Other People's Work

Last week, I put the final touches on my studio wing and finished placing pieces of my very small collection of other people's mosaics. Take a look!

Entering my studio, you can see my Brooks Tower and Irit Levy flanking the entry on right and left, respectively, and the little yellow Ilona Fried on the near right.

I Gave You Latham, by Brooks Tower.

This Irit Levy piece may have a title but it is not on the back of it, and I don't remember as I acquired this several years ago. It may be called   Nude   or something like that. 

This Irit Levy piece may have a title but it is not on the back of it, and I don't remember as I acquired this several years ago. It may be called Nude or something like that. 

This little yellow cutie is by Ilona Fried, and is also without title.

My Sophie Drouin, the work on the right, is titled Red Tide.

And here is a small grouping: Upper right is by Wendy Raven and is without title; lower right is Pam Givens' Bloom Where You Are #5; lower left is Jeannot Leenan's pretty blue pansy, also without title; upper left are by Heidi Easton-Pichler (in the back) and the little J mosaic is by Kathy Thaden.

A Look Back

A dear friend of mine sent me a photo this morning, a photo which took me back in time.

So many years ago, Carole wanted me to make an elephant mosaic for a triptych frame that she had bought. This had to be over 15 years ago—certainly in my early mosaic days. 

The first pic shows the 3 small panels in the frame. The other pic, which my friend just sent me this morning, shows the panels, minus the frame, as they hang in her new place in Houston. As I recall, I mosaicked the original masonite backing panels that came with the frame.

It's interesting to look at old work.

Before I Was An Artist, #11

With summer travels and home renovation, things have been incredibly busy the past few months. But the renovation is mostly finished and my new studio is operational. If you would like to see my new space, check out this blog post

After a few very small mosaic tasks, I'm almost ready to rejoin the mosaic world and focus on finishing a couple of works. My sabbatical turned quasi-sabbatical and then back to full sabbatical during the renovation has been very good for me. This blog series, as well, has been helpful, and I feel it will be even more helpful if I continue it.

So, we left off in about 2006 with the idea of essential mosaic, or work that is uniquely mosaic. My first introduction to the concept was by Gary Drostle, who described it as work that would not be as successful in any other medium. I'm pondering a tighter qualification, that being work that can only be successful in mosaic. What do you think?

As the riddle of essential mosaic nagged at me, I attempted to chase it and began creating abstract mosaics and working with a variety of materials. I came to realize that I love line. And simplicity of design. And minimal color palette. And precision.

Simplicity of design and minimal color palette gave me a sense of space. Precision gave me a sense of ease, which actually sounds nonsensical as precision is not at all easy. But precision made things make sense, made the pieces make sense to each other—to meet on equal terms, made silence instead of noise. I still feel the same way today, although I now understand how precision is vulnerable to perfectionism. 

In this time period, I was paying more attention to texture and was experimenting with dimension. I also began thinking in terms of works in series. Music To My Eyes was the first series, based on classical music forms and particular compositions in the form, as well as the use of mosaic gold to express movement.

Below are the first two in the series, Etude and Nocturne, 2007 and 2009, respectively

Mosaic gold is quite unique and extremely responsive to light. The texture and shadow inherent in hand-cut glass and stone are also unique to mosaic. But, are these essentially mosaic? Would they be as successful in any other medium? 

Another series was called Vertical, but it is now called Lines. I was inspired by Brit Hammer's textural mosaics which were worked in lines, or as she referred to them, stripes. She worked mostly in glass and with a lot of color, and in a more relaxed style. Of course, I loved the idea of working linearly, but I did not want to copy her; I had to make it my own. 

Below are two early pieces from the Lines series:

At left is the first piece in the series, Pulse, 2008I was experimenting with a much wider range of materials and also with beads.

It was mostly easy to work monochromatically, in black, gray, and white, but combining the matte marble/stone vs the more highly saturated glass was a challenge that I would increasingly face as I tried to work with more color later on. 

Also, I did not want it to look like stripes, which presented the biggest challenge, both technically and compositionally, in changing materials—going from smalti-sized tess to very small beads.

In retrospect, I think that the best thing about this series was that I worked with so many different materials and learned a lot about how they work together, and sometimes how they didn't.


At right is another in the Lines series from 2008, Rhythms: September. For this Rhythms sub-series, I made an 8" x 8" mosaic for each month of 2008 in this Lines style

What do you think? Did I make my own lines, distinctive from Brit Hammer's? And is this essentially mosaic? Would these pieces work in anything but mosaic? 

During this time period of 2007 - 2009, I was working a lot and consciously trying to make art. I guess you could say that I was being an artist

Over time, as I was being an artist, I was increasingly taking myself more seriously, which just might be at the heart of my struggle with being an artist.  Part of the reason for this, I have come to realize, had to do with my increased awareness of and interaction with the—thanks to the internet— quickly expanding mosaic world. 

That's enough for this post. I'll continue with around 2010 in the next post. Thank you for following!

Studio Wing, WIP (cont.) — PLEASE HELP!

I'm starting to think of organization for my materials in my new studio. I'll have shelves that line the long sides of the studio, probably enough shelving for my smalti (both Mexican and Italian), and vitreous, as well as all my stone, ceramic, other glass, etc. I'll be using clear jars for the tess. In my old studio, I organized colors within material, with only the most-used materials in the immediate studio area. I've got plenty of room in the new studio to have it all—or at least most of it—on the shelves along the walls, so I'm considering how I should group things.

Question: Group materials by color within material, or by material within color?

Color within material: For example, I would have the vitreous grouped together I'm one area, the Mexican smalti together, the Italian smalti together, etc., with each material then grouped by individual shade and value. 

Material within color: For example, material within color being all the blue vitreous along with all the blue Mexican smalti along with all the blue Italian smalti, and possibly any other blue material like ceramic, C3, etc. So, all similar shades and values of blues in the same area, regardless of material. Of course, they would then be grouped by shade and value within the color. 

Which makes more sense to you? How is your studio organized? I welcome your thoughts!





Studio Wing, WIP (cont.)

Okay, so here's the latest on my new studio! It has just been too messy in there to take nice pics, so I waited until they did a cleaning. It's looking fabulous! The walls are up and the trim carpenters are next in line, as well as the air-conditioning. We're getting there, but it's looking like end of July—certainly not end of June, especially since we have to shut down work for a couple of weeks in July while we go on vacation.

View into the studio wing.

Just inside the entry to the studio wing. 

The living area/guest room in the studio wing.

Looking down into the studio from the living area.

At the doorway of the studio.

Inside the studio, looking at what will be my office area in the new gable.

Well, this is just too good to be true! I can't believe the transformation of the attic and space above the garage. I'm going for a spacious, clean, light, and airy decor, so I'm keeping flooring and walls very neutral in color and light in shade. 

I ordered my flooring a few days ago. After much deliberation, I decided on a laminate in White Hickory. I had laminate in my old studio and it actually held up quite well over 18 years. The laminate was on sale, about .30 per sf less than the vinyl that I was considering. I just did not feel like the vinyl would hold up as well under the foot-crushing of pieces of glass and stone. The studio alone is about 1250 sf—AWE-SOME! We're using the same laminate throughout the new wing. 

I've ordered my shelving, thanks to a very generous birthday gift of $$ from my husband and two of my kids. I've also been looking into gallery hanging systems. I have some great new wall space and I love the look and apparent convenience of more professional-looking hanging systems. If anyone has any experience with these, I welcome your advice.

Yes, I'm in that daydreaming, visualizing phase. I'm also in that slightly overwhelmed stage. It will be quite a job to set up a studio of this size—and it's not just the studio, it's the entire space. Then there is also the other end of the house with the new game room. I have not been blogging about that because it's not mosaic-related, but's it's been going on at the same time as the studio wing, although that project is not nearly as complex as the studio wing. We also happen to be replacing our roof and painting the exterior of the house right now. 

Yep, I'm ready for that vacation. But, still not complaining. Okay. Maybe just a bit. But it's all great! 

Before I Was An Artist, #10

Today, there are painters, roofers, and a drywall crew working both outside and inside. Managing the various aspects of our renovation does help keep me busy, but not too busy to miss having a studio and things to make. 

So, I'll busy myself by going back in time to the year 2007 or so in my mosaic career. Having returned from a very rewarding Orsoni master class experience the previous year, I decided to take the step from hobby to art, and I started making art. Intrigued and inspired by Maestro Orsoni's directive to Think Mosaic, which I talked about in this post, I started down a path—although not fully conscious of it at the time—to explore what I have come to think of as work that is essentially mosaic.

Etude, detail (2007) My first attempt to Think Mosaic!

What do I mean by essentially mosaic?  Well, there are three happenings that helped form my idea of work that is essentially mosaic:

1. The first of the three happenings was when Maestro Orsoni said Think Mosaic, and expounded on what was not mosaic (again, refer to this post).

L'entrata, detail

2. The next happening was in 2008 at the SAMA conference in Miami, I believe, and I met Ilana Shafir and her daughter, Leah Zahavi.

I was sitting with a few other mosaic artists in the hotel restaurant when Ilana Shafir and Leah came in and sat down at the table next to us. Maestra Shafir saw that I had a small portfolio of my work with me and she asked to see it. I quite nervously handed it to her. When she saw a photo of L'entrata (left), she said something like If you want to do this kind of thing, you should just paint it! Then, as she viewed a couple of other small, abstract attempts, she said This is honest work. 

3. Finally, I read something Gary Drostle had written about a mosaic in a Mosaic Art Now magazine. I think that it was a juror's choice kind of thing and he was explaining why he chose the particular work. He said something to the effect that it was an excellent example of a work that was essentially mosaic—a work that would not have been as successful in any other medium. 

As a bit of a disclaimer, I'm not heavily invested in the term essentially mosaic or the characterizing adjective of essential. I've only seen it mentioned by Gary Drostle, which either points to my lack of exposure or to a lack of the term's use. As another bit of disclaimer, when I talk about work that is essentially mosaic, I am not referring to a quality characterization, but primarily a type. Work that is essentially mosaic is not necessarily better or more valid that any other kind of mosaic. This is my view.

I'll end this post at this point and let you ponder the idea of essential mosaic, as I have come to understand it based on my recollection of the comments of Orsoni, Shafir, and Drostle.

Studio Wing, WIP (cont.)

Reporting in at the end of week 3 here. First, some current exterior pics.

West gable and future office area. Also getting the deck stairway in.

New shade garden area under the deck and stairs. It gets just a bit of late afternoon sun.

East extension. Double window is in the living area and the single window is in the new kitchen.

I'll show the interior progress with before and after shots as I think it makes more sense.

Before we started.

End of week 3.

Before we started.

End of week 3.

Before the kitchen/bath extension.

After extension. I've added those two transparent gray 'walls' to help it make more sense.

Looking toward that new east window. The area will be roughly half bath and half kitchen, with the bath just left of the window.

We now have four holes after a plumber stepped through the garage ceiling. And a water leak from upstairs where my work sink used to be. It had been leaking, quiet little drip by drip, for about 4 days before it snuck through the downstairs study ceiling and made itself known. Stuff happens...