Before I Was An Artist, #3 / by Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics

Yes, so, what happened last week...

With the holidays well behind me and the adult kids back to their lives, the house was quiet again. I decided it was time to clean my studio, which had become rather piled up with remnants of the Thomas decorations - spray paint, axles and wheels that I made out of hardware for the snack train, railroad track cutouts, etc., a couple of wood specimens in need of some preservation, shale specimens that I was... am... continuing to collect from our woods when out with the dog - basically, just stuff, the kind of stuff that seems to pile up. 

While cleaning I came across 5 unfinished mosaics that I was confronting for not at all the first time. The oldest one was from 6 years ago and, although I muddled the idea of it early in its execution, I could never give up on it. I thought it was a cool idea when I started it, and every time I found myself considering what to do about it, I still thought it was a cool idea. Last year, I decided to either come up with a way to make this cool idea work or give up on it and throw the dang thing away. So I rethought it and came up with a reset plan. Unfortunately, it was about the time that I was running out of mosaic fuel so I turned my back on it yet again.


 

So here it is at right, my 6 year old neglected concept. A simple repeating pattern of lines in a grid of 9" x 9" squares - beautifully geometric, implying all those triangles and teasing other angular shapes. Just my kind of thing. The lines are in bumpy gold, raised on thin wooden rods, so the gold lines will extend above the surface of the mosaic. The sides of the gold lines were painted (brown, hmm...), which I thought would give a lot of interest from different views and the bumpy gold would reflect those elegant lines.

For some mysterious reason, I proceeded to use a mix of light, neutral tess, cut very intricately (as you can see in the lower image), kind of like an overhead city view, with little crystals, shells, minerals imbedded. I got one of the 9 squares done like this, and then I think I got distracted with a big commission. By the time I was revisiting it, I realized that I had muddled the concept, needed more contrast, and there was no way in hell that I was going to do 30 square inches in that ridiculously intricate work. 

 

Click on image to zoom.

 

Last week, I decided that it still has potential to be a very striking work, just the kind of thing I would love, so it's a keeper. Two other of the 5 should also be finished, I concluded. One of the 5 should be abandoned - just tossed, and the last one should first be cannibalized for it's good mineral specimens and then abandoned. Will I actually finish any of the 3? I have no idea, but I do feel a spark of interest. 

I found myself puttering around in my studio in the following days, not for any length of time. It felt so good to be puttering in my studio. The idea of maybe doing something to contribute to that 6 year old mosaic reaching its glorious potential slowly started becoming less repulsive, then palatable, then, well, let's just see if I can get that stuff scraped off and then reassess the situation.

Over the weekend, I scraped and yanked the beautifully and intricately cut, and completely wrong, marble from the Wedi substrate, pulling up most of the fiberglass mesh and foam core along with it. I had doubled the Wedi, which was working to my advantage these 6 years later, and the damage was isolated to about a 9" square corner. I was able to salvage a lot of the foam, pieced it back into the hole, and secured it with Weldbond. After it dried, I finished patching with thin set. After sanding it down, it's almost good as new. I've got to change something else to accommodate my reset plan, and then I'll see if its time may have come.

Let's not get carried away. I'm still on sabbatical, although I may qualify it as a sabbatical from any new work. Although I have some ideas percolating - all because I finally went in to clean up my studio last week - I don't think I'm where I need to be to birth anything new. My head is not on straight yet. Mosaic just became so consuming, I feared more an escape than an expression. I don't want to get lost again. I don't want to do it for the wrong reasons. I don't want to make anything that doesn't truly need to be made.

But maybe I can finish something that needs to be finished...