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Glittering Shards

Glittering Shards: June 2011

Glittering Shards

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Organising a small studio or home working space

My quest for re-organising my studio is complete (for now!).

Here's some pictures and tips, some of which can be applied across disciplines, as well as to mosaics. If you are just staring out, there some ideas for setting up a making area at home too ;)

1. Take-away tubs. I have reluctantly relinquished my love of glass jars for the more practical arrangement of plastic tubs. Please note,  I did not eat that many take-away's! I raided Poundland (dollar store) where you can get 10 for £1 (funny that...). The advantage of using these is to make use of every inch of space on the shelves and to make it much easier to see and reach all your stock.
To get over the fact that plastic is just not as nice or see-through as glass, I have stuck a sample tile on the front of each tub and this does the trick. Put the tiles in a colour order that is intuative for you as this helps a lot with searching and getting inspiration for combinations.

2. Storing stained glass - I would love to have enough studio space to construct shelves to store stained glass upright. But I haven't. That, coupled with the fact that I use a lot of cullet (offcuts), has got me storing the stuff in small and medium sized stacktable containers (of the more study kind - sourced from Ikea & pound shops).
Large sheets are stored upright in the larger tubs and I also use these to store broken china and stuff like that. It works and its safe (important if you are running classes or have little ones coming into your studio).
3. Making use of under table space - the two large tables I have in my studio are against walls and this gives me the chance to use the space underneath to store grout, tools and other equipment. Again, I use stackable plastic tubs (larger variety, these ones from IKEA). Students often ask for ideas on setting up a mosaic space at home and this is a good solution if you have no dedicated space yet. Keep all your materials in tubs under a table (in the kitchen / dining room) with a long table cloth to hide them when not in use.

4. Catching shards of glass - the other tip for those of you without a dedicated mosaic space  (from one of my lovely students, Silvia) is to mosaic standing up at the sink! Personally, I like working standing up. Doing so at the sink stops most of the shards flying onto the floor (though please don't send them down your plughole or you may need to call the drain man!). The other way of catching shards is to nip tiles into a clear ziplok bag or a large plastic tub turned on this side (there's a bit of a plastic tub theme going on here eh?!)

Talking of those small shards...I have a fantastic children's mosaic tutorial on using those bits that normally get thrown away coming in the next week...see you then ;)

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

A season of 'unveilings'

A few days ago I went to an 'unveiling' and in 3 weeks I am off to another. Well, friends, my April, May and June have been a busy old time,  doing two community mosaic projects. Now they are both complete and there is rather a lot of celebrating and 'unveiling' going on!

Last weekend, the Mayor of Camden joined about 150 other people at the Sudanese Women's Association in Kilburn, to celebrate and unveil the wonderful creative work done by local women. A large (1.5 x 1.5 metre) mosaic was part of the project which aimed to create friendships between women of different cultures, which this project achieved most beautifully (funny how easy it is to talk and share stories when your hands are busy making something).

The feedback from these wonderful people (aged 3 - 91, from a wide range of cultures) was so touching. "We never thought we could do something like this, but you came along and showed us and without realising it, we were doing it!" And a great job they did (and worked soooo hard to boot). There are tiles left over, the group has caught the mosaic bug and the next projects are being plotted and planned!

The second community project was with Wandsworth Social Services Click Team which works with children and young people who are in state care.
This group of around 20 young people wanted to brighten up the Social Services reception area and so I hatched the idea to mosaic a giant 'Welcome'!

For two solid days (and a few round the edges by yours truly) the group glued a huge variety of tiles on the giant letters (this included nuggets, vitreous tiles, millefiore and soft glass - great for working with kids). It was great fun and took me back to my youth & social work days!

The outcome is vibrant, cheerful and striking - this is no whisper of a 'Welcome' sign!

It will be mounted and unveiled on July 19th - I'm really looking forward to seeing it in its new home.

Lastly, I am at my third unveiling this Thursday, for the North London Hospital Mosaic wall which features this mosaic of mine alongside many others from all over the world. I know its going to be amazing!

What is so cool about having facilitated this recent crop of community mosaics (including last December with Star/KKF refugee youth club) is that it has bought together the two worlds that I have spent my life working in - mosaics (for nearly 3 years as my profession) and social / community work (for 22 years). Serendipity eh?

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Our Father's Day gift tradition (& our new venture!)

It was a whim of an idea three years ago that is now a solid tradition.  Just before Father's Day, the kids draw a picture of daddy then I transfer them to a t-shirt.
Daddy t-shirt 2011 (kids aged 5 and 4)
Yesterday we unveiled Daddy t-shirt Number 3 and he just loves it - its turning into quite a record of their drawing skills too! I do chuckle to myself when I think of bribing them as 21 year olds to do 'the picture'!
Daddy t-shirt 2009 (kids ages 3 and 2)
Daddy t-shirt 2010 (kids aged 4 and 3)
Our Father's Day was spent with friends at the wonderful Wisley Gardens (we recently joined and are slowly discovering this huge horticultural and natural dream of a place). The visit was perfect for the fact that we stumbled on their model of allotments (is that word just a British word? Common land that is divided into plots so that people can grow their own food). In the last few weeks, our world has been taking over by seeds, plants, digging tools and earth filled finger nails as we are now the proud occupants of a huge plot of land! We are taking on this venture with good friends and are slowly clearing this neglected piece of planet earth of its brambles and cultivating it with fruit and veg. Love it love it love it! No other activity ticks so many boxes at once...exercise, contact with nature, calm, well-being, good stewardship, learning, beauty, yummy food, thrift. The list goes on...
Our first week at the allotment and Isabella discovers a heart shaped pebble
Here's pics of us digging in week 1. Since then we have planted a 7 x 5 m veg patch! The battle of veg v weeds has begun!

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Friday, June 17, 2011

A look at what is possible...

...with a little time,

Julia's first mosaic
Kevin's first mosaic

some tiles 
Johnny's first mosaic

 and nippers,
Rah's first mosaic

Nicolle's second mosaic

and grout
Kirsteen's first mosaic

and some passionate teaching
Judith's first mosaic

and inspiration...
Rachel's mosaic

people who have never done mosaic art
Kate's first mosaic

make things
Lucy's first mosaic

like this.

Alex's first mosaic

And many go on 
Kathy's first mosaic

to become mosaic addicts...
Joe's umpteenth mosaic!

 ...who just can't stop.
Caroline's fourth mosaic
Have I ever mentioned that I love teaching mosaics?(!)  If you are in or around London and want to dip your toe into mosaic making, I am doing two taster sessions in July, in the glorious setting of a lovely London pub (The Tooting Tram and Social).

The first taster is on the afternoon of July 2nd, and is part of the wonderful Crafty Pint series, organised by creative sisters Gillian (Fabric Nation) and Louise (Lou Lou Workshop). Details and booking here.

The second taster is on the afternoon of July 24th, also at the Tooting Tram and Social. This will be a art & craft pop-up (with loads of free stalls of different makers showing you how to do stuff...and cup cakes!). It is organised by the SW Craft Club. All details here.

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

New creation...

...of one of my favourite creatures, the ever-magical dragonfly.
Here's a little one I knocked out as a practice run for a commission for 3 garden dragonflies which I am about to do.
Not yet grouted (have run out of black, and it has to be black grout to make those colours sing), I love the way stained glass cuts in those vein like ways. Mosaics are made for dragonflies, or is it the other way round?

More work new coming...I have decided to start several pieces at once - slow art like mosaics requires more patience than I have sometimes!


Thursday, June 02, 2011

Exploring the making process...silversmiths & mosaic artists speak

We often explore why we make. But what about how we make?

I'm not talking about technique but about the process.

How does that something that did not previously exist start its life in you, evolve, develop,  become solid and tangible?
Have you ever looked at your making process in detail (and is it desirable to dissect it or not?). How long do you take to let your creations gestate? How much of what you make is designed from the start - and how? Neatly in a sketchbook, on the back of an envelope, in the bath, out in nature, in the wee hours when you can't sleep?. How much evolves through serendipity and chance? Do you subdue your medium to your design or let your materials lead the way - or both? (I say to my students that mosaic materials are like characters in a novel - they have a life of their own and you need to let them lead you...).

How much of your ideas are 'original' (is there anything new under the sun?) and how much are fusions of different ideas sparking round your brain from a multitude of sources and experiences. And...yes yes, how do you know if you are crossing that fine line between inspiration and imitation?

A new exhibition, Mindful of Silver starts tomorrow through to 26th July at Goldsmiths Hall in London, exploring the making process of silversmiths and touching on many of these themes. I read an article about it in the paper (on the plane to Glasgow where the sun is still not set and its nearly 10pm!) and was intrigued by the questions it posed.
A few hours later I saw this vid by mosaic artists, mentor and amazing teacher, Sonia King...exploring the mosaic making process.

Mosaic from Dexter Evans on Vimeo.

There is much richness in these two sources that can help us step back and explore the how of our creative process. For anyone that values mindfulness, it sounds like a healthy avenue of contemplation don't you think?

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