Tag Archives | vitreous tile

Mosaic workout challenge, week 14: Joy

This week was another theme challenge from a guest artist (Laurel True), who challenged us to think about how we express joy in mosaic.

"Break through" and jump for joy!

“Break through” and jump for joy!

Title: “Break through”

Size: 6″ x 4.25″

Materials: Smalti, ceramic tile, vitreous tile, and skateboard

How long did it take to complete? About four hours

Thoughts: When I read the prompt for this week, I immediately thought of bright colours and upward movement. I chose the skateboard pieces for their angles and because I liked the playful, energetic jumble they created. The rest of it looked a bit different in my head, but I backed myself into some corners, design wise, by trying to use up materials that had been kicking around my shelf for far too long and others that I already had cut. I also didn’t have a lot of each material cut, and I really noticed what an impact it had on my lines—they really are better when I have a big selection of tesserae to choose from. This week, for me, was also a lesson in just letting go and recognizing that sometimes it’s perfectly OK to allow a piece to be what it’s going to be once it starts diverging from the vision I have in my head (and other times it is worth fighting to get a project back on track and more aligned with what is in my head). It’s all about picking my battles.

A better shot of the angles of the skateboard pieces

A better shot of the angles of the skateboard pieces

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Mosaic workout challenge, week 2: Switcheroo

Ugh. Week 2’s challenge kicked my butt. It was all about using materials you don’t normally use, which, for me, meant shelving my beloved rocks and reaching for the ceramic and <insert look of terror and dread> vitreous tile. While I can get on board with ceramic (if I must), vitreous tile is my kryptonite. I just find it so uninspiring and I get no joy out of working with it. Even though what I made is probably only a quarter vitreous, I still hated every minute of it. Each and every piece felt like a struggle. But anyway, enough whining and complaining, here’s what I made.

"Over/under" - a tortured process, but full of lessons learned, so all is not lost!

“Over/under” – a tortured process, but full of lessons learned, so all is not lost!

Title: Over/under

Size: 6″ x 6″

How long did it take to complete? Far too long (probably just under 5 hours)

Love or hate this workout? Hate! One of the biggest joys in mosaic, for me, is the materials I use (specifically, the rocks). While working with the ceramic was OK, the pain and frustration of working with the vitreous tile—of feeling so boxed in by those perfect, regular, uninspiring 1″x1″ squares—really coloured my enjoyment (or lack thereof) of this challenge.

Happy with the result? I don’t mind it, but it’s definitely not one of my favourite things I’ve ever made. If I had to do it all over again (heaven forbid!!), I’d tweak the pathways of a few lines and also the colour distribution.

What did I learn? Oddly enough, most of what I learned had nothing to do with materials, even though that was the focus of the challenge. On the materials side, the challenge reinforced the fact that I will continue to avoid vitreous tile at all costs. No surprises there for me. But the non-materials-related learnings / reminders were quite helpful. (1) I learned that when trying to weave lines over and under each other, working in different colours is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that it’s easier to follow where the lines are going, but a curse because by removing that ambiguity of which line goes where, you can’t really fudge it. When doing this in one colour, there’s definitely more wiggle room. (2) I realized that weaving the lines is way easier when you have an irregular shape to build off of, rather than a straight edge – there are so many more potential pathways just ripe for the taking. (3) I learned that I should never finish a challenge and then go straight to bed, because, despite the fact that it might be 1:15am (which it was this week), I will lie awake in bed, nitpicking and fretting over the things I wish I had done differently. And (4) I reminded myself that sometimes I really do just need to step away instead of powering through. There are a few areas in this piece where I wish I had given myself a bit of distance and allowed myself to think things through / recalibrate before continuing. Of course, I already knew the value of doing this, it’s just sometimes easier said than done, especially after midnight when you’re not having fun and all you want to do is get it done.

PS Check out what participants made during Week 1 of the challenge.

"Over/under" detail shot

“Over/under” detail shot

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Artist, know thyself

Over the past year or so, I’ve been slowly expanding my mosaic horizons – taking classes as the opportunities present themselves and exploring new tools and materials. Having worked with stained glass for so long, it’s been really nice to branch about and try new things. I have discovered that I love smalti and natural stone, especially when I use my hammer and hardie to cut it, but I have also discovered that I don’t particularly care for working with vitreous tile or using thinset directly as my adhesive (oh Weldbond, how I love thee).

At first I was a bit disappointed in myself for these new-found dislikes. I mean, if I’m an aspiring mosaic artist (craftsperson? artisan? still need to sort that one out…), shouldn’t I love it all? But the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that it’s all just part of finding my ‘voice’ and knowing myself. I’m glad I’ve dabbled in vitreous tile and thinset, because who knows when a project will come up where they’re just the material that I need. They’re in my repertoire now, but they won’t be my trusted or beloved go-to items.

And with that, I give you the first mosaic (and hopefully the last, at least for a good long while) that I have done with vitreous tile. The design is based on a kind of data visualization called a chord diagram, which I think is used a lot (but not exclusively) in genetics. Truth be told, I don’t really know much about the technical side of graphs and data vizzes (or really how to read most of them), but I do enjoy them from a purely aesthetic perspective.

Sadly, there were a lot of leftover tiles from this project… *sigh*

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