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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Works in Progress

The mosaic to the left is supposed to be a picture of Rex Begonias but it just didn't turn out well. But I finished it yesterday because I wanted to see how the border will look after I grout it. It's amazing how quickly something interesting can turn into something odd. I didn't see it coming and by the time I realized something was wrong, it was impossible to pull up the glass.

The arch down below is the ongoing Calla Lilies mosaic. I took a picture at this point because I wanted to show my technique for putting d-rings into the back of Hardibacker. This is 1/4" Hardibacker so it's easy to drill a hole through it with a regular drill. Then I take a slight bigger drill bit and dig out a bit of the top so the screw will fit flush to the substrate. Finally I put in a machine screw which has an angled head and fits right into the little pocket I made with the larger drill bit.

Here is a close up of the screw. Normally I would put two d-rings in and string wire between them but I was so anxious to begin the picture, I forgot to put in the screw until only this much substrate was showing. I just won't try to submit it to any juried shows. :-}

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dogs and Cats

First we have Biscotti with his blue-bellied lizard. For some reason, he enjoys pushing the lizard under the rug and then diving in to get it. I can always tell when a lizard is in the house when I come home because all the area rugs are messed up in some way.

And here we have the finished mosaic of my friend Patricia's friend's dog, Maggie.She is a beautiful, well-behaved dog.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maggie the Dog and the Arch

 Well, I'm working on a couple things today. I've been trying to use up the substrates (bases) that I have already rather than buying new ones or going to the thrift stores to look for unusual shapes. I did find a wooden dolphin and a wooden chili pepper that I plan to work on soon.

But this is a piece of Hardibacker that I bought when I was at the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland. The tesserae inside the outlines are really all black but some look blue. And as I was starting to work on it, I realized it reminded me of the logo for the Palace Cafe here in Santa Barbara!
They don't have Calla Lilies on their logo, however.

And below I've finished gluing the doggie Maggie. I was going to grout her today but it's turned out to be too hot for me outside so I'm staying inside. The cats have a rat so they're staying inside with me too.

So I'll keep working on my mosaics while the cats chase the rat from pillar to post. They lost him for a while and I looked up on these glass shelves I have and there on the very top shelf was a big tail sticking out from behind a bowl. I moved the bowl and the rat torpedoed off the shelf and flew about 10 feet. And then the race was on again!

I heard more noise in the hall just now and found Biscotti playing with a blue-bellied lizard. I'll go rescue it. The rats are harder to rescue and put back outside. They are fast!

Another enjoyable day at my house!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ready to Grout

Stained Glass Bottle

Today I have a few items to grout. The first is a fancy-shaped bottle I found at a thrift store. The second is a small wooden lazy susan I found at a thrift store. The third is the stained glass piece I started at Tami Macala's Santa Barbara School of Mosaic Art workshop last year. I started it but had another piece I was working on and so I did that one instead. This has been sitting around, and I finally decided to start using up some of the many, many substrates I have ready to mosaic.

So today I'll grout them all. The weather is overcast right now so it's a good time to get outside and get busy. I'll post finished pictures later!
Lazy Susan

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Mosaicing a Wooden Salad Bowl

This is a lovely wooden salad bowl I've had for as long as I can remember. It has seen many, many salads and participated in many parties and family dinners. It was made in California and has three little round feet that you can see in the picture on the right.

One day my friend (and instigator) Jennifer was here, saw the bowl and said, "you should mosaic this." Such a good idea, I thought. There is always the question of whether you do the inside or the outside of the bowl. I think it's too hard to see all the beautiful glass work if you do the outside because it's always sitting on a table and you're looking down at it. First I put these lovely little iridescent squares of blue/purple and gold along the rim. Then I wanted to put hearts inside and I picked some beautiful stained glass that matched the rim. However, as you can see from the picture, the hearts blend into the background stained glass so they are a bit hard to see. However, I might still be able to save it by picking the right color grout. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grouting Made Easy

When I first started mosaicing, I read all the mosaic books I could find to get ideas and learn correct techniques. I didn't like the grouting process very much. The washing of the grout with water and a sponge was messy and if I cleaned too vigorously, I removed too much of the grout. Plus the water just seemed to smear the grout over the tiles and on and on went the process.

Then I read one of Martin Cheek's books. Martin is a very well-known mosaic artist from England. He does a lot of creatures including cats and birds, and I have always loved his work. He talked about what, in my mind, seemed like a much better way to do the grouting process.

The gluing process
Here is the oval mirror I posted the other day. I always do my grouting outside in the garden. Fortunately living in Santa Barbara provides many months of beautiful outdoor weather. When I was ready to grout I mixed up Tobacco Brown grout and also brought along a little container of dry Tobacco Brown grout. Then after filling in all the spaces with the wet grout, I sprinkled dry grout over the whole piece. This helps absorb excess water and fills in little pin holes that I may have missed.

Sprinkled with dry grout
First swipe with newspaper

Then after 20-30 minutes I take newspaper, crumple it up and start to remove the excess grout. It slides right off! No messy sponge and water. The grout comes off easily with the newspaper! Then I just continue using newspaper to remove all the excess grout, dig out grout where it shouldn't be and voila! the piece is almost done.

Below I've removed all the dry grout with newspaper. This took about 5 minutes. No water and sponges making a big mess. And it's almost ready to go! I still had to go over the piece and dig out any grout in low spots and check for glue still on the face of any tiles.

Give this process a try just once and see if you don't find it easier, less messy and fast.

Grout removed with newspaper
The final piece

Friday, August 12, 2011

Santa Barbara School of Mosaic Art Fiberglass Mesh Workshop

The Santa Barbara School of Mosaic Art in Santa Barbara, CA is having Mesh and Flower Mosaic Workshop on August 27-28. You will create three flowers (or anything else you like) on fiberglass mesh that can be taken home and installed permanently on a wall or other hard surface. These pictures were taken at the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland where they are remodeling their bathroom with mosaic art from staff, teachers and guest teachers.

These workshops are always a lot of fun. I am always amazed at the talent people have who are doing mosaics for the first time.You might also want to do birds, butterflies or dragonflies to attach to a wall on the outside of your house. The sky's the limit!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mosaic Art vs. Mosaic Craft

So here is a dilemma I have. Where does one draw the line between craft and art? I have been turned down by judged shows because my work was "too crafty." Well, yes, I can see how the piece on the right is crafty. But there are an awful lot of people who love this sort of mosaic for their home. The pink oval mirror below was purchased by a friend of mine. It was entered at the local tennis club's show of artwork created by members only. I sold 16 of 18 pieces I had displayed and got three more commissions. But many of the pieces I made were what many "art people" call crafts.

This mosaic mandala below was sold at the tennis club show. Is this art? Craft? I just don't know!

I applied to the Goleta Valley Art Association earlier this year. I submitted two pieces; the smalti / marble mirror on the left and a replica of an 1800 botanical of Begonia Opuliflora below.. On the round mirror I used computer keyboard keys to spell out words like love, faith, hope, etc.

I was turned down with no remarks from the judge so I have no idea what she was looking for. The sweet part, however, was that one of the women there purchased the round smalti/marble piece. But isn't this art?

Well, I reapplied to the Goleta Valley Art Association last month and was accepted with this piece below I call "Raj" after my neighbor. It is all sparkly mirror tiles. I guess it must be art! The show is now hanging for a month at the Goleta Valley Library.

So I think I will just keep making art and craft and not worry too much about the judges who often seem to have their own likes and dislikes (can I say agendas?). I like doing the crafty things and I like doing more artistic works.
Ready to grout. Is this art?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mosaic Landscape and Cute Cats

I seem to really like sunbursts. This mosaic has no real goal other than I cut the beautiful red circle out with my circle cutter and then thought I should make a sun to go with it.

I also bought some rock slices at the SAMA convention and have been wanting to use them in a mosaic. So here was a good opportunity. I added them along with a tree with millefiori pieces to look like apples or flowers. Below the piece is starting to come together.

When I went outside to take a picture, Biscotti and Prancer hopped up on the table with me and posed adorably.

Biscotti and Prancer

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Mosaic Parrot Round 2

OK, so the first parrot above I made for my friend Eva wasn't exactly a success. He looked good until the grouting and then I broke off his foot! Learned a good lesson there about Wedi board. It can be fragile. Don't make any tight cuts!

So I decided to go a different way and began Parrot 2 on Hardibacker. Then she can hang it outdoors if she chooses. He looks much better. Yesterday I finished gluing him. I plan to grout in charcoal which I think will really help make him stand out. The difference in the two bottom pictures is that the one on the left was taken in the house with a flash and the one on the right was taken this morning on a very overcast day here in Santa Barbara.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mosaic Table from a Broken Vase

My dear friend Wanda brought over a large broken vase and wondered if I could do something with it. Of course, I can do something!!! I wish I had taken a picture of the vase before I broke it up because it was very beautiful. It had a black background and pink and salmon flowers on it. 

I also had this small table that I thought would be perfect. I found some matching pink, purple and turquoise tiles and started gluing. The table had rounded edges so I sliced them off to make a flat surface, not yet knowing how to finish it.

Here it is when three-quarters of the tiles are glued. I really like the way the colors match.

Yesterday I finished gluing the tiles and today I grouted it. I used charcoal grout. Below is the table after grouting but before finishing the edges. I have some 1" copper that I will attach to the edges with small copper nails. I've never done it but I've read about it in books!

I also have a new Nikon camera that I love, but it seems to have a bit of a problem with its white balance settings. The picture on the right is accurate, but the table below is off a bit. Next time I'll fix it up in Photoshop.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

And Yet Another Lesson Learned

Commission House Number
Will I ever reach the point where I'm not learning from gaffes I make. This is a commission for a blue-diamond-border house number. My house number below was the sample the customer saw. and I love mine. When I made the 857 in the studio it looked wonderful. I used a beautiful iridized dark blue for part of the border tiles. Well, I took it outside to take a picture and, lo and behold, the beautiful dark blue tiles have a pinkish cast and look pink in the bright light! Oh no!

My House Number

I sent the house number to the client today and offered to make her another one if she doesn't like the pink tones.

How many more blunders can I make? It's a good thing I don't get discouraged. Maybe it's because I have these darling boys to brighten up my day.

Biscotti and Prancer Dancer

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Mosaic Lessons Learned

The lesson I learned with the parrot is that you can't make tricky, thin cuts when using Wedi board. As I was grouting him, I broke the bottom piece that is his feet and the branch he's sitting on. The piece didn't fall off because of the stained glass pieces attached, but I can no longer give it as a gift. So now he's watching the yard from the Sequoia in my front yard. Not a bad home.

Next time I'll cut him out of Hardibacker. I have until the middle of August before I see my friend, so I think I'll be able to get it done. Maybe I'll make him a little bigger this time.

And since I love cat adventures also, here is Prancer just taking off to chase some creature on the roof. He's out of focus because he's a very fast cat but look at those whiskers!!!