25 January 2010

One World One Heart 2010

Photo I've been blogging off and on since 2002 and have been more diligent about it lately both to share my creations and because I've been so inspired by others' blogging. So I'm excited this year to participate in One World One Heart, a sort of virtual bloggers' convention that offers the opportunity not only to see and read about what others are doing but also to win something! I'm offering the brass and glass earrings pictured above; I made them using brass swallows that have a unique patina finish created by a fellow Etsy seller, PatinaQueen. (I have to give her a shout-out because she does such great things with metals and chemicals.)

So how do you play? Just leave a comment to this blog entry by Valentine's Day, and on February 15, I will pick one comment to win the earrings and post the winner in my blog. I'll wait for you to contact me unless you have left me your email address either by commenting using your blogger identity or by including your email address in the comment. You don't need to say or do anything else -- no annoying sign-ups, and no spam later, either, I promise.

Although this is a blogging event you don't need to have a blog to be eligible to win the giveaway, and I'll ship anywhere. If you have more questions, just ask! The OWOH main page lists the many other bloggers participating, so do visit their blogs and enjoy the great diversity our World Wide Web has to offer.

Black, redux... Still not working for me, so now what?

Thanks to Photoshop, I can play around with this image to see what might work better, so today I thought, what if I just cut out the piece's problematic midsection? Keep in mind that the revised image on the right is "larger".... Hmm. I'm still not liking it; I'm wondering if I should make the black heart smaller overall, and/or create more perspective where I intermingle the black with the "sky" both directionally and in terms of relative size of the pieces.

Another idea that is quickly taking root: split the two pieces entirely -- literally cut it in half (again, good thing I don't glue till I'm happy with the composition). So then I would do one mosaic of the black heart (probably narrower side to side, and perhaps tilted and "scattered" a bit more) and a separate one of the winged heart, also on a narrower background, and hang them sort-of together, just close enough that they're thematically connected, but the separateness would emphasize that that winged heart is gone, truly and for good now, so... Hmm. No wonder the piece isn't working in one confined space.... (No, it is NOT representative. NOT. At all. In any way.)

This one is really challenging me... and I love that.

24 January 2010

Waiting for Spring: Sketches for a New Mosaic Series

I didn't actually handle any glass today; hanging out with the kids and taking care of two short assignments for school took priority, and three gashes in my fingers from last week still need some healing time. But I did stick to my promise to be actively creative every day this year, today sketching out a series of smallish (maybe 4x6 or 5x8) tiles I'd like to make showing early spring flowers of my childhood.

Having grown up in the east I well remember the surprise of snowdrops and crocuses in the earliest, often snowy days of March, followed by the cascading explosion of pink on our huge weeping cherry tree, the delicate white and pink dogwood blossoms, cheery yellow daffodils (always right around my birthday), and heavenly-fragrant hyacinths. I'll probably also do one of tulips, and maybe one of the mayapples and hellebores that grew in our woods... so many beautiful flowers, and I do miss them so.

I'll wait to start on this series till I return from Charlotte (my 2nd and final week-long clinical skills residency for school) on Feb. 11. In the meantime I'll be taking my recently finished projects up to Albuquerque next Monday for my friend Paula's "Peace and Love" show; five hearts are finished, and "Black" may or may not be ready by then depending on whether I can fix the huge composition problems plaguing its midsection.

When I'm working on, planning, or even just thinking about my mosaics, I feel at peace. I guess that's why I haven't wanted to do anything else lately; maybe I should figure out how to extend that peace into other pursuits, especially those I can't very well push aside, like school....

22 January 2010

Black (in progress)

I sketched this mosaic out a few weeks ago and am still messing around with the composition (I inadvertently composed in halves rather than following the sacred rule of thirds and am diligently trying to correct that). I'm not happy with it yet, but lucky for me I rarely start adhering pieces till I'm essentially finished composing. It's quite large for me -- 12 by 15 inches -- and "illustrates" a song I can't get out of my head:

...And now my bitter hands
cradle broken glass
of what was everything
All the pictures have
all been washed in black
tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
turned my world to black
...I know someday you'll have a beautiful life
I know you'll be a star
in somebody else's sky...
(Pearl Jam, "Black")

The black is actually very dark purple glass; I used its smooth side for the foreground heart and bumpy matte side for its background to keep the tone consistently dark but somehow set the heart apart. Maybe that heart should be more "falling apart" or something; it looks too "composed," or something.

The small red heart flying off into the brightening sky isn't clearly visible here (it's still covered by the contact paper I compose on and use to hold it together while moving it around) but is composed of bright mirror-finish glass; I made the wings using polymer clay and "champagne sparkle" acrylic paint. That heart (the one escaping the darkness) would be me, by the way, if this piece were at all representative...

21 January 2010


Okay, NOW this piece is done, except for cleaning every last bit of glue and crud off the glass, gluing back in the grout beads that popped out during cleaning, and painting the edges and back. I made a bunch of polymer clay wings the other day and tried a pair out on this piece just to see how they might look, and that's when I realized the piece was really done. (Well, I painted the wings a crystal champagne white, glued them on, then decided the composition was truly done.)

(For now.)

Coursework -- my second-to-last quarter -- has cut way into my mosaic time, but I've still finished a few more pieces and am slowly composing one that I call "Black." It's much larger, both because I'm tired of trying to piece and glue tiny shards and because the idea needs more room to translate into glass.... Why couldn't I pick something easier, like drawing or painting? Easier on the hands, anyway; I'm on my third box of Band-Aid Tough Strips in as many months. Of course, my trip to the Socorro ER for a splinter in my eye on Monday came not from shattering glass (I wear goggles, always) but from something so mundane as splitting and stacking firewood. So I guess by comparison glass mosaics are safer....

19 January 2010

More Finished: Sacred Heart Rosary

This piece continues to evolve; I knew it wasn't done but couldn't figure out what it needed... then I thought of the rosary. I actually made a rosary bracelet, which (legend has it) evolved in late-1500s British-controlled Ireland as a smaller form of rosary that could be easily concealed in a sleeve so as to avoid persecution. So, that's that for now....

15 January 2010

"Art" or Insanity? Probably a Bit of Both

I think I like the beaded grout so far... it's a bit busy, but I believe it will cohere the piece once it's all in. I won't have time to work on this today, which is a good thing because it needs to sit for a while longer till I decide for sure. I have the impulse to start cleaning it, but of course that should wait till all the gluing is done. I do love the focal piece (locket with hearts and milagro); it's composed of castoffs, the reclaiming of which paradoxically makes them seem more precious. So, maybe this piece is a bit artistic, and a bit insane, and in any case I'm having fun making it. Well, except for the part where the Superglue sticks to my fingers and rips all the freshly-placed beads right back out of their grout space. Current workaround: use the WD-40-greased tip of my bead-reamer (a long, thin metal tool) to slide the beads back into place. I think as much creativity goes into solving problems like this as goes into composition... which is cool with me.

Another (Re-)Pieced Heart, and an Experiment at the Crossroads

Here's another more-or-less finished mosaic, a 5 x 5 inch square that could serve as a keyholder or small jewelry display thanks to the brass rosettes that are, in fact, upholstery tacks. I like the colors here a lot: atypical for a heart and cooler than the usual Valentine. This hastily-composed photo doesn't entirely show it, but the brownish glass is all mirror-coated, which adds nicely to the contrast. As with my other pieces I still need to figure out a consistent way to finish the edges; I guess paint would be okay, but I dream of the day I can put a finished frame around my creations. I will NOT take up yet another hobby, however... I think I need to befriend a woodworker who can also make me more of the self-framed wooden crosses that work so well for mosaics. Maybe I'm ready for a partnership... of sorts....

I'm now beading the grout of my bright red broken-heart piece -- yes, beading the grout, with African trade beads, seed beads, and Super Glue. The whole piece has been an experiment, so why not? The colorful trade beads went quickly but now that I'm beading the outer grout lines with size 15 (that's tiny) seed beads the process is tedious, to say the least, and will become far more tedious if I decide I hate it and have to scrape it all out. I did make new word tiles using polymer clay, alphabet stamps, acrylic paint, and shimmery pigment powder old eyeshadow, and am much happier with them. Tonight I also finished the focal piece using the old locket and lampwork bead shown here along with a fractured mother-of-pearl heart cabochon and broken hand milagro... you'll have to wait to see that treasure in its finished state. This piece is now far more complicated than the earlier progress shot at left shows and might be bordering on insanity at this point; I guess I'll sleep on it and see what I think tomorrow.

14 January 2010

Help Haiti

The devastation wrought by Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti is beyond comprehension. Médecins sans Frontières/Doctors without Borders has been working tirelessly in Haiti for years to improve life for citizens of this long-oppressed and impoverished nation, and is now trying to help people there in the wake of this disaster. If you feel so inclined, please give what you can to whatever organization you prefer (see a list here), and keep people there in your thoughts.

11 January 2010

Finished? Not Sure

I started my Winter Quarter of coursework today and am sad to be losing my after-hours mosaic time. One of my Facebook friends has vowed to be creative every day, and I can commit to that, too, even if I just spend a half hour making or painting some Sculpey tiles for a new mosaic. Today I sort of finished this frame... I wonder if it needs a few small embellishments to complement the pretty glass dragonfly tile on the left, so I'll sit with it and let it tell me whether it's done.

Up next: more frames, maybe, and some little birdhouses: I hit the local thrift store last week and walked out with 10 cool things to mosaic on (some old frames and a simple wooden birdhouse) and with (a few pieces of opalized glass that used to be saucers) -- for all of $1.00 because it was Dime Day. I also have that red heart ready to embellish (rivers of beads in the grout lines) and another heart project in the works for which I probably won't start breaking more glass till next week when I am settled into a routine with coursework again. Oh, and I decided to make a rosary to wrap around that Sacred Heart cross I started last summer and just finished last week, except that I kept feeling like it's not Finished, so now I need to find a brass or gold-tone crucifix and rosary center. It's either a handmade (of course) rosary or some barbed wire... that might be cool.... First, though, duty calls. *Sigh.*

10 January 2010

Ready for Grouting

I started these two pieces several weeks apart and finished them one day apart. The heart frame took much longer because I had to figure out how to paint the frame to make the pale pink non-opaque tiles look good. The Pepto Bismol pink I tried first was not the way to go, nor was metallic purple, so I just kept brushing and sponging on more paint in the pink-purple part of the spectrum till I got something I was okay with. I don't love it, but it worked well enough for me to finish this piece. After grouting it I'll add maybe two more small embellishments, perhaps a dragonfly and a flower, to balance the lovely Creekmore-Durham glass tile on the left side of the frame. (One note: the tiles are not quite as crooked as they look; that's an artifact of the camera angle.)

The dragonfly piece above also uses a focal glass tile from Creekmore-Durham and took several part-days to piece because cutting and fitting the small glass pieces (the whole tile is just 5 by 6 inches) is much harder than working with large pieces. I also changed my mind on the blue for the "sky" and had to chip out a few glued-in pieces before proceeding; one hung on tenaciously and I couldn't even chip it out with a hammer and screwdriver (I passed on using the drill... flying glass shards and no medical insurance don't mix well), so I left the fragment and will accept an imperfect piece... ;-) I'll paint the little letter tiles (I made those! they read "you can fly") after grouting; I learned the hard way with another piece last week that grout is very hard on acrylic paint. Play, learn, and play some more...

06 January 2010

Controlled Chaos

Above is a shot of my work table -- one of three work tables, in fact; I have this one (from the gallery, which is closed for good now), my jewelry table (now jewelry/mosaic table) just to its left, and the glass sorting and grouting table over by the wall, which is actually the dining room table and is covered with two sturdy plastic covers. Yes, I've spread out a bit, as is my habit (don't worry, Mom, I'll compact it all before you guys come out to visit)... I tidied this table up a bit before snapping this picture, which shows six of about ten projects I have in progress. The red heart on the left has been in progress for a week and had to sit for a while as I figured out whether to keep the rather imperfect word tiles I'd made or make new ones. I'm leaning toward making new ones (I'm discovering my inner perfectionist these days, to my bemused surprise) mainly because the copper wash under the glass doesn't work with the mirror and should probably be silver instead. I seem to be experimenting, always, and although I sometimes take a while to figure out how to solve a problem, I love the learning and playing involved.

I also love how mosaic work fits my "multi-tasking" style perfectly because when I get stuck on or frustrated with one project or process, I can move to another piece in a different stage. Last night I got tired of how the blue glass I'm using for the piece in the upper middle of the picture was splintering rather than breaking cleanly, so I grouted. I'm finding glass cutting particularly baffling these days, perhaps because I'm using rougher-than-usual artisan stained glass panels that do not break cleanly at all. This morning I cut a much easier batch of glass for the "black heart" (shown above in the bottom center of the picture) for a piece that's been floating in my head for a few days now, and as the picture at right shows I've made more progress, perhaps enough to start piecing it on Hardibacker tonight.

05 January 2010

A Heart On the Wing

I call this small piece my New Year's hope mosaic. I pieced the heart on New Year's Eve and kept having thoughts of piecing together my own heart from these shards of beautiful stained glass. The "sky" came together the next day -- New Year's Day -- and after grouting the piece last night, I added the hand-wrought brass wire hook and tiny brass bird this morning. I think it's finished, though I am thinking about how to finish the edges (maybe paint; I'd love to do a wooden frame but am no kind of woodworker and don't really have the time to learn yet another skill). I might also need to seal the grout because it's a bit crumbly, and who knows, I might add a few more treasures to some of the larger grout spaces. I'll sit with it and see how it evolves; aside from first imagining a piece, my favorite part of the creative process is "living with" a piece and figuring out how to bring the real thing closer to my original vision for it.

I have several more pieces in progress, and just six days left to finish them before coursework descends on me again next week. Most of the pieces are small like this one (it measures just 4 by 6 inches), which seems manageable... It's strange to be creating so avidly just as my friends and I close our gallery...

01 January 2010

Happy New Year!

I've finally been able to start back up with mosaics now that I'm on break from school, and although I'm struggling a bit with composition and technique (I never did take an art class in college), I'm learning a lot just by playing. These hearts are inspired by a quote from a strange and wise person who, last year, talked about surrendering to circumstances: "Let it break you open. You'll never know the beauty inside unless you do." He was right, and I feel like I'm finally living that truth.

Both are pieced from stained glass that I cut by hand, usually going more or less freeform with a mosaic glass cutter but sometimes using a pistol-grip glass cutter for a more precise shape. I pieced and glued the smaller heart last night after celebrating a quiet, fun New Year's Eve with my kids, and hope to finish both backgrounds and then clean the pieces tonight (the messy white stuff on the glass is residual glue; I use "Household Cement" now instead of mortar with the glass because it holds the pieces much better). The larger heart will have beads and other treasures in the "seams"; the smaller one will just be grouted, I think, though I may add some treasures to the background.