Monday, September 23, 2019

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

This is a much more personal post than I am usually willing to make. Although I'm pretty opinionated and will express my thoughts easily about situations affecting a lot of people, I'm actually a very private person and don't like sharing details regarding my own life. But those people who have followed and encouraged me for 11 years deserve an explanation.

I will no longer be working as a professional mosaic artist. It's been a long time coming, this decision. I have struggled for several years with a growing animosity toward the business side of art, and I just can't do it anymore. I thought maybe a few months off would help, but I was wrong.

There are so many articles and blog posts written about how art can bring out your authentic self, how you can discover the solution to some of your problems through art (my friend David Sandum wrote a book about how art helped him cope with his depression - I'll Run Till The Sun Goes Down. Check it out.)

While that may be true for some, being a professional artist had the opposite effect on me.

Every time I posted about a new artwork that was available or a sale to move some older work, I felt like a carnival barker. Every time I had to explain why my prices are what they are, I felt like I was being accused of being a grifter. Every time I had to ask a visitor not to take photos of my work and explain the concept of intellectual property rights, I felt like a snob.

None of those things are me.

I have loved making mosaics and have enjoyed meeting so many other artists. My art  has been well received, but so what? You don't need it. Your life will be just as awesome with or without it. It won't make you happy, it won't cure loneliness, it won't bring you admiration for your good taste (well, maybe just a little).

It won't change your life.

I realize that sounds like I'm not showing proper respect for art in general, and I assure you that isn't true. Some of my favorite memories of childhood are from the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


I can't fully express the awe I felt in the presence of the Tiffany stained glass window commissioned as a memorial to former President Benjamin Harrison. Or the sculpture of The Three Graces on the grounds of Oldfields, the former Eli Lily Estate, whose creator's name has been lost in the mists of time. Or the ethereal painting, The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice by Monet.


To contemplate sublime art can trigger connections you would never have made otherwise. It can speak to human nature when words are insufficient. It can teach history, demonstrate compassion or courage, express yearning.

And for whatever reason, trying to make my way as an "artist" drained me and caused me to forget just how much I can be touched by such artworks. They became things to be studied, rather than evocations of transcendant experiences. Part of what I learned in my journey as an artist is that you have to teach yourself to look at what is actually there - lines, colors, shapes, shadows - rather than what your brain says something should look like. In studying these masterful artworks, I broke them down into lines, colors, shapes and shadows. And in doing so, they lost their ability to take my breath away.

It's not easy to make a break with something that has become a big part of you, but sometimes it can be more painful not to. When you believe your growth as a person requires a change, it's foolhardy to refuse. I will still make art now and then, probably more paintings than mosaics, but it will be strictly for my own satisfaction. Since I already have a house crammed full of art (my husband paints as well) I may throw things up on Facebook or Instagram once in awhile and see if anyone is interested.

So, yeah. That's it. Thanks for the support and encouragement over the years. I have truly appreciated each and every one of you. Wish I had something to offer you in return.





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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Fall is just around the corner again. I sometimes think "where did the time go?" and yet, when I look back, the past year has been full. Full of travel, full of love, full of good times. It has also been full of some sad things - on my mind particularly is my cousin's illness.

Although I don't usually whine about time passing too quickly, about a year ago my cousin and his wife moved very near us. We had said how much fun it would be to go to a baseball game together in Greenville, SC, as they have a farm team for the Red Sox. But it was also about that time that he was diagnosed with a very serious illness. I just heard that he has been placed in hospice.

We never went to a game, we never visited him at his home, we didn't go to the last family get together at Easter where we could have spent some time with him because we were travelling. So this year, yes, I think that ol' tempus fugit has bitten me in the ass.

He always loved Monet, so I'm told, and his sister just purchased my Giverny mosaic as a gift for him. (I hope I'm not in trouble for telling that, she may not have had the chance to take it to him yet.) I hope he finds comfort in those calm colors and watery lines.


And while I worry about the advance of time in relation to this cousin, I'm also anxious to see my aunt who will be visiting from Australia for several weeks soon. The wheel turns, and somehow we all find a way to cope with the good and the bad. There is always some of both to be found in every life.


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Monday, July 15, 2019

Onward and Upward

There has been a lot of water under the bridge during the last several months. It's been a difficult time for me in the studio, so that's the reason for the radio silence. I prefer not to hash things out publicly but to work my way through things internally. Maybe that's not healthy, but I'm an old dog.

As a result I have reorganized the studio and sold off some of the types of glass I won't be using in the future. I am also branching out into some other areas, one of which is creating websites and content for blogs, newsletter, etc. I will share more details about that with you soon.

Meanwhile, I need to clear out some inventory, so I am offering my remaining originals for 50% off! Some examples:



This is an amazing opportunity to purchase a beautiful piece of art for your home at a great price. They also make wonderful wedding gifts! My prints are also on sale 30% off and these can all be purchased through my website or you can email me at artist@mosaicartbyla.com. This offer is valid through August 31, 2019.

Since I last posted, I got a bee in my bonnet about wanting to design my own wallpaper for my home library. I love William Morris designs, but I can't afford the reproduction wallpaper, so I set about making my own design inspired by one of my favs. I got the design drawn, but unfortunately I don't have the skills (or possibly the ambition...or both) to go any further with it. I do love the design though...


And meanwhile I started another mosaic - Milagro. It's a bean seedling (even though I wanted to do a tree seedling, but that's another story) and I keep thinking of the movie The Milagro Beanfield War. (Great movie, by the way). Also, because milagro means miracle in Spanish, it seemed appropriate.





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Friday, August 24, 2018

Various and Sundry

First off, I have a picture of the finished heart for the Diversity Mural. I finished the darn thing quite some time ago, and unfortunately it got buried under supplies for the current project, so I forgot to mail it! I was lucky in that the deadline for the project was moved back, so when I found it, I still had time to mail it in. Yay!


ICYMI the mural is a tribute to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub attack in Orlando, FL two years ago. I thought the shape of the tess in this heart made the sides look a bit like angel wings and that seemed appropriate.

In other news, the Moonlit Magnolia project is moving right along. I though it might be interesting to see how the tiles are cut to fit the lines (andamento) that define the shape of the sections. Some of the tiles are laid without cutting, but many are cut. This video shows how I determine how to fit and cut the tiles for laying in areas where a full tile won't fit.


Although I still haven't taken a photo of several sections fitted together as promised, I do have a section which is a complete petal to show you:




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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Jigsaw Puzzles

As anyone who has followed this blog for awhile knows, I suck at photography. That's just how it is. Yes, I could get better if I put my mind to it, but it's probably not gonna happen. So there.

As a result, the photos to accompany what I have to tell you today are less than stellar, but they are what I have.

I recently saw a forum post requesting help on an outdoor floor mosaic, and I chimed in to give what help I could. She was concerned about constructing her mosaic in sections, because she didn't want the seams to be evident. So I told her about how mine are designed to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to eliminate obvious seams (except where design elements meet, like the edge of a leaf and the background).

I showed you this picture before, but this is one section of the background. The top edge is the outer limit of the mosaic, the left edge abuts a leaf, the lower parts abut flower petals, and the right, jagged edge will fit together with the next section of background. There are three sections of background until you run into another leaf. Why can't the background be done in a single section? This is sitting on a board approximately 2.5 ft. by 4 ft. Any larger, and it would be impossible to handle the section to install it.


Now here is the section that fits into the right side of the one above (it has been finished, but this is the only photo I have of it):


The left edge (yeah, the one that is partially out of frame!) will fit into the right side of the first one. By having the jagged edge, there won't be an obvious seam here.

By contrast, this is the leaf that the third section of background abuts, and it was small enough to do as a single section, so it has no jagged edges.


Puppy blur in the background!

And here is part of a flower petal - the lower, heavily shaded section of one. The sides and bottom abut other petals, but the top is jagged to fit into the upper section of the petal. (This photo is before it was finished)


I'll try to get a good photo of a few sections laid out as they will be installed for the next post.





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Monday, July 30, 2018

Fun Facts...

I've spent an awful lot of time soaking porcelain tiles off of mesh sheets in the last few weeks. I had read many years ago that if you put some vinegar in the soaking water, it will make the tiles easier to remove, so I've been using hot water and adding cleaning vinegar (stronger than table vinegar). After the first few sheets my hands felt dry and itchy, and I didn't know whether that was from the vinegar or just the hot water, so I started wearing rubber gloves. Apparently, it was a good idea - check out how the vinegar has changed the color of the gloves....


However, I ran out of vinegar last week and guess what? Hot water alone does just as good a job. In fact, there seems to be less glue residue on the underside of the tiles.

One of the leaves is finished - I'm working in what probably seems like a random order, but some of the sections have to be fit together in a puzzle-like fashion, so if I work on one of them, it makes sense to go to the connecting bit next rather than necessarily in order. This is a part of a petal that is in shadow - I'll move on to the outer part of this petal next.



UPDATE: I was wrong. Hot water alone isn't working as well. If you let the tile sit long enough to really soak, the water cools off too much.  Use the vinegar.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Uh oh...

I have no new project pics that don't look an awful lot like the ones from the last post, so here's a gratuitous puppy pic.

Remy on her first hike

Rolling with the punches is not one of my strengths, but with every project there will be some kind of problem that needs to be overcome. That's something you just accept as an artist. However, when you end up with a problem that you experienced 7 years ago and forgot about...well, let's just say I'm not well pleased with myself.

As strange as it sounds, I have come to the conclusion that you just can't keep open bags of thinset too long. Even though I have always kept them sealed against humidity (so they weren't clumped), if they've been open too long, the thinset doesn't have the sticking power it has when it's fresh. Maybe there's another explanation for it, but I'm at a loss.

After completing two sections, I found that some of the tiles were popping off the edge when I tried to move the mesh section. Ugh. It only took me about two days to remember that a project I worked on in 2011 did the same thing, and when I bought a new bag of thinset - problem solved.

It kills me to waste about half a bag of thinset, but if it won't stick tight, it's useless. New bag in the studio and I would be off to the races, except that I'm waiting for the next shipment of tile. Should arrive any day, but until then...




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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Moonlit Magnolia Begins to Take Shape

So here is the actual size cartoon for the mosaic installation. It is 16' in diameter, and the only place I could lay the whole thing out was in the driveway. I had it printed at actual size in pieces at Henco Graphics, then taped it together. As you can see, I started to cut out the circle and decided that was dumb! No reason to do that until I had it divided up into sections.


Here is the schematic of the different sections. The center square is for a storm drain. There are 43 sections, although a couple of them are large enough that they might have to be subdivided later.


The sections cut:


I'm using Winckleman's unglazed porcelain tile for this project. It is non-porous and weatherproof. It comes on square foot mesh sheets, and has to be soaked off...


and most of it cut into smaller pieces. I know this seems nuts since it's such a large project, but I want it to resemble a Roman floor mosaic, which would have been made of pieces about this size. Although it's tedious work, it's not hard with a compound tile nipper, and you can do it while listening to podcasts, working out logistics of other parts of the project, or planning dinner (ok, yeah, I'm probably thinking about what I will eat next and how soon can I eat it).


Remy trying to help:


Section one completed. This section (and all the other background sections) are full sized tiles.





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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

My Biggest Project Yet!

Summer always seems to be a busy time. I am always caught off guard, because I expect it to be a time when things slow down and people relax a bit. It seems like it used to be that way; now we've forgotten how to relax. But I could write a whole blog post on that subject...

There hasn't been much to talk about from the studio lately, because I have been working hard trying to get my ducks in a row on a huge project. I have been commissioned to create an outdoor floor mosaic for a community in Cary, NC, near Raleigh.

The logo for the community is a white magnolia, so I will be constructing a 16' diameter white magnolia blossom for installation in the fall!

I'll be posting some progress pics (without giving away too much) and talking about the whys and wherefores of some of the process.

And if you are in the Raleigh, NC area and are interested in helping with installation, I will be looking to hire a couple of people (must have some experience with mosaic). Tentatively scheduled for the first week of September. Message me if you're available and interested!

Also, check out my new website for prints and greeting cards!






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Monday, May 21, 2018

Giverny (homage to Monet)

Finally, something to show you!

I just finished this little piece, another of my Tinies (at only 6" x 6").


Entitled "Giverny (homage to Monet)" it was begun while reading the book Mad Enchantment, about Monet and the painting of the waterlilies.

I actually had no idea how very many paintings of waterlilies he had painted (although I knew there were several). He painted almost nothing else for years, some of the paintings were enormous.

This piece is now available. You can see it at the Kress Emporium, or if you can't make it in there, contact me at artist@mosaicartbyla.com or Kress at (828) 281-2252.

Next on the agenda: a monstrously large exterior floor mosaic. Stay tuned for details!





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