Tag Archives | thinset

Enough talk. It’s time for action.

This mosaic is junk. No, really. It is 100% scrap that any sane person would have tossed right into the trash. But not me. I just can’t help myself.

It all started with my artist in residence gig. At my events, the little ‘pancakes’ of thinset that people would make their climate-action mosaics out of were going like, well, like hotcakes. There was no time to be picky about how pretty and smooth their edges were as I was hurriedly spreading them. In the heat of the moment, that was definitely a problem for Future Julie. And so, after each event was done, faced with ugly cracked and chunky dried edges, I set about nipping them off to tidy the pieces up. After doing the first batch, I looked down at my little pile of offcuts and thought: Yep, I think I could make something out of that. So I dutifully saved every single scrap I nipped off the edges of all 244 community-made mosaics.

Over the months, as my pile grew, I daydreamed of what I’d make out of them. I could not get those scraps out of my head. But I couldn’t just dive into a project that used them, because there were other projects in the pipeline that needed to get made first. Ugh, deadlines. This, of course, only made me want to make this mosaic even more.

Finally it was time. I can’t even tell you how good this project felt. It was like I was playing the whole time. I’m sure the delayed gratification had something to do with this, but I think a large part of it was owing to the scraps themselves. As someone who normally struggles with being too precise and also with being terrified of colour, the wonkiness of those colourful little scraps set me free. And using the leftover colour mixes to adhere the scraps—the exact same mixes that the scraps themselves were made out of—just felt so over-the-top to my colour-fearing self that, of course, it was perfect.

“Enough (Talk)” (2018), 13.75″ x 12″ — thinset scraps

Now, you might be wondering about the title, “Enough (Talk)”. Well, I’ve decided that this definitely qualifies as one of my “Enough” pieces. Though I didn’t take one thing, chop it up, and put it back together again, like I did with “(More than) Enough” and “Enough (Size matters),” the spirit is the same. It is about a shrewd and thoughtful use of a material; it is about not wasting a single scrap. And the “talk” part? Where did that come from? I’ve previously written about how each of the community-made mosaics in “Baseline (We’re just getting started)” is like one voice in a big noisy conversation about climate change, each one nudging the dialogue forward. And if each individual community-made mosaic is one voice, then the scraps are snippets of those conversations.

But enough talk. It’s time for action.

The raggedy irregularities of the scraps were oh so good for me



Still trying new things: The story behind “Punctuated equilibrium”

"Punctuated Equilibrium" mosaic by Julie Sperling

“Punctuated Equilibrium” (2013) — smalti, local stone, skateboard (12″ x 18″)

The concept for this piece, which I’m actually planning to turn into a series, had been nagging at me for months; I say ‘nagging’ because – try as I might (and there were countless sketches, trust me) – I just couldn’t figure out how to execute it.

I’ve always thought that graffiti art (the artistic stuff, not just the random tags that are more vandalism than art) injects a certain vibrancy into what is sometimes the otherwise dull, structured mass of concrete and glass that is the city. I wanted to somehow depict the ripples of energy and life that emanate from the graffiti, fading slowly back to the monotony of right angles and office towers. The solution didn’t hit me until after Rachel Sager’s workshop at Touchstone – I could use irregular chunks of stone (rather than cubes) to introduce that chaotic energy!

Solution in hand, I scribbled a graffiti-inspired doodle down in my sketchbook and picked my palette. I knew I wanted to do the graffiti section in long, skinny bits of smalti to evoke the idea of spray paint. Nice idea in theory, but in practice cutting those long, skinny pieces did a number on my fingertips. Thank goodness for butterfly bandaids! I eventually took to protectively covering my fingertips with masking tape before starting to cut (it was all I had on hand!). But I got through it and, in the end I think it was worth it.

The chunky rock bit came next. The stone I used came from two places: the lovely subtle green ones were scavenged by my parents up by their cottage (around the Lion’s Head area). The greyish-blue ones came from one block away from my apartment – they were just randomly lying there in the middle of the street, so of course I stopped to scoop them up! Both were perfect for the job, because they didn’t break neatly into cubes anyway. I also threw in some lines of smalti, almost like sparks coming off the graffiti. I originally wanted to use marble at the top in the opus regulatum section (and use the polished side too, not the riven edge) to depict that bland regularity, but when I got to that point it just didn’t feel right. So instead I opted for this really cool matte black stone from around here. I also couldn’t resist throwing in one of those fun little bits of skateboard that I made.

I’m still having fun with playing around and trying new things. I’ve never worked with smalti in this style before, nor have I worked with chunky rock. It was exhilarating (and more than a wee bit nerve-racking) to try these new things on a bigger piece and have no idea if the investment of time and materials (and heart) would actually pay off or not.

I had settled on the name of the piece (and eventual series) long before I even stuck the first piece of smalti into the thinset. As a former science nerd, I thought the evolutionary concept of punctuated equilibrium suited my purpose perfectly. So there you have it: “Punctuated Equilibrium I” — “I” because there will be more!

"Punctuated Equilibrium" mosaic - side view (by Julie Sperling)

Get a little peak from the side

"Punctuated Equilibrium" mosaic - detail shot (by Julie Sperling)

Mmmm look at that texture!



WIP Wednesday: Graffiti (13 March 2013)

graffiti-inspired smalti mosaic - work in progress

I’m actually kind of happy with the progress I’ve made this week, considering I haven’t put in that much time. AND I’m happy to report that thinset and I are no longer arch enemies. We’re not besties yet, but it’s a step in the right direction.


WIP Wednesday: Graffiti (6 March 2013)

graffit-inspired mosaic - work in progress

I’ve finally started back in on the graffiti-inspired mosaic I started in Sonia King’s workshop last year. Tonight I put a coat of thinset on the background. And cleaned up my workspace a bit so I can get a fresh, uncluttered (re-)start on this one!


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