Mosaic workout challenge, week 1: Found objects

The Institute of Mosaic Art is running a series of weekly mosaic workout challenges to “build your mosaic muscles, find some fresh perspective, approach mosaic from a new direction, practice your technique, make more mosaics, [and] connect with the community of fellow mosaic enthusiasts and artists.” I think it’s a fantastic idea—I already know that I work best when I can ‘warm up’ a bit first—so I’ve decided to join in the fun. I’m not sure I’ll be able to complete all the challenges, what with summer travel plans and all, but I’m going to do my best. I hit my daddy up for some scraps of wood to work on (they’d been kicking around his garage for 15 years, so I’m sure my mom was happy to see them out the door), so I’m all set! Let the workouts begin!

The challenge for week 1 was found objects. For me, this wasn’t much of a stretch. I’m forever picking up interesting things on the street and squirrelling them away, knowing that they’ll be just perfect for some future mosaic. When I read the challenge, I immediately thought of some items I had already picked up (and a concept I had already been batting around in my brain for quite some time): long thin strips of safety glass from a street around the corner from my apartment, some brick that had sheered off of a neighbourhood house over the winter, and a big rusty nut I found on my way home from work one day during the spring thaw. But then I stopped myself. If I had already been thinking of doing this, where’s the challenge? So I gave myself one day to find something on the street to incorporate. That item ended up being a bit of bike chain. R actually found it while we were out for a run. As I turned to look back and check out her find (while still running forward), I stepped in a big pile of goose poop. Sigh. Oddly enough, on our way back from the run, I found a huge length of bike chain just lying in the street, so now I’ve got lots in stock for future projects! Anyway, the chain was the found object and, in all honesty, I probably wouldn’t normally have picked it up. Of course, I also scavenged the rock myself (from around Ottawa) and the glass (from a broken table on the side of the street), but that’s not really out of the ordinary for me.

"The Missing Link" mosaic by Julie Sperling (2014) - stone from the Ottawa area, glass (from a broken table), and bike chain
“The Missing Link” (2014) – stone from the Ottawa area, glass (from a broken table), and bike chain — 4″ x 5″

We have to answer a few standard questions when we submit our mosaic for the challenge each week, so below are my answers.

Title: The Missing Link (full credit for the name goes to R)

How long did it take to complete? Just under 4 hours

Love or hate this workout? Love! This was well within my wheelhouse and aligned with what I already like doing.

Happy with the result? There are a few things I would change, but overall I’m satisfied.

What did I learn? (Or what did I learn that I need to learn?) I very readily fall back into my comfort zone and play it safe. I’m hoping that future challenges will really make me push myself (and that I’ll embrace the chance to do just that).

"The Missing Link" by Julie Sperling (2014) - stone from the Ottawa area, glass (from a broken table), and bike chain
Angle shot of “The Missing Link”


This is so cool. I love the idea and particularly love the results. Dying to see what your next workout challenge will be. By the way, what’s the substrate? It looks interesting. I am going through a bit of a substrate crisis at the moment so any new ideas would be gratefully received!

Thanks Helen! I’m also curious to see what the next challenge will be! IMA should be announcing it later today.

In answer to your question, the substrate is just a bit of wood (pine, I’m guessing, but I can’t say for certain – just scraps from my dad’s garage). I just prepped it with a 1:5 Weldbond to water solution and once the top was done I covered the edges in thinset. What do you usually work on in terms of substrates? I’ve been making my own using ISO insulation board (for roofing) wrapped in mesh and thinset — kinda like a homemade Wediboard (which I also use sometimes). I’d like to try making my own mortar-mesh substrates at some point, just haven’t gotten around to sourcing the mesh yet.

Let me know what you think!

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