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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: July 2009

Glittering Shards

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nature in Pieces Exhibition

The work on my 'mosaic school' piece continues (I had to explain to Isabella that it was not a mosaic of a snake!) but for the last couple of days, I have been putting quite a lot of my energy into the joint exhibition that myself and 10 others are doing for the whole of September at the Jeannie Avent gallery in East Dulwich.

It's all very exciting - we are a newly formed group (all members of BAMM ) who have come together and are working co-operatively on all the many aspects of organising, publicising, as well as making, for this exhibition. I have been spending ages developing the web site for our 'South London Mosaic' group. Nearly there, you can have a sneak preview at South London Mosaics - there are going to be some exciting activities that we are organising as part of this exhibition, including a tour of the many beautiful Southbank Mosaics near Waterloo. Will blog more about it soon.

It was great to meet up with my fellow West Dean course member, Nathalie, on Tuesday and talk about all we learnt on the course and yesterday I received this lovely photo from other fellow learner Astrid, in the Netherlands, showing Sonia helping me learn. All good stuff.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learning Points from Mosaic School

Here are some of mine and Nathalie's (fellow course member) top tips from the West Dean course (there are many more!):

1. Put PVA glue in fridge to make it gloopy enough for sticking on 3d surfaces
2. Tumble gin bottles (or other waste glass!) to make beautiful tumbled glass for mosaicing
3. Use a swivel chair at your workstation so that you can turn away from the table to cut
4. When cutting hold the nippers on your lap and cut using the muscles in your upper arm
5. Draw pencil guidelines on your substrate, especially when doing spirals (or other complicated flows) so that you don't create unintentional counter-flows with your grout lines
6. If something is going wrong, look at least 3 pieces back as that's where it probably started.
7. Be aware of what your eye is doing when you are creating your piece.
8. Get a good range of tools to make your work easier - become knowledgeable of the variety of cutting tools (two-wheeled, Starrets...) and check out sculpting tools (such as scrapers, potters needles etc...) to help you clean up and unpick work.

My piece is developing...

Oh, and while I was away it looks like Isabella has done some more mosaicing of her own. She has added to the piece I posted a pic of a couple of week back - can you spot the difference? Gosh, she is using advanced techniques already! Stacking and tilting her tiles (no need to teach this girl about texture and reflectivity!)


Thursday, July 23, 2009

Slow progress

Back home and so happy to see the kids and Neil. Lots of hugging especially from Toby who jumped all over me! Very very wonderful.

On the mosaic front, frustrating but fruitful. As I lay in bed last night I had the idea of repeating a similar swirly shape in the top right of the piece, but in the background colour so that it was subtle - like a shadow of the form. As I discussed my piece with Sonia, she uncannily had the same idea.

By lunchtime I was questioning the extent of the vermiculatum in the piece (which for those new to this term means that you outline each object (worming round it) line after line. It just seemed that where the circles eventually met created focus where I didn't want it. Just not happy to my eye.

As I drove home, I thought about something Sonia had said yesterday - that I need to think conceptually about my work, not just visually.

So I did. To me, this image isn't just pretty swirls. I drew it as I was trying to externalise a deep internal process and experience. It represents things on many levels. A woman with a baby in her womb. A person with a child on their lap. An adult relating to their own vulnerable and wounded self. The 'adult' in the image can have varying relationships with the smaller, more vulnerable being. Despite the co-existence there can be indifference, rejection or love and nurture. It is the latter that I very much want to convey with this piece a sense of beings that are distinct, separate and yet connected in a good way. The more I looked at the pencil lines of the vermiculatum flowing round the two heads, the more I felt that those lines don't convey an exchange of something sacred, loving, nurturing. In fact the lines can read like they are pushing against each other.

I talked it all through with Neil and listened to his thoughts as he has a 'good eye' then played around with the pieces on the board some more - including spreading some beautiful, tiny pink stones in the area between the two heads (hard to see how nice they are in this photo). The image at the top is as far as I have got - nothing stuck down, just swirly ideas in my head. Waiting for it to come together...maybe in my sleep!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mosaic School Day Three

End of day three

Can you see what I did today? I added a whole line of vermiculatum round two elements of my image. I am following the new rules of thumb - which includes doing one outline at a time (so tomorrow will start the third floaty leg you see!) and if I carry on like this, this piece is going to be stunning - here's hoping.

It has taken me all day - I would go and choose a really difficult technique! Should try crazy paving next time. I don't think that I will fulfill my ambition to return home tomorrow evening with my stunning creation - gosh, Neil will think I have been in the bar all week! I cannot wait to get back home and see my lovely family.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mosaic School Day Two

Start of Day Two

End of Day Two

Doesn't seem like much but boy what a lot of learning. I am doing this piece in Opus Vermiculatum for the mosaicists among you and I am learning quite how much geometry is involved in this pattern. In the past I have lain my tiles 'like a tiler' without anticipating the way the flow around the form is interrupted by unintentional grout lines created by the way the tiles intersect. So that is one of the big things that I am trying to practice and get right (not easy).

The learning points of the day are too numerous and I will list them all once I get home. But the BIG ONE coming through is all about learning to see and pay attention to what your eye does when it looks at something - what is your eye drawn to? Is that what I want people to be drawn to or have I created a 'spike' that draws attention to itself and away from the focal point. Are there points of real interest that draw people to take a second look.

Now, to bed as I am a rather tired bunny - would you believe that moving from photo one to photo two could be such hard work?!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Mosaic School

View from my window!

Learning to use a hammer and hardie to cut stone

Design choices - as Sonia pointed out, all with organic whirls...mmm a prefernce coming out! This was the hard bit. Took me ages to decide but Sonia suggested not begruding the time it takes but to play with materials.

Decision made - a doodle I did a few weeks ago to portray an internal process.

Some of the yummy materials - Van Gogh glass - so hard to convey their beauty on camera.

Oh My! I finally maid it to 'Mosaic School' as my little Isabella is calling it. I am exhausted but exhilarated by how much I have learnt in one day. I have battled with the process that happens before actually beginning to mosaic - what shall I do, what shall I do it with, how shall I do it. It has been heartening to see that this internal struggle is a common experience, not just with my fellow learners but also to Sonia (there is hope!).

I have also been so inspired by watching others in their process of gestating an idea, beginning to play with materials and then starting the exciting process of making. And, as always with mosaics, the variety of what is beginning to form is astounding.I will post pictures of some of our works in progress as the week progresses. At the end I will also post the most invaluable tips and ideas I have gleaned. For now, though exhausted, I am itching to get back into the workshop as as I am just about to stick my first tile - yipee!

The pics will tell their story I hope.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Making Mosaics with Children Part Four

This will be the last of these children's activity posts for a week or so as I am off to Dean College tomorrow for my Advanced Mosaic residential course with tutor Sonia King. I am very very much looking forward to this for lots of reason (including 4 whole days of not cooking, tidying up after meal times, loading the washing machine, putting away toys and cleaning the floor of Toby's far flung food- yippee!)

Activity Four
A technique discovered by Isabella last week as she made a mosaic for her Godmother, Charlotte, to take with her back to Sri Lanka.

Start with a blank picture frame. Remove the back so that you can see through the glass. Pour a thick-ish layer of PVA (white) glue into the frame (say 1/4 cm). Use this to embed your chosen tiles / objects. The glue acts a bit like cement based adhesive, giving a good grip and allowing the child to move pieces around once placed and experiment with where they want pieces to go - it gives more control which is very handy for little fingers.

The glue will dry clear in a few days time. You can either hang the frame on the wall or attach hanging wires (with a staple gun or by drilling holes) and hang in a window so that the light shines through. In this picture, Isabella used beads from a reel of Christmas decorations, which she cut into smaller strings. The glue hasn't dried clear yet in the photo, because we had to give it to Charlotte who was flying the next day. We are going to do another soon using glass nuggets and I will post a picture of it hanging in window - it will look beautiful!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Making Mosaics with Children Part Three

One of the things about making mosaics is that you need definition to the pattern or edge of a picture you are making. This is normally done using the edge of different colour / texture tiles and the line created by grouting which gives mosaic its distinctive flow or 'andamento' (the technical term!).

It is hard for children, especially young ones, to lay tiles with enough accuracy that the line is clear enough. But there are ways of setting up mosaic activites that helps them to do this and begin to learn about line as an element of design.

The easiest way is to mosaic shapes, the edge of the the shape therefore naturally creating the line for them.

Activity Three - Mosaicing Shapes

You can either prepare your own shapes from card / cardboard / dough / salt dough / wood / polymer clay or buy pre made ones.

Use plenty of PVA glue - remember to teach children not to spread to thinly but to make a little 'glue mountain' to stick their pieces on.

See the post entitled 'Making Mosaics with Children Part Two' for ideas of the kind of things you can use as 'tiles' for sticking.

Allow one side of your shape to dry overnight before mosacing the other side and then hanging. The shinier the objects you use the more they will twinkle as they turn!

In the pictures you can see Isabella's star shape made with thin card, PVA (white) glue and shells. The second lot of photos is a mosaic craft activity I just did in my children's little Montessori nursery. Here we used star and moon shapes that I prepared beforehand from a thick cardboard box then painted silver and gold. For sticking we used painted beans, beads (the cheap strings of beads you get at Christmas, cut up) and old shiny packaging cut into squares and triangles. I will be going back to the nursery next week to help the children do the other side and I will post a picture of the finished stars and moons hanging in the sleeping room at the nursery!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Making Mosaics with Children Part Two

In this series of posts, I am hoping to show a progression of activities that can help young children have fun and get a grasp of the basics of mosaic making. Before I talk about Activity Two, here is a list of things you can use as 'tesserae' (this is the mosaic term for the tiles or other objects you stick) for making mosaics with young children. Obviously, beware of choking / eating hazards with very little ones:

  • mosaic tiles (these are small and come in beautiful colours. You can pre-cut them further into strips / squares for older children who you think can work with the bit of sharpness this creates)
  • pebbles
  • glass nuggets
  • gummed paper shapes
  • foam
  • sweets - liquorice allsorts are particularly nice, you can varnish to preserve them
  • pasta shapes
  • nuts / seeds/ items from nature walks such as acorns, conkers etc...
  • beans
  • coloured / shiny / gift wrapping paper cut into small shapes
  • packaging - packaging from gifts / perfumes etc... is often very shiny and ideal for cutting into shapes to make 'tiles'
  • sequins
  • buttons
  • pom poms
  • hardware such as washers, blunt screws etc...
  • beads
  • ordinary tiles, pre-cut by you (creates some sharpness to the edge so monitor carefully)
  • aquarium gravel
  • garden gravel - you can get in various shapes and colours
  • sticks and twigs - can be cut with secateurs into smaller pieces
  • bottle tops (plastic and shiny milk ones for those of you who, like us, still get milk delivered to your door from the milkman!)
Activity Two
You will need a cheap picture frame - IKEA ones are ideal - PVA (white) glue and 'tesserae' for sticking. Either stick with one type of tesserae or give your child a variety.

This is a very simple activity - guide your child to stick the tesserae around the edge of the frame. At this point, you can teach your child the importance of using enough glue. In normal sticking craft activities, children often spread the glue quite thinly. This won't work with mosaic making as the pieces will get knocked off. I teach my children to make a 'glue mountain' (ie. a big blob!) to put their piece on. The glue will dry clear so don't worry if it seeps out underneath.

Isabella has made a beautiful picture frame with small shells - totally unaided - for her granny's birthday (sadly no picture, but it really was lovely). Toby did one too with help from mummy!

Above is a picture of her making another picture frame with mosaic tiles. Again, here is an opportunity to teach that a mosaic tile has a rough side and a smooth side and that sticking the rough side down into the glue makes it stick better.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Making mosaics with children Part One

I am exploring with Isabella (3 1/2) and Toby (2) ways of making mosaics with little children - slightly different to school age and older children as their fine motor skills are still developing and there are materials and tools that they can't yet have too much access to for obvious reasons!

Activity One - getting the basics of mosaic - sticking tiles to substrate

Just have fun sticking things ('tesserae') to a surface ('substrate'). Find lots of things that can be used as 'tiles' to stick. Spread them all into a big tray. Use a plain white bathroom tile (very cheap) and let your pre-schooler stick away, with no need to form any pattern. Stick on the white side of the tile as this acts as a good background - use different colour 'substrate' tiles - whatever you have lying around. You can add more interest to the background of the tile with glitter too. When it is dry, use "hard as nails" glue or equivalent to stick a d-ring on the back of the masterpiece, for hanging!

For one year now, Isabella has sat in my studio with me, doing just this. Here you can see the progression of her work - all of these were made with no guidance from me with the exception of the rainbow and circles pictures where she told me what exactly what shapes she wanted and asked me to put the glue on the tile for her. The last picture shown here (in the picture frame) was made by Isabella last Sunday. More on this in Activity Two!

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bertie Plays Jazz

One of my mosaics, Bertie Plays Jazz, in currently in an exhibition in the Pontefract Museum and I found out yesterday that he has sold! He is a very lovely mosaic and I did give him an extra stroke before I sent him off as I suspected he wouldn't return. He is made of vitreous glass tiles, coloured mirror and beads and it was a lot of fun making him. If you are travelling up North and want to pop in to the exhibition, it is at Salter Row, Pontefract until 12th September. It is organised by the British Association of Modern Mosaic.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beautiful, messy fun

We got our feet, our hands, some big paper and lots of paint. Oh...and the two little ones may have inadvertently used their nappy covered bottoms!

What fun! Beautiful artwork, lovely colours.

I am now thinking of things to do with the reams of wallpaper we created! I will cut some of it up to make laminated place mats, and maybe book marks to give to special people...any other ideas?

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy happy happy

Well, it seems that my posts will take a pattern of writing about the various creative processes with my mosaic work and with the children during the week and a snapshot at our forays into nature and relaxation at the weekend!

Its been a lovely weekend - BBQ with friends and raising our glasses to toast the beautiful Julie (one of Isabella's many godparents) in achieving a first class honours degree in Community Arts (what a fantastic degree choice).

Then, today, off to enjoy some open space - just because - it restores the soul but also because Julie's husband, Laci, is from rural Romania and five days in Tooting without some nature antidote was giving him ants in his pants.

It drizzled and mizzled but we were not deterred. We pic-nic'd in the woods under the cover of the trees then walked in the misty rain for ages, at beautiful Happy Valley, one of our favourite destinations. We saw the new red butterflies that have come to the UK, picked wild flowers, all got walking sticks (including little Toby) as we sauntered through the woods and into the beautiful open valley. Ahhh...I know why it's called Happy Valley. Here are the pics...

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Making of Moontree

Here is a photo log of the process of making one of my mosaics, a commission called Moontree. It is 48 x 71 cm piece made of vitreous tiles and stained glass. I have been wanting to do a mosaic of the moon and trees for a while so this piece fulfilled both - though I will attempt another tree soon! It is hard to capture on photo the beauty of the iridescent glass that makes the moon - as you walk past the mosaic it changes colour and really does look like the surface of the moon.

The process of making it was interesting for me - I was really excited about it at its design and making stage but as I go towards the end, I began to feel quite ambivalent about the piece. But now I love it again. I explored this idea on the Contemporary Mosaic Art online community and discovered that I am not alone in going through phases of ambivalence when a piece is finished. Other mosaic artists describe going from the intensity of concentrating on a piece to stopping and how it impacts therir feelings negatively towards a piece - like a 'mini-death'. But then it comes back to life in you.I am not quite sure the what's and why's of such feelings but certainly can relate to this description. Then of course there is good old perfectionism at work of which I suffer in huge doses!

The recipient of Moontree, Julie, was very happy and overwhelmed by her mosaic when she received it. Several people on Contemporary Mosaic Art have commented on the feelings of peace and serenity the piece conveys - I am happy to have created a piece of art that does that for people.


Monday, July 06, 2009

Lavender Fields

For anyone in the south London area looking for a spot of beauty and nature to restore your urban soul, here it is. Mayfield Lavender field near Banstead. We spent a gorgeous afternoon there on Saturday with the kids and our dear friend, Charlotte. The minute the kids got out of the car, off they ran in between the rows of lavender - freedom, colour, cannot get more relaxing. There is a picnic spot under a tree in the middle of the lilac field. Make the most of it as the lavender will fade by the end of July. I did a mosaic of a single lavender flower as my very first commission nearly 5 years ago (for a natural health clinic) - see it on my website GlitteringShards

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Community Mosaic at St Anselm's, Tooting Bec

I have been helping with the creation of a beautiful and very large (7m long) community mosaic for f St Anselm's Church in Tooting Bec, London. This mosaic, overseen by well known British mosaic artist, Tessa Hunkin (from Mosaic Workshop), has been 2 years in the making (from idea to creation) and last week, was finally installed in its location. It was done in reverse on brown paper but in several parts, the glue used to stick the tiles to the paper was not diluted enough which resulted in quiet a few patches of tiles falling off once the mounted mosaic had the paper removed. A group of us have therefore been working on the mosaic in its outdoor location to get it ready for grouting (ungrouted picture above) and it has been really interesting to see how many passers by have stopped to watch and talk as we have been at work. I will post a picture of the completed mosaic in the next week as hopefully it will be ready in time for the centenary mass and celebration on 11th July. If you want to see the mosaic, the church is right next to Tooting Bec Underground station.

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