Michael Weiß: “Slate doesn’t set nearly any limits in the design of facades”
From looking at the pictures in this interview, we can all agree that Michael Weiß is an artist (@incrediblewhite). This German roofer has specialised in the ornamental side of natural slate. “Even with small decorative elements, you can make every roof, every facade, every chimney into something individual”, he says. In roofing, like in every aspect of life, small details make a huge difference.
CUPA PIZARRAS – Your slate designs are astonishing. How did you start creating your work? Where did you get the inspiration?
Michael Weiß – I have been working on the roofs in my region since 2009 and through a fellow roofing colleague I became aware of creative designs with slate, in particular the production of slate ornaments. So I switched companies to join them.
In January 2016 and 2017 I attended 2 40-hour courses on how to make slate ornaments, from the initial sketches to the final artwork and implementation with slate. These courses by the Cologne Chamber of Crafts took place under the direction of Hans-Peter Koennecke, who has been enjoying his well-deserved retirement since 2019.
Hans-Peter Koennecke is a very respected and inspiring person in our craft, both in terms of his ornament-courses and his contribution to the craft. He is internationally known, and his photo albums on Facebook and his videos on Instagram (@dachdecker.silberruecken) are a great source of inspiration.
I attended other courses as a guest lecturer in Cologne and Karlsruhe. As an employee in my former company, I had the opportunity to increase my work with slate and making slate ornaments. Many customers do not even know that their facade or chimney can be covered with decorative slate. Most roofers choose and offer a classic type of covering without decorations.
Even with small decorative elements, you can make every roof, every facade, every chimney into something individual and my customers love it.
Most of the time, customers have preferences, whether it’s their favourite animals, or other ideas that I can implement with slate, which makes my finished work not only individual and varied, but also personal to my costumers.
In January 2020 I started my own business (Schiefereien.de) and specialised in creative design with slate. My main goal is to make my customers happy with my creativity and the implementation of their wishes into a slate ornament. Every ornament design has its own a story and this story inspires me while designing the initial draft. The demand for this type of work is increasing, which I’m very happy about.
CP – Why did you choose slate to create your facade designs?
MW – I like working with natural materials. Slate doesn’t set limits in the design of facades. It offers the possibility of many different types of covering facades and it can also be very well combined with other materials such as wood or metals (e.g. zinc or copper). It is a fascinating material which can be cut carefully into any shape I need to make a great ornament or a facade design. In addition, slate provides long-term protection from the elements.
CP – We can see time lapses of your work on social media, but how much real time does it take? How is the whole process?
MW – The eagle in my time lapse lasts less than 15 minutes. Every work starts with the idea and the customer’s request. Coloring books are great to get a first idea, but if there aren’t any, the initial draft has to be laboriously created. Often, several ideas become one so it becomes an individual draft. Once the draft has been determined, it is printed to its original size for the facade. Sometimes the drafts have to be adjusted again, because in first size some details look different than they do on an A4 sheet. If the draft fits, I‘ll think about the details I might want to accentuate with another materials such as copper, zinc or lead. I prepare these details in my workshop. Then the actual coverage of the draft begins at the customer’s location.
The duration always depends on the complexity of the draft. While the Belarus tractor took around 45 hours (35 of them on site), the Adler lasted 20 hours (18 of them on site). You can’t say in general, how long it will take from draft to finished ornament. It depends on several factors. The size, the details and way of covering the facade around the ornament are the primary factors in this calculation.
CP – In your opinion, what are the best characteristics of natural slate as a roofing material?
MW – There are many ways to protect a roof or facade from the elements, but in my opinion the most natural material is slate followed by a clay tile. Slate in particular is outstanding thanks to its durability and the natural sheen and look of the structured surface. The different types of covering, formats of slate and an easy processing enable a creative and individual design.
CP – What is the best part of being a roofer?
MW – You actually work in the open air every day – whether it’s stormy, rainy or the sun is burning. Of course, it’s a tough job, but you see what you’ve achieved every day and get to enjoy the end results. But it is even nicer when you can give your customers a special, long-lasting pleasure through your work. Every customer receives a small individual work of art for their home. I know I’ve done a great job, if the customer is happy with my work. There is no point in having a full account, even the customer is not completely satisfied with my work.
I have only one suggestion for the youth: work with your hands and go into the craft business.
CP – Does the final client appreciate the quality of a good roofing material?
MW – In my particular case, yes. The client has made a conscious decision to use the material slate and appreciates its advantages. Unfortunately, many customers nowadays do not care a lot about their roof, they pay attention or have to pay close attention to the price and want a cheap solution. But not only the customer is to blame for this development, many roofers have preferences for certain materials and only offer these to the customer. There is no or less choice for the customer if cheap materials are only offered without alternatives. Fortunately, many roofers still care about the quality of their work.
This interview is part of our series of conversations with people related with natural slate. You can read past interviews in our blog. If you think you can add value to this section or you have a good story to tell, we will be happy to hear from you through firstname.lastname@example.org or our social media channels.