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200607BVB0By Brian Van Bower

In all of the discussions in print and in seminar rooms about advancing the watershaping trades, it seems to me there’s been a missing voice – that of the client.  

We spend lots of time dissecting, praising, disputing, criticizing and encouraging one another, but somehow we seem to have bypassed the thought that we should pay much closer attention to the people who pay us.  To my mind, this is something that should change.   

As individuals, we really should know what it takes to improve and produce a better buying experience related to watershapes of all types and sizes, commercial and residential.  Without this direct feedback from our clients, how on earth can we possibly know whether or not we’re truly giving people what they really want?

As an industry, unless we figure out some way to pool this feedback and codify it in some meaningful way, we will be

200606DT0By David Tisherman

In last month’s “Detail,” I discussed the beginning stages of a new project that has my partner Kevin Fleming and me pretty excited.  At this point, the pool’s been shot and we’re moving along at a good pace.

I’ll pick up that project again in upcoming issues, but I’ve brought it up briefly here to launch into a discussion about something in our industry that mystifies me almost on a daily basis.   

So far, the work we’ve done on the oceanfront renovation project has been focused on a relatively narrow band of design considerations having to do with the watershape and its associated structures.  This focus is

200605DT0By David Tisherman

Beginning a project can be wonderfully exciting, especially when you’re working in a beautiful place with a terrific client who wants something truly elegant and special.  In fact, I can honestly say that there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration of stepping into a new situation with great potential, defining those possibilities and watching a client’s eyes light up with the fire of inspiration.

Case in point:  Not long ago, my partner Kevin Fleming and I were called out to a job site on Long Beach Island, N.J., by local landscaper Mark Reynolds, who’d heard of us and our reputation for using top-quality materials in top-flight designs.

When we pulled up, the first thing I noticed was the

200605SR0By Stephanie Rose

Practice makes perfect when it comes to developing the observational skills you need to support your design acumen.  

As I discussed last month, honing these abilities enables a designer to see individual and collective shapes within a garden setting in ways that can enhance the overall appearance of plant/hardscape combinations and turn them into cohesive and more compelling visual compositions.

Among all of those artistic abilities is one specific skill that has served me best and will be my subject in this column:  That is, the ability to determine the level of contrast my clients want to see in their garden spaces.  

As an artist, I’ve always been inspired by the areas in paintings that display the

200605BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Despite the axiom that “every client is a good client,” we all know that some of them are wonderful to work with – and that dealing with others is a form of slow torture.   

I’ve always loved hearing the horror stories about bad customers that float around the watershaping trades:  The telling and retelling of these nightmares (often with exaggerations as the stories travel from ear to ear) is often a treat, and I know I’ve had my share of therapeutic fun at the expense of a knucklehead or two.  

We don’t generally hear quite so much about the good ones, but it’s fair to say that most of us have lists of satisfied clients and that our experiences with them give us much of the motivation we have to stay in the business.  

What it boils down to is this:  Each and every client is

200604DT0By David Tisherman

Plagiarism.  Copyright infringement.  Theft of intellectual property.  We hear and read about these crimes in the media all the time and don’t think they’ll ever affect us.  But I can bear witness to the fact that we have people in our midst who seem to think that committing these crimes is no big deal.

Setting aside any other criticism I’ve ever lain at the feet of the watershaping trades, if there’s one intolerable problem the industry has, it’s that there are people within it who are apparently willing to steal to get ahead.

I’m not talking about job-site incidents where materials or tools mysteriously vanish.  That’s a real problem, but even more damaging in my eyes is the surprisingly common practice that some people have of representing the efforts of others as their own.  In a phrase, I’m talking about

By Stephanie Rose

Most people move easily through the world, enjoying the scenery without really thinking about what makes those surroundings visually appealing (or not).  

Science tells us that the human eye can see about seven million colors and that our minds instinctively perceive depth and dimension.  This visual capacity enables most of us to move around without bumping into things, some of us to swing at and somehow hit a golf ball and, in the case of a beautiful garden (we can hope), all of us sense pleasure and maybe a bit of

200604BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Elevating the way we do things in this industry means addressing our gaps in knowledge on several levels.  

First, excellence means understanding the aesthetic side of watershaping – design traditions, art history and the nature of visual appeal.  Second (and right in step) is the need to know how to build various types of systems properly.  As an industry, in other words, we need to know how to avoid mistakes.

In February, Genesis 3 staged a construction school in Orlando – and what follows isn’t a commercial; rather it’s a point of departure for a discussion long overdue in our industry.  What struck me is that

200603DT0By David Tisherman

I want to clear up a misconception:  Although the programs my colleagues and I stage through Genesis 3 are easily associated with the “high end” and the work of several people associated with our programs may be said to exist at the cutting edge of watershape design, it is simply untrue that we are promoting construction standards that somehow go above and beyond what the rank-and-file industry should be practicing.

When we talk about watershape “design” and “construction,” it’s important to understand that although those two things go hand in hand, they are completely separate considerations.  Design is what makes pools and spas either ordinary or extraordinary and is about materials selection, shape, color, elevations, lighting, water effects and location in a setting – basically a whole range of

200603BVB0By Brian Van Bower

When I think about all the people I know from the mainstream pool and spa industry, one of the things that characterizes many of them is a strong, independent spirit.  That’s a positive, I think, but there’s a possible downside in the fact that many of them are also convinced that theirs is the best (or only) way – and they certainly don’t cotton to the idea of working closely with people from outside their own organizations.

I can appreciate that sort of independent mindset in many ways, but from where I sit, it’s clear to me that this concept of the lone-wolf pool builder is losing ground fast.  As I’ve stated in these pages before, the nature of modern watershaping is making ours a more collaborative business, and I for one believe that those of us who embrace the idea of teamwork are

200602BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Something inspired and inspiring is happening in the watershaping industry – something I doubt has ever really happened before:  In almost every encounter I have with industry people lately (and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of you in the past few months), I get the palpable sense of a passion that is driving all of us in a process of creative and professional growth.

I see it in the enthusiasm my fellow watershapers have for what they’re doing, and I see it being directly translated into their projects and, perhaps most important, being conveyed to their clients and the attitudes everyone has about the results.  From where I sit, this is a spectacular time to be in this business, and that notion has been reinforced countless times in the recent past.  

I received a concentrated dose of this broad impression during the

200601BVB0By Brian Van Bower

Even though I’ve been on the leading edge of a movement for several years now, it still feels strange to put this thought on paper:  A growing number of professionals like me are now finding work as consultants in the design and construction of watershapes.  

Who would ever have thought it possible?  Just a few short years ago, the idea that anyone could make a living by charging for designs or construction oversight was outlandish and the subject of skepticism, shock and derision among architects, landscape architects and pool contractors.  

To that point, after all, “pool design” was generally a service that existed almost exclusively to support the sales efforts of contractors.  These folks, who were accustomed to

10 year logoBy Brian Van Bower

‘Back when WaterShapes was in its infancy, the idea that swimming pools and spas had much in common with other forms of contained water (including ponds, fountains and streams) was a true novelty:  All of those worlds seemed light years apart.’

That’s how Brian Van Bower opened his Aqua Culture column in November 2008 before adding:  ‘[T]hings have changed and there’s now widespread recognition that these seemingly