got it. And by the end they loved it. And we started working on making the pieces. — RC
Some of the people involved in making this pool were Reef Tropical Pools, a leader in the industry, and Brian Van Bauer and Andy Kaner, who are in Genesis.
This pool (actually, it's my pool) was a little bit difficult to build, in some ways. The house was built in 1926 and has been designated a historic home by the Preservation Society, so the U.S. Historical Preservation Board has to approve anything you want to do to the outside of the home.
So it was designed to fit the home. There is a relief on the front of the home, and I based the medallion on that, as well as all the radiuses. Everything that you see there came from the front of the actual home. — RC
This pool is in Palm Beach, and the design is actually inspired by the indoor pool at the Hearst Castle, known as the Roman Pool, which the client really loved.
[The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle is a tiled indoor pool decorated with eight statues of Roman gods, goddesses and heroes, styled after ancient Roman baths such as the Baths of Caracalla built in Rome in the early Third Century AD.]
Even though the pools are architecturally different, we made it happen. What you see shining on the bottom is real, 24-karat gold, about $250 thousand worth. — RC
This pool sits behind a modern beach house, and the client wanted a beachy design at the bottom of the pool — something that really related to the beach behind her. So we looked at images of the waves and worked with them until we came up with the design.
What made this pool, and other pools we've done successfully, is that we do all our own design, manufacturing and installation, which is the way a mosaicist would have done it back in the early days, in Renaissance Italy before the industrial revolution.
Mosaic artists used to make their own glass, make their own artwork and install it, too. And that's what we do. We design and install all under one roof, and we also manufacture the raw material that we cut for tiles. — RC