The Horned Owl

I haven’t been working in stained glass much lately since I have been concentrating on adding more mosaics to my garden wall.  I had started this piece during the winter while my son was visiting. But for some reason the small tesserae tiles kept calling to me.  I have just completed the owl (finally) and it is now hanging in the window of my breakfast nook.

Actually, I needed to finish the piece because I will be using the bench to layout a commission just received – the mosaic will be 8 feet wide by 4-1/2 feet tall on completion.  It is a desert sunset quite unique to the view from my client’s home.  All the 3/8” tiles have been ordered – the shipment should arrive within the next week or so.  I still have to purchase the 1” glass tiles I use for bordering as well as the thin set and grout but that can wait for now.  The main focus of my attention for the foreseeable future will be on building the mosaic mural.

Stay tuned for updates on the progress of this new project.

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The Desert Sunset

This morning I finished grouting my latest panel.  I am quite pleased with this creation, having this time used a different type of  mosaic tile.  This piece is 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall consisting of approximately 10,000 3/8 inch Crystal Murrini tiles.  I chose these tiles  for the multiplicity of color they provided and have been rewarded with the extra sparkle of light reflected.

My main purpose in creating this mural was to use it as an advertisement of my work.  I would like very much to be creating “art” for other’s yard walls and it seems to me that most desert dwellers gravitate to Southwestern Art.  I’m thinking the reason might be because so many Arizonan’s are transplants from other states, just like me.

So now, my next task is to contact a photographer to have him capture some images to create an advertisement for several local magazines.  I have several flowers, some replicas of famous paintings and now some Southwestern themes.  And then…….. Hope the commissions start rolling in.

The Kokopelli

I’m not much for kitschy Southwestern art, but most people living in the Desert Southwest are into this type of artwork.  I caved and created a kokopelli mosaic for garden wall.

My intentions are to have a local photographer create a magazine layout for the advertisement of my work.  If you follow my  blog, you know most of my work both in glass and mosaic, is nature inspired.  In glass, I particularly like creating wild animals; in mosaic, I mostly create flowers or replications of French posters.  But hopefully to attain outside work, I am adding to the gallery on my garden wall some of the more common Southwestern themes that so many desert dwellers seem to admire.

This winter brought three nights of 12 degree temperatures to my part of the desert.  Many plants were frozen and just did not return this spring.  I had to have the gardeners remove about 50 feet of vine that covered a good portion of the North wall in my garden.  I guess this was fortuitous because now I am left with significantly more “canvas” for my mosaic work.  The kokopelli is complete and installed on that wall and I am now working on a desert sunset for another section of the same wall.

The Budding Rose Mosaic

I haven’t been blogging for a while, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working.  Since my home is no longer on the market and I have decided to stay in Arizona at least until the real estate market picks up, I am back to prettying up my garden wall.

This winter brought several 12* nights to the Sonora Desert – most of the plantings in my garden did not survive those frigid temperatures. That is with the exception of my roses, they seem to have flourished.

Because I love roses and most flowering plants, during the winter I created several patterns of single flowers.  Included in that process was the design and creation of a budding rose.  The mosaic is now on the East wall of my garden and I am happy to share it. 

Van Gogh’s Starry Night – Arlene’s Interpretation in Tesserae Mosaic Tiles

I’ve been working on this mosaic for some time now.   I placed the piece on the west wall in my garden where the sun can show if off for most of the day.  But that location proved to be quite a hard location to work at.  The sun rises over the mountains at about 6 am and brightens the chosen wall.  Up until about 8 am, the Palo Verde tree shades the area where I was working, and then BAM, blinding sunlight and a nice warmth that quickly grows blistering hot. 

For that reason, every stage of this mosaic took much longer than it should have taken.  Prepping the wall was a painstakingly long process.  The thin-set dried quickly, so I could only set one small portion each day.  The grout dried too quickly, again I was only able to complete a small portion each day having to grout a 12 inch square then sponge it off with lightening speed. 

 I wrote a post about creating this mosaic pattern back in June and how Don McLean’s song “Vincent” haunted me during the creative process.  Well, the song continued to play in my mind while I was working – sometimes I even heard myself singing “Starry, starry night; paint your palate blue and gray……” 

Now I’m sure I understand what he tried to say to me!  And having said that, here is a picture of the finished piece, what do you think?

The Iris Mosaic

Saturday, May 29, 2010 – I completed the second stage of the Iris Mosaic.  Hopefully, tomorrow the weather will be cool enough for me to prep the wall.  Yesterday the temperature hit 101 degrees here in Tucson (the first century temperature day for this year) and I do not want to be prepping the wall in that high heat.  But the local weather guy says we are in for a cooling trend for the next couple of days which should keep the thermometer below the century mark.  Since, in my opinion, June is the hottest month in the desert southwest, I would like to get the Irises on the wall before June arrives.

I like to think of my work in stages  – – –

Stage One:  Pattern Design  Stage Two:  Construction Stage Three: Wall Preparation (my least favorite part)

Sunday, May 30, 2010 – Stage three is complete.  The temperature is in the mid 90’s but I have managed to fill in the cracks and thin-set the surface of the wall where the mosaic will be.  I’m not unpleased with the results so far.  Tomorrow I hope to begin placing the Opus Vermiculatum tiles on the wall; that is after I knock off the rough edges of the thin-set.

Stage Four:  Setting the Tiles

Monday, May 31, 2010 – I thought I would be innovative and use Weldbond Adhesive to glue up the tesserae tiles, after all Weldbond worked perfect for the confetti mosaic I had just completed.  I put the top two sections on the wall, sat down for a drink of iced tea and watched both panels begin slip-sliding down the wall.  I panicked and tried to move them back into place.  Finally, the sections seemed to be adhering to the block wall.  I gave up for the day and went inside. 

Later that day I noticed the Weldbond hadn’t seemed to be drying.  The problem was the Mosaic Mount, which is a clear contact paper type of product used to keep each tile in place while affixing the section to the wall. It was creating a condition that wasn’t allowing air to circulate therefore the Weldbond couldn’t dry.  The only thing I could do was to remove the Mosaic Mount.  As you could imagine, many of the tiles shifted and/or fell off the wall.  I decided that the next day I should use the old tried and true Thin-Set for the adhesive.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 – I mounted the remaining 4 sections with Thin-Set and stood back to look at the result.  Not too bad – but now I have to replace the tiles that fell off the wall or shifted.  I figured I should just remove them and start over.  The iris itself looked pretty good, but the white background was all askew.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010 – I replaced the white background tiles this morning.  The result is alright, not perfect but I believe the grout will cover up the problem areas satisfactorily.  I should have removed the entire top two sections, not just the white tiles because the purple of the iris is a bit off the straight line but today the tiles are glued so tight on the wall, I couldn’t even chip them off.  Tomorrow, I will add another row or two of tiles to the top of the piece and then I will be ready for grouting.

So far, the temperatures have remained in the mid 90 degree range.  Friday is supposed to be the beginning of a long and as the weather guy says, dangerous heat wave with temperatures well up in the 105 to 110 range.  I don’t want to be working outside in those temperatures.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 – Before 8 am this morning, I was affixing the top rows on the mosaic.  Hopefully, later today the Thin-Set will be hardened and I will be able to grout.

Stage Five:  Grouting  

Friday, June 4, 2010 – The grouting is complete!  And I managed to avoid the above 100 degree temperatures!  Are there any other mosaicists out there willing to give me some tips?  I surely would appreciate any suggestions offered.

Confetti Mosaic on Wall

For those who are not familiar with southern Arizona, all homes have block walls of varying heights “fencing” off the back yard.  Here in the desert southwest we are able to be outdoors year round, now I want you to know I am not bragging, I often feel homesick for the New York Tri-State region and if the cost wasn’t so prohibitive, that is exactly where I would be living.  But here I am and ever since I moved into my home, my feeling was the wall is just another place to display artwork.  I have thought of creating some mosaic work on the backyard walls for some time now.  

Ella's Crimson Flower Stained Glass

I designed a pattern that I call Ella’s Crimson Flower; first I made a stained glass panel (which is still sitting on the workshop table awaiting solder), then I couldn’t wait to get my hands into the Opus style of mosaic.  I adapted the pattern to a mosaic pattern using the Tile Creator Software I had recently purchased.  I worked almost non-stop on tiling until one day this Spring, a friend helped me affix it to the side wall of my yard.  Well, I now know that I must smooth the wall first, the mosaic has some bumps and waves in it, but for a first effort, I am not dissatisfied. 

Ella's Crimson Flower Mosaic

After Ella’s Crimson Flower was complete, I decided to use some scrap glass to create confetti like mosaic all along the top course of blocks on the wall.  I have been working for several weeks on the confetti mosaic and today, I completed affixing the glass to the wall.  I still have to grout the entire top course, but I wanted to share some pictures of the not yet completed result.  I have to say I love it, it feels so happy, like a party!  

Confetti Mosaic

Several of my neighbors had suggested I mosaic the top course of the outside of the wall also – that too, is completed.  I just hope the Homeowners Association doesn’t site me for beautifying the otherwise ugly wall.  Who knows, maybe I will get some more work – I have already been commissioned to mosaic one neighbor’s wall.

My mind is already planning my next Opus mosaic; in fact I have begun working on it.  It will be two purple irises, and after that I would like to replicate Van Gogh’s Starry Night (http://www.vangoghgallery.com/painting/starryindex.html).  Oh, the possibilities are endless, and like I said before, I am happiest when I am creating.