Floor of the Year Winner Makes Gold-Leafed Wood Wall Mosaics

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Vartan Arutyunian, whose skilled hands glued, torched, scraped and gilded with gold leaf each 1/4- to 3/8-square-inch end-grain block in the mosaic wall-hangings on this page, is officially the project manager at perennial Wood Floor of the Year winner Archetypal Imagery in Brooklyn, N.Y., but he could also be considered an artist-in-residence. 

After realizing through Archetypal's wood floor mosaics that end-grain blocks are a great medium for art, Arutyunian, a trained artist, decided to make one for the wall. He's less limited that way, says Archetypal owner Avedis Duvenjian, because no one walks on these.

The mosaics take up to six months to make. First Arutyunian draws the design onto plywood and then begins gluing each wood block along the contours of the sketch. The blocks are scorched with a torch before Arutyunian uses a scraper to expose the wood grain. 

The gold leaf process is bit unconventional. Instead of shellac or waxes, Arutyunian uses juice squeezed from garlic—if you've cooked with it, you know how clingy it gets—to glue the gold leaf into the grain and channels between the end blocks. Arutyunian says when the light hits the mosaics, the shine is unbelievable. 

The mosaics sell for $80,000, but Duvenjian wants to amass enough to host a gallery show. Don't expect them for purchase any time soon.

Arutyunian came to the company 12 years ago from Armenia, and Archetypal was never the same. "He changed the level," owner Avedis Duvenjian says.

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