I’m happy to have sold this work which was pretty personal to me. I am even happier that the buyer understands the work and that it spoke to them on that personal level.
I don’t usually give my bottles anything more than a descriptive name, although I did try to come up with something for this one.
It’s hard to believe that I finally mosaicked this bottle that I acquired over 20 years ago. I really like this palette, although, in retrospect, I wish I would have used more of the dark brown.
I did enjoy this project, which has served as a break from a large wall art work which is still in the design phase. I hope to start it after July.
Tracy Hodson has once again curated an impressive mosaic exhibition for the Bandon Library Art Gallery. This annual exhibition continues to attract a diverse representation of contemporary mosaic art. Through thoughtful essays and sensitive curation, Tracy offers a deep and informative perspective on mosaic art, which enriches the exhibition experience for all who are fortunate enough to view it.
Please enjoy this year’s essay and a photo tour of the exhibition here.
This wavy bottle (click on image to zoom) is now 5/8 finished, not counting the very top edge, or spout. I have not quite figured out how to handle that yet, but I will think of something.
The gold is called Acid Green, and I bought it back in 2006 when I was in Venice for the Orsoni 2-week Master Class. I’m using a lot more of it than I thought I would when I started, and it’s not because of waste. 3d objects can be deceptive. I’m also surprised at how much marble it is requiring. But I like the way it is turning out.
I’ve got a little trip coming up to San Jose, CA, to visit my daughter for about a week. I will finish this project when I get back.
With a busy June and July coming up, I’m taking a break between fine art pieces but still like to work in my studio when I can. I thought about doing some decorative work, and then I remembered a bottle that I had bought from an estate sale over 20 years ago. I thought I might have even gotten rid of it, but I found it at the back of one of my closets.
It is an unusual shape and only slightly wonky—most bottles are imperfect—and has a bit of a lean on one side. Still, it is a tall and distinctive bottle and I thought I could do something with it. It’s bulging shape did not lend itself to my usual geometric technique, and I’ve been wanting to do something 3d with marble for some time.
I came up with this design after contemplating the shape of the bottle and asking myself how I could best exploit the shape without making the project extremely difficult.
You can see the bottle at right (click on it to zoom). It measures 18.5” | 47cm tall and is about 6” | 15cm at its widest. I’ve marked the bottle vertically in eighths, and in this pic I’m just ready to start mosaicking the lines with brown marble.
The dark brown marble is Emperador, and I don’t know what the beige is. I purchased the marble from Home Depot a few years ago as a mix for wall applications. I absolutely love Emperador marble! It has beautiful variations and veining, but can be tricky to cut. I’m accompanying the earthy marbles with acid green gold in crazy paving.
We’ll see how it turns out.
I’m still playing around with this frequency concept. My daughter really loved her Rainbow Frequency and very much wanted a Trans Frequency. I hesitated because I really don’t like the Trans flag colors, and I was not sure what degree of dark the background should be.
I finally decided to make it and intended to have a lighter gray background than how it turned out. I do think that a little bit lighter would have been better for between the light colored pieces. The background color is actually a very dark gray, even though it looks pretty black in the photo.
I just love the way the morning sun through my studio skylights shows the texture and a bit of sparkle on this mosaic.
I’ve learned a few things on this mock-up project and thought I would share. The clients have given me permission so here goes!
I created this mock-up for husband and wife clients in Panama City, FL. They lost their house in Hurricane Michael last year. Their furniture and other belongings were hit-and-miss regarding their salvagability. Their dining room set, which consists of table, chairs, and buffet, is a family heirloom and, fortunately, salvageable.
The dining set is decorated with a carved Asian design with red/cranberry and green accents. The table had four decorated panels in it, as illustrated at right. The chairs have a variation of the Chinese Shou symbol—symbolizing longevity—on the inside backs, as shown below right.
The four decorative panels swelled badly from the water and had to be removed from the table. The table, chairs, and buffet have water spots, but the clients believe they can be removed. They contacted me for consultation on the possibility of mosaic panels to replace the wooden ones.
The panels are each 16” h x 29” wide and 5/8” thick. One of the challenges will be achieving an exact 5/8” thickness. Another challenge is that the wife wants to do as much of the work as possible, and she has never made a mosaic before. It is this second challenge that helped give me a starting point.
I immediately thought about the beautiful metallic streaky Brilliance line of vitreous tile from WitsEnd Mosaic. These tiles are elegant enough for a dining table, I think, and would be relatively easy to work with for a novice. I showed the clients the full sample range of these tiles and they liked them very much and thought they might work for this project. They chose the dark cranberry (#267) as it matched the accents on the original panels and buffet. In these images, the color may look more a brick red, but it is definitely more of a cranberry.
The client entertained the idea of repeating either the symbol or elements of the original design on the mosaic panels. I did not feel the original design was feasible. However, the idea of using the symbol was more feasible and would allow for me to do the symbols and let her fill in the rest with whole tiles. This was the basis for my mock-up.
Above: Table Panel Mock-up, in three sections. I could not get the lighting the same on all three sections—aggravating! It was a bit drippy outside for photos so I took them in my studio. The leftmost and center panels are the same tile and natural gray grout. The rightmost panel is the same tile but a darker brown grout and the tiles are in a brick pattern, versus the grid pattern of the other two.
I decided to break the 16” x 29” into three sections for several reasons. I wanted to illustrate the two different laying patterns: grid and brick. I also wanted to try a couple of grout colors. And finally, I thought that making the middle section square would allow for some other use for that piece, outside of the mock-up. Oh, and I thought it would be easier to ship smaller sections; I’ll find out about that in a few days.
The clients did not specify a desired color for the symbol, so I chose the light metallic and also created the brown and green digital mock-ups below. Brown because I thought it might integrate with the table better, and green because green is one of the accent colors in the furniture.
As you can see from the images, I decided to maintain the grid pattern behind the symbol. This resulted in some very small and tricky cuts which are often difficult to get to sit and stay level, especially little triangles. While I do prefer the effect of maintaining the laying pattern behind the symbol, I wanted to come up with a simpler laying pattern that would avoid those tricky cuts (that would result from the brick laying pattern as well). The rightmost image above shows a digital illustration of an alternate laying pattern for the tiles around/behind the symbol. By surrounding the symbol with a circle of whole tiles, I can break from the overall laying pattern in a way that won’t cause visual confusion.
Originally, I grouted the symbol the same natural gray as the darker tile. I considered grouting it with a lighter grout and went back and forth on the idea before deciding not to.
At right is the original before I scraped out the grout and used a lighter one. This was a bit of a messy process and did not go exactly to plan, but I did manage to lighten the symbol grout—just don’t look too closely. Obviously, if the clients choose such a lighter symbol, I would get the grout right from the start.
So why did I change the grout? Although the symbol, with the natural gray grout, looks well defined and cohesively distinct at a viewing distance, I realized that it fractured too much at the kind of distance from which it would be viewed while sitting at the table. I did not anticipate this and so leaned something very useful.
I’m almost ready to pack the mock-ups, both mosaic and digital, and ship them to Panama City. I’m still working out a couple of ideas on getting to the 5/8” thickness that is necessary for the panels. They will be able to lay these mock-ups into one of the panel sections on the table and visualize what the table will look like with all four panels mosaicked in this way, with or without the symbol..
I’m also still working out the logistics of the potential of both she and I doing the mosaic work. I know it’s doable, but there are still decisions to be made that will impact the execution of this project, should they want to go forward with it. I do applaud the wife for wanting so passionately to do as much of the work as she can, and I hope that I can help make it happen.
I’m still fussing with photos, but it’s basically finished. I will have to have a frame custom made as I can’t find a floater frame deep enough for this piece.
I Heard the Mountain Sing 30” x 12” Marble, amethyst specimens, pyrite, glass, porcelain, mosaic gold.. Digitally framed.
I showed this to a friend and fellow mosaic artist and she said something to the effect of “I know it’s about mountains, but it looks like flowing water to me.” So, what’s with the title?
I’ve already talked about how I found the big amethyst slab in a little shop in Zermatt, Switzerland, last fall. I had such a lovely time on that trip so, to me, that slab will always remind me of beautiful Zermatt.
But more than just the amethyst, I wanted to express the way that mountains make me feel. I absolutely love the mountains, the way that some people love the ocean or the forest. When I see the mountains, they take me out of myself, they give me a sense of rising up and out—of expansiveness.
I also sometimes feel this sense of expansiveness with certain music—I just want to open my arms wide and embrace all there is in the moment. It is a spiritual experience that connects me to something bigger than myself.
The mountains sing to me in this way and open me up. This is what the title is about and also what I wanted to express in this mosaic’s andamento.
I’ve tried several times to get a good full shot that shows more texture, but no luck yet. I was able to get the shot at the right with the mosaic on my work table.
In my previous post, I linked to my in progress videos. In video, Part 2, I talked about breaking some rules. Now, in my 3rd video, I both clarify and elaborate about three unofficial mosaic rules that I am breaking.
If you’re interested in hearing about how I understand and process these rules, watch I Heard the Mountain Sing, Part 3 (Breaking Rules)
Believe it or not, I found that gorgeous large amethyst cyrstal slab in Zermat, Switzerland, for a very reasonable price and only about $50 to ship. The slab measures approximately 5 1/2” x 9” | 14cm x 23cm. It is close to 2 1/2” | 6cm thick, which required that I build up the substrate around it.
If you want to learn more about how I am making this, check out my Work In Progress videos for this project.
I made this fun little mosaic last weekend for my daughter’s 30th birthday. This may be the 2nd time in over 20 years that I have ever made a mosaic in a weekend, if indeed there has already been a first time. I like this concept and will be playing around with it some more.
This photo is a better quality than the one I posted yesterday (at right). It was taken outside in morning light. Although I adjusted it to warm up the natural coolness of the light, it still looks a bit cool. I think part of it is that it has a little more reflection going on, which does help bring out some of the texture.
I prefer the photo in studio lighting, probably because this is closest to what I see when I look at it. But the above photo is sharper and shows more detail.
Lighting can be quite vexing for an amateur such as myself.
About Familial Wounds
I think of familial wounds as being the psycho-emotional wounds that occur in our upbringing, especially through neglect and abuse. Another dimension to these wounds is that they are often ancestral, going back some number of generations. Until one is able to recognize an unhealthy family dynamic, well… it’s just your family and you have no frame of reference from which to have any judgement on it. It’s just how things are. Ignorance obscures your vision. Until an unhealthy family dynamic is recognized, it continues to be perpetuated. At the moment when there is recognition that things are not healthy—not good—a choice can be made.
By some magical confluence of happenings, I was able to recognize my own family’s very unhealthy and destructive dynamic, which began my escape from that dynamic, that worldview. While the word escape is fitting, it is also somewhat lacking because, although I escaped it, it has never left me.
My choice to follow a very different path and develop a very different worldview—a different way of seeing the world and my relationship to it—was the right choice, but it was not easy. I became an outsider in my own family, and as time went on and I continued on my path, it became more and more difficult to maintain a relationship with my parents and siblings. They could only interpret my behavior and choices through the lens of their worldview, the worldview that I was rejecting.
My family did not see an unhealthy dynamic, nor could my parents see the unhealthy dynamic in their own childhoods. So, through ignorance, it was perpetuated. The wounds live on, and are passed on, like DNA. Some wounds are like open wounds, being aggravated by all the things outside of us. Some wounds are just embedded in our tissue, recognized and healed, but they leave their mark. They change us, and in that sense they never leave.
This mosaic came out of my own experience and ruminations on familial wounds. As I was working on it, I began realizing that although I have succeeded in escaping that damaging worldview, and I have succeeded in developing what I believe is a healthy and good worldview, I can feel that old dynamic as viscerally as if I were still a part of it. I am not a part of it, but it is part of me.
So, the dimensional rings in the mosaic represent recent, open, and/or festering wounds. The embedded rings represent wounds that have healed and only their imprint remains. The gold lines represent energy: this could be seen as our body’s natural healing energy, as divine energy—grace, or just consciousness. To me, they are all of those. Of course, the color is meant to suggest tissue, raw emotional tissue. The gradation from dark to light represents hope. The dark swoops from top and bottom—defined by absence of material and connected to the outside border—can be interpreted as darkness, or the perils of the outside world. At one point, I thought of them as the daggers of life. The mosaic as a whole speaks to the healing process—we can recognize our wounds, make different choices, and heal. However, the wounds leave their mark, a testament to change and growth that helps define who we become.
Though the initial concept was of emotional wounds, it evolved toward what is for me the more potent issue of familial wounds. And I can’t say that I had even thought of it in those terms before. The work helped me more fully understand that it is familial wounds that have left their mark on me, and led me to the life I live. Bless those beautiful wounds!
I’m calling this a preview because this is not a final photo. I have not finished out the back or framed it, and it needs a final cleaning. I took the phot in my studio and the lighting is uneven. It is rather large and I will need to try to get better photos outside. Unfortunately, our weather has been pretty drippy and dreary of late and it is raining as I write this. It is, however, supposed to be sunny for the next couple of days.
I started this mosaic last March (it was formerly titled Self Portrait № 2) but got distracted with a commission and then a couple of voluntary mosaic detours. I got back to work on this in September and have worked earnestly to complete it since then. It has been quite a process and a journey as well.
This mosaic became more and more personal and tormenting to me as I progressed. I suppose that makes sense. It was rather odd to me that the work became more and more strenuous until, in the final weeks, I was overwhelmed with how technically difficult it was: the sheer labor of it was walloping me.
It was technically difficult from the beginning. Creating the curves against empty space, and also the embedded rings defined by empty space, while maintaining the horizontal and vertical grid-like field, was extremely challenging. But it was only as the work became more personal, and shifted in concept from wounds to familial wounds, that it became more and more physically challenging.
At the same time, I have been trying to work more loosely and leave my perfectionism behind, in hopes of exploring artistic vision over technical mastery. I chose not to use a grinder and relied on hand tools only. There is nothing wrong with a grinder, but I find it encourages my obsessive perfectionism. And obsessive perfectionism is really miserable.
I’ll write more about it as I post final photos.
Here’s a slideshow of my best photos from our time in Europe in September.
I was very happy to have sold a few mosaics at the Bandon Library’s 4th Annual Mosaic Show in June, in Bandon, OR. The two pieces, above from my Rhythms series found new homes, as well as the two minis below.
These were two of six little mosaics I did as part of the 2008 MAO Monthly Challenge. Their titles reflect the theme of the challenge.
Memoryware 3” x 2” | 8cm x 5cm. Broken Spode, costume jewelry, glass beads.
Architecture 3” x 2” | 8cm x 5cm. Onyx, hematite, shell, glass, Swarovski crystals.
Finished! There are still a couple of areas where I’m not sure how the navigation should be handled, if indeed there is a should to be known, but I’m resisting the temptation to tinker with it further. I’m sure there are a few different ways in which it could be handled, and I’m hoping that I’ve landed on one of them.
I’m mostly happy with it, and I enjoyed the entire process. My work in Procreate was very beneficial and I look forward to using it on my next project, which I will get to after I finish a large one that is already in progress.
I have now finished 3 unfinished mosaics in the past 2-3 years, ones that sat waiting for years, the longest wait being over 15 years. It feels good to finish things on which I had previously given up. I’ve still got 2 more unfinished mosaics from years past, but I’m going to move on to a few new works first.