If you want a precise had-cut paver labyrinth that is an amazing work of art and will last for 100 years, you can hire Labyrinth Enterprises along with paver artist Marty Kermeen. You can see our work in the gallery section and Marty;s work at www.labyrinthbuilder.com. The cost will be commensurate with the weeks of work. To reduce labor cost, we can have some of the more complicated shapes cut using water jet technology (although our hand-cut version is more accurate). NOTE: We do not use or sell kits. Our work is custom tailored for each client. Our prices are higher than for kits, but not much higher, considering the huge difference in experience and quality. A kit, purchased, shipped, and installed by a local landscaper is generally in the $50,000 range. Our hand-made labyrinths begin around $65,000 (a fifteen percent increase for double or triple the value). The cost is the same working through Labyrinth Enterprises,in which case you get our additional expertise in planning, support, and design, as it is going directly to Marty Kermeen.
We and Marty also offer an exact replica of the Chartres labyrinth, made with stone from the same quarries in France, with each piece identical. The cost is $2,500,000.
What are the differences between a professional paver artist and a kit installer? See below.
We have made dozens of paver labyrinths, whereas your local landscaper may have never made any.
2. Quality of work
Our work is magnificent. For examples, see our Gallery section. Our circles are round, our lines are straight, and we never have gaps filled with chips of pavers. Kits aim for a middle audience with average quality and average price. Our installations are done with twice the quality, perhaps more, for only around 20% more cost.
3. Flexibility of design
Kits have limitations due to the use of specific molds or standardized units. A clever kit salesman may steer you to his particular product. On the other hand, a custom made labyrinth can be any size and any pattern. For example, offer a paver Chartres labyrinth that is the exact size of the original in France. Kits offer different patterns to accommodate different sizes. A larger labyrinth means more paths, a smaller one means fewer paths. A custom labyrinth, however, can be made in any size or any pattern. Consider the analogy to building houses. Custom-designed and individually-built houses cost several times what kit or prefabricated homes cost. With labyrinths, the difference is similar, but the cost spread is not. They are nearly the same.
4. Longevity -- the best value over time
Here's where the value of a professional installation becomes cost effective. Lesser installations begin to show gaps and sunken pavers and falling edges in just a few years. The quality, which is immediately apparent from day one, remains intact for decades. Only routine maintenance is required. Part of the reason for the longevity of our labyrinths is the thickness and and accuracy of the base, which is usually skimped on in a lesser installation to save time. Also the type of perimeter restraints that we use. It soon becomes apparent, in a few short years, that you get what you pay for. Quality is the best long range value.
5. Superior materials
.There is a paver kit that we have seen, in LaCrosse, WI, which, after a few years, has suffered considerable damage from "pop outs," These are places where the aggregate in the concrete paver pops out, due to the stress of the freeze/thaw cycle, leaving unsightly holes in the surface of the labyrinth. this is completely a function of the density and quality of the pavers. We use only one brand of paver, which comes from a single factory. It costs more to ship these pavers around the country, but again, the difference is noticeable in only a few years. Because of our relationship with the manufacturer, we can get custom colors, special runs, and other considerations not available from pre-packaged kits. With all due respect to The Home Depot, it is not where professionals buy pavers -- yet it is the same manufacturer who makes the labyrinth kits.
6. Problem solving
When we built the contemporary labyrinth beside the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University, the site was hugely problematic. Not only were there remnants of a previous structure (terraces for an amphitheater), the site was soggy whenever it rained. We invented our own drains and constructed an intricate systems of pipes beneath the labyrinth which took a week to complete. There is no longer any problem. (See Valparaiso).
At the University of Southern Indiana we were asked to install the labyrinth on a base of pervious concrete, which they would provide. This was a first for us. It came out very well. Therein lies a story.
When we installed the labyrinth at the University of Southern Indiana (56-foot modified Chartres pattern), the brick layer's union asked us why we didn't use them. We pointed out the fact that we are artists. What we do is different. They watched us very critically during the installation process. At the end, they had to admit that it was far more complex and more difficult than anything they had ever seen before. Meanwhile, next to the labyrinth, the union installed some rectangular paver bench pads and small areas of walkway. The crooked lines and uneven surface (they put the pavers right on the base, without the bedding sand) was deemed acceptable for a sidewalk and for the utilitarian nature of the intended use. If they couldn't get a small pad straight, how could they do a good job on a labyrinth? Later I learned that they had also bid on the labyrinth installation, but we were lower. So their quality would have been much less and their price more. My intent isn't to put down the union, it is to point out that what we do does not relate equally to what they do. An art installation has a far higher standard for precision and accuracy. It isn't landscaping. Union workers with many years of experience couldn't do what we do. Yet kits are sold assuring the customer that their local landscaper can install it for them. Sure, the same way the union could build a labyrinth..
7. Details, details, detail
Both photos on this page are from a private residence in Telluride, CO. Note some of the details. Pavers come on pallets, with both square pavers and "twinkies" (half pavers). So we sprinkle the twinkies randomly throughout the labyrinth, adding variety and interest. You will not find any pieces smaller than a twinkie in the circles. The last kit labyrinth we visited (supervised by the same labyrinth company that sells the kit, which you would think would therefore represent their best work), the circles were full of "boogers" (pardon our language). These are small little spaces in which a tiny slice is whacked off of a paver and jammed in haphazardly to fill the small gap. Likely the local installer considered it to be normal, having never installed pavers in any other way. You don't see any boogers in these photos.
Note, also, in the photograph, that the center is a grid, flowing in from the entrance. This involves a lot of extra cutting where the grid meets the circles. Kits always use circle bundles that form concentric circles (rather than a grid), which makes the center easier to install. However, the center looks like a big target and it interrupts the flow from the entrance path into the center (being a different pattern). The grid center is much more elegant.
Labyrinth kits were designed by an engineer, not a paver artist. The designs, and the assembly instructions, do not show a background in working with pavers. The way in which turns meet paths, the filling of spaces, and other technical matters, have some distinct shortcomings. The installers would therefore be following instructions which will not get the best possible result.
8. Philosophical differences
Frankly, as artists, we aren't the world's greatest business people. Our scope is too wide. We attend labyrinth conferences and do pro bono work. We train others on how to make labyrinths. We write and lecture about labyrinths, sacred geometry, and Chartres Cathedral. We're spread pretty thin, sometimes. This is true for most people whose mission is to promote the benefits and use of labyrinths. Even the most famous labyrinth people, such as Lauren Artress or Jeff Saward, make very modest livings compared to their knowledge and expertise. Kit makers, on the other hand, do none of these things, focusing solely on purveying labyrinths. They are not active in the labyrinth movement. They are simply selling a product. As I approach retirement, I sometimes wish I had been more commercial and less altruistic. Perhaps I would have more financial security. However, when I contemplate my choices, I am glad for what I have done.
The final issue with regards to kit vs. artist has to do with taking responsibility. We know of a number of instances in which labyrinth kits developed problems. The kit sellers take no responsibility, as they only sold the materials. You must go to the installer for any satisfaction, even though he or she may have done their best. We stand behind every installation. We don't specify a number of years, as we think the labyrinth will last for generations. If one of our paver installations ever develops a problem, we will certainly be right there. However, we feel a bit like the Maytag repair man in the commercials. No one calls.
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Did you read this far? Good for you. I would like to end by giving the reasons one might want to buy a kit:
1. A budget than can only afford medium quality.
2. A landscaper willing to donate services
3. An experienced labyrinth maker willing to help
If you have a limited budget, I suggest that you look into our new concrete and granite resin technology. We produce spectacular concrete labyrinths at a much lower cost than paver labyrinths. At least take a glance at granite. If you are planning a labyrinth for a hospital, we don't recommend pavers, as it is very difficult for IV carts, the visually impaired, the elderly, people using walkers, etc. Concrete is really a better consideration. See our Gallery section for examples of polymer concrete and granite technologies which will serve your purposes very well.