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: