Blast from the Past

Fullness (1999-?) 5' x 3' | 152 cm x 91 cm. Vitreous, minerals, mother of pearl, slate, glass. The top, bottom, and right borders are cut off in the photo, as the piece was just too big for me to get it all at this time.

Around 18 years ago, when I barely knew what I was doing, mosaically speaking, I decided to make something big! 

I also wanted to use some stones, and the only ones that I could get my hands on were polished stones from a metaphysical shop in town. 

I quite impulsively jumped in on this 5' x 3' piece of Hardi-backer and created a border out of small slate tiles, mother of peal beads, and ceramic decorative strips. 

Then I started mosaicking my partially thought-through design, leaving a whole lot of unthought-through background. I made it to the hair and lacked both the skill and the confidence to go forward. As for hanging hardware, I would just worry about that later.

Well, what do you do with a 5' x 3' abandoned mosaic? I liked the original idea of the piece, and friends and family kept encouraging me to finish it, however I had no appetite for finishing it and did not know what to do with it either. So, I just stored it away and out of sight. 

Jump to late 2016 and my move into my new studio, which called for serious organizing and decision-making about this albatross. Once I had my new worktables in my studio, I decided that I would keep the mosaic out where I could live with it and make a decision about it once and for all. 

I realized that I could not move forward on it until I figured out the hanging hardware, as well as a support frame for the back of it. Then, I would need to work out how to finish it. After a few weeks, I started figuring things out, and decided that it would be a great challenge to finish it. And that is what I will be doing for the next few weeks.

I've already added support framework to the back and installed the hanging hardware. Also, those copper gold squiggles in the hair area are new and I hope to finish the hair in the next week or so. Then, on to the massive background! I will try to resist the temptation to rework anything that is already done, but it won't be easy. That apostrophe-shaped deal in the moon really makes me a little crazy.

While I'm Not Being An Artist

During my mosaic sabbatical, I've been so very busy not being an artist. I hope to have installment #7 in my Before I Was An Artist series out in the next few days. So, what have I been up to?

Still cooking, literally, and so thoroughly enjoying it! How fabulous! How could I have gotten into my mid-late 50s and just be discovering how satisfying it is to be acquiring some kitchen competence? For the last 3+ weeks I have been focusing on vegan dinners because my husband is doing that very long Easter fast; Orthodox Easter is still about 4 weeks away. So I've been pretty much vegan myself, using a bit of dairy and eggs. I'm discovering great vegan substitutes and learning some things. We have not suffered in the least.

I'm enjoying my two grandsons immensely, one 2 and one 4. We had an Easter Egg Hunt here for them on Easter afternoon. Sean, the 4-year-old, and his Mom had decorated 11 hardboiled eggs for the hunt and also brought some of those plastic eggs with a chocolate treat inside each. My daughter and son-in-law hid the eggs around the property—in the woods and garden and yard. I accompanied Sean on the hunt and when we came upon one of the decorated eggs, he would just walk right by and say "Those aren't the kind of eggs I'm looking for." He would only pick up the plastic ones with the candy inside. A no-nonsense kind of fellow!

There is progress on the renovation front! We have finalized our plans and the construction will start any day now. I'm so excited about my new studio, which makes perfect sense for someone who is trying not to be an artist. Well, I'll take some pics as the project progresses. 

Another thing I've been doing while I'm not being an artist is to work on that 6-year-old mosaic that I wrote about some weeks ago (see here). Yes, it is very strange that someone who is on a mosaic sabbatical and not making art would spend time finishing a mosaic. But I've been spending time here and there working on this thing. If you recall, I had to do a sort of reset on it after having somehow wandered away from the original concept. 

To refresh your memory, I've reposted the pics from my earlier post. 

Rough drawing of the 30" x 30" very simple, repeating pattern. It is basically 9 squares, each 9" x 9", with an approx. 1.5" border around the edge. 

Rough drawing of the 30" x 30" very simple, repeating pattern. It is basically 9 squares, each 9" x 9", with an approx. 1.5" border around the edge. 

Original work done on one of the 9" squares, which I concluded was the wrong approach some 6+ years ago.

Original work done on one of the 9" squares, which I concluded was the wrong approach some 6+ years ago.

Back in February, I scraped off the original attempt and repaired the substrate, which you can see in the lower left corner of the image below. Then I spent a few weeks getting things ready for the new direction, repainting the sides of the gold lines, cutting marble, etc. Finally, I started working on it an hour here, a couple of hours there, some days not at all, really trying not to get too absorbed in it.

You can see that I've got quite a reset going on here. I chose a dark background with red for the sides of the lines to boldly exploit the basic concept.

I've got the contrast that I needed for the repeating pattern of gold lines, and the red sides of the lines really stand out when changing viewing perspective. 

I'm leaving a gap, almost 1/8", between all the implied triangles within the 9 squares, creating shadow lines which both connect and separate as they define squares, triangles, and diamond shapes.

It's really a very simple design, isn't it?

I'm getting some great practice using the hammer, cutting the marble into the roughly 1/4" square pieces, although I am using nippers to shape them up and cut the diagonals. Still, my right hand is fine and seems to have recovered from my injury last spring. 

Below are a couple of detail shots on which you can click to zoom. 

It's quite a tedious project and, at this point, not much more than a technical challenge. But, in that sense, it seems a good fit for me at this time. I need to be making something and working with my hands. I think I'll actually get this finished, eventually, probably this year. And I think I'll like it, and I will be happy that I did not give up on it. 

And that's a worthy goal, don't you think? Whatever you're making, and whether or not you're an artist. Just to like what you make and be happy that you made it. 

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. 

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!

Red Play

In preparation to resume work on Fragile Heart, I played with all the shades that I may be calling upon. Some people have a very good eye for value, but I'm not sure that I am one of them. The color is distracting to me, but this is a skill that improves with practice.

Below is the result of my morning exercise. The top two images show where I started, and the bottom two show where I ended up after several modifications. Its pretty tricky with reflection, as well as with the mottled shades of the Mexican smalti, but I do see improvement, all thanks to the black-and-white feature in my photo editor. 

I could go on endlessly making adjustments, but I think I'll stop now and hope for the best.

Fragile Heart

I've got a bit of a head-start on my next project. A few years ago, I started a small piece that was more of an exercise. I needed something to putter around with while I was waiting for some materials to come in for a large commission.

Attempting to confront my aversion to working with red, I decided to work on some color gradation. At the time, I was pondering heartache, sadness - matters of the heart. This was around the time that I had to make the very difficult decision to put down a family dog. Several other life changes were also happening at the time.

Above is where I left the 9" x 11" exercise when my commission work resumed. I liked it and thought I might finish it someday, so I held onto it. As I was working on my last piece, If I Were A Tree, I entertained the idea that this old exercise would be my next project.

As my mind shifted to my exercise becoming a finished work, my concept for it began to evolve. I wanted it to be bigger and to fit my Impromptu series. I began to see how to accomplish this, but I would have to make some changes.

In order to enlarge the 1/4" Wedi substrate from 11" x 14", I cut a 13" x 16" piece of 1/2" Wedi. Next, I cut 2" strips of 1/4" Wedi. Then, I spread a layer of thinset on the 1/2" substrate, anchored the original 1/4" substrate in the lower left corner, and filled out the top and right sides with the 2" strips of 1/4" Wedi. After leaving it to cure, I added the washers and bolts and attached a wood frame to the back. 

I removed pieces in two areas, shown in the black circles above, in order to retrofit the washers. Now, its ready and waiting for me, as soon as I am ready.

As it turns out, I have a new dose of unwelcome inspiration for this piece. My younger brother died 8 days ago. He had congestive heart failure and left us, it seems peacefully, in his sleep. He was a loner, a bit of a recluse, and suffered some deep wounds in his adult life. I'll be contemplating the inevitability of hurt and loss as I work on this, and I'll dedicate this mosaic, currently titled Fragile Heart, to my brother.