22 December 2011

Testing Slide Notes

Abelisto showed me a new app for creating lists and notes. You can share the notes in a number of ways, including posting to Blogger. So this is my test using Slide notes to create and upload a post.

29 November 2011

The River Mosaic

I've been working on the river mosaic the last few evenings and I've reached a point where I thought I'd share a few photos of it.

The River Mosaic, 12" x 60", Emperador Medium marble, Smalt, Dalle de Verre.

One of the contiguous marble sections is completed. There's a bit of the glass started - I did that on the night that the Winona Daily News photographer came over to take photos for the story they ran on the front page of the paper last week.

I've been playing with varying heights of tesserae and interfering with the andamento...

Table-level view from the right end of the piece
Table-level view from the left end of the piece

I'm going to take a short break from working on this one to do two small mosaics.

Christmas Tanks

This caught my eye when we were in Linton (IN) visiting family for Thanksgiving - or maybe that's Tanksgiving...
A tank with Christmas lights - even Christmas-light flames coming out
of the tank's gun barrel.
It seemed a strange, surreal, mixed message to me.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All and tanks...

09 November 2011

The Dalles Arrived!

After several calls to Kokomo Glass, I finally managed to get some dalle de verre ordered -- probably way too much dalle de verre for my budget, but what the hell...

They came today. Lots of blues & greens, some nice blue-greens, a couple amber-browns, a yellow, a blue-streaked clear, two nice purples and a deep red circle dalle.

A photographer for the newspaper came by tonight to take some photos for a story about me that will be in the paper soon. He wanted action shots, so I cut some marble, some smalti and some of the dalles up.

I had a pretty good mixture of cut glass (smalti & dalles) that I thought I would mix a bit of blue thinset and did some work on the river piece so that he could photograph that too.

Normally I'd have cut a lot more glass before starting this, but it seemed like a good idea for the photographer to get some photos of this part of the work too.

Now that I've got the glass I needed I can work  on this mosaic in earnest.

01 November 2011

New Mosaic Project

This is an experiment. I've taken this photo with my new phone and creating this post with it too.
I won't be writing lengthy posts this way, but if it works well I'll probably use it now and then

17 October 2011

The River Mosaic

After going through all the stone I have in the studio I've picked out what I'm going to use for the next mosaic - Emperador Medium (of course when it's cut up into tiny cubes it won't look anything like that photo). I have a 5 sq. ft. slab of it that's 1.25" thick. I just need to cut a BUNCH of it up into 3-5mm cubes... Good thing I have some big hammers.

I know what glass I'm using. Dalle de Verre - in Blues & Greens. Tomorrow I'm ordering 4 or 5 slabs (and a Blenko hammer).

I'm thinking about also incorporating some stones from the river. Don't know for sure, though - I don't want to put too much in... Sometimes I cross the line between making something really interesting and going too far with the interesting bit...

I do have some absolutely perfect river stones though - lots of them, in fact.I wonder if I have any brown ones that would look good with the Emperador Medium...

If not, I could get enthusiastic about doing some beach combing. Haven't been to Hoc-Si-La Park in quite a while...

15 October 2011

Encouraging an art-filled life

A friend asked me about art opportunities for her son (who spent his morning making masks)... and I said:
There are some venues around here that offer art opportunities. We can talk about them sometime. But I want to say that while it is grand to get kids together to make art, I think it's more important to make sure that the creative creature that lives inside of each of us has a chance. Parents are the best incubators for that creative creature.

I think that the critical thing is to encourage constant experimentation... making art is experimentation - pure, wonderful, exasperating, beautiful experimentation - it's giving in to the urge to "what if..." something, to take a bit of this and a bit of that and put them together to make a new thing. It doesn't have to be limited to traditional art activities - building a snow fort or baking a pie or making some contraption can be experimental - and if it is, you're feeding the creative creature.

The most important thing for raising a child (or an adult) to live an art-filled life - to be blessed with the indescribable lightness of being that art generates - is to be willing to totally wreck havoc in the name of experimentation, to be willing to put the journey and the finding out ahead of things like order and propriety and everything else that shuts down the creative mind, that forces us to be those cogs in the machine.
I was very lucky as a child - my parents did not have much, but they let us play with almost everything they had. The contraptions we made were applauded and treasured - even when they had to be scraped off the sidewalk, or painted over, or dismantled so that dinner could be put on the table, or, or, or...

I was "sewing" before I started school, "building" before I was out of grade school... I learned how to use tools, how to make stuff from bits of this and that, how to fix things, how to "see" what might be, how to be fearless in my experimentation - to know "I can do that..." whatever "that" was.

And all because I was taught that the creative creature was important, that it was the most important part of me - the part that made me alive - the creative creature was me. Life was all about the making and thinking and looking and finding... All those doings done, all those thoughts thought, they stayed with me throughout my life. Even in the times when I was too afraid to make art, when life demanded too much of me to be able to spare the energy, I still was art-filled.

And one day I came back to it.

So, would I like to make my living making art? Hell yes. I'd love to... and I am really stubborn, so maybe it will happen.

But it's ever so much more important to just be making the art.

06 October 2011

Not a simple issue

Refused and Confused - New York Times, Oct 05, 2011 - Linda Greenhouse

Off the cuff I think that people who use their religion/other positions to refuse service to others should give up the employment that asks them to serve the public.

But do I think that way because the services being discussed in the article are ones I believe should be available... or because it is sound policy to require any legally available service to be provided no matter what the personal beliefs of the providing individual? I'm trying to think of services that I might find distasteful or morally wrong and see how I feel about this from the other side...

I need a philosopher to toss this around with. In lieu of one showing up at my door here's what I'm thinking...

The crux of the matter - either:
  • employees are forced to provide services they abhor to the public at large, or to specific groups of people,
  • employees get to pick and choose what services they will provide and/or to whom...
Does it violate a person's civil rights to force them to perform a service, or make a service available, if they feel it is a morally wrong thing to do?

Does it violate an individual's civil rights to have a government/agency employee deny them a legal service because the employee feels, a.) it is morally wrong that anyone receive the service (e.g. birth control, abortion), or b.) that the person is morally wrong for asking for the service (e.g. marriage licenses for same-sex couples, police protection for abortion doctors/clinics)?

Honestly, even if it is questionable (in regard to civil rights) to ask an employee to provide a service they feel is morally wrong, I cannot think of a situation where an individual's rights would trump the rights of a person seeking a legally provided service. But that might be a slippery slope of another sort...

When this kind of news story appears I end up feeling that too many people brandish their beliefs at the rest of us without actually living according to them. If you believe that same-sex marriage is morally wrong, it's not living your beliefs to deny a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Living your beliefs - following your moral code - would be quitting your job if it required you to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

That's how it plays out inside my head anyway.

05 October 2011

The Beelandia Mosaic

Is mostly finished. All I have to do is add the hardware for hanging it out on the fence. It probably won't go out until next spring, so there's no rush.

Beelandia Apiary, 12" x 24", stained glass, smalti, glass rod.

There's a bit of reflection on the left half... It is actually very evenly colored and the right half is more representational of the colors.

04 October 2011

The Wall - Waiting for the Extraordinary Things

I made a small mosaic the other day for a friend. It was her 60th birthday.

At the party someone asked me about soul-mates... inferring that I had said at a previous party that I believe in them. This is an old topic at the parties, and for some strange reason, a bit controversial...

So, rather than get back into the topic (it was too early in the evening and not enough alcohol had been consumed to make the discussion interesting - consumed by others since I don't do alcohol - a whole 'nother story there...) I simply said "I believe that just about anything is possible." "Wise answer," my questioner replied. Luckily, before she could keep on about soul-mates, one of the others at the party quoted Alicia from the movie A Beautiful Mind - "I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible."

The birthday friend, who is very much concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict said, "Extraordinary things are not possible..." She can't see how a peaceful resolution can happen.

I admit that my response to her comment and the situation is more emotional than informed - which is often the case for me; the feelings get in the way of the thinking sometimes. And even when I try to think critically about the issues I often feel like many of the world's problems are insurmountable (and so why should any of us try?)...

But I've decided that I'm not going to quit thinking about them and talking about them and trying to learn about them.

And I'm not about to stop making art about them...

It was strange because when I made this mosaic I had no idea why I made it like it is.

The Wall, 4" x 8", marble, recycled glass.
I loved the materials when I placed them side-by-side on the worktable. The cream-colored marble has a slight orange veining in it and somehow feels both smooth and gritty at the same time. The background is Rain Forest Green marble (because of how it looks, not that it comes from a rain forest). And the red is a recycled, tumbled, landscape glass that I've cut into sharp slivers. They looked beautiful together - until I started cementing them down... then they made me a bit uncomfortable.

Once I finished the white line I realized that it was "the wall." And the red represents the bloodshed on both sides.

It could be any wall, any division between people that results in bloodshed and tragedy.

For my friend this was about the Middle-east conflict. I think she (like me) loves this piece but finds it hard to look at/think about.

And the extraordinary things - I do believe that they are possible, but we don't get to pick and choose which extraordinary thing is going to happen. We cannot force things to turn out according to what we think is best, how we would fix the problems. We have to learn to recognize when something extraordinary is looking us right in the face. We have to learn to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, or even in the tragic - the transcendent moments in our mundane lives.

13 September 2011

They say it's your birthday...

You know, sometimes the down-and-dirty part of life really gets to me... the stupid allergies and the limits they impose on me, the bad shoulder, the bad hip, the whole getting older thing.

And then there are the days when, even though I still feel all those things, I also feel luminous - all brand new and shiny and full of potential.

Family and friends and making art are things that help me feel luminous. Last night it was Wes and Jude and Tinee and the sunset and the moonrise and the change-bringing wind up on Garvin Heights. This morning it was waking up, thinking about my birth 54 years ago (I'm the oldest, my mother was scared - who wouldn't be - and it was a Friday, she really wanted to wait one more day...) and thinking about the births of my kids. Right now it's the early morning bicycle ride euphoria and the flock of geese that greeted me with honks and hisses and much ruckus as I passed by on my way to work that's got me buoyed and calm.

I'm thinking about beauty today.

05 September 2011

Mosaic Doodles

Did some mosaic doodling... quick, small mosaics. Exploring ideas...

Onyx, Smalti & Marble                                   Onyx & Marble

30 August 2011

More to ponder as the school year begins...

A friend of mine sent me a link in response to my last posting. 

Like Lilly Like Wilson by Taylor Mali

Thanks Dirk. The poem made me smile. I loved the story it told.

23 August 2011

Something to ponder as the school year begins

Overheard as I passed a classroom last semester:
"God, I hate this. This class is so stupid..."
"What makes you say it's stupid?"
"It just is!"
"I've found that people often say a class -- or anything else, for that matter -- is stupid when in fact they are simply uncomfortable with the ideas being examined.

My job here -- the entire purpose of higher education -- is to challenge your comfortable life. To get you to think about the uncomfortable things in the world. And perhaps most important of all, to help you develop a mind that is open to all the conceivable possibilities. Because if you're not open to all the possibilities, you'll never understand the questions, let alone find the answers."
Dedicated with deepest respect, love and appreciation to every teacher, every professor, that made me think about the uncomfortable things.

19 August 2011

Setting prices for artwork

Recently there was a post in a forum asking for advice on setting a price for artwork:
“I need some pricing help! How do you guys price your art to sell? … I don’t want to become another artist who charges a fortune and no one buys anything. HELP! How do you guys charge for your art?!?!”
Of course I have an opinion… which goes something like this:

First and foremost, you need to be fair to yourself. You need to be setting a price that pays you a living wage… no one should ask you to work for less. Some artists price emotionally instead of using a good business model which is unfortunate because it causes other artists a lot of grief (and explaining) and really confuses art buyers, especially new or casual buyers. Artists who price emotionally also run the highest risk of either drastically underpricing their work, or becoming one of the ones you mention who cannot sell their work because they’ve way overpriced it — and both of these experiences can defeat an artist who is just getting started in the market.

So how do you determine the right prices, how do you hit that sweet-spot between undervaluing your work and pricing yourself out of the market? And what exactly is your market?

First I want to address the idea of “market”…In the past your market was pretty much defined by your geographic region, the area you were willing to drive or ship your work to. These days your market can be wherever and whoever you conceive it to be. With the various online tools available to us now, location is no longer the limiting factor to determining your market. That said, it is even more important than ever to carefully consider your portfolio. Don’t put every single piece you’ve ever done on a website, Facebook, or Linked-In. Put only your very best work out there. If you cannot decide which pieces best represent you, poll your friends and family (try really hard not to be put off by their comments and suggestions). And if you feel like you absolutely must put that piece you did ten years ago (when you were first learning your trade), be aware that it probably doesn’t represent your current abilities and strengths, and it will affect how buyers evaluate the worth of your work.

The formula for determining price is really quite simple (however it is really hard to get comfortable with). You need to take into account your time, materials and supplies (and their associated costs), and overhead (a portion of your household expenses if you work in your home or all of your studio costs if you maintain a separate studio). Materials, and to some extent, overhead are relatively easy to determine. Time can be a real bugaboo… especially if you haven’t been paying attention to how long it takes you to do a piece. You will need to initially make your best guess, and then become obsessive about keeping track. You’ll need to decide if you’re comfortable including planning and deliberating within your billable hours, along with the time it takes to learn a new skill or process… In general I usually weigh that decision based on the exclusivity clause: am I going to be able to apply this planning/deliberation/learning to future projects or is it only applicable to this one project or this one commission? Once I have that figured out I can decide how much of it — if any — should be built into the price of an art work…

The other conundrum you need to think about is the wholesale / retail price issue. If you EVER intend to sell in galleries or shops, you must be selling to individuals at a price that would be comparable to what a retailer would price your work at for a significant period of time before you begin to move your work through a retail establishment. No gallery will pay you the same amount you have been selling at — they cannot, they also need to make a living wage. They are going to expect to purchase your work at 40 to 60% of what you are currently selling it for, so be sure to add that markup into your calculations when selling to individuals. If you get into a gallery or shop, and they learn that you are underselling them, you will loose the gallery and probably not find another soon.

There is often quite a bit of guilt and a whole lot of uncertainty for most artists when they are pricing for individual sales. What you need to remember is that you deserve that extra compensation BECAUSE you are acting as your own retail agent… which is taking up your valuable creative time. You are out on the streets looking for customers; you are enduring arts fairs and festivals; you are searching for commissions. That is ALL work that you need to pay yourself for doing.

So, easy as pie, right? You can do this with your eyes closed and both hands tied behind your back, right? Excellent… but there is something else you need to also be thinking about… Worth.

Perhaps the most difficult area regarding pricing work that an artist needs to consider is determining worth. Worth trumps the pricing formula every single time — it’s the monster under the bed that makes us all doubt and second-guess our art and our art practices.

Worth is different than price — worth is determined by the quality of your work and its future value. Quality is a moving target that is most clearly demonstrated by your attention to detail, your technical skill, and your devotion to artistic growth. It requires a reflexive, often ruthless, self-evaluation that is honest and informed.

Luckily, if you pay the utmost attention to quality, future value will likely take care of itself.

14 August 2011

Mosaic of Mary

Lend Us Your Strength is now hanging  at SMU.

At first I didn't really know what to think of the location that was chosen for it. It is hanging in the hall between Heffron Hall and Skemp Hall - just around the corner from the executive suite, in the seating area at the entrance of Skemp, a women's residence hall.

Initially I was disappointed that it wasn't going to be in a more public space... but the space it is in is a very nice, contemplative space - and that's good.There used to be vending machines in this hallway. They were moved because they were visible from the entrance of the executive suite which was less than ideal. I'm sure that the president and others who passed by often probably thought that the eye arresting vending machines distracted from the quiet atmosphere and the classical architecture of  Heffron Hall.

The only problem for hanging the mosaic in the space is the lighting. Glass mosaics generally do best with lots of diffused natural light, or if that's not available, with soft, indirect lighting as the  second-best option. This area has large windows at either end of the space, and a single dim fluorescent fixture on the 12-foot ceiling. The windows have the top panels covered, but they still bring in a lot of light. At this point, the light coming in the window nearest the mosaic casts a glare on the glass unless you are pretty much directly in front of the mosaic (angle of incidence equals angle of reflection) and the top of the mosaic is in a darker spot...

But, if you're sitting in any of the very comfortable chairs in the area, the view of the mosaic is perfect.

Lend Us Your Strength, 2011.
Glass mosaic, 3' x 4' excluding frame.

Beelandia Mosaic Apiary Sign

I've been working on the Beelandia sign for Abelisto's apiary. The migraine last week slowed everything down for me this past week, and along with a number of the "must-do" things that often get in the way of making art kept me out of the studio most of the week.

Today I escaped from all that and worked on it for a few hours. I got much of the background done. I think a couple more evenings and I'll have this one done.

Beelandia Apiary sign 1 week ago - the bees are done and I started the background.
Beelandia Apiary sign when I started on it today.
Beelandia Apiary sign when I stopped working on it tonight.

04 August 2011

Beelandia Mosaic

Finished the bees' wings tonight. I'll be working on their bodies next.
Should be able to get a lot of this done this weekend.

Beelandia sign - 12" x 24"
I need to get some of the tamper-proof hanging hardware since this is going to be hung on the apiary fence.

01 August 2011

Current Mosaic Project

While I'm waiting for the orders of supplies for the other mosaic project I'm working on I decided to make Wes' sign for the apiary, Beelandia. He's been wanting one ever since the apiary became public knowledge last summer (with the infamous article in the Winona Daily News regarding the bee ordinance and the various responses to it ).

The sign is 12" x 24". The letters and the bees are in smalti and the background is stained glass, and the differences in the thickness will make the sign have a little bit of a third dimension. I'm going to put a thin strip of copper around the piece to serve as a frame.

I'm doing the bees in tiny pieces of smalti. I wanted to make their striped bodies with narrow, slightly curved slices of glass so that they would obviously be bees. I then decided to also make the wings out of random tiny slivers and wedges of smalti so that they'd be more interesting and give the bees more character than using just a few larger pieces. This will be a grouted piece and the grout will make the bees -- bodies and wings -- cohesive elements while accenting the green background pieces, making them stand out as distinct blades of grass. There will be enough contrast between the letters and the background that there won't be any problem seeing the letters as letters.

Close-up of bees, letters and grass (background)

Blackberry Gluten-free Scones

I don't usually post about food since others do that much better than I ever could, but these gluten-free blackberry scones are (well, were...) worth a few words...

I used to make everything from scratch (strange phrase) -- no mixes, no ready-to-eat, no processed foodstuffs (except Kraft macaroni & cheese), no shortcuts... But between being gluten sensitive, working full-time, and trying to develop my artistic practice I've sort of let go of the food purism.

I have a plethora of alternative flours but gluten-free baking seems to be very hit-and-miss for me -- probably because I don't really have time to do the experimentation that I need to do to figure out how much of which kind of flour and whether to add xantham gum or guar gum or whatever... so I bought Bob's Red Mill gluten-free baking mix (think organic, healthy Bisquick). The scones turned out perfectly...
2 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free baking mix
add 1/2 cup of organic raw sugar, cut in 1/2 cup of organic butter
add 1 cup of vanilla almond milk (was out of the plain variety) stir until all is moist
gently fold in 1 1/2 cups of organic frozen blackberries
press out onto a baking stone, score into 8 scones, sprinkle with more sugar if you want
bake at 375 until browned and flaky
eat while they are so hot you can barely stand it
It's been a gradual relaxation of a set of unspoken food rules I had for myself. I realized I had fallen from food grace when, late one recent supperless evening I found myself standing in front of the frozen food section of Target (egad) eyeballing the frozen veggies (not so bad), and the frozen pre-cooked chicken strips (argh!) and frozen ready-to-heat-and-eat brown rice (bizarre and shameful)... I caved -- mostly because I was starving and it was almost 9pm and I couldn't face going home and either cooking a full meal, or eating a peanut butter sandwich. Got home, dumped it all in the wok with some broth, some shopped garlic and ginger and a bunch of tamari sauce... food in 20 minutes, not delicious, but edible...

When I was a make-it-from-scratch purist I was a stay-at-home mom with 5 - 9 kids in the house and food was my main creative outlet. I made 2-4 loaves of bread every day, baked a dessert twice a week, raised and processed my own meat (lamb and chicken and the occasional deer), gardened and preserved the veggies, made my own jams and jellies and butters...

I guess I could still be a purist if all I wanted to do was work and do foods. But now my life is about more than that, and until someone wants to move into the empty bedrooms and take this task on... well, some convenience foods once in a while won't kill us.

31 July 2011

Visitor to Beelandia

Sometimes a very simple thing can make your day...

This Swallowtail came to dine in Beelandia.

I hope she returns and brings her friends...

The "I Can't" Attitude

I am always amazed (and not in a good way) at the abundance of people whose first response to any challenge is "I can't..."

To paraphrase my mother, "If you start out with 'I can't' you certainly can't." [She actually used to say "Cain't never did nothing," - she grew up in the deep south...]

As kids we weren't allowed to say I can't until we had given it our best attempt, at least a couple times. It's not that my parents were task-drivers, or harsh; they were very caring and supportive. They just would not tolerate a defeatist mindset. And the result of that was that all of us kids – and most of our kids – are very well equipped to take on the challenges the world throws at us.

I think all the "I can'ts" would benefit from living with my mother in their formative years.

29 July 2011

Rotator Cuff Issue

Learned today that I won't be having rotator cuff surgery. No tears, no calcification - just overuse tendinitis or possibly inpingement tendinitis. Good thing, since it's my right shoulder and I'm predominantly right-handed.

Physical therapy for 6-8 weeks and I'll be as good as new...

It's been bothering me for a while but I realized I had to get it checked out when I discovered that using a handsaw and sanding a piece of wood was really painful. And getting comfortable enough to sleep was getting hard to do.

I should have asked for a copy of my x-rays.

28 July 2011

Mosaic Art

While I wait for the payment for the commission (which should arrive in my bank account sometime in the next 24 hours) I'm thinking of ideas for the next mosaic(s). At this point, unless I get another commission soon I will be doing a couple different pieces for myself - just because...

One of them is going to have to be a river/water/place piece... that's what's pressing right now; that's what seems to be spinning around in my head. I think it will be another stone & glass piece...

In the meanwhile, I'm cutting up marble - for fun and practice and for future work - I can work on my hammer and hardie skills while my mind thinks about what's next.

This is what I cut in about 20 minutes tonight:

I'm getting better at this... better cuts (shapes and sizes that I want to make, as opposed to however they come out), and much, much less waste.

And here's the scraps:

That's all that I wasted.

24 July 2011

Mary Mosaic

I finished the mosaic for Saint Mary's this weekend... well, the mosaic was done a while ago but the frame was giving me fits. I learned some things with this one. It's good to be learning things - as long as they're new things and not the same stuff you learned before but forgot...

This is not the best photograph - it's way too dark. The previous one was way to light...
I'll take another tomorrow in natural light.

Lend Us Your Strength, 49 x 38 (including frame)

Now I'm looking for another commission...

12 July 2011

Current Mosaic Commission

Finished the glass work tonight.

Tomorrow I'll grout it and start building the frame. I think it will be totally finished by Thursday evening.

09 July 2011

Current Mosaic Commission

Here's what I've been working on for the last few weeks... I think I'll be finished by mid-week or so. This is a 48" x 36" piece.

The angle of the photo is a bit odd... I  took it standing on one of the work tables in my studio.

05 July 2011

Glass is Sharp

and this bloody (meant as a curse word, not merely a description) cut means difficult typing for a few days (and other things are going to be hard to do too -- which we won't go into...)

It's not apparent in the photo, but the bigger cut is down to the bone. I can still control the last joint, so I think it missed any tendons or other vital parts... Got the bleeding stopped with a pressure bandage.

Hurts like a bitch though...  and I need to NOT bend the joint, since any bending makes it open up and bleed again.

04 July 2011

Experimenting with Dalle de Verre

Okay. I procrastinate about some things... dishes, yard work, basement cleaning, vacuuming, bill paying, all those have been known to fall by the wayside if something else that is more interesting comes along... and for me almost anything is more interesting than those things.

But I have to say that wedding gifts are by far the thing I procrastinate over the most. But for an upcoming wedding (in two weeks) I thought I would get the gift out of the way before the last minute.

I decided to make a small dalle de verre mosaic using the scraps of left over glass that I took home to finish the mosaic I started during Verdiano's workshop at the Chicago Mosaic School.

It would not be a very big piece since I had relatively few scraps that would work for dalle de verre -- since I had chosen scraps for cutting the glass into shards and tessarae for the mosaic, not for dalle de verre work. Plus I assumed I would end up wrecking some of the pieces when distressing them because I was using a regular glass hammer instead of the Blenko hammer. So I planned accordingly...

In Sophie's workshop we talked about the fact that one side would always have the substrate and the glass flush with each other since we were gluing the glass to the plastic and then adding the cement. I hate being told that something "has" to be only one way... so I started thinking of other ways to do it. Then Kim mentioned putting clay on the top surface of the glass before adding the cement might help keep the cement off of the glass and make the clean up easier...

On the drive home from Chicago I was processing the workshop in my head and I started thinking that if instead of gluing the glass to the plastic, what if I put down a slab of clay and imbedded the glass in it... wouldn't that allow me to make the piece have glass that extended beyond the substrate on both sides? I needed to experiment and the wedding gift would be the perfect test...

We'd had problems getting the plastic flat enough in the workshop... it had creases in it where the manufacturer had folded it up prior to rolling it up, and those creases were impossible to flatten out. We ended up with ridges in the backs of our pieces. So I thought I would use contact paper as a working surface. It stuck to the plywood much better than the duct tape we used to tape down the plastic. Cool, I thought (important - remember this fact...).

So here's the clay form for the piece, with hanging wire installed and a clay slab ready for glass to be pressed into it.

Here it is with the glass pressed down into the slab.

I tried Kim's suggestion -- coating the top of the glass with a clay slurry to keep the cement off of the glass.

Ready for the cement.

At one point during the workshop Karen had pondered whether or not using concrete instead of the Kerabond/Keralastic mixture would work. Would it be stronger? We did not experience any substrate failures during the workshop, but some of the pieces were thin enough that Sophie had the students adding more cement... that got us to talking about strength and size...

So for this one I used Sherri Warner Hunter's concrete recipe... except it was too thick to pipe into the piece so I had to add more of the latex plasticizer additive than her recipe called for so that it would flow though a pastry bag... (important - remember this fact, too). I also colored the concrete blue using Tints All...

After filling the piece half way I added reinforcement wire. I did not add mesh since the spaces were so small... (another important fact to be remembered).

I added more cement.

And covered it with plastic to cure overnight...

All went well when I peeled the clay off the sides. The concrete seemed very hard, but still workable. When I tried to lift the piece off of the clay slab I ran into trouble...The clay and the concrete really liked each other and refused to come apart... since I covered the plywood with contact paper which was firmly stuck down I couldn't cut it loose from the plywood either... I decided to pull the contact paper off of the plywood and then peel it  -- and the clay -- off the back of the piece.

Didn't work all that well...

Was it because I used concrete instead of cement? Was it the Tints All and/or the extra plasticizer that I added to the concrete? Was it the fact that I only added wire for the reinforcement instead of wire and mesh? Would this have been avoided if I had worked on plastic (which I could have cut loose from the plywood and peeled off the back)? Or was the entire clay slab idea the problem and doomed to fail?

Round 2

Determined to make this work I crumbled the concrete away from the glass (which the ease in doing this makes me think I screwed the concrete up) and gave the glass pieces a vinegar bath. Ditto with the hanging wire.

I remade the form, with the clay slab, but this time I put it on plastic that had been stapled to the plywood... just in case. I inserted the hanging wire and imbedded the glass.

On a couple pieces of the glass I added clay boosters so that the glass would all be the same height on the front side. Since I was working with scraps I was pretty limited with the pieces I had. I thought that the boosters would make some of the glass inset and some extended on the back side -- maybe -- worth trying in any case.

This time I added both mesh and wire... I know, I know, I'm changing too many variables to make this a good experiment, but I really wanted this to work this time.

Once again I wrapped it in plastic and set it to cure overnight.

This time the experiment was successful -- mostly... I think I would not use the boosters again -- and I would not need to anyway if I wasn't using scraps of glass -- but for this project I think I can live with it. If I do use them again I will be more deliberative about how I construct them.

As you can see in these three images, the piece stayed together (in part because I made the clay slab thick enough that I could use a pot cutting wire to lift the piece up off the board)and the glass does extend beyond the substrate on both sides giving me a nice front and back to mosaic



I wrapped the piece up to let it cure for a few more days. Then I'll do a more thorough cleaning and mosaic it.  I have a lovely blue-gray marble and a gray-white travertine...

03 July 2011

Sophie Drouin - Dalle de Verre Workshop

This is a bit late, but I wanted to post some photos and write about the 5-day Dalle de Verre (slab glass) workshop that Sophie led at the Chicago Mosaic School earlier this month.

The process started with a couple days of designing our mosaics and cutting the glass. We were planning to use both the dalle de verre and stone together in the pieces. I decided to make two smaller pieces -- one to give to Eileen and one to take home with me.

I had a circular, clear piece of glass that I found somewhere that I thought I'd use in the piece I was taking home with me. I could either cut it up or use it whole and at the beginning I wasn't sure which I wanted to do. I also wanted to make the one for Eileen an expression of faith... but those were the only ideas I had going into the project.

For me the creative process starts with an idea... I never lock myself down with the ideas, I let the work evolve if it needs to. I usually start out with an idea and part of the way into it it will metamorphize into something else... for the most part this has been a good thing. I don't usually wait for a fully-formed idea before I start working on something.

The first day we had mostly greens and purples and blues to work with. We were waiting on a shipment of glass that had reds, yellows, oranges, aquas, and more greens and purples. I decided that I liked the greens and purples that we had on hand and would make my pieces with those colors.

When you cut the glass with the hammer and hardie (and when you distress it with the Blenko hammer) you have to be really careful or you will slice yourself badly... we had to have gloves for the first two days and we could not wear open-toed shoes.

Day one was spent with the design and glass. On day two -- after we had our design ideas and some of the dalle de verre cut up and ready -- we taped clear plastic down  on a 2' x 3' piece of 1/2" plywood to make our working areas. I taped my drawings down first and then covered them with the heavy  plastic.

We glued the glass to the plastic using Weldbond. Then we build a clay "dam" around the glass. This clay dam controlled the shape of the piece. We also fashioned hanging hardware from heavy galvanized wire and suspended it in the clay at a level that would be centered in the piece.

My two pieces - glass glued down, clay dam built, hanging hardware inserted.

Once this was done we mixed up some Kerabond/Keralastic and filled the piece about halfway up the glass. We added reinforcement (fiberglass mesh and galvanized wire), and added more of the Kerabond/Keralastic.We then covered the entire work with plastic to cure overnight.

Kim's piece with the beginning of the clay dam.
Kim used a copper tube instead of the galvanized wire for the hanging hardware.

Kim working on her clay dam.

Here are more of the work being done... I cannot remember who most of these belong to...

This one is Eugenia's - this I know because we were next to each other in the studio...

On the third day we took the clay dams off and cleaned the pieces up. Some of the pieces were not very thick and Sophie was concerned that they might not be thick enough to support their own weight. Those had to be reinforced with additional Kerabond/Keralastic -- which actually made for an interesting affect on the back of the pieces. Since my pieces were smaller and pretty thick they ended up being thick enough so I could go on to the next step -- cleaning...

I had been really careful to keep the Kerabond/Keralastic off of my glass when I was adding it. Even so I had a good amount of clean-up to do. While we were all cleaning, Kim asked if a layer of clay could have been added to the top of the glass before adding the Kerabond/Keralastic to keep the mortar off of the glass. Sophie thought that might be a good thing to try in the future.

After the clean-up I decided to add a layer of colored cement to the surface. I had been cutting  up marble as I had time and I had a nice mixture of gold, off-white and a dusty brown marble. I decided to see if I could match the dusty-brown color (with Sophie's help).

Painting on the colored layer on the piece for Eileen.

After adding the colored layer there was more clean-up to do. Eventually I was ready to mosaic the front of the piece. I was concentrating on the piece I wanted to give to Eileen, since it was going to have to be ready on Saturday so I could give it to her that night.

After talking with Sophie I decided to mimic the shape of the purple pieces of glass while following the line created with the green glass. Sophie helped me cut one large piece of stone and distress it (that's the hard part) to fit in between the two smaller pieces of purple glass.

After finishing the stone work Sophie suggested scratching the surface and exposing some of the white layer below... I wasn't sure, but decided to follow her lead. After I did it I think it really made the piece exceptional.

I haven't scratched the second one yet... I'm still thinking about whether or not it will add to the piece.

I might see if I could create a gold wash to paint into the scratches... then I would more seriously consider scratching this one up. I think white scratches might be a bit of a disconnect for this piece but gold might be very good for it.

These pieces are meant to hang in a window or other area where the the light source is from the back some of the time and from the front some of the time. I don't have a photo of Eileen's piece hanging in a window yet. But here's mine:

It's titled Ab Ovo (From the Beginning)

And, to wrap this up, here are some additional photos of everyone working on their mosaics: