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 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 or Kress at (828) 281-2252.

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

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mad Enchantment

I may be a touch more impressionable than I tend to think I am. I just finished reading Mad Enchantment, Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies by Ross King. And so the plan to mosaic an African Daisy on the next tiny mosaic somehow morphed into an homage to Monet...

Ha! You can still see some of the drawing for the African Daisy on the substrate. It wouldn't all erase away. This will be at The Kress Emporium soon.

I recommend the book, by the way. It's fascinating to see the lives of artists set against the backdrop of the times they lived in. I hadn't ever thought about Monet having lived through World War I, and it's interesting to see how the conditions of France during the Grande Guerre impacted his daily life, his psyche and his art.

(Just proofread and the first sentence works on so many levels! lol)

And in case you haven't heard, prints and greeting cards are now for sale on my website! Please go check them out - they'd make a lovely Mother's Day gift!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Coloring Grout and Thinset

I have been a big fan of coloring grout or thinset (for ungrouted mosaics) to enhance the design of a mosaic for as long as I can remember. I began with just a single, solid color that I thought would go best with the majority of the tesserae, but I began to want more from my grout. If you can match (which is a word I use loosely here) the color of each section, they become much more distinct. And there is also the ability to add shading by using different values of the same color in each section. I thought some of you readers who also make mosaics might be interested in this journey.

Some reasons for changing grout colorants over the years is that the supply chain has changed, I found better colorants, and recently I found that the better colorants have their own issues and can be difficult to find. So about a month ago I found myself searching for other options.

I first began by using powdered grout colorants that I purchased from a supplier (I think it was Maryland Mosaics, but they no longer carry these anyway).

The charcoal was the only one that I thought produced a color I was happy with. The others were just a little funky - colors that don't quite exist in nature. That's not necessarily a problem if you like them anyway, unless of course most of your subject matter is nature based.

I also tried ordering pre-colored grout from Home Depot in super rich, dark colors: Lipstick, Mallard Green, Midnight - you get the idea.  Problem #1 - you end up with a shit load of strong colored grout that will eventually harden and get gravelly. Problem #2 - for some reason, those uber-tinted grouts don't accept the water quickly like light colors. It's kind of like pouring milk on powdered sugar. It requires stirring for a very long time to get it to mix, and then you have about 2.5 seconds to stop mixing or you get a bizarre foamy texture.

I then discovered Tints All which I purchased from Maryland Mosaics in tubes. I wanted the smaller size in lots of colors to try them out - they do come in larger bottles. The colors are fantastic and nicely concentrated, and with the exception of a couple of the red shades, they won't fade and are appropriate for outdoor use.

My biggest problem with these is that the colorants in the tube separate so you have to massage the tube thoroughly to recombine it before using, and with time they become nearly solid and difficult to remove from the tube. As concentrated as they are, you use very little and the small tube would last a long time - if you could get the stuff out of it. I did purchase the larger bottle size of the black, and it seems thinner and I haven't had a problem with it. So maybe that's the answer - only use the bottles. However, two of the shades I use most were out of stock for a long time, so I needed another solution.

I ended up buying a few powdered pigments from Gamblin - these are artist quality pigments for people who are nerdy enough to make their own paint. (Sorry! no offense intended. I love nerds.) They are expensive, but they color grout and thinset beautifully! I really love the look of these.

I know that some of these colors won't have the lightfast qualities of the Tints All colorants, but for indoor use, that's not an issue. I will probably restock some of the Tints All in larger bottles for things I think I might use outdoors.

Anyone have another suggestion?

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