30 January 2009

Mosaic Progress - Part 7

This photo shows my progress as of Wednesday night. I did not work on the mosaic last night because I went to the Winona Fine Arts Commission open forum. Interesting event.

Anyway, when I looked at the photos from Wednesday night I noticed a mistake that I am going to have to fix. It's in the lower right corner of the mosaic.

27 January 2009

Lake Park Fountain Art Project - Update

Voting now open!

The Blue Heron Committee selected three finalists from all the artists presenting proposals and placed the choices online so that anyone can vote on their choice of artists and sculptures (that's not a hint or request for your vote, by the way - just an explanation of the process - but you could vote if you wanted).

My proposal for the project is a mosaic patio/floor showing a water scene (river or lake, we have both in town) with various water animals playfully but realistically rendered. The fountain would be surrounded with a papercrete form - a sandbar with reeds, cattails, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects illustrated in mosaic.

26 January 2009

Mosaic Progress - Part 6

The background and flowers are really starting to take shape. The mosaic is laying flat on a table as I work on it. Soon I have to decide if I want to finish the left side of the mosaic, filling in the sky all the way to the top, or rotate it 180 degrees and work on the flowers and grass at the bottom right side before finishing the sky.

Did not get quite as much work done on the mosaic over the weekend as I would have preferred - the house was scary messy and a major drain on any creative energies one might have. So Abelisto and I spent significant time over the weekend putting it in order. Now everything but the kitchen and one studio room is okay, not perfect, but okay.

And the laundry got done, which was another absolutely necessary task. I'm still not sure the washer is working correctly, but I am in denial about it after the $600.00 bill for the furnace...

22 January 2009

Mosaic Progress - Part 5

It's almost midnight. I had no idea I had worked so long tonight. I was listening to an audio book and laying in tiles and time slipped away from me.

Mosaic Progress - Part 4

Here is MacKenzie in the Garden with Bees as of last night.
It's always interesting to see which areas of a mosaic I feel drawn to work on. If I were doing a mosaic in opus regulatum I would pick a corner and work row-by-row; if opus vermiculum I would select an element in the image and work it first and then move outward; but this one is sort of opus palladium - crazy path - and I can jump around in it a bit.

21 January 2009

Lake Park Fountain Art Project

I have been chosen as one of three finalists for the Lake Park Fountain - Artist Competition. For a few days next week people will be able to vote online for an artist.

Here is the proposal I sent to the committee in December, followed by a sketch of the proposed piece...

I wish to submit a proposal for the Lake Park Fountain project. I have attached the Design Submission Form with this letter of intent.

Mosaics are an art form that can last for hundreds or thousands of years. There are very fine examples of mosaics that are over two thousand years old. The most ancient mosaic artists used marble and stones from the earth. Medieval and Renaissance mosaicists used stones, marble, glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles, precious metals and poured and sliced slabs of glass – smalti – to construct their work. Contemporary mosaic artists use all of the above plus stained and other specialty glass, along with bits of broken pottery, found object and other mixed media materials.

The design I am proposing consists of a mosaic paved area around the fountain, measuring approximately 20 – 25 square feet, set into the ground so as to be level with the current concrete base of the fountain. The paved area would be irregularly shaped so as to be organic in form (like a lake or river), respect the nature of the park and disturb the roots of the nearby tree as little as possible. The actual shape would be guided by the findings when the digging is begun. The project would also include a sculptural base that would cover the current fountain supports and water pipes. This sculptural surround would be made from papercrete, and cast in two sections so that it could be opened to access the water line and drain for any future servicing. In addition, a discussion with the park service team would have to occur before any digging could begin so as not to damage or disrupt the waterline feeding the fountain. This and the need to be guided by the needs of the nearby tree make it impossible to present you with a totally illustrated concept in this proposal and is the reason I am including this narrative with my submission.

The construction would include excavating a 10” deep area, leveling it, laying in 6” of gravel, framing up and pouring a 4” thick concrete slab, covering the slab with a concrete binder, and adding a mortar bed for the tesserae (mosaic tiles) to rest upon. Due to the relatively small size of the project I believe this would mostly be done by hand, however I would make all possible efforts to hire local people/businesses for any outsourced labor.

The mosaic tesserae (tiles) would cover the new poured pavement and the current paved area around the fountain. I am proposing a mosaic that represents water, water in a river or lake, water that is full of living things – fish, frogs, water lilies, reptiles, flowers, reeds, birds. These creatures would be playful and unique – rather than realistically represented – but tastefully rendered.

The sculptural surround for the fountain would not rise above the fountain’s current bowl, so as conform to any ADA regulations (assuming the current fountain’s design falls within those guidelines). The mosaic work on this part of the project would continue the idea that our water is for all living creatures, depicting cattails and reeds and the birds that live therein. Papercrete is a very durable substance used in residential and commercial construction which can be shaped freeform.

Our Drinking Fountains, Our Water - Design Submission

December 12, 2008

Description of design, materials, and experience with materials:

Mosaic paved slab surrounding the fountain with a mosaic papercrete sculptural base for fountain.

A variety of vitreous glass tiles, sea glass tiles, ceramic and porcelain mosaic tiles, gravel for substrate, concrete and concrete binder for pavement, thinset mortar for tile bed, paper pulp and cement for sculptural base for fountain.

It has been nearly 20 years since I first worked with mosaics. In the meanwhile I have done a good amount sculptural work. This past fall I resumed working with mosaics and decided to offer up this proposal for your consideration. I have included a few images of my recent mosaic work as well as an image of some sculptural work I have done. I do not have very many photographs to offer because I have not been all that concerned about taking photos of my work and most of my mosaic work was years ago. I have provided three photographs showing recent mosaic work – two 2-D pieces and some small 3-D pieces. I do have a website that contains more images of my work – www.854w5th.com.

Images of work in the medium:

Sketch of proposed work:

20 January 2009

Mosaic Progress - Part 3

Came home 90 minutes early today - well, now it's yesterday - worn out from fighting to breathe all day. Slept for a few hours and was wide awake. I still am.

Decided to clean house and work on the mosaic. Tonight's work:

And the entire work (so you can see how far I have to go yet...):

19 January 2009

Mosaic Progress - Part 2

Last night's work:

18 January 2009

Mosaic Project

I have started another Mosaic - MacKenzie in the Garden with Bees. I am using a 24" x 48" piece of tile backer board. Here is the drawing on the board, the guidelines for the piece. I follow the lines more or less. It just depends on how the tessarae go down.

I've started attaching tiles and stained glass and will post some more photos in the coming days as the piece progresses.

22 Below Zero

On this past Thursday it reached 22 below zero just before dawn. Our high that day was 4 below zero. While not quite a record, it was pretty damn cold. We spent the day doing two of Minnesota's favorite things - remarking on how cold it gets and congratulating ourselves on how well we do when it gets that cold.

Friday was when it all hit the fan, though...

Friday evening after work Abelisto & I stopped by the shoe store where I purchased a pair of Timberline hiking boots since my Asolo boots don't fit since the foot surgery - well, it's not so much that they don't fit, but rather that the tongue of the boot presses right on the scar on the top of my foot, making it really uncomfortable to wear them. I am saving them to see if someday the scar will be less tender and I can wear them again. The Asolos are a really heavy pair of hiking boots and I would love to wear them again in the future. Anyway, after shoe shopping (always a taxing event since I have a hard time finding shoes that fit) we went out to dinner stopping on the way home at a new recycled clothing store here in Winona.

When we got home we discovered that the washer was not working. We have one of those computerized front loading LG washers that control water and wash time based on how much you put in the washer. It has a LED display that tells you what the problem is if there is something keeping the washer from working. The panel was flashing a code I had never seen before and instead of looking it up on the handy guide (which is conveniently magnetically attached to the side of the washer) I simply popped the door open. Out poured around 20 gallons of soapy water - right onto my new boots.

This was how I discovered that waterproof Timberlines are, in fact, waterproof.

I quickly shut the washer door, but actually at this point the water was below the door level and wasn't going to pour out any more. We found the shop vac and cleaned up the water mess and decided that since it had been warmer that day we would let it go until morning and see if it would thaw out. We also discovered that the waterline to the dishwasher was frozen too.

During the night Abelisto woke up smelling smoke. He got up and went over the house from top to bottom, and not finding any reason to be smelling smoke, tried to get some more sleep - but never managed to fully get back to sleep.

When we got up Saturday morning there was still some strange water issue in the kitchen and laundry room. Before I had much time to think about it the telephone in the front room rang. It was the land line phone - all our friends usually call us on our cell phones, so I figured that it was the usual telemarketer and didn't make a serious attempt to get to it before the voicemail answered it.

As I got to the phone I heard the head of the maintenance department at work leaving a message telling me that a waterline in my building had burst overnight and the office was affected. He also mentioned two other people whose areas are in the part of our offices that are across a rather wide hallway. I thought he probably was just calling everyone in the office, but that the damage was really in the offices across the hall. Besides that, I had water issues at home to deal with.

We went to Menards and picked up two ceramic space heaters. We put the insulation that one of the cats had torn down back up in the basement window, plugged the pipe heater back in (neither of us remembered unplugging it), and placed a space heater in the basement room with the pipes and in the laundry room.

All of a sudden we smelled smoke again. I was fairly certain it wasn't the space heaters, but we went on a search of the first floor of the house and the basement.

We found a gruesome sight. Sometime during the bitter cold of the week, a starling had come down in the chimney vent for the water heater. It must have been drawn to the warmth. It found itself in a bad situation, though, when the water heater turned on and hot gas fire exhaust came rushing up the chimney. The bird's struggles had lifted the chimney duct pipe off of the water heater - it almost escaped death, but not quite.

It actually was good that we found this - having the chimney vent almost knocked off could have given us carbon monoxide poisoning.

A bit later it seemed that the water lines were thawed. I had tried turning on the washer and it immediately started pouring water into the washing compartment. This washer has water saving controls and it never just pours water in. Even when I turned it off the water still came in. Abelisto and I pushed the washer sideways a bit so that we could reach the water valves and turned them off. By the time we got that done, water was pouring out onto the floor again so I got the shop vac and sucked it all up as well as sucking out as much of the water in the washer as I could.

At this point I figured that the washer's inlet valves had been frozen and were likely toasted. So I packed up all the wet soggy clothing and towels, and all the rest of the unwashed laundry and headed off to a Laundromat. Since I was out and about I drove by the university to check out the burst pipe scenario and discovered that my desk was part of the flooded area, but my coworkers were taking care of it, which was a good thing since it only took a few minutes of being in the room to trigger an asthma episode. The dissolving ceiling tile, or the debris or something was off-gassing some chemical that had my airways tight in no time. The water had splashed all over my laptop and new, 22" auxiliary monitor, but they both seemed to work alright.

I left my coworkers cleaning things up and went to do the laundry.

When I got home Abelisto mentioned that the furnace did not kick on during the entire time I was gone. We usually have our thermostat set around 60 degrees to save energy, but we had turned it all the way up earlier in hopes of helping to thaw out the frozen lines. At this point the temperature in the house was around 45 degrees so I went down and tested the fuses. None were blown so we called a service company.

Three and a half hours later we had heat. We also had $600.00 less in our checking account. It turned out it was mostly our own fault - if you don't change your furnace filters regularly it causes the blower motor to run harder which overheats the circuit board which will, in time, fry the furnace's computer.

While waiting for the service man to get the furnace fixed we decided to run the dishwasher and do some cleaning up. I was filling the sink and washing counter tops. Abelisto loaded and ran the dishwasher. I noticed that the sink drain bubbled up when the dishwasher kicked into rinse, but did not think much about it.

We stopped to make supper and I worked on the mosaic and finished cutting the tile order into sample-sized sheets of tile. Abelisto worked on his lecture for Monday and did some grading while I played with cutting glass tiles and building a jig for cutting better triangles from the 3/4 inch glass tiles.

At some point I went back in the kitchen and discovered that there was water pouring out of the washer AGAIN. Once more we got the shop vac and sucked it all up. I could not figure it out. We had turned off the water valves. I thought perhaps they weren't closing all the way, but that did not seem right since we didn't hear water coming in. I thought perhaps it was just trickling in.

I decided to open up the drain trap on the washer to completely drain any water that was in it. This, of course, made another mess which we sucked up again. This time, I was lazy and poured it down the sink instead of taking it outside and dumping it out.

I was sucking up the water on the kitchen floor (I did not do the best job lifting up the shop vac and some of the water missed the sink) when I realized that water was coming out of the washer drain trap again. Suddenly I knew what our problem was. Frozen drain.

I went downstairs to trace the drain pipe. I found a place where one of the cats (it was Finn) had pulled down the insulation from a window in the basement. This window was missing a pane and last summer when Finn decided he simply must be an outside cat we had half-heartedly covered it up with a board and leaned an old door over it to keep Finn from pulling down the board (the basement walls are old sandstone and mortar, no way to nail anything up to hold in the board). I had meant to fix it, really, but it slipped my mind. I don't go in the basement much - it makes me have to use my inhaler too much.

Anyway, the door leaning against this botched repair job was channeling frigid air right down the wall and onto the drain pipe. It took ten minutes to insulate the window, secure it with several layers of cardboard pressed into the window framing (another half-assed repair, I know, but I need some concrete anchors and a masonry bit to fix it right and I don't have any right now), and move the space heaters to where they would blow right on the pipe.

Three hours later the pipe thawed and the sink drained.

13 January 2009

Las Vegas & Hoover Dam

Over the holidays Abelisto & I drove to Las Vegas to spend time with family. We also took Nova back to Vegas to live. She finished her bachelor's this past semester and her husband Mike had already returned to Vegas so she was anxious to get out there.

We made the drive an almost-straight-through marathon event. After the first 8 hours or so on the road there was usually one person sleeping at any time, preparing to take over driving when the current driver was done in. With three of us to drive we stayed on the road almost constantly, only stopping three times to sleep for around 45 minutes each time.

This meant that we reached Vegas about 10 hours ahead of schedule - but it just about did us in.

In Vegas we mostly hung out with family. I was working most days while I was there, so we did not plan any all day outings. We did take one afternoon and go to Hoover Dam. Abelisto & Taylor had not been there and Aluna hadn't been there in quite a while - neither had I.

I love the Gothic-inspired structures of the dam and all the art deco embellishments. Aluna was fascinated with the future bridge that is being built over the river downstream from the dam. She said she would love to be working on it. Thinking about working so far up in the air gave me sweaty palms and a fluttery feeling...

Tay standing on the Zodiac compass with Abelisto (behind her)

An example of art deco terrazzo work

Another example of art deco terrazzo work

And a third example of art deco terrazzo work

Abelisto, Tay (who is displeased about the sun in her eyes) and me
Lake Mead is in the background - you can see the white drought line

Tay & Aluna, with the future bridge over the river in the background

Back to Blogging - Hopefully

It's been quite a while since I published a post. Working 10+ hours a day on the university website doesn't leave me with enough creative energy (web-wise) to do more online after I finish for the day. So things here have slipped. I did redesign 854w5th.com, my portfolio website.

Tonight I finally took the time to redesign this blog. Not only did it need it because the design matched my old website design instead of my new one, but in doing the redesign of 854w5th.com I renamed a folder and voila! I created dead links to the images that supported the design of my blog. So for the last few weeks this blog did not show the images for the header and other design elements. And I was too tired of web work to fix them...

Funny how one simple change can mess things up.