Mara Smith - Brick Sculptor    □   How It's Done
Winged Lion in Studio
Design sketches are made for projects, and used for reference during carving

About the Brick Carving Process

A Brick Sculpture can be used to make your project truly unique.

DESIGN: Mara creates 'one of a kind' sculptures that begins with your vision. After preliminary discussion you can provide exact drawings or suggest a general theme from which Mara will prepare a series of original drawings for your acceptance. Once the design is approved Mara begins the process of working with brick manufacturer to order the desired size and color of "green" wet brick clay to be carved. The raw unfired brick is brought around to the studio to stack up on the easel.

BRICK SELECTION: Unless otherwise specified, murals will be sculpted on 4" x 12" nominal face brick. This size unit provides less distortion in installation and uses nearly 50% less mortar than standard brick. From previous experience, we find that murals require colored mortar to best reveal the design detail in any project

If more relief is desired than the 4" thick units allow, the brickyard can produce mural brick 6" to 8" thick. These projects will be quoted on an individual basis for thickness and complexity.

In the studio

SCULPTING: Mara begins sculpting the design by carving away clay until the desired detail is reached. This arduous process, using common pottery hand tools, may take from a few weeks to several months depending on the size of the project. Brick carving is an art requiring a range of cutting and scraping tools. During this period the brick must be kept damp and covered with plastic every night, to keep the clay workable.

FIRING: When the sculpting is finished, it is disassembled, numbered, and stacked dry. Then the bricks are top set on kiln cars, and fired in a 400 foot tunnel kiln to 2000 degrees. Drying and firing take nearly a month to complete. The firing schedule is at the discretion of the brick plant. Mutual Materials has a 2 month firing color rotation cycle.

PACKAGING TO SHIP: The image is reconstructed in the studio (using the inscribed numbers to get bricks back in the right order) to check it has all come out well. Any broken or problem bricks are re-carved, fired, and fitted into place before shipping. It is carefully packed on pallets to deliver to the job site to be installed.

pallets fired brick

[Pictures - left: carved bricks drying on pallets before going to the kiln. Right: fired brick, showing pre-drilled holes for even firing, and inscribed numbers.]

FEES: Mural fees start at $200 per square foot for 4" thick x 12" units. This price includes design sketches, project management, mural brick, sculpting, drying, firing, and packaging the mural for shipment. Freight charges are additional.

PAYMENT: For brick murals less than 100 sq. ft., 50% down payment is required before work begins. Balance is invoiced at time of shipment. Larger projects are divided up into several payments throughout the carving period. Proof of work is provided by digital pictures and email.

DESIGN CHARGES: Mara generally does not charge for design sketches if awarded the project. If the mural is given to another artist or the project is cancelled, design fee of $1500 will be invoiced.

INSTALLATION COSTS: Normally, any experienced brick mason can install a mural. The brick are sequentially lettered and numbered on top of the bed. Instructions are included for small panels. Mural installation takes slightly longerthan normal bricklaying since the brick must be laid out in advance and joints must be struck following the contour of the mural relief. Mara should be present during installation, unless it is a very small fireplace size project. Actual expenses will be charged, in addition to $300.00 per day including travel days.

NORMAL PROJECT SCHEDULE for typical 8'x10' Panel:

  • One to three weeks for design.
  • One to two months for project sculpting and disassembling and preparation for kiln.
  • Drying and firing of mural brick normally takes 4 weeks.The firing schedule (which is set up for 2 weeks at a time) is at the discretion of the brick plant. We do make every effort to keep to the project timeline.
  • Pallets are shipped by common carrier.
Lincoln Zoo
The column capitals for the Lincoln Zoo Reptile House were made as U-shaped panels and fitted around the columns by the installation masons.