New Work

Self Portrait

I finished it!

I drug this old project out of the closet almost 2 years ago. Hold on, a bit of history may be in order first. About 7 years ago, I was not even 1/8th of the way through this project before I realized that I was on the wrong track. So I did what any normal person would do in such a situation and I got busy with other things. However, not ready to abandon the original idea, I just put the piece away in a closet.

Self Portrait (2016) 30" x 30" | 76cm x 76cm. Marble, mosaic gold, smalti, Swarovski crystal

A couple+ years ago, I was cleaning my studio and deciding what unfinished projects to give up on and which ones to consider finishing. I decided to give this project another go and rethought it. I came up with a strategy that would better support the original concept, and also give me an opportunity to improve my hammer-cutting skill. I tested out the idea on a small corner and decided that it was a good way to go.

Long story short: Got into a bad place with my work, took sabbatical, sabbatical turned into quasi-sabbatical which allowed finishing old stuff but not trying new stuff, decided to plug away on this project while new studio renovation was underway, halted work on project—then 1/2 finished—for renovation, resumed work a few months ago after moving into new studio, finally finished it! So, I guess you could say that this has been a 10-year project.

Well, of course, I am not quite sure how much I do or don't like it, although I think the side perspective is pretty cool!. By the time I resumed work on it in the new studio, I was wishing that I had decided on turquoise instead of red but, alas, that ship had sailed, so to speak. The main thing, however, is that I finished it! And I have greatly improved my hammer-cutting skill. So, good deal. Very good deal! And my first project finished in my new studio!

I've yet to frame it but here it is. Please forgive the photo quality.

 

 

Songs from White Hole, continued

Songs from White Hole #2: Tree Voices   3" x 3" | 8 cm x 8 cm. Marble, stone, mosaic gold

Songs from White Hole #2: Tree Voices 3" x 3" | 8 cm x 8 cm. Marble, stone, mosaic gold

Early in the year, I made about 10 3" x 3" substrates, partly because I knew that I would be doing something with the stones that my cousins collected last August, while we were at the White Hole Resort in Flippin, AR. 

I've been a bit slow to work on the little commemorative pieces, but I've now finished the second little mosaic. I've started the third, but mostly likely will not have it finished until later in June. 

As we would sit on the back porch of one of the cabins, along the river, the trees were full of birds that kept up a constant kind of chattering music. 

 

Loner — WIP

A couple of posts ago, I told you about my new project that is inspired by a book project. You can find that post here. Here is an in-progress pic of that project.. 

Loner, in progress. 20" x 36" | 51 cm x 91 cm. Vitreous, travertine, marble, obsidian specimen, amazonite

I had not intended to include one of the obsidian specimens that was my brother's. Neither did I intend to have this mosaic be about him. But, that is just the direction that it has gone. 

Obviously, I am trying to make it look like a triptych. I've never tried this before. My plan is to apply some black thin-set around the edge and between the three sections. I'm also getting good practice with sdoppiamento, and cutting marble and travertine into thin squares and rectangles with the hammer.

This is a nice, peaceful project that feels like my brother. 

Songs from White Hole

Songs from White Hole: Echo  . 3" x 3" | 8 cm x 8cm. Marble, smalti, mosaic gold, stone. Hand-formed substrate.

Songs from White Hole: Echo. 3" x 3" | 8 cm x 8cm. Marble, smalti, mosaic gold, stone. Hand-formed substrate.

Last August found me in Flippin, AR, at the White Hole Resort. Yes, I said Flippin. My cousin's family has enjoyed an annual stay at this fishing resort along the White River for many years. In recent years, other family members have started joining in, and it has now become an unofficial family reunion, of sorts. 

Last year was my family's first time there, and it was a rather poignant time. My cousin had died unexpectedly in the spring and his presence was painfully missed. And, though we did not know it, this occasion would be the last time that any of us would see my younger brother who died, also unexpectedly, last October. 

A few of my cousins collected stones that called to them so that I could create something commemorating our time together. Here is the first one in the series. 

Way Back...

Over ten years ago, I found this book by Sarah Kelly.  This was in my early years, when I was still doing a lot of decorative work, and before I had even thought about working with stone.

I really loved the project shown on the pages (below left), created by Juliet Docherty. I don't know why I never tried it. I think I was trying to figure out smalti, or something, and veered away from vitreous glass projects.

Even further back, in about 1996, I found Mosaic Mercantile as a vitreous glass supplier. I called and ordered a catalog and some small mixed sets. No internet ordering — it was all by phone. It was so exciting to receive the shipment of tiles; I thought that they were so beautiful, especially the metallic ones. That Gypsy mix is still my fave! This was before I even thought about trying smalti, much less knew where to buy it.

Over the years, I've continued to buy vitreous glass for various mixed material projects, and I have a lot — a lot — that deserves to be used. Now, after so many years, I am revisiting Juliet Docherty's Decorative Panel project. I think that my Beginner's Mind exercises have given me the freedom to go back in time, more or less, so I've started a new mosaic that is inspired by the above project.

That metallic vitreous is beautiful and I'm using a lot of it. After finishing a lower section, it was so strange to have mosaicked a large, flat area. And the little squares are so... square. I've got to work harder to let them be more loose. 

Beginner's Mind #4

Beginner's Mind #4. 10" x 8" | 25 cm x 20 cm. Smalti, porcelain, mosaic gold, vitreous, other glass

Beginner's Mind #4, detail

Beginner's Mind #4, detail

My favorite of all four exercises, I believe that this is the most successful attempt to get close to a beginner's perspective. My cutting is loose and I worked rather freely. I started this going a different direction than where I ended up. 

Of course, I can't work like a beginner; that ship has sailed. But I was able to allow myself to let things go, to not focus on precise technique, to experiment — especially with this one, and to let go of the outcome. 

I tried to make a space to learn and to enjoy. I've never quite done anything like this one before, having the blues and yellows meet in this extreme zig-zag manner — and I think it works very well. I'm so pleased with myself to have tried something different, very different. 

Now, could a beginner really do something like this? I think so. Certainly, on a bit smaller scale. I was actually surprised by how fast it went and how forgiving it was.

The blues are very nice mixed this way. I failed to capture it, but the blue glitter tile that I used has some pink/red sparks that show in certain light; the iridescent blue, as well, sometimes reflects pinks/purples, which I did capture some of on the full image.

What an interesting couple of weeks or so. Starting out too complex and controlled, I made my way to a place which reflects the spirit of working like a beginner — or, at least, like a student. This was also an enjoyable exercise which has helped me appreciate my skill level, and the fact that there is plenty more to learn, and unlearn.

I'm feeling prepared and excited for my class, and I'm happy to have four different examples for inspiration and instruction. I've also completely nailed down the materials, of which there is a good variety. 

Beginner's Mind #3

Beginner's Mind #3

Beginner's Mind #3, detail. 10" x 8" | 25 cm x 20 cm. Smalti, mosaic gold, vitreous, other glass

I don't have much to say about this one, except that it was a fun, breezy few hours. I'm not usually into very high-contrast, like this blue with this yellow smalti, but this yellow is a little brighter than the one the class will be using. Still, I like the texture and I can imagine what a larger piece in this design would be like.

Beginner's Mind #2

Beginner's Mind #2. 10" x 8" | 25 cm x 20 cm. Smalti, vitreous, mosaic gold, other glass

 

For my 2nd attempt at getting into a beginner state of mind, l decided to simplify, stick with blues, and add a bit of gold in a rather wicky-wacky style. My cutting was much more loose and I actually tried to make the lines a bit crooked, although it barely shows.

I think a beginner could definitely tackle something like this. Even with the whole smalti and half pieces of vitreous, there is plenty of demanding cutting for a novice to deal with. I actually think that, should a beginner take on this linear-textile-y kind of thing, it would turn out better than this one of mine, as it would probably be more loose, less straight, have more movement, and be much more charming.

I'm sticking with this 10" x 8" size for my exercises to try to even out some of my experience advantage. This one went pretty fast and was quite enjoyable just working with those beautiful blues.

Speaking of the blues, I used two different smalti blues in this one than I did in the first one. Although they are close, I prefer the blues in the first one. 

I've finished my 3rd one and will post it next. It's a geometric, repeating pattern design, and went very quickly. Again, fun to make. The 4th will not be linear or geometric, but rather something with some curves. 

Beginner's Mind

Beginner's Mind #1. 10" x 8" | 25cm x 20cm. Smalti, vitreous, mosaic gold, marble, porcelain, other glass. 

This series is my attempt to work from a beginner state of mind. Initiated by a class that I am teaching, I wanted to have some examples for the students and wanted the examples to truly reflect something that they could achieve within the class hours. 

Focusing on texture, the students will create an 8" x 8" or 7" x 9" piece using a palette of blues and golds/yellows. The variety of materials will present a good challenge for a mostly beginner class. Note: I feel I must give a nod to Sonia King, as part of my inspiration for this class came from a piece I made, Remembering Istanbul, in her 2010 Istanbul workshop. While the design and textured execution were my own, she set the color palette and, of course, gave her expert guidance.

My first attempt, shown above, turned out to be too complex for a beginner to create in the time period that we will have. I realized this about halfway through, but wanted to finish it anyway. It will still be instructional in illustrating ways to treat the various materials, and could be simplified.

My second attempt, which I will post in the next few days, was more successful in that I am sure that a beginner could accomplish something similar, and I was able to work much, much more loosely than I did on the first. I must say, it was quite enjoyable. 

I am finding that it's a wonderful, although challenging, process to try to work in a beginner state. I am able to reflect on some things about myself, as an artist and mosaicist, through this foray into a beginner's mind, and I find that very exciting. I'll share some of those reflections when this little exercise is over.

I plan to make at least four examples, and maybe six. The only downside is that I am going to have to order more materials as I am using them all up. But what fun!