Fountain creators win national competition

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
New landmark Democrat Photo/Melonie Roberts Purdy has a new landmark in the waterfall fountain located in the new park next to Purdy City Hall. "The fountain was inspired by the Road to Hana tour on Maui, Hawaii," said Mike Bennett, who helped design and build the waterfall feature with his son, Chris, owner of Stone Crafters in Purdy. The park in Purdy was developed by Ed Mareth, who is spearheading the Genesis Project revitalization effort in Purdy.

What started as an oddly-shaped metal frame on a bare patch of property next to Purdy City Hall has been transformed into an impressive two-tiered fountain, depicting what one might see in a natural rainforest.

The fountain is a focal point in the new Purdy park, developed by local entrepreneur Ed Mareth, who is spearheading the Genesis Project, a revitalization effort to benefit the community.

"We wanted to create the fountain so that it looked like a waterfall someone would find in a tropical rainforest, regardless of which direction they might be seeing it," said Mike Bennett, co-creator of the unique piece of artwork gracing the park. Bennett and his son, Chris, owner of Stone Crafters in Purdy, spent over 90 days forming the concrete "stones" that make up the fountain's exterior.

"We poured the concrete into latex molds," Chris said. "The molds are flexible, so you can make whatever shape you want."

Once the concrete was poured, Chris and Mike took a "stamp" and textured the natural looking cracks and crevices on exteriors of the stone, adding details one would see in nature.

Once set, the father and son stained the piece, using dyes of varying tans, browns and gray to make each "rock" unique. Each piece was then covered with a protectant to seal the color from exposure to the elements.

A moat, formed from the same concrete rocks, was then built around the fountain, and a concrete bridge and railings were added.

"The bridge and railings were done freehand," Chris said. "Our suppliers didn't have any forms for those."

The fountain is the first project of this size for Chris.

"I've done smaller projects, but I don't do flat work," he said. "I want to do more decorative work."

"We actually started a natural Arkansas flat rock project at our house," Mike said. "We've found that working with concrete is easier. You get what you want, not what you 'get' to work with."

This fledgling business, started in February, is already making a big splash in the outdoor decoration world.

"We just won best overall project in a national competition hosted by Stone Makers," Mike said. "They had several categories, but ours featured several decorative elements together. It was also the tallest project using these materials."

Just as jewelers have to envision the perfect setting for a precious gem, Chris has to envision his art -- only backward.

"Concrete is poured into the forms, which are shaped by whatever you put beneath them," Mike said, "a two-by-four or something to change the way the product lies in the mold."

The new fountain at the park has already been a big hit in the community.

"We've seen seniors getting their portraits done in front of it and couples getting engagement photos taken," Mike said. "We're glad. That's what we want."

Since completing the fountain, Chris has two new projects under construction.

The first, in rural Barry County, is a stream that drops into a small pond, which in turn, drops into a larger pond. The second is a retaining wall for a homeowner on the lake at Shell Knob.

"With the weather changing, things will slow down for awhile," Chris said. "But we will be able to pre-form some elements in the garage over the winter and be ready to go with new projects in the spring.

"This is a business that others don't have," Chris added. "It's unique. It's creative. I enjoy working with people as we design a project and then seeing it take shape."

For more information on Stone Crafters, call Chris Bennett at 417-300-1616.

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