Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Orange Waves: First Milepost

Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory? It measures a lot of opposing characteristics on sliding scales, such as introversion-extroversion. One of the scales has to do with your preference for the process of a project (they call it perceiving) versus reaching the goal (called judging). The test has its roots in the theories of C. G. Jung and is often used by employers to measure a person's suitability for a particular job or work environment, though there is a lot of debate about whether it works for that purpose. 

I bring it up here because, being a strong goal-oriented type, I have been feeling a wonderful elation this week because I'VE FINISHED ONE SECTION OF THE ORANGE WAVES! The feeling of completion tastes good to me. I have a little of that sensory-crossover, synesthesia, and successful completions of any kind always reflect in taste; it's hard to explain, but there it is.
Yes, the section is only about 16 inches wide, but it's finished! The first part of any large project is always the hardest, because I'm working out the process and design. The rest of it should go a bit faster. My client saw it almost completed and has approved, so it's full speed ahead with the other sections. The goal is to finish by the end of the year. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Orange Waves - Part 1

I have a client who loves water. Her living room is a beautiful shade of blue, she has photos of surfers and breaking waves from Hawaii on the walls and as screensavers on her computer, and she travels to beaches all over the world. So when she contacted me a few years ago about doing a backsplash for her kitchen, she knew she wanted it to look like waves. She is someone who takes her time with important decisions, so we worked on the design for about three years off and on. It morphed from a simple undulating wave design to an intricate medley of pipes and breakers. 

Finally it was time to choose tile colors. Although she knew she wanted the design to look like water, she also knew that she didn't want the tile in the traditional blues that most people would choose to depict water. She decided on shades of orange, and we tried out several different color combinations before finding the final one. I made watercolor renderings of each section, such as this one:

We spent a lot of time getting tile and glass samples from various companies. Finally, the client found a company that agreed to make glass tile in custom colors to match a paint chip series that my client liked, and after a few tries, the samples that arrived were pronounced acceptable, and the finished batch arrived a couple of weeks ago. We've got three oranges, a rust color for dark accents, and a white for the foamy parts. Still looking for a small amount of a subtle glittery tile to sprinkle in here and there among the white frothy sections, but that could be optional. And we could also use a grout with a glitter additive in some spots as an alternative.

Since the design calls for small squares of glass tile, I realized very soon that I would need help cutting all those squares or be in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome! Besides, my hand tools were not cutting straight on this particular type of glass, so I took the plunge and bought a band saw. I have an innate fear of power saws (I can't fathom where that comes from; I can't remember ever having a bad experience with one, and my dad had a full workshop in our basement with all types of saws and never had an accident) but I've forced myself to learn how to operate a jigsaw so I can cut odd shapes for my mosaics from time to time. But that's it - no circular saw, table saw, or tile saw for me! However, the nice thing about the band saw is that it won't cut soft things, like skin, only hard things, like tile (it will, however, cut fingernails, which the guy at the store demonstrated gleefully). Reassured that I wouldn't slice a finger off, I was good to go. After a relatively short learning curve, I was cutting decent shapes about 5/8 inch square that I could then nip into smaller squares with a hand tool as needed.

After amassing a few piles of little squares, I was anxious to begin glueing. I taped down my template, over it a sheet of parchment paper (Saran wrap would also work) and on top a piece of mesh. I'm referring to my watercolor for the color references, of course. So if you need me in the next few weeks, I'll be here moving little orange glass squares around...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Several months ago, on a day when it was too cold to work outside in my backyard mosaic studio, I needed something art-related to do and dug out some botanical drawings that I had started a few years ago. There was a whole stack of them. I loved drawing in college, and used to carry a sketchbook in my pack whenever I took a walk, which was often. For a couple of years I kept an almost-daily journal (it started after I read Thoreau, naturally) and occasionally I'd make a little drawing of something interesting, like a gnarled tree. (No digital cameras or cellphones in those days!) I loved following the lines of things, and a lot of my artwork at the time explored the expression of lines.

So these "botanicals" were just drawings of interesting-looking plants and flowers that I found in some gardening books from my shelves. Then I was inspired to get out a set of watercolor pencils and start playing with washes, and using salt and alcohol and various brushes to get different effects. The color washes started to remind me of the beautiful galaxies and nebulae I'd seen in photos from space telescopes.

Before I knew it, I had more than a dozen finished watercolors. I had to give them made-up names in some cases, because I hadn't written down what their true horticultural names were when I first drew them, couldn't remember what book I found them in, and didn't recognize them once I was done! But I posted them on my website anyway, and lo and behold, people who see them are liking them. I'm moved, and honored. Here are a few samples:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Venice Show

My first solo show! I'm so excited - bet you can't tell. The Venice Art Center has kindly sponsored a show for me at one of their satellite galleries: the lobby of the Inn at the Beach, a resort hotel. The exhibition will be up through the end of October. I've been able to hang 15 of my bird mosaics - my favorite subject - on several walls. They are mostly the 8x8 ones (though in 12x12 frames, they are a bit more substantial-looking!) and a couple of larger ones to anchor them. At first I thought that traffic would be light, this being summer, but during the two hours or so it took me to hang everything, the phone rang constantly. I guess families have to take vacations when the kids are out of school - namely, in the summer - no matter how hot we think it is.

So if you have some spare time and feel like a little drive, Venice is not that far away. The Inn at the Beach is at the west end of Venice Avenue - it dead ends at the beach. If you have GPS (am I the only one who doesn't?) the exact address is 725 W. Venice Ave. And thanks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Eyes Have It

Finally grouted "The Four Florida Seasons" - a bear of a job due to the many different textures in the piece. Plus, the black grout is especially unforgiving if you get some where you don't want it, such as the whites of the eyes! or the pearls in the winter sky! I don't know what I'd do without my handy dental scraper. I'm considering a simple black frame made with strips of 1x2s painted black and nailed to the edges. I might even try to miter them if I feel energetic. Now on to the next project!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Florida's Four Seasons

Florida has its seasons, among them our own "peeper season" - our casual equivalent of Vermont's flocks of tourists with their car windows down, enjoying the many colors of fall. Our peepers are the tourists who flock to our shores in winter and spring to peep at our little peepers: specifically, in this mosaic, the sandhills that pop up here and there in the grasses of the celery fields and meadows where shallow lakes form.

This mosaic began a couple of years ago, when my mosaic class was still meeting in the old portables at Suncoast Technical College, and I was playing around with various substances to show students how to make 3-D effects on a board. I used mortar, two types of clay, and a finely ground product similar to mortar that works like clay but dries hard as a rock and can be sanded and formed quite smoothly - perfect as a substrate for mosaics.  I made parts of two crane heads with the four materials to show how they each could be worked, and how each dried. A few weeks later I cut up some blue glass and started laying it around one of the heads, just for fun - because who in the world would make a crane's head blue? And then the class got busy and I took home the board and forgot about the cranes. 

... Until a few months ago, when I looked at it one day and it started looking back - not in a woo-woo sort of way, but in a hey-there-are-all-sorts-of-possibilities-here sort of way. So I set it up on my table and got to work. This image is the almost-finished mosaic, before grouting. I still have to grind smooth and adhere the clouds in the "summer" panel. I didn't decide to add all the eyes until I had worked out the four seasons (they go from right to left, starting with winter). I can't tell you why, but there they are.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


And here they are, the finished side tables, grouted and fitted into their wrought iron bases. I had a hard time choosing the grout color. Usually I know from the get-go what the grout color should be, but in this case I did not know whether I wanted black or brown. But in the end, if I had used brown, I would have had to paint the iron stands brown, and laziness — meaning I wanted to just get them done! — won out.