27 February 2012

Remembering Jude

Jude was clever, kind, stubborn, generous, opinionated, gentle, loving, smart, beautiful... She laughed a lot at herself and rarely at others. She took in strays (animals and people) and loved them unconditionally.

We tell ourselves we are here because we loved Jude. We are really here because Jude loved us. Whoever Jude loved was her family and family was everything that made life good and worthwhile. So, all of you who loved Jude, and all of you who were loved by Jude, are family.

Everyone in this room has lost a grandmother, a mother, an aunt, a sister, a daughter.

It's hard to lose your grand-mama, especially when you haven't really gotten the chance to know her. Grand-mamas are so important to little boys - they keep them honest, they keep them happy, they teach them love, unconditional love. They teach them that the world existed before they came along, but the world is so much richer now that they are here. All of us have to help keep Jude's story alive for Malachi, so that even though his first-hand memories of Jude fade, his knowledge of her, and his love for her does not. And perhaps more importantly, making sure that her love for him does not fade from this world.

 It's hard to lose your mother, especially a mother who loves you as deeply and as truly as Jude loves you. I can tell you Zaviara, that from the moment she knew you were coming, you filled her heart with joy, and her entire being with hope and love. Never doubt that you meant everything to her, that you were her pride, her treasure, her great gift to all of us. We are so lucky that we have you. We love you.

It’s hard to lose your aunt. Aunties can be like a big sister, guiding you, keeping you in line while inspiring you to see yourself as better than you think you are. They love you without reserve. They protect you from the world. They can get you thinking new ideas and doing new things. They can inspire you and stay connected with you during that time in life when you know for certain that all adults are stupid… your aunt is rarely stupid in your eyes, and never far from your heart.

It's hard to lose your sister. Who loves you more than your sister? Who drives you crazier than your sister? Who's got your back more than your sister? Who is more proud of you than your sister? When you are right with your sister, there's nothing that can defeat the two of you. And man, Jude was a powerful sister. All of you, all of Jude's sisters and brothers by blood and by love's choice, you are some of the most fortunate siblings in the world. You get to keep her faith in love alive.

 It's hard to lose a daughter. I didn't give birth to Jude, but she was my daughter, and I was her mom... one of them – extended, blended, complicated families are like that. Many of us in this room spent years raising our children together, sharing the responsibility of their care and nurturing. Watching them grow into splendid adults with families of their own. Our children are our legacy, our dreams for the future, but it's more than that. Our children are our truest expression of love and faith and hope for the world and they should not leave this earth before we do. It's not supposed to happen that way. But it has. We've lost our daughter. Our hearts are broken and our souls riven. All we can do at this time is hold out our arms to each other in love and help one another try to heal.

 Jude came to Minnesota for a few months last year. I was happy to see her and to get to know her again. I learned anew how amazingly aware of the world she was, how beautifully she saw things, how fully she lived. She brought Zavy and Malachi up to visit for a while, giving us the pleasure of their company, sharing them with us, making them a part of our lives.

 I now recognize that brief time as the sublime gift that it was.

 Jude never left my presence without giving me her biggest smile and telling me she loved me. I’ve made a promise to myself that, moving forward, I will be sure to say "I love you" to those I care for, as often as possible, in honor of our beautiful Jude.

25 February 2012

Jude's memorial service

is at 3pm (EST) on Monday. If it's possible, please think of her - and us, her large family - for a few moments at that time, with love for each other and hope for the world.

23 February 2012

Things like this aren't supposed to happen

I'm having trouble breathing past the tightness and the pain. Jude is dead. Now my family has a Jude-sized hole in it. And it really hurts.

Tomorrow is her birthday. She would be 37.

Your children are supposed to live much longer than you.

I didn't give birth to Jude, but she was my daughter... extended families are like that. The strange, difficult combinations and permutations can give us lovely connections that would not have happened otherwise. The pain of the relationships that don't quite work is sometimes offset by the joy that an extra son or daughter or sister or brother brings.

Oh, Jude was clever, kind, stubborn, generous, opinionated, gentle, loving, smart, beautiful... She laughed a lot at herself and rarely at others. She took in strays (animals and people) and loved them unconditionally. Family was everything for her.

She loved her husband. And I believe that he loved her too, but he also hurt her a lot. She came up to Minnesota last year to get away from him. She told me she felt really good with the decision to leave, that she loved him immensely, but couldn't handle the the violence. It seemed like she was in a good place about it all. She hoped to find a job and stay up here.

The job didn't quickly materialize. And I think he started calling her, making promises. He must have convinced her that it really was going to be different. Maybe he said he'd get therapy, seek counseling... I don't know. Jude didn't tell me and after she went back our conversations were mostly Facebook posts - short, funny, trivial... I didn't want her to feel like I would criticize her for a decision I might also have made if I were in her situation...

I guess I'll never understand why anyone would ever hurt someone they loved.

Today we found out that they are dead. We think that sometime this week he killed her and then killed himself.

I really, really cannot believe this happened. Oh, fuck, it hurts. It hurts.
What I really want to do right now is gather everyone close and take care of them, protect them.

Jude - I love you. I can't stand it that he took you away from us.

06 February 2012

Mosaic Process - Working With Stone

I've had a few people ask about my process for working with stone in mosaics recently.

Creating a mosaic with stone differs from other mosaic work mostly in the way that you cut the tesserae.

How I do it:

Disclaimer - I am not an expert, yet. I'm just telling you what works for me.

Most of the stone I use starts out as floor tiles. They run from 7/16" to 5/8" thick and are usually 12" x 12" in size. Sometimes I'll get the smaller ones, but there is more waste per piece with them since I trim off all the outer smooth-cut edges.

Top to bottom: 3 shelves of cut stone tesserae,
uncut stone tiles & slabs, bins of cut-up chunks

I cut the tile into manageable chunks - trying to get the chunks as rectangular as possible - with a hammer and hardie. I don't like manufactured edges to show in my mosaics, so I cut the stone to the point where the tessera has the "footprint" that I want and then I turn it sideways and cut it in half. This allows me to turn all the manufactured edges down and have only the hand-cut, irregular edges showing.

Hammers & Hardies, left - steel hammer & hardie for cutting stone,
right - carbide-tipped hamnmers and hardie for cutting glass
Stone cutting process - note the progressively smaller cuts. The two
small pieces on the top of the stack are ready for use in a mosaic.

You want to develop enough control that the force of the hammer-fall is transmitted just to the stone. There are two methods of swinging the hammer: to pivot at the elbow joint, or to pivot at the wrist. I try to isolate the pivot in my elbow joint. I find that it saves my wrist from the shock (important since I have some joint issues from earlier injuries). It also feels like I have more control and I don't fatigue so quickly.

When you're using a hammer and hardie it's important to avoid striking the hardie with the hammer as much as possible. It really dulls both the hardie and the hammer when it happens. I get the best cuts when I focus on making sure that I strike the stone exactly above where it rests on the hardie - so that the hammer tip is directly above the cutting edge of the hardie.

If I'm working with a very crumbly stone (soft limestone/sandstone) or stone that is prone to irregular cuts (heavily veined marble), I'll cut the tessarae using the hammer & hardie down to a certain size and then use my compound tile nippers or a CHEAP pair of glass tile nippers - not my Leponitts or my Montolits - to make the final cut. I have to admit that feels a bit like cheating... but I don't like wasting material and time.

I usually mix stone and glass in the mosaics. I like the rough stone and the smooth and shiny glass side-by-side. I also like the contrast between the subtle, muted colors of the stone and the more intense, pure colors of the glass.

Dalle de verre and found glass

The glass is usually dalle de verre with some smalti and the occasional weird found glass.  The dalle de verre is cut using carbide-tipped hammer and the hardie. I also use a chipping hammer to distress the surface of any larger blocks of glass and also to create shards to use in the mosaics.

Carbide-tipped hammers and hardie. Top: chipping hammer. Bottom: cutting hammer
Cutting dalles.
The carbide tips are more brittle than the steel surrounding them. It is important to always strike the glass with the hammer lined up straight with the hardie just in case you pass all the way through the glass and strike the hardie.

This is what happens when your carbide hammer strikes the hardie unevenly.
The chipping hammer isn't used with the hardie. The cut piece of dalle de verre is laid on its side and you strike it with the hammer at an angle, trying to catch just the edge of the piece of glass. This process takes off the manufactured, flat surface and creates a more visually interesting piece of glass.

The top of the smaller piece of dalle de verre has been distressed using the chipping hammer.

I use mostly Wediboard for substrate. For the stone mosaics I use the 5/8" instead of the 1/2", mainly because of the finished weight. I have a local (well, within 150 miles) supplier for the wediboard, Cole Papers in Minneapolis. They don't list wediboard on their website, but they do sell it.

I use thinset mortar to adhere the stone and glass to the Wediboard. I've been using Mapei Keraset mortar, mixed with a 1:1 mixture of water and Mapei Keraply. I'd use Laticrete products, but I can purchase the Mapei products locally.

I color the mortar with Gamblin dry pigments or Sheffield Tints-All. Lately I've been mostly using the Gamblin but I stay away from the cadmium, chromium and cobalt pigments. I don't have a safe ventilation system for using them.

05 February 2012

Desert Mosaic Update

I've finished the desert mosaic.

Desert One, 11" x 17", Marble, Limestone, Sandstone, Glass

I still need to frame it. I usually do a very minimalistic frame, usually a small strip of oak that I paint with satin black acrylic.

Photo Inspiration

03 February 2012

Desert Mosaic Update

Spent the last few nights working on the desert mosaic. I think I will get it finished tomorrow.

At 14 hours
At 18 hours
At 22 hours
I tipped it upright for this last photo so that the texture was more apparent. This is mostly marble, with some onyx, limestone, sandstone and glass shards.

Be sure to click on the images and view them in a larger format.