Instead, he began traveling the world, searching for inspiration. “I saw in Spain, in Portugal, these amazing mosaic sidewalks and plazas that were made out of cut stone,” Bale recalls. “That was the first time I’d ever seen river pebbles that were used to create assemblages and mosaics. When I was in school we never actually learned how to do anything like this. Brick was like the most exotic and luxurious pavement.”
He returned home and came up with his own method of creating pebble mosaics from stones gathered from the wild. His work started to attract attention and he began securing commissions to create gardens, mosaics, paths and walls for clients across the country. Today his work is world renowned — he’s been featured in dozens of publications including the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes and Gardens.
And he still travels every year, for inspiration. “This will be my thirty-third winter going away,” he says. “I do it like I’m going back to school or something. I study the cultures. I study the architecture. And I take thousands of photographs.”
Watch the Oregon Art Beat story on Bale’s work Thursday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. on OPB TV.