Tag Archives | stone

Mosaic workout challenge, week 17: Elements

Earth, wind, fire, and water. That was the challenge this week: do something inspired by the four classical elements. This one felt easier to me, like I was more back in my wheelhouse. I didn’t have to contemplate it for days on end, which was nice.

"Core temperature" ... from the earth's inner core to its outer crust

“Core temperature” … from the earth’s inner core to its outer crust

Title: “Core temperature”

Size: 6″ x 4.25″

Materials: Stone, terracotta, smalti

How long did it take to complete? About 3.5 hours

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this challenge. Looking at the materials on my shelf, earth and fire were easy picks. I used a bunch of terracotta, smalti, and rock that I had already cut, which saved me a bunch of time. I had actually cut most of this about a year ago, and boy, can I ever notice the difference in my cutting skills! Just seeing that difference and the progress I’ve made was a valuable lesson in and of itself. And working with colours is always a good exercise for me, as it’s definitely not my natural inclination. I actually had doubts about the colours right up until I stepped back and looked at the finished piece. A lesson in trusting your gut instinct and not over-thinking, I suppose.

core temperature - angle

0

Mosaic workout challenge, week 16: The swept floor

This week’s challenge—“The Swept Floor“—was courtesy of Margo Anton and the rules were simple: use only scraps and don’t cut any of it (use it how you discarded it).

"Glacial till" - made entirely of scraps from previous projects

“Glacial till” – made entirely of scraps from previous projects

Title: “Glacial till”

Size: 4.25″ x 4.25″

Materials: Stone, cinca, glass, quartz, shale, marble

How long did it take to complete? About 2 hours

Thoughts: Considering I got my start in mosaics using glass scrap and rarely cutting anything, this week was surprisingly challenging. I had been processing a bunch of material recently for my next non-challenge mosaic, so I saved all the offcuts to use for this piece. I just kind of threw myself into this without a game plan and ended up working in sections that were determined by material and the shape of the pieces. There are groups of tesserae in this mosaic that I really love in terms of how they play off of / relate to one another, but overall I’m not crazy about the piece. I’m finding that when I don’t put any thought into the design beforehand, the results are a crapshoot, with me ending up unsatisfied more often than not. While I don’t usually (ever?) make a detailed sketch, I do tend to mull things over for a good while before diving in. These challenges are definitely reinforcing the parts of my practice that are essential for me.

glacial till - angle

0

Mosaic workout challenge, week 15: String theory

Fifteen weeks down, five to go. I’m definitely starting to feel the fatigue. I’ve recovered from the Verdiano Marzi workshop, but now I’m elbows deep in prepping for my next climate change mosaic, so I can feel my interest in these challenges waning as I embark on exciting new projects. But I will not give up! I’ve come this far, might as well finish (and I am still learning stuff, so it’s definitely not a waste of time).

Week 15’s prompt—“string theory”—was from Kelley Knickerbocker. We had to doodle a line and then use tesserae to define the negative space of the line. It was a great challenge and much harder than I initially thought it would be!

"Metropolis" (6" x 4.25"), shale, cinca, stone, flint, coal

“Metropolis” (6″ x 4.25″), shale, cinca, stone, flint, coal

Title: “Metropolis” (note: differs from the name submitted to IMA, which was done in a hurry…I later exercised my right to a sober second thought)

Size: 6″ x 4.25″

Materials: Stone, cinca, coal, shale, flint

How long did it take to complete? About 2.5 hours (and another 2.5 hours for the one I did and then promptly threw in the garbage)

Thoughts: I had some trouble this week because, while I loved the challenge prompt, none of my materials were really speaking to me. Eventually I just grabbed a few random jars from my shelf and dove in head first. That attempt was so bad that I couldn’t bring myself to submit it, even though I know that there is no pressure to create a masterpiece in these challenges and that there are really no expectations other than to spend some time in the studio. Yes, it was that bad: the materials were wrong, the colours were off, the doodled line was wonky…*sigh* So I tried again, and the second attempt was a huge improvement on the first one. Had I not been under the gun to finish this in a hurry (I started on Sunday at 2pm), I would’ve spent a lot more time tapering the ends of the lines so they didn’t end so abruptly.

I learned two things this week, both completely unrelated to the challenge prompt. First, I learned that I really need to wait until I “feel it” before I start. If I force myself to just crank something out, chances are the results will be terrible. It is not unusual for me to leave a blank substrate and some half-chopped piles of materials on my table for a few days (or even weeks) while I putter and ponder until I’ve got it straight in my head. That is how I work and this challenge reinforced that I should do what works for me, even if it sometimes feels like I’m wasting time. Second, I learned what it feels like to create a complete flop and to recognize that and be ok with it going straight into the garbage.

Tough to capture the varying textures and heights in a photo

Tough to capture the varying textures and heights in a photo

3

Mosaic workout challenge, week 10: Redux

This week marked the halfway point—10 weeks out of 20—and we had a chance to go back and fix past mistakes. It was a do-over / catch-up week and it was much appreciated!

Title: “An acquired taste”

Size: 4.25″ x 4.25″

Materials: Stone, smalti, and gin bottle

How long did it take to complete? About two and a half hours

Thoughts: I was so happy to have a chance to go back and redo a challenge that I wished I had done differently. I knew immediately that I wanted to revisit last week’s challenge (“When life gives you lemons…”) and try a more appropriate thinset colour. I’m much happier with the results of this week’s challenge—that green glass is popping now! The name is a nod to both gin and thinset, the latter because that’s the mistake I was fixing and because it took me quite a while to learn to love working with thinset.

"An acquired taste" -- stone, smalti, gin bottle, 4.25" x 4.25"

“An acquired taste” — stone, smalti, gin bottle, 4.25″ x 4.25″

 

0

Mosaic workout challenge, week 9: When life gives you lemons…

Eeek – the ‘to do’ list keeps growing and it’s getting more and more difficult to find the time for these challenges. I may miss one or two in the coming weeks, as we are in the process of moving and I’m also attending Verdiano Marzi’s class in Chicago at the end of August. But for now, here’s what I managed to squeeze in this week. The challenge was the complete the phrase “When life gives you lemons…”

"G&T" - because really, what else would you do with lemons (or limes, yes, I know)...

“G&T” – because really, what else would you do with lemons (or limes, yes, I know)…

Title: “G&T”

Size: 4.25″ x 4.25″

Materials: Limestone and gin bottle

How long did it take to complete? Three hours

Thoughts: When I read the challenge for this week, I immediately thought of a gin and tonic. I know, I know, they’re traditionally made with limes, but we don’t get too picky with our citrus fruit here in this household, so humour me. I just happened to have an empty gin bottle, which I smashed and paired with some limestone. Like last week, I just flung myself into the challenge without a plan. I was neither here nor there with this challenge (and the result), and I’m not sure I learned much, except that I should’ve picked a lighter thinset colour in order to make the green glass pop a bit more.

An angle shot of "G&T" so you can see some of the texture.

An angle shot of “G&T” so you can see some of the texture.

0

Mosaic workout challenge, weeks 5 and 6: Three and Pattern

The last two challenges have coincided with a visit from friends from California, and since I’m short on time I’m going to combine two weeks’ worth of challenges into one post. Week 5 was a theme challenge where we interpreted ‘three’ however we wanted. Week 6 was all about pattern, and was one of the toughest ones so far for me. The best part of week 6 was sharing my workspace with 13-year-old V, one of our California visitors, who made his first mosaic while he was here (and liked it!).

Week 5 – Three

"Three Generations" - stones found on the shoreline of the cottage by (from left to right) my grandma, my mom, and me

“Three Generations” – stones found on the shoreline of the cottage by (from left to right) my grandma, my mom, and me

Title: Three Generations

Size: 4″ x 5″

How long did it take to complete? About 3 hours

Love or hate this workout? I really enjoyed this one. It was a bit stressful coming up with an idea, mostly because I tend to be very literal. Appropriately enough, the idea I ended up running with was my third one, ha!

Happy with the result? I was working on this one at the cottage, so there were a few “meh, good enough” moments because I wanted to finish so I could join in the board game fun and/or go read down by the water, but overall I’m happy with it, particularly because it has sentimental value.

What did I learn? I reinforced the fact that I need to let an idea percolate for a while in my head if I’m not feeling it 100%, because if I allow myself to do that I will inevitably hit upon a better idea than I started out with. The inspiration for this mosaic finally hit when I remembered that my grandma had told me that she had picked up a stone for me the last time she was at the cottage. I decided to get my mom to find one too, and I did the same, so the piece is built around three stones selected by three generations from the same shoreline, all tied together by an unbroken loop of marble.

Week 6 – Pattern

"Switch" - my first attempt at creating a pattern

“Switch” – my first attempt at creating a pattern

Title: Switch

Size: 6″ x 5″

How long did it take to complete? About 3.5 hours

Love or hate this workout? I won’t say hate, but how about strongly dislike? I just found working in a pattern too constraining. I like to let the pieces lead me, but I couldn’t seem to figure out how to do that while also settling into a repeating pattern.

Happy with the result? Within the context of the challenge, I’m satisfied, but it’s definitely not a favourite of mine.

What did I learn? Patterns are hard and not something that comes naturally to me! Even with just a simple pattern, I struggled. I think they take a lot more planning (and measuring) than my normal style, so if I’m ever faced with a project like this again, I will definitely whip out my ruler and do some calculations first. I also used this challenge as a chance to play with the grain of the limestone (having it echo the orientation of the metal piece it was framing – horizontal around horizontal, vertical around vertical). I’ve only worked with this stone once before, and I made the effort to have the grain all flowing in the same direction. Seeing it now running both ways in one piece, I’m not sure it makes that much of a difference, at least from far away. Good to know for future projects!

A close-up of the grain running both horizontally (left) and vertically (right) - not super obvious except for up close

A close-up of the grain running both horizontally (left) and vertically (right) – not super obvious except for up close

1

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”

6

Temperature’s rising: Embarking on a series devoted to climate change

I have just begun a new series dedicated to climate change. I won’t get into my motivations behind the series in this post, because I’m planning on doing a post exclusively on the ‘why’ of the series in the near future. Instead, this post will explore the first mosaic of the series.

It seemed like a no-brainer to start a climate change series with a mosaic based on rising global temperatures. The actual inspiration for this piece was the graph below, taken from the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (essentially, a really really big report that contains the most up-to-date, reliable climate science available). I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the graph, but basically it shows that global temperatures are going up.

The verdict: It's getting warmer.

The verdict: It’s getting warmer. (Source: IPCC, “Climate change 2013: The physical science — Summary for policymakers”)

It actually took me quite a while to fiddle with my palette and figure out how exactly I wanted to execute the piece. The stones I used were from the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario (the white and red ones), Pennsylvania (the yellow stuff), and Kamouraska, Quebec (the thin jagged ones I used for the trend line). The yellowish sandstone has a lot of mica in it, which is fun to look at up close but ridiculously hard to photograph (at least with my meager photographic skills).

"Heat (Each decade hotter than the last)" - mosaic by Julie Sperling

“Heat (Each decade hotter than the last)” (2014) — stone from Ontario, Quebec, and Pennsylvania, and a flue damper, 16.25″ x 24.25″

The metal circle in the bottom corner is a rusty old flue damper that I found in my daddy’s garage. I figured it was an appropriate sort of thing to include in this piece, since it’s used to control the air flow (and therefore temperature) in a wood-burning stove.

Daddy's garage is full of old treasures like this flue damper. I love that it's from Guelph, Ontario (close to where I grew up)

Daddy’s garage is full of old treasures like this flue damper. I love that it’s from Guelph, Ontario (close to where I grew up)

My favourite thing about this piece is the trend line. I love how the thin stones echo the annual variations shown in the graph, yet, when taken as a whole, clearly show an upward trend. These thin stones were actually a last-minute substitution. I had originally planned to do the trend line in terracotta (thinking the colour was appropriate for the subject matter), but there was something about it that just wasn’t sitting right with me. I’ve been learning the value of giving myself some distance when I’m unsure about something, so I let it percolate in the back of my head for a few days and eventually landed on the thin Quebec stones.

"Heat (Each decade hotter than the last)" - detail shot. Mosaic by Julie Sperling.

A view of the flue damper over the rugged topography of the trend line

"Heat (Each decade hotter than the last)" - detail shot. Mosaic by Julie Sperling.

The trend line from another angle, heading up, up, and away.

I am really excited about this series (I’ve already got ideas for at least 5 or 6 other pieces bouncing around in my head) and I’m looking forward to explaining my motivations in a future post. But for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of “Heat (Each decade hotter than the last)”.

"Heat (Each decade hotter than the last)" - detail shot. Mosaic by Julie Sperling.

One last parting shot of the flue damper and trend line

5

Getting prepped for my first Urban Craft appearance

urban craft - march 15

I’ve been making a number of smaller mosaics lately in preparation for my first Urban Craft appearance (March 15, 10am-3pm at the Glebe Community Centre). It’s been fun to use up some bits of material that have been hanging around my shelves for way too long and and also to tinker with styles I don’t usually use. But while there’s a certain satisfaction to being able to complete one of these little mosaics in a single sitting, I will admit that I am itching to really sink my teeth into a bigger project now.

The materials used in these little pieces are quite varied. There’s unglazed porcelain, smalti, bits of skateboard, a typeset letter, sea pottery (or at least I assume that’s what it is) that friends brought back from Bermuda for me, marble, bits of one of my favourite plates dating back to my student days (the green stuff), ceramic tiles, local stone (of course!), a chunk of glass courtesy of the local glassblowing workshop‘s discard pile, and even rocks rescued from one of those zen fountains that was destined for the trash.

It’s been interesting to hear what people see in some of them. The one with the salmon-coloured tile has reminded people of waterfowl, aquatic dinosaurs, bacon (!), muscle, and a seam in the earth. The one with the bits of skateboard has elicited comparisons to a roadmap / crossroads, chromosomes, and neurons. Someone saw a guitar in the one with the glass chunk, and people who commented on the one with the green ceramic have unanimously said it reminds them of seaweed.

Not much else to say about these pieces, so just enjoy the pictures below! And come to Urban Craft if you’re in Ottawa on March 15!

0

Running on fumes: The push to finish “Punctuated Equilibrium II”

The second mosaic in my Punctuated Equilibrium series was created during the holiday rush, which also coincided with a crazy busy time at work. My intention was to get it finished before the New Year in order to start 2014 with a clean slate, but I didn’t meet my self-imposed deadline. Between putting in long hours at work, then long hours in the evening in my studio, plus doing an insane amount of Christmas prep (virtually all our gifts are of the edible homemade variety, which, although fun, is very time consuming), there was a stretch of at least 2 weeks when I didn’t get to bed before midnight. By the time Christmas vacation rolled around, I was running on fumes. And then, as is usually the case, just as I started to relax, I got sick. Ugh. But I finally put the finishing touches on this bad boy last night, and I’m so excited to be able to take you on a little tour of it and point out all my favourite details.

"Punctuated Equilibrium II" mosaic by Julie Sperling (2014, 18" x 12", glass rods, local stone, skateboard)

“Punctuated Equilibrium II” (2014) — stone from Ontario’s Bruce Peninsula, glass rods, and skateboard, 18″ x 12″

As you may recall, the Punctuated Equilibrium series is inspired by graffiti and how it can add life and energy to public spaces. This time, I decided to use glass rods rather than smalti for the graffiti portion, to better approximate that stippled spray paint effect. I used the cream-coloured rock I gathered at the cottage, and as I was chopping it into cubes I also saved some of the thinner edges to use as the ‘sparks’ coming off the graffiti.

"Punctuated Equilibrium II" - detail shot (Julie Sperling, 2014)

The spines of the rock radiating from the graffiti

I really had fun creating the crazy lines that curve and weave over and under each other throughout that bottom section. It was a good little challenge and I like the energy and chaos it brings to the area around the graffiti. Order is then restored as the lines gradually straighten out into a nice gentle flow and transition to a greyish-brown rock that has strong horizontal layers to it (and, oddly enough, smells like gasoline when you cut it).

"Punctuated Equilibrium II" - detail (Julie Sperling, 2014)

A closer look at those curvy weaving lines (and a peek at that little bit of skateboard tucked into the corner).

In pretty much every mosaic I make, I tend to have a favourite stone or two. My favourite one in this piece is one of the spines because it has a hole in it (which I didn’t even realize until after placing it into the thinset). My other favourite detail is how the grain of the grey-brown rock all runs the same way (that is, vertically). It was a pain to do, but worth it.

"Punctuated Equilibrium II" - favourite stone (Julie Sperling, 2014)

My absolute favourite stone in the entire piece. I just love that little hole in it!

"Punctuated Equilibrium II" detail (Julie Sperling, 2014)

See how all the grain runs up? Yup.

Anyway, that’s it! I’ve already got some ideas percolating for the third in the series, which were prompted by some comments on Facebook. It has to do with a new material for the graffiti portion, but that’s all I’m going to say for now, because it’ll require some experimentation. But if it works, I’m going to be pretty excited! Until then…

2

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes