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.
This piece was meant to be a fun little diversion. After I finished Stabby, I wanted to just play with some of my back yard shale—the 8 large pieces of stone— and some special stones—5 small rocks— that were gifted to me by a fellow mosaic artist.
The large shale piece in the lower right of the mosaic cracked as I was cementing it in place; however, only the topmost layer of it cracked. The crack was too rough to leave it, so I played with spreading it a little bit. This created the crevice. If you look at it closely, you can see that although it looks like two pieces, it is actually a single piece.
As I contemplated what to do with the crevice, it seems that Kilauea's activity on our family's favorite and much-visited Hawaiian island called to me. Before that, I was just going to use green shades of smalti for the piece.
I just happened to have some red/orange/yellow scraps from previous projects, as well as some blues, so I decided to rely on scraps as much as possible. As it turns out, I only put a dent in the red scraps.
As I worked, I began paying more and more attention to the andmento. This turned out to be the most challenging thing I have attempted—andamento wise—since Giulio Menossi's portraiture classes.
The flow areas around the large shale pieces average an inch or less, so the smalti is cut quite small. What started out as a fun little diversion turned into a multi-week, serious technical exercise. Ugh! How did this happen? Why can't I just play? And, another familiar refrain: What was I thinking???
I ended up reworking a few areas that were done earlier, of course, because I just couldn't let it go, could I? It was very difficult to flow the smalti around a couple of areas in the shale pieces and the stone obstacles—a.k.a. land masses and islands, and there are a couple of areas that I'm still not completely happy with, but I'm calling it done!
Stabby seems right at home in my daughter's beautiful San Jose condo. Her new console table, which will sit directly beneath the mosaic, won't be delivered for a few more weeks, unfortunately. Of course, I'll want a photo of the complete effect once the table arrives, which I trust Allison will be able to provide.
In the last few days since finishing Stabby, I've been playing around with simple patterns and color combinations for decorative 2" frame options. I've put them all together on these two idea boards.
The bottom board includes corner option patterns. I've come to prefer a continuous pattern around the frame, without any corner deviation of the pattern, but—surprise—not everyone is like me. 😎
I was able to primarily use remains from previous projects that I have accumulated over the many years of making decorative frames, bottles, magnets, and a few boxes.
Now, it's time to get back to an art piece that I started before Stabby came into my life. I'll also be transitioning to working on an easel after 20+ years of working on a table. I guess I'm ready for an adventure!
See all Stabby posts here.
Well, what can I say? This nearly life-sized, pixellated unicorn head is finished and ready for transport to San Jose, CA! Allison loves her mosaic unicorn and is awaiting her with open arms and wall space.
I completely enjoyed this project, as is always the case when I have the opportunity to do something that I would never have thought of doing on my own. I learned some good stuff and I am thrilled with the final outcome.
I'll be visiting Allision when Stabby arrives, and we will hang the mosaic together. I'll get some in situ pics at that time. If we're lucky, her new console table, above which Stabby will hang, will be delivered before I have to come back home. Otherwise, Allison is a capable photographer and she can try to capture the complete ambiance.
This little mosaic was driven by the large stone specimen in the lower left corner. I suppose I did not need to say that as it does seem pretty obvious, doesn't it?
I had a bit of a struggle with where that stone—my storyteller—wanted to go. The whole design felt foreign to me at first, and a part of me tried to talk me out of it.
The vague, gold linear pattern in the upper left made its way there through some kind of cosmic force, I think, because my rational mind thought it made no sense. But, at the same time, it made complete sense. A barely visible pattern, like some kind of ancient map or symbol, was needed by the storyteller. It took two days of internal debate for me to allow that to happen.
This piece is such a surprise to me. It feels very symbolic and mysterious. As I was making it, it felt very archetypal, in the Jungian sense. It called to me, spoke to me, of travels and discovery, and of the interior journey of finding oneself over and over again: of searching and searching and of being led home to find that you already have what you've been looking for. A very old story, indeed.
The three specimens—the two stones and the petrified shell—were a gift from Luis, a fellow artist and friend in northern Spain, making these specimens ancient travelers across land and sea.
Past Life 60" x 36" | 91cm x 152 cm. Vitreous, slate, jasper, agate, moonstone, snow quartz, prehnite, mother of pearl, celestite, rhyolite, rhodonite, pyrite, copper, ceramic, mosaic gold, other glass.
Okay, here are final pics of this past life saga. With the help of my husband and son, we successfully hung it last weekend. It is very heavy, at least 60 lbs., although my husband thought 75. The ceramic and slate tile border is a good part of that weight.
I used a Z-bar type of hanger and managed to install the wall side of the hanger perfectly level! A fitting reward to mark the end of this 19-year effort.
A window is directly opposite of the mosaic, and this provides varied lighting throughout the day. These photos show during the day and then later with much less exterior light.
I'm on to new work!
It's finally finished, and it only took about 19 years!
I enjoyed working on this during the past few months. It was nice to not obsess about it, to work more loosely, and to not be attached to an outcome.
- Please forgive the photo. This is the best I could get with it still on my work table. The light from the skylight is making the left side of the water look too light. I will try to get a better photo once it is hanging on a wall.
- Actually, the water and the darkest part of the sky are the same color. Bad lighting.
- The border. Hmm... One of those what-was-I-thinking kind of things. It is a bit heavy, but the multi-colored slate is a very pretty tile.
- I like the sky colors—actually all the colors.
- The moon may be a bit too bright. I'm pondering whether to put a very light gray wash on the white grout.
- I intended to have more movement in the sky, but after I got past the first layer above the mountains, I seemed to settle into no movement. I was aware of this, and just decided to go with it.
- I give myself a passing grade of C on the sky gradient. I'm not very good at this kind of thing, and I would normally obsess over it and rework and adjust like crazy, eventually yielding something that makes it look like I know what I am doing. No obsessing here; no standing back to get perspective.
- The lower gradients are not as good as the top-most one. I think I was getting the hang of it by the time I reached the top. It was challenging using different-sized pieces.
- I still don't like the interior shape in the moon, but the white grout helps to soften it.
- When I decided to finish this, I also decided that I would not change anything that had already been done. If I would have changed one thing about it, it would have been that moon; the frame comes in a close 2nd.
- Back in 1999, I named this Fullness. However, in the past couple of weeks, it demanded a new name. It is now titled Past Life.
- I think that I finished it—19 years after I started it—in a way that is harmonious with its haphazard and amateurish beginnings.
Other posts about this mosaic can be found here: Fullness
Here's a preliminary photo of my recent commission. I'll get final pics after I frame it; it is currently shown in a digitally created frame.
The client wanted something in the same style as On The Horizon, and especially wanted some amethyst. Almost as soon as we started discussing it, I had a strong intuition to abstractly express both her husband and herself, and their relationship, but I did not initially share this concept. I asked what minerals her husband was more attracted to, and he claimed turquoise.
A couple of days later, I presented her with this idea to do two faux panels, one for each of them, and have them relate and connect with each other via the flow. She really loved the idea!
So, after finishing up all those frames, I decided to have a bit of fun making these little magnets. I used some scrap 1/4" thick masonite for the bases, and was able to use mostly leftover tess from previous projects.
Then, I decided to include them in my online store, which I mentioned a few weeks ago. I've been working many hours to get the store front set up and—my goodness—what a lot of work that is! Even though I don't have many items, it's still a big project: photos, pricing, packaging, shipping! It's a whole new world, and my hat's off to all of you who have already tackled this.
In listing the magnets on the store front, I needed to come up with names for all these little guys, and that was actually a fun diversion. I just named them after family and friends that came to mind as I considered each magnet.
I know that I keep saying that I am ready to get to work on that art piece, but I'm going to stop saying that. I will allow myself to work through some more of my decorative inventory for at least another month or so. And who knows, maybe longer! It feels good to be making use of some of the things that I've collected over the years.
STUDIO BOOK is something that I have been working on for at least the last nine months. I wanted to have photos in my studio of a couple of large commissions and some other works that I don't own anymore. But as I got started working on it, it kind of grew into a larger idea.
The book contains the usual gallery-type display of mosaics: Three series, 10 non-series works, some decorative pieces, a few Small Things, and 6 workshop/class projects. Additionally, I've included some WIP photos—Inside the Studio—for 6 of the works in the book. I did my best to add brief commentary where I thought it might be useful.
This is a big book, 12" x 12", and has some really nice, large photos, as well as a few studio, not-the-greatest pics, in particular the WIP photos and ones of my earlier mosaics—the oldest one being from 1996.
It will be another few weeks before it's officially finished, but it's finished enough for me to share some spreads with you.
The sixth and better-be-last mirror frame that I will do for quite some time, this bronze, gray and silver one is really quite pretty. This photo, although better than I thought I would be able to get, does not do the mosaic frame justice, but I'm going to try to live with it for awhile before deciding to pack up all six mirrors and take them in for professional attention.
Since the outside light was fairly favorable when I took the above photo, I decided to work the other five. The results were mixed, but mostly more successful than the previous photos, so I will share them here.
Just look at the difference between the two above! My goodness! I think that the photo on the right is a little better in quality than the one on the left, which I took this morning. Not sure why I've had such trouble with this one. The one on the right is, of course, closer to what it looks like inside, which is where it is meant to hang.
It feels very gratifying to have mosaicked these six mirror frames—four frames that I've had for years, and two old mirrors (the largest ones). It's a bit like purging while cleaning house, but I guess I did not really get rid of anything, I've just transformed them. And I do so love to transform things.
Of course, I have Lucy to thank; were it not for her ACL surgery, I probably would have moved on to some art work. I'll trust that the time was just not right. But soon it will be! I plan to get back to an old art piece in the next week or so.
Copper, Orange, Gold Mirror. 24" x 28" Mirror and Van Gogh glass.
Yes, still at it! This is the fifth frame I have mosaicked while keeping Lucy company in the kitchen as she recovers from her ACL surgery. She is doing well but still not ready to have an unsupervised run of the house, much less be up in my studio on the slick laminate floor. So, another few weeks in the kitchen for me. I just can't bear to keep her in her indoor pen for very long during the day, if I can avoid it.
Neither of these photos is terribly good, but together they give an idea of how #5 turned out. (I may have to take these mirrors in for professional photographing as I believe that they are beyond my skill level.) I had a 20" x 16" beveled mirror in a closet, with a rather unfortunate frame. So, off came the frame and on with this new one. Additionally, I've framed the mosaic frame in a black floater frame, like the previous four.
Another 30" x 22" beveled mirror from our old house, in a closet for about 20 years, will soon be acquiring its new frame. I will spend the next few weeks, as Lucy continues her recovery, on the largest frame of the six, measuring 37" x 29". I've already started it, using a neutral palette of bronze, silver, gray, and black.
I've finished those four frames that I had—mosaicked them, installed beveled mirrors, and then framed them in floater frames. I'm satisfied with my efforts.
I photographed them today, and I was sorry that my cool photo studio was not as helpful as I would have liked it to be for these mirrors. The larger mirrors, in particular, were difficult. I did my best, but still had imbalanced lighting and reflection. They were not as sharp as I would like, especially the larger two, and especially the blue of the larger two. These will have to do for now. Maybe when the weather clears up, I will try outside.
I think that most of the difficulty is due to the glass tiles, and certainly the mirror tiles. I still have high hopes for photographing art pieces, and my results with the bottles were overall acceptable.
Two more mirror frames to go! I had a couple of mirrors stored away, in frames that I did not like, so I removed them from their original decorative frames and decided to go ahead and make new frames for them while I am deep into this decorative phase. These are larger frames with 4" surface to mosaic, versus the 2" of the above frames. Maybe by the time Lucy's knee is healed, I will be finished with these two mirrors.
In a previous post, I mentioned four frames that I had acquired some years ago. They are all odd sizes so I need to have the beveled mirrors custom made. The one standing up in the photo above, which I just finished mosaicking—but not grouted yet— is 16" x 19.5",and is the largest of the four.
They each have a very nice matte black finish and it pains me to have sand down such a nice finish in order to improve adherence.
My plan is to put the beveled mirrors in them, and then possibly frame then in wood floater frames. They should be very pretty.
So, this is what I have been up to in my kitchen while closely monitoring Lucy as she recovers from her knee surgery.
Here's the latest in my bottle binge, another one of those Italian pinot grigio bottles. I like this palette a lot.
I am a bit bottled out for now, even though I have a few more. I'm going to switch gears and mosaic four frames that I have, which will probably become mirrors.
I'll be working a good amount of time out my kitchen over the coming weeks, so that I can monitor our dog who is recovering from knee surgery. This decorative technique is much more portable than if I were working on an art piece, so I'll continue with decorative work into the summer.
These frames should go pretty quickly, and it will be nice to work flat again, before finishing up the bottles.
The first frame will be in this same palette, because I like it so darned much!
Well, another week, another bottle! These 1800® Tequila bottles are a joy to mosaic. The flat, rectangular-ish sides are nice to work with. And did you know that the corners are beveled?
I'm not sure about the glass stoppers. The last time I was looking at 1800® Tequila in a liquor store, the bottles they had did not have glass stoppers. I hope that they are still making some bottles with the glass stoppers because they are quite nice. I would like to do a couple more of these bottles. I think that I've seen smaller ones than this one, and I just might have to drink some more margaritas.
Anyway, here is the latest product of my decorative detour. The palette is very unusual for me, but I have made peace with it. I agree with my daughter's assessment that it is a handsome bottle. It is actually quite neutral and I like that.
My decorative indulgence may extend into the summer. I've got a few more bottles lined up, and I may go ahead and mosaic a few frames. Years ago, someone gave me four medium-sized frames that were in almost-new condition. I really should just go ahead and take care of those while I am in a deco frame of mind. I see mirrors in my near future.
About the photos: I took these photos in my cool new Portable Photo Studio. To try and avoid the small bit of reflection through the small picture-taking window—such a problem for these mirror tiles—I tried shooting slightly down on the bottle. It was very helpful in dealing with that reflection, but the bottle looks slightly distorted—a bit top-heavy, perhaps?—especially the side view. What do you think?