This mosaic is dedicated to those fabulous blue dragonflies that flit around our yard and the pond across the street, gobbling up mosqitoes by the bucketful. They are so much fun to watch, zipping this way and that, changing course so abruptly you could get whiplash watching them for very long. They are most visible at dusk when the mosquitoes are most annoying, and when they rest nearby, flexing their wings slowly, it's easy to imagine that they can feel your gratitude.
This piece measures 24" X 36", and has been in progress for about a year. It has metamorphosed many times since it was started. Originally conceived as a backdrop for a water fountain, it is now designed to hang on a wall.
I began this piece intending to use a very simple abstract background, but I really wasn't happy with the way it was starting off, so I decided to rethink the whole thing, including the dragonflies, which were originally going to be yellowy green. Since the dragonflies in our yard are mostly the beautiful blue ones with black bodies, I wanted to represent them instead of a variety we never see here. That meant that the background I had planned wouldn't work.........(this is so typical of how I work, I hate to admit!)
I knew that I wanted to keep the bare polymer clay branches that I had made for the original concept. I really loved the polymer clay - I love the color depth, the ease of sculpting, the fact that it shrugged off the colored grout like rainwater. HOWEVER, (and this is a big caveat) when baking it in the oven, the fumes could topple a cow. I wasn't aware of this (having never used polymer clay before) when I started the project. I have since learned that it should be baked on a tile or board inside of a baking dish which is sealed with foil. Or use a toaster oven you've dedicated to polymer clay baking. That's fine and dandy, but these branches were over 2 feet long, and barely even fit in the oven. I had nothing big enough to hold them anyway.
After filling in the foreground with broken slate tiles, I started on the dragonflies. The dragonflies are the only parts of this piece that were worked in the indirect method. I used a clear contact film placed sticky side up over a reverse image of the drawing I made for the dragonflies. The glass and mirror pieces were then cut to fit and placed upside down on the sticky film. Because I used some mirror and Van Gogh glass (which are different on the back than on the front), it was a surprise to turn them over and see what they really looked like when finished! It's a leap of faith to work indirect with something that has a definite "up" and "down". After they were finished, I laid down a layer of thinset on the substrate (mosaic backing) and carefully placed them right side up into it. I admit I didn't get the thinset very even, so in places it squished up between the tiles and had to be cleaned off. I found, though, that letting the thinset dry long enough to become semi-rigid and then just flicking it out from between the tiles with a dental pick was the best way to do that. No mess, and no dislodged tiles.
I next added the pond. The tiles I used for the pond are clear glass with paint on the back (Crystal Tiles from Maryland Mosaics) which have a watery quality to them. The trees were next, with the background filled in last around the other elements.
I would love to hear your feedback on the piece, and whether you found the description and photos of the process interesting. In case you need encouragement to add your comments, Sophie has graciously begun by offering her commentary: