When Roger Worthington was brainstorming how he wanted his new microbrewery and restaurant Worthy Brewing Co. to look, he pictured a biker-themed space that highlighted his love for riding. However, with the help of fellow biker and designer, Rick Skalak of Vita Nova Mosaic, Inc., Worthington was able to create a theme more in tune with his business, emphasizing the two most important aspects of his facility — beer and food.

The Worthy Brewing Co. is a brew pub located in Bend, OR, which brews 18 different kinds of homemade beer, all in the comfort of its neighboring 22,000-square-foot microbrewery. The restaurant attached to the microbrewery offers a supercharged pub food menu, featuring wood-fired pizza made with homemade dough and other revamped classics.

Worthington, an avid bicycle rider and supporter, owns 50 acres of hops in Oregon, which was ultimately the reason he decided to open up a brew pub, according to Skalak, Senior Vice President and Creative Director of Vita Nova Mosaic, Inc. in Pacoima, CA, who met Worthington at a bicycle race in southern California. “I worked on his house in southern California before he moved to Oregon,” said Skalak. “[The restaurant] was supposed to be a bicycle theme, but he wanted to do more with his hops situation. We have a big detail on the floor — a hops vine — designed to look like hops. We started with a hops vine and ran it around the entire restaurant. We played with colors and textures, so it’s not just little square pieces. It’s all natural stone; stone cut from stone tile.”

Since the restaurant also incorporates a large, double-pizza oven — essentially its main focal point — the owners suggested imitating a famous painting, “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gough, with some added flair to relate to the restaurant’s homemade pizza. “We did a big mural on the pizza oven out of glass,” said Skalak. “It has the name of the pub, ‘Worthy,’ in between the two ovens. We had a pizza galaxy going in there and the little town on Van Gough’s night is invaded by mushrooms. You go up, and in Van Gough’s, he has stars and nebulas, so we put a sort-of onion nebula and flying saucer made out of pizza with peppers in it. We have artichokes growing out of the Cypress tree — all relating back to pizza and the ingredients they put into it.

“They gave us the idea of ‘Starry Night,’ and we went nuts with it,” Skalak went on to say. “Clients have a starting point, something they’re thinking about, and we figure out how to make it work and look like something.”

Choosing stone mosaics

Two different raw materials were utilized for the fabrication of the floor and wall murals: glass and stone. The floor — composed of limestone, granite and marble — incorporates 20 different colors throughout, including Red Lake, Rosso Verona, Rosso Lavanto, Inca Gold, Sienna Gold Travertine, Giallo Verona, Cafe Forrest, Sunny Gold, Crema Valencia, Dark Emperador, Light Emperador, Cafe St. Laurent, Flannel, Gasgogne Blue, Cippolino, Verde Luna, Verde Vecchio, Guatemala Green, Ocean Green and Rain Forrest.

All pieces started as 12- x 12-inch [tiles] with a nominal thickness of 3/8 inch. “It starts that way, and it’s great because it’s easier to deal with on a floor where you’re trying to make it level,” said Skalak. “We start out with tile, and we will cut strips, essentially 1/2-inch-long strips. If we want smaller sizes, we use a smaller-sized saw. We have fabricators who will cut those cubes and cut them into the right size wedge to fit them into the pattern I designed.

“For some veining for the hops vines, we did that so we had different textures and different length pieces, so it’s not all square cubes,” Skalak continued. “I like to play with it more and get more texture. For some things, we used a hammer, and we just broke the tile into pieces so you get a lot of texture. We like a lot of texture so it’s not just a grid — that’s just deep and boring to me. There’s no love involved with a computer involved. I want to have more control; I don’t want the computer having it — I want it. I’m basically out there with Yolanda, [who works with me at Vita Nova Mosaic, Inc.] and we’re laying out where we want what color and texture, and how we want the pieces to be cut, interlaid or spaced — because whether you have an open grout joint or a tiny one, we can control all that.”

The floor mural utilized approximately 150 square feet of custom stone mosaic. Skalak and his team cut the 12- x 12-inch stone tiles into 9/16- x 9/16-inch cubes with a Pragma saw from Italy, and used MK Diamond MK-100 tile saws to hand cut strips of varying widths for the branch elements, which allowed them to create the desired textures and shading to realize the design.

Designing the pizza oven

Installation Details

Installer: SunWest Builders, Redmond, OR

Stone Mosaics: 20 different colors throughout, including Red Lake, Rosso Verona, Rosso Lavanto, Inca Gold, Sienna Gold Travertine, Giallo Verona, Cafe Forrest, Sunny Gold, Crema Valencia, Dark Emperador, Light Emperador, Cafe St. Laurent, Flannel, Gasgogne Blue, Cippolino, Verde Luna, Verde Vecchio, Guatemala Green, Ocean Green and Rain Forrest

Glass Tile Mosaics: 80 different colors of glass tiles were used, which were supplied by Uroboros Glass of Portland, OR, and Spectrum Glass of Seattle, WA

Installation Products: grout and thinset from Tec Specialty Products, Aurora, IL

Number of Installers: 4

Installation Time: 6 days

For the pizza oven mosaic, 80 different colors of glass tiles were used, which were supplied by two companies — Uroboros Glass of Portland, OR, and Spectrum Glass of Seattle, WA. “We get big sheets of glass and then cut them down into smaller sticks — whatever width we want them to be,” said Skalak. “Then, we cut them again into the shape we want them to be. We’re not stuck with a module like a lot of pre-built glass. We can use that, but I prefer not to so I’m not stuck [creative-wise and design-wise].

“This glass gives us a lot of latitude — lots of color,” explained Skalak. “Rendering is a lot more fun, and it’s different than a lot of mosaics that use smalti glass. This has more transparency, so you see light going throughout the glass and bouncing off thin-set behind it. It gives it a life that you don’t get from opaque [smalti glass]. The stuff we used is more like a Tiffany glass, which is more like a stained glass. I’ve used it on floors, walls, showers and murals successfully.”

When it came to the pizza oven, Worthington and his wife requested that the 180 square feet of glass Skalak and his team employed be very colorful along with replicating “Starry Night” in a pizza-oriented fashion. “They wanted Starry Night to involve their pizza, so we started talking about what they wanted to see and the ingredients they use for their pizza,” said Skalak. “We did all of the layout, drawing and composition, and two months later, we were fabricating. For the most part, we’re going to do the conceptual work and composition, but a lot of times the client will come to us with an idea of what they want — something contemporary or with an Old World feel. We’ve even done things where we tried to replicate mosaics from Pompeii.

“Designers will [also] bring us paintings, like ones by Matisse or Monet, so we’ve done a lot of those things,” Skalak went on to say. “Basically, here’s your painting interpretive in glass. Impressionist things are perfect because when you’re using glass mosaic, you can’t paint or get movement like you can with a paintbrush. There’s movement in the glass. We use [paintings] also for inspiration to do something that’s unique and interpret someone’s artwork. I’ve even had artists come in with their artwork wanting us to replicate their paintings as mosaic artwork because it was going in an outdoor location.”

Overcoming challenges

Although Skalak and his team have recreated and replicated various other popular mosaics for both corporate and residential projects, they ran into a couple of challenges when producing the two mosaics inside of the Worthy Brewing Co. “For the floor mural, it was making curves and making sure everything was going to fit properly,” said Skalak. “When you’re looking at a CAD drawing, the real thing is never the same. We had to go back to the drawings to make sure the designs flowed through the corner properly, and it fit properly when it got there; we didn’t want our design modified or fitted. We wanted to make sure it fit.

“The template was also another challenge, as well as getting [exact] dimensions for the pizza oven,” Skalak continued. “We couldn’t finish some things until they got the wall in and could give us perfect measurements. We built [the mosaic] and left open spaces which we had to come back in and infill. It wasn’t difficult, but it’s one of the challenges of doing something like this. You can’t necessarily go from point A to point B; you have to go here and back over there, so forth and so on. We needed templates to make those connections, since we can’t stretch or shrink the mural once it gets to the jobsite.”

To complete this job, Worthington also enlisted the help of another company he’s used before — SunWest Builders, a construction company located in Redmond, OR, which completed all of the building and installation. “We did the whole project,” said Project Manager Mark Maxwell. “We installed the tanks, built the building, and installed the tile.” Maxwell used thinset and grout from Tec Specialty Products for the installation.

Maxwell said the job took a total of six days to complete, with four installers working onsite. SunWest Builders has built several breweries prior to Worthy Brewing Co., so they had experience with this kind of project; however, there were still some challenges along the way. “We’ve done a few similar projects to this, but probably not as extravagant,” said Maxwell. “This one was pretty complicated. There were lots of little parts and pieces. When both murals came [for floor and oven], some pieces fell off, so we were a little bit challenged trying to fill pieces in that fell off. We had to dry lay everything to make sure it was going to fit. I wouldn’t say the challenges were unanticipated.

“This one came with its own unique set of challenges,” Maxwell went on to say. “The pizza oven mural was on a round wall, so getting it to lie out and making sure the components that were important to the owner landed where he wanted them to land was challenging.”

The Worthy Brewing Co. project was completed in about one year. The overall design phase took about four months, and once the final drawings were completed, it took another month before the team could begin building since they were waiting on final wall dimensions. Once the final dimensions were received, which was four to six months into the design phase, the team started building the murals. The actual building of each mosaic took about three and a half weeks of actual work time — a total of seven weeks altogether. Skalak had three to four people working on just the glass and five to six people just working on the stone at a time.

“The Brewing Company opened about a year ago, and the ownership loves it,” said Skalak. “They’ve given us really good recommendations. People that have been up there loved it. We’ve gotten good responses through email. Somebody else I did a kitchen design for saw that up there and really liked it. Overall, we’re getting a good response.”