missing mosaic mojo; welcome mixed-media messing-about

I had to stop working in the mosaics studio at the end of October–misplacing my mojo was just too distressing.  An artist friend told me to take a break or I’d start hating what I was doing.  She was right.

Here are a couple of pieces, the green one of which is a wedding present for a couple who married 1-1/2 years ago.  Ooops, I missed the “polite” deadline for a gift.   They’re both finished, bar grouting.

stone guilloche

knot

knot

Yet another artist friend came over to help me get started in mixed media art, collage particularly.  About which I knew nothing.  She brought books and some lovely watercolor paper, plus a kind of liquid medium that is used as both an additive to acrylic paints and for protecting stuff.

Trust me!

Trust me!

Mixed media is quite the artform.  Turns out that if it weren’t so pleasurable to buy art supplies, I wouldn’t have needed to buy any.  Apparently, over the years, I’ve been collecting mixed media art supplies unbeknownst to myself!

I found two kinds of acrylic paints–artist and craft, inks for a roller (plus the brayer, carving tools and carving block), all my drawing stuff from the school effort, and tons of beads, buttons, and whatnot.  Plus, of course, sparkly crayons!

I spent three weeks out in the studio messing about, during which time I discovered that the cold was killing me — me, the lover of winter, who thrived in the cold.

Packed it all up before Thanksgiving and came indoors where I commandeered part of the living room right next to a window so I now have natural light!

Mixed media is a blessing for folk who save something because it has an interesting shape, texture, or color.  Or to be honest, just because it’s cool, who cares why!  <:-D

A more direct description of mixed media art could be mixed technique art.

Digression:  creativity comes when disparate objects and/or thoughts come together in a new form.

My first completed piece was an expression (ahem) of the last 10 months.  My mother pointed to a part of it and said it would give her nightmares.  I started to cry.  Nuff said.

I didn’t know whatthehell I was doing, and could not understand the books.  (Words and images move around on a page, so I cannot “see” the instructions.)  But in a kind of desperation of wanting to play, I kept at it.  Found another book that had instructions I could come to understand (mixed-media artist Claudine Hellmuth’s book).

People are so creative!  This artist uses all kinds of stuff to create texture on a page–like tissue paper over paint, paint over masking tape(!), and plastic wrap smooshed paint.

Perhaps a couple of examples, then later I’ll stop in for a Blurt and Run.

This is tie-dyed paper toweling!  (kitchen roll for you outta-towners)…. !!  Once it has the acrylic medium added over the paint, the texture becomes like starched lightweight burlap.

paper toweling!

This is an instruction out of Claudine Hellmuth’s book.  She’s smooshing tissue paper over acrylic paint on the canvas.  The blue bit is paint over masking tape.

Boating Trip, by Claudine Hellmuth

Boating Trip, by Claudine Hellmuth

Despite wanting to make a cheery, red polka-dotted boat, here’s what came outta mah haid:

Boating Trip:  my interpretation

Boating Trip: my interpretation

Lastly, the only other finished piece (again based on Claudine Hellmuth’s work), a birthday gift for Big Mister.  On the back was the announcement of a subscription to Asimov’s Science Fiction monthly.

Starry Girl

Starry Girl

That is all.  For now.  Oozing along.

friends in the studio

I have officially beaten the crap outta myself finishing the organization of the studio.

Some while back I posted a photo of the studio where I was pleased to see I captioned it “part” of the organized studio.  The mess was behind me, outta camera view and outta my eyeline when I worked.  (Now here’s a funny:  that photo showed up in a Google image search for “organized mosaics studio”!!  Am I going to have to ‘fess up?)

Since I love industrial stuff, a lot of it was heavy!!  (“la la la, I have the industrial disease!”)  Think:  many 3-gal buckets o’ cement, sand, and thinset (= mortar); sheets of steel lath, re-bar (ferchrissakes!), and at least a ton of tile (it felt like a ton as I moved it and organized it, and even brushed off the dust!).  (‘Nother post:  will post pics soon-ish.)

So, I’m not there, but here.  I took pics of the company I keep in there — before all the lifting, ladder-ing, heaving, and hammering.

This post was inspired by Pix, who posted a picture of her nearly 61-year-old teddy bear!  I, too, have had mine since birth, so it’s about 55 now.  He looks 195:  Pix had nicer siblings and no dogs as a child, I can tell!

(what can I possibly say?!)  I know:  that is NOT a 1980s legwarmer; it is a sock to keep his leg attached to his foot!

And then there is BuddyBoop who wandered in and started looking around.   Why is it that he tried–twice–to stand on the mosaic in process?  Oh.  He’s a cat.  I moved him over here so he could peruse the library shelves.

BuddyBoop in the studio–the organized part!
“Hmmm… Oh Monkey-Girl, perhaps something in these hot orange ceramic tiles?”

Finally, a beginning to a mosaic, with company that makes me laugh!

Red and glitter! hee hee hee!

 

 

thwack!

One of my favorite (but alas, long-distance, across the Atlantic) mosaics teachers is Lawrence Payne who runs the Roman Mosaic Workshops in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England.  He has no idea how much I’ve learned from him!   Lawrence is extraordinarily generous in sharing his knowledge in blogs, videos, written manuals, workshops, and in exchanging emails.

That’s one of my goals, to get experienced enough to share what I know about mosaics.  For now, I can share a bit that I’ve been learning.

Hammer and hardie

The hammer and hardie are traditional, ancient tools used to shape material such as stone into tesserae.   (Tesserae are the bits of glass, stone, marble or other material that make up a design; for instance, a 3/4-inch glass tile is also called a tessera.  And for you other nerdy folks:  tesserae is Latin plural, tessera is Latin singular).

The hammer is, well, a hammer with sharpened ends.  Mine weighs 950 grams (a little over 2 lb), which is the more usual weight, though it is made in two other lower weights.

The hardie is a kind of sharpened chisel that is embedded into a piece of wood.

(I was still pretty brain-challenged when I embedded the hardie into the block this late spring.  Took ages because I couldn’t think well enough to figure out my own technique with the carpenter’s wood chisel to make the hole.  Big Mister came by and gently suggested that I’d have better luck if were to make the hole with a sharpened chisel rather than using the dull thing I was struggling with.)

If you’re curious, Lawrence has prepared a video showing how to use the hammer and hardie (scroll almost to the bottom of the page at the link).  He has also written a booklet!

Hammer and hardie. Those are scraps of stone on the block.  If you click to enlarge, you can see how tiny the stone pieces were to begin–before I cut them to particular shapes!

Here’s a pic with a pen to show scale:

both ends of the hammer are sharpened

The technique

The technique, much simplified, is to hold the material between thumb and forefinger, rest the piece on the hardie, and drop the hammer onto the material.  Since it’s a wrist action,  it’s more of a drop than a whack as from a traditional hammer, which is good because it’s heavy!

But you can imagine that the weight works in our favor.  You can further shape tiny pieces–1/2 inch (about 1.25 cm)–quite amazing really!

Judging technique

Correct sound:  Thwack! is the sound when a tessera is correctly fractured between the hammer and the hardie.

Correct dialogue:  “Dang, I’m getting better at this!”

Incorrect sound:  Yeeeeowwch!

Incorrect dialogue:  “I really should keep bandages out here.”

Apparently, I was quite consistent in holding the hammer wrong! yeeeeowwwch!  That’s my thumb!
Pointy!  (I’m much better at it now–no bandage on my thumb!)

After I finished shaping a kajillion of the stone pieces, which started as 1/2-inch pieces, it occurred to me that I started working with the hammer and hardie in the hardest way!  I coulda whacked on big ole pieces (well, bigger than 1/2 inch), but no-o-o-o-o-o-o, I wanted to use the small stones for a project, so that’s where I started.  Sigh…  Jumpin’ in with all four feet:  c’est moi!

brains! muscle memory

Finally back to the mosaics studio.  I spent many hours looking at my mosaics books, seeing what would happen, if there would be a spark of something creative.  Nuthin’.   Finally decided to partake of the custom of copying a mosaic.  Copying someone’s work seems like this:  copy = bad = go to jail.  Joyfully (and thankfully!) copying mosaics is an honored teaching method.

Then it took painfully tiring brain-pulsing hours over many days to decide on the materials and to figure out which online supplier I wanted to use.  Yikes.  Forced my eyes to focus and my brain to understand; it didn’t just happen automatically.  That was tough, but colorful!  >:-D  And now I have a boatload of tesserae for many projects.

Won’t bore with the play-by-play, but I did actually start gluing tesserae into a design.  My first project here back from the dead-ish I chose from the Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin book called Mosaic Workshop, which is also the name of their studio in London.   I have been drawn to their work since I got interested in outdoor mosaics.

The challenge with mosaics appeared:  I sat at my accustomed place.  Picked up one and then another tool that I knew to use for the particular material I was using.  I had absolutely no memory of which of the tools to use when or where.  None.  I actually rotated each tool in my hand to peer more closely, seeking a brain-ping.  I looked at them as if I’d only hefted them at a store before a purchase.  My hands didn’t know what to do besides grip!

Imagine picking up a pencil, an ordinary wooden pencil.  You have paper in front of you–you know the pencil is for writing.  There comes the beginning of movement, then stopping because you don’t know what kinds of marks the pencil makes.  You don’t know why you should use the pencil for writing.

I held the tools, but hit a wall–nothing came next for my head or hands. I did not have the visual memory or kinesthetic memory I had before things went south in February.   Just stopped for a few moments and stared, appalled.

Breathe.  Jump in again.  I could hold the tools.  I knew they were correct for the material.  I couldn’t see them fully–how to describe?   In the before-time, the seeing was the complex experience of  the visual and kinesthetic memories of using the tools and no hesitation, just doing .  Had to experiment until things became familiar, nipping and cutting and creating a lot of waste.

After about a half-hour of nipping tile, with shards flying the way they do, I noticed those sharp shards landing on my bare legs (I was wearing shorts) and mused at how easy it is for shards to slice and dice the unwary.  Oh!   I had not put on my heavy duck-cloth workshop apron, had not even thought of it.  (I put it on.)  And, I was wearing shorts instead of long pants.

Really am re-wiring.  JeezusFreezeUsSaveUsFromTheFlood.

Maybe I’ll be like Jill Bolte Taylor following her brain episode and will soon find out I can now sing!  >:-D

A few pics…

the REST of the drawings!

It ain’t easy being me.

I posted a collection of geometric mosaic drawings on my room wall and here.  Occasionally, afterwards, I would see a pattern in a book that seemed familiar:  hadn’t I drawn that?  is it on the wall?  No?  OK, I guess I didn’t draw it.

Here are the drawings I had secreted away (from myself!) that began it all!  I did do all the patterns in Robert Field’s book.  I’m still unclear how my brain could parse these designs then reproduce them while I could hardly think one thought completely through.  There’s probably research out there, but I guess I don’t care.  It just was.

what I did on my brain-vacation

Here is the evidence of the work I did on the Roman mosaic geometric patterns.  It finally occurred to me to post them where I could see them.  Now, hanging out in this blue room, here is the joy of mosaics for me.

One of my goals as a mosaic artist is to design floor mosaics.

Many of these patterns come from mosaic floors in Fishbourne Palace in Britain.  That’s on my list to see some day.   Maybe I’ll start my postponed Italy trip by landing in the UK and seeing what I can see!

(click on any pic to get a slideshow started.)

errata: could use cheering up: got jokes?

It took me two days after posting the jokes to understand why I had such trouble with one of them as I was typing.  Couldn’t quite figure it out, but tried and thought I had succeeded.

Q:  What do you call a thrown stick that won’t come back?

A:  A boomerang.

It was sposta be:

Q: What do you call a boomerang that won’t come back?

A:  A stick.

This is a rough go, coming on the finish of the second month of being out of action, never mind going to Italy.   I’m a tough cookie and can take a lot before I start screaming.  The myriad physical parts to recovery I can take.  But really, this confusion that springs up on me unexpectedly gets me down.  If I were confused all the time, the way I was for the first several weeks out of hospital, it would not be notable.

Nowhere in the discharge instructions were there comments about how “you may experience confusion, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and we sure as hell don’t know how long that will go on, but good luck and don’t let the door hit you in the bum on the way out.”

I sound bitter.  It really isn’t anyone’s fault, but I guess it would be easier if I had some sort of knowledgeable medico to help me along.  Since I’m so leery of medicos, that doesn’t help me either.  But my judgement is way off because of the dampened thinking abilities, so I don’t trust myself.

Waaah waaaah waaaah!

I’m still reading good books, and oddly enough, I’ve been able to work with re-creating Roman geometric mosaic patterns.  These things are complex, but the author,  Robert Field, has given great direction.  A pleasant result has been that I wrote to Mr. Field and we have had a couple of exchanges.  He lives in the UK and is an artist and practicing mosaicist and a lovely person, to boot!

Robert Field, Geometric Patterns from Roman Mosaics

I really don’t get how I can understand the complexities of geometric figures right now when I forget what Big and I have been talking about mid-conversation.  Sigh…

Make us all laugh!  Whatcha got?!  >:-D

planning and planning…

I’m going to be in Italy for a month and have plans for only the first 10 days.  The rest will fall into place!  This is the area I’ll concentrate on…  but who knows what could happen?!

After landing in Bologna, I’ll hop a train and bus to stay with a blogging pal in a tiny village in Tuscany.

 

A couple of days later, I’ll take the train to Ravenna where I’ll take a 5-day mosaics class that teaches the traditional methods.  I will also celebrate my 55th birthday there!  I’ll be staying in a small B&B right in the historical district and will quite likely ride a bicycle to class!

I’m hoping to apprentice in a mosaics workshop, which would require that I stay in Italy for longer than a month.  If I still have money, I may do that!

that is mosaics!

  Then, since Venice is just up the road, I’ll probably head there.  How could I miss Venice?!  Burano or Murano?

Siena?!   I have a guidebook that belonged to my uncle who visited there on a break from North Africa during WWII.    I’ve long wanted to see Siena….  but it’s south of that purply highlighted area!    hmmmm….  what to do?  what to do?

four Wednesdays hence

… I will be wishing I could get comfortable in my cramped Lufthansa airline seat so that I could sleep away the 10-hour overnight flight.

Lufthansa long-haul flight

I will also want to stay awake to watch icy white Greenland slide along below us, 41,000 feet under those wings.

Four Wednesdays hence I will be living my dream of spending a solo month in northern Italy.   I have the round-trip ticket, I have registered for the 5-day classical mosaics class in Ravenna on the east coast, and I know where the flight sets down outside Bologna, but I still don’t know where I’ll lay my jet-lagged head the first night or nights thereafter.  I don’t know if I’m renting a car at the outset or at all.

I do know I will be celebrating my 55th birthday in Italy.  Cinquante cinque ani!

This dream of going to Italy has haunted me for years.  Perhaps once I’m there I’ll be able to articulate the tremendous magnetic desire to be in that tiny country.  Life experiences to now have narrowed like a funnel to point to the concluding reason for the disparate events that all seem to make sense now:

Mom had us studying Latin when we were kids and I continued to study in college.  Gaudeamus igitur, etc. and so forth!

We lived in Taranto way down at the heel of Italy when I was a wee thing and apparently my brother and I spoke conversational Italian to our housekeeper, though we apparently refused to speak Italian to our parents!  Dov’è Laurio?    Andiamo bambini!

The Ancient Italians, those amazing, warring Romans, have had my attention for decades.  They knew how to use concrete as well as any modern concrete contractor!  Amazing!  Underwater!

Some years ago I wanted to learn mosaics, but since I wanted to do outdoor installations, I stopped what I was doing with mosaics to teach myself about concrete as a substrate for those mosaics.  I love working with cement!  I love the smell of admixture in my cement and sand mix in the morning!

Four Wednesdays hence, as I fly to Italy, it will be two years ago almost to the day that I was laid off from a quite fine job, a job from which I believed I would retire with a nice little 401k.   I at least have the little 401k!

These last two years have been an exploration, a rediscovery of the guts I possess that have allowed me to simply try something!  How hard could it be?!  

In an effort to become employable once more, I studied landscape design, but after the third quarter of commuting to school in unfathomable traffic, I called Uncle! and stopped.  Simply stopped.  Panicked.  Didn’t panic.  Wondered and thought and pondered in that nonmoving space and time.

Recovered from the exhaustion brought on by being caught up in the too many people in too-close quarters driving aggressively at 70 mph!   As I came out of the exhaustion, I returned to my spot in the garage and poked around with my concrete stuff again.  Created some oddball stepping stones.  Became inspired, at last being rested and refreshed after a difficult 1-1/2 years, to work on mosaics along with the concrete.

Full circle.  I know concrete as a substrate for outdoor installations.  I learn mosaics in leaps and bounds, absorb knowledge and wisdom from the teachers who have written books.  Knew I wanted badly to go to the seat of Byzantine-era (around 600 CE) mosaics and learn at the feet of master mosaicists.

Still have to earn a living and wondering what in hell to do at my age when I’ve effectively been shut out of the job market.

Boing!  Clink!  Bing!   I shall be a concrete and mosaics artist and I will call the business Concrete Couture (TM).

Four Wednesdays hence, I shall be on my way to Italy, to tie together those disparate experiences, to bring to the fore all the courage I’ve ever had, to try something new, to take a leap of faith, the only net being the Universe, which has cared for this Earthling all these years, kept me alive and showed me how to thrive.

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Brrrrrr in the workshop!!!

Dang!  I wonder if the Big Mister would build me real walls so I can work out here and have the temp climb well about 53 degrees?!

Brrrrr .... !!!!

Proof that my brain got zapped some time along the way

I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the mosaics and concrete workshop, happily playing with thinset and tiles and daydreaming about the riches that will come my way as a mosaic artist.  (I’m approaching my second year of unwilling unemployment.)

I play music when I’m out there because it inspires me and it drowns out the sound of the buzz of those damn overhead flickering fluorescent tube lights.

Bob Dylan is my hero so I’m always listening to something of his.  The music player is an old tape player, which is convenient since I recorded a boatload of tapes off my record albums (LPs to you young’uns), which should tell you the vintage of the music–late 60s through early 80s.

Hard Rain by Bob Dylan

There I was listening to Bob wail about some lady he loved who hurt him and I had my “brain was reset sometime when I wasn’t looking” moment:

These rock-and-rollers sing about love!  About broken hearts and hopeful hearts.  It truly was news to me, brand new, and I revelled in the realization.

Then, I wondered, how come I didn’t always carry that knowledge with me since I’ve been listening to music since the 60s.   Why was this new?

Because my brain has been cleared of umpty-ump years of memories and new ones are there, wiping out the knowledge that was my foundation.  No wonder I’m confused these days.

You know what helps?  To walk around saying, in a slightly bemused, over-the-top-happy, sing-song voice:

Every day is a brand new day!

© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

keeping out of trouble

I could never ever in a million kajillion years be bored!

Yes, I’m unemployed and looking for suitable work.  Yawn.  Here is what I’ve been doing that excites me:

copying a Roman mosaic

more pics…  More

Color Pencils

Right after I put away my drawing tools, of which there are many, I needed them again!  Just not for garden design.

In one of my first posts, I showed a picture of the stones I’m making to serve as the patio for our pergola. 

Peony leaves and fish gravel!

Right now, the first 3 are in place by the fountain so that one of them gets splashed on one side, changing the effect of the embedded leaf patterns.  The last 5 stones are still curing, and they will all be able to come out and play by the end of the month.  The consistent theme is the embedded peony leaves; to each stone, I added different bits of glass, marbles, cut-marble, and even a string of tiny blue beads.   (The Big Mister asked me if that string was from Mardi Gras, and if so, how did I end up with them?!  Harumph.  The answer is no, they didn’t and I didn’t.)  All of those bits came from my long-collected-at-garage-sales supply of mosaic pieces and parts.

Which brings us back to the drawing tools.  I decided 8 stones were enough for now and that I needed to move on to something else.  I cast a shallow 15-inch-diameter bowl in white concrete and sand with the intention of mosaicing the inside.   I pored over my mosaic books and found a design that seemed to fit the idea of a shallow bowl that will live outside, gathering rainwater, and probably turn out to be yet another water bowl for the cats. 

Buddy Cosmo Scooter: he gets called many things! He adopted us through Calpurrnia's kitty door.

Not because I deemed it so, but because, well, they’re cats and they choose what they choose and we have little control. 

Calpurrnia

I digress. 


Out came the color pencils and oil pastels, along with the circle template. 

Didn’t need the drawing scale because I knew I’d be eyeballing pencil to paper.

architect scale

Modified the design as I sketched.  The colors were harder to decide upon, but once I parsed the artist’s intent I knew what to do next.  My usual jewel tones are missing from this outing; instead there are unusual pastels, the darker shades rather than the ubiquitous pinks and blues.

The colors remind me of the Tuscan landscapes I will soon experience in person:  sandy white, even celadon green (my favorite color), a burst of deep sky blue, and burnt Siena.  All those years ago with my box of crayons, I’d marvel at that name, burnt Siena, and wonder where that name came from.   I figured it was some kid who had charred a town!(Blaming a kid was logical because with my brother, my partner-in-crime, as kids we were playing with matches in the woods and, um, accidentally set those remote woods on fire.  Fire trucks.  Hoses.  Mom looking at us and knowing, which means the firefighters knew it was us.  I’ve never been the same after torching Mother Nature.)

You must see a photo of the town of Siena in Italy to understand perfectly.

Siena, Italy

See the "burnt" Siena?

So, it’s off to the mosaic tile store to choose and price (I am unemployed still, after all!) the colors I talked over with my Mom.  (Oh, my Mom!  How many posts could I make about my fabulous Mom?  She is a huge part of the inspiration of the post called Fan-Fare.)

Ah, the creativity and inspiration that arise when the tired recedes.


© No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Collecting rocks

Concrete and cement seem, in hindsight, to be part of the natural evolution of my life.

I’ve always collected rocks and other bits of life seen at my feet.  One time, a 70-year-old friend was helping  me on my 25th move and he lifted one box, groaned, and said, What do you have in here?  Rocks?  I am honest, so said yes.  At least some of them were volcanic from an Alaskan adventure.  I think I wasn’t sposta to collect because I was in a park.  Oopsie.

In college, I tried to stick to the course of study prescribed, but it should have been proscribed because it was a poor fit.  I wandered anyway and took classes I wanted to take like human anat and physiology, Latin, and a class called Greek and Roman Private Life.  Turns out that those pesky Romans knew all about concrete and even used it underwater!  Who knew?   Our puny minds right now think we’ve invented EVERYTHING!  I gather more humility as I age; do you?

So then concrete seeps into my life a hundred and five years later–I can’t remember how–it has been almost 5 years and my brain is filled up with other stuff now.  Probably had something to do with Gaudi’s work in Spain and my desire to mosaic a mansion!

Rats!  I have to go now, but it’s for something fun–meeting and eating with a group of community gardeners and being introduced as someone who is going to present a new design for their work area.  This is unpaid work in the form of an internship and finally a real-life situation for design.  It’s hard to make up designs in class; I do really well listening to other people and hearing what they have to say.  (And that is related to my former career (read:  bad economy) as a technical editor!)

(Finished the gardening meeting–gardeners are a swell bunch!  Now, it’s off to a wedding to watch young people say I Do!)

©  No Stealing!  That’s what the little c in the circle means!
© lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to lahgitana and Rockin’ the Purple with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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