Before You Give ANYONE Money for Custom Stone From China…


Over the course of the last ten years, as we have built our business, a recurring theme in the marketplace has been the vagaries of buying cut-to-fit stone form China. There always seems to be an ongoing parade of horribles in the marketplace, including mis-fabricated, unconscionably late, or just plain disappearing product. It is frightening to clients. And it is immensely frustrating to us, because it doesn’t have to be that way. We have certainly stubbed our toe from time to time, but at the end of the day, the formula for success is pretty much the same as it is elsewhere in the world market. You have to know the lay of the land and the conventions of the culture as it relates to the business you are doing. China is a rigorous place to do business. It is a market unforgiving of bad assumptions, poor research, or lax expectations. That said, it is the most exciting stone market in the world, with materials and craft skills simply not found anywhere else.

Here is how to protect yourself as a buyer.

  1. Do not buy stone from anyone who is not a legal business entity in China, properly licensed to do the business they are doing. You need to see two things for sure: the company’s tax registration certificate and its Chinese business license. Those two documents tell you three important things: that you are dealing with someone with legal standing in China; that they are committed to the market, not a day trader working on a quick turn of paper ownership; and that they can actually write enforceable contracts to buy the materials they are selling you.
  2. Do not buy from anyone until you understand the proposed supply chain and their value in that chain. In the general stone market, most entities selling material are brokers of inventory-based stock items. In this scenario, there are no nuances, no special details, and the modules are routine and common; the largest part of the process is the transfer of ownership. It is a disaster to get that supply chain to furnish cut-to-fit/custom stone fabrication. In the Yellow Mountain supply chain, we are the only entity between fabrication and our client. Unless you are going to become a licensed entity in-country, that is as short as the chain gets.
  3. Do not buy custom stone without a complete set of shop drawings detailing all of the particulars of your work. A supplier of material from China should be able to show them to you in Chinese if you ask.
  4. Do not buy custom stone without both a set of control samples and a mockup of the proposed modules and finishes. It verifies two things: the supplier can produce what is drawn on the shop drawings, and the real thing looks like what you said you wanted.
  5. Ask how the company communicates, both with their suppliers in China and with their clients. It can be nerve racking not knowing where your order is in the process or when you’re going to get it. Find out if you’ll be kept apprised or left in the dark.
  6. Get and check references. A really good smell test is to ask for a reference for a supply job that went badly and check how it was resolved. Stone is not an exact science; things can go wrong. The measure of a company is how they act when problems occur.

I strongly believe the Chinese stone market will only continue to expand. In fact, China is now going beyond their own vast resources and is sourcing stone from around the world for international markets. If you’re an architect, designer, or artist passionate about creating and innovating with stone, this is a market that must be understood, not feared. Take advantage of the insights we’ve gained as we’ve continued to work in China – our hope is that you unleash the creative potential of custom Chinese stone while actually enjoying the purchasing process.



Inspired Spaces

It was our pleasure to host an exclusive event for original thinkers on Thursday, October 13th at Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden. The focus of the event was to provide an atmosphere of discovery that would stimulate ideas and discussion and enable the participants to see natural stone in a new light.

Industry leaders in the design-build community wound their way through the paths of the garden, much like a scavenger hunt, discovering new ways to think about and use natural stone.

“Magical” and “inspiring” is how participants described the ‘Inspired Spaces’. Rainy skies cleared just in time for the gathering as the melodic sounds of Dr. Yang and his talented musicians played traditional Chinese instruments to set the tone for the unforgettable experience.

Chinese butterfly kites marked the way through the garden to photographic displays of Yellow Mountain StoneWorks projects alongside a display of a full array of stone in a variety of shapes and finishes.

In one of the discovery zones, Seattle stone mason, Jon Aguilar, demonstrated the ease of setting up and adjusting the Buzon pedestal set system, for use on exterior decking and walkways.

As the 60+ participants sipped wine and savored gourmet appetizers, the sound of laughter and hearty conversation signaled a successful event. Gathering the unique perspectives of architects, interior designers, builders, and masons in an informal setting was critical to the personality of the generative event experience.

Yellow Mountain StoneWorks is focused on creating new forums for inspiration and original ideas for natural stone. Look forward to more opportunities in the near future.

West Seattle Garden Tour

The amazing spaces that local gardeners created with patience, innovation and natural materials were celebrated July 17 during West Seattle’s ‘The Art of Gardening’ tour.

A proud sponsor of the tour’s 17th year, Yellow Mountain StoneWorks donated a Chinese granite basin with a hand carved base to the event. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit organizations ranging from the Seattle Chinese Garden to the West Seattle Tool Library to Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center.

The Yellow Mountain StoneWorks urn was displayed at the Tagney-Jones Garden during the tour. Formerly the Colman-Pierce Estate, the 2.5 acre garden sits on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound and features an amazing array of 2,000 species of rhododendron and 80 varieties of trees.

Like the kindred spirits we celebrated during the garden tour, Yellow Mountain StoneWorks is a company of original thinkers who focus on clear process and creativity. This allows us to be better design collaborators while staying focused on what’s important: the client.

If you are considering natural stone as part of your design scheme, please contact us at 206-932-5696 and make an appointment to visit our West Seattle Studio or view our online gallery.

Climbable Art

As soon as the ribbon was cut at the new Transit Center in Kirkland, Washington, people began climbing on the public art – just as the artist intended. That result was achieved by a well-suited team with diverse expertise, creatively collaborating throughout the process.

The artist’s vision required the stone be cut in complex shapes, the facets finished in a variety of textures, and the pieces precisely fit together.

“I knew what I was asking was really complex, with stones cut in this intricate fashion,” says artist Carolyn Law. “I was really lucky to find Yellow Mountain. I talked to them about ideas as much as I talked to them about logistics and details.”

Yellow Mountain Stoneworks’ granite selection met Law’s need for a broad range of hues, including red, black, gray and white. And to accentuate the many facets of the stone pieces, the artist used seven different finishes from polished to rustic hand finishes. “Yellow Mountain opened the door to all these finishes. They didn’t limit me,” Caroline says.

Knowing there’s very little wiggle room in a public art budget, we worked with Caroline to find the best solution that met both her aesthetic and budget. “Yellow Mountain was really straightforward to work with,” says Caroline. “They were very careful to let me know what they thought would work best within my budget. Pricing was straight up and didn’t deviate. That was wonderful.”

Executing the installation posed additional challenges because of the tight tolerances and the weight of the stone; the largest block weighed about 3500 pounds, and the irregular shapes that are nestled up against each other have a maximum tolerance of one quarter of an inch and are installed on concrete terracing. With such tight tolerances, there wasn’t enough room for “strapping,” the process normally used to maneuver stone into place. And sliding stone against stone would have damaged the finishes. So Steve Siebert of Garden Stone Masonry used this unique, and we think brilliant, installation trick: thin slices of ice blocks were used as rollers to move the stones. As the ice melted, the stones settled into their exact positions.

Caroline wanted to work with natural stone because, “I wanted a material that people would gravitate towards. Concrete does not do it. It doesn’t have the same sensory impact as natural stone.” Watching people climb among the irregular shapes or sit and caress the intricate finishes – would appear to prove her right.

Waterjet Finish

The waterjet finish can be applied to our full range of Yellow Mountain granites. The most popular choices for exterior paving, cladding, wall caps and water features include Preto Carvaõ Basalt, Olive Black Granite, Dark Charcoal Grey Granite, Artesian Green Granite, Butterfly Blue Granite and Pepper Brown Granite.

Both the color and character of granite are enhanced by a waterjet finish, whereas percussive finishes (honed, adzed or bush hammer) tend to fracture the crystals or whiten the stone. Additionally, this texture results in an ideal coefficient of friction rating for pedestrian surfaces.

The waterjet (or “hydro”) finish is created by focusing an extremely high-pressure jet of water across the face of the stone. This erodes the surface, breaking crystals and opening the pores of the stone. The resulting texture is similar to a flamed finish, although not as dramatic and less destructive to the stone. The waterjet finish is not successful on stones other than granites.

One of our more dramatic projects that incorporates the waterjet finish is Myriad Gardens, a sizable botanical garden in Oklahoma City, that includes five large water features.