Mosaic workout challenge, week 3: Black and white

Week 3—working in black and white—was challenging, but in a good way. After last week’s painful foray into the world of ceramic and vitreous tile, it felt really good to get back to using rocks! (By the way, make sure you check out what all the participants made during Week 2.)

Selecting the materials for this challenge was a breeze. I went with limestone (?) from the cottage and some coal from Pennsylvania (sent to me by one of my Touchstone classmates). The most time-consuming part was figuring out where I wanted to go in terms of design, and I think that’s because I don’t tend to work with extremes (in terms of colour, size, flow, etc.), so working with black and white threw me off my game a little, but again, in a good way! And yes, I know that the lines of coal are eerily reminiscent of a ghoulish charred skeleton hand… Not intentional, but no matter how I curved them and rearranged them, they just kept looking like that, so I decided not to fight it.

"Black carbon (study)" -- playing around in black and white, testing ideas for a bigger project
“Black carbon (study)” — playing around in black and white, testing ideas for a bigger project

Title: Black carbon (study)

Size: 6″ x 4.75″

How long did it take to complete? Roughly 4 hours

Love or hate this workout? I thought this workout was great. It pushed me out of my comfort zone just enough (because I rarely use big contrasts, like black and white, in my work), but I still felt relatively in control and comfortable because I could work with materials and tools that I knew and liked.

Happy with the result? Yep, I’m pretty happy with the result, although when I get around to making the larger piece there are definitely things that I will change based on what I learned here.

What did I learn? I used this challenge as a chance to try out some ideas that I’ve got kicking around in my head for a larger piece that would be part of the climate change series I’m working on. I’ve never done a test piece / study before, so I found it challenging figuring out how to approach it (i.e., determining what, specifically, I wanted to test out for the bigger piece): Am I supposed to replicate the whole thing, just in miniature? Do just one portion of it? Take some materials and styles for a spin? I opted for the last one, taking the opportunity to work with coal for the first time and play around with size and spacing a bit. The coal wasn’t nearly as difficult to work with as I anticipated (although it was just as messy as I thought it would be!), and I’m looking forward to using it again when I do the larger mosaic. Because I favour gradual, easy transitions, I found it quite challenging to work in black and white, particularly on such a small scale. I’m not sure I really learned how to navigate these contrasts in a confined space, but I did learn that it’s tough and that it’s something I can work on in the future.

Coal is actually kind of pretty, isn't it?
Coal is actually kind of pretty, isn’t it?

1 Comment

Julie: I wondered if you would mind answering some questions for me. I got totally turned on to the weekly challenge through your blog but feel like I would want to ask others questions about their work. If you would be good with that, send me an email. I’m on your newsletter listing, thanks. Btw, I love your black and white piece. It actually reminds me of a photo I saw once of the talons on a magnificent bird, to highlight their strength and agility and so on. Very cool.

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