23 April 2013

Don't throw Greek mythology at me - I'll throw it right back at you.

From a SAS vendor who I've told a number of times that I didn't think the university would benefit from purchasing the service...

Hi Monta,

Do you know the myth of Sisyphus? In a nutshell he was a king in Greek mythology condemned to hell and his punishment was rolling a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down before it reached the top....for eternity.

I thought I had the persistence of this mythological king but you've outlasted me. So this is my last attempt to reach you. If you are interested in saving money, you know I am. If not, I won't be pushing this boulder any longer. 


My response:

I know you probably meant this to be humorous, but I really didn't find it so.

As an almost one-person shop for much of the university's web presence I am incredibly busy. It was not by choice that I have not responded. I get dozens and dozens of product promoting emails and calls each week. Even though we have spoken before and I recognize your name and product that does not mean I have time to call or email you.

Your labors might see Sisyphean to you... mine often seem Herculean - and I mean when he had to clean the Augean stables...

I am quite alright with you taking me off of your contact list. In fact, please do so.

11 March 2013

Signing Mosaics

Someone asked how an artist could sign their mosaic work.
Here's a close-up photo of how I do it

I take a narrow strip of copper and bend it into my initials (which luckily are ones that can be strung together out of a single strip).

I then embed them in the mortar, just like any other tessera.

This idea came from Matteo Randi of the Chicago Mosaic School.

08 March 2013


This evening's progress...

I've been using the Laticrete glass tile adhesive (thinset mortar). This is the third mosaic I've done with it. When my free sample runs out I'll definitely be purchasing some of it. For this mosaic I colored it with Gamblin Mars Black dry pigment - it took quite a bit of the pigment but I ended up with a rich black mortar... exactly what I wanted.

I'm thinking that I'll be at the SMU centennial dinner tomorrow with blackened fingers though... oh, well...

New Mosaic - Moonstruck

This morning's work.

Looking at it from both ends...

A close-up...

And a view without the distraction of my messy workbench...

06 March 2013

New Mosaic - Moonstruck

Today's progress:

New Mosaic

I've started a new mosaic today. I have a thin, white smalti pizza that I purchased from Mosaic Smalti that I've been brooding over for about a year (long incubation process for this one).

I've decided it's time to get to work on it.

Thin, white smalti pizza, approximately 9.5" x 11"
The problem I've had over the last year or so is how to best use this piece of glass in a mosaic. I've not worked with a whole pizza before.

In the past I've worked with lots of cut smalti as well as some broken pizzas. Those never seemed as precious to me as this piece of glass. By precious I don't mean near-and-dear-to-my-heart, but something else that I cannot quite define - maybe something in need of exacting care... I don't know... that's not exactly what I mean either. 

The Year That Was, stone & glass mosaic
using fairly large, broken pieces of smalti pizzas.
I wanted to combine the white glass with other interesting materials. I had around a pound of gold smalti that I picked up from Tiny Pieces last September when I was in Chicago for a couple days. I've always wanted to use gold smalti (but it also seemed a bit precious for where I was at with my practice). 

I decided that the gold smalti would look good with the white. 

This combination seemed to work in my mind, but I felt like it needed something to oppose the preciousness of it all. Something that would supply some sort of contrast.

As I was rummaging through the other materials in my studio I gravitated to the shelves that hold all my rocks instead of the glass supply shelves. I found the coal that I had gathered from a industrial site last year and decided that that would be the third material for this mosaic.  

Materials selected, I decided to do some planning rather than just jump in and break/cut up the white smalti pizza. First I traced it on heavy paper and made several cut-out models of the pizza. I then cut the paper models up in varying ways that I wanted to test out before actually cutting it up.

A few of the paper models
Over the course of a few days I tried several placements of the pieces and I finally came up with an arrangement that I thought worked best for the idea that was starting to come into focus in my head.

I outlined the pieces on a large sketchpad and began experimenting with how the materials might work together.
Planning the mosaic, paper (17" x 14" pad), gold smalti & coal.
I like the contrast - not only contrast of color, but the contrast of shiny/dull finishes, of smooth/rough texture, and - perhaps most of all - the contrast of luxuriousness/baseness.

So, now I'm ready to cut up the smalti pizza and get started. I also want to cut the gold smalti to 1/4 its current size so that the veins of it will be more delicate than they are in my planning diagram.

For now, the working title for this piece is Moonstruck.

24 February 2013

Encaustic Workshop

I'm leading another encaustic workshop in March.

Here's the info...

Saturday, March 30, 2013
12:00pm until 4:00pm

At my studio
854 W 5th St, Winona Minn.

Pay with PayPal or by check/cash
Contact me at monta@montagaelmay.com if you don't want to use PayPal.
Workshop Cost: $80
Class fee ($40) + Materials fee ($40)

Register at montagaelmay.com/workshops

You can also order Take-home Kits - 3 varieties
All kits include 6 – 40 oz. paints and an Ampersand cradled 6" x 6" Encausticbord™
See website for descriptions of kits

Ages 14 & up

A demonstration of materials and techniques will be followed by supervised work time where you will have a chance to experiment with the paint and tools. You will leave the workshop with several paintings.

I provide pre-mixed encaustic paint, beeswax and pigments for mixing your own colors, brushes and paper/boards.

Consider bringing interesting items to embed in the paintings:
     clippings from newspapers & magazines*
     small flat items (rocks, buttons, fabric or other sewing notions, etc)

     * these items will give mixed results – but we're planning to experiment, aren't we?

Participants will receive a discount code for your first order from RF Paints.

Please register by March 26

NOTE: You must register by 3/20 if you want to order any of the Encaustic Kits and have them arrive by the workshop date. You can of course order them after the 20th and pick them up from me when they come in.

Photos from the October workshop:

20 February 2013

Encaustic paintings

Two new encaustics
Consanguinity, 30 x 22", encaustic on paper

Solstice Fire, 22 x 30, encaustic on paper

One of these will be in a show in Minneapolis from March until October...

Not the best photos of the paintings. I didn't set up the photo studio, just took quick photos.

25 January 2013

Course-Suggestion Software Inspired by Netflix and Amazon - Wired Campus - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Article: Desire2Learn Acquires Course-Suggestion Software Inspired by Netflix and Amazon – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education

This is interesting. I'm not sure how well it would work at my university, but I can see where a university with a plethora of options could use this as a recruiting tool – having a tool that makes course selection, perhaps even major selection, more like a shopping experience, well I can see how that might be attractive the undergrads and perhaps even their parents.

But – and I think this is a big but – what about that responsibility-for-our-own-choices understanding that we are supposed to realize as we become adults? Would this helpful system be encouraging more adolescence, or a longer adolescence, when it comes to learning what responsibility is? Or am I overreacting with a snarky "I did it myself, so you should have to do it yourself too" mindset?

In any case, I think it's another step down the commercialization of education. Students already seem to think they are "buying" their education which makes them think they have more influence over their instructors than they do (or should) have. Educators and institutions have to demonstrate a clear "value" for their courses and programs, when the reality is that the individual student's efforts (again, responsibility, responsibility, responsibility) seems to me to be most direct influence on their success.

Yes, there are boring, under-informed (or ill-informed), lazy instructors. But for the most part I've found that they are a minority. Most of the instructors I had were desperate for students that cared enough to do the readings, to attempt the homework and to participate in class in a meaningful manner without excessive prodding and cajoling... and if you were that student, well, you often made that instructor's day – maybe even their semester – a joy.

I believe that student success has more to do with the student than the critics of higher education want to admit.