Author Archive | Julie Sperling

It’s hip to be square

checkered lamp - offThis mosaic was kind of a cross between 2 previous projects, which diligent readers will know and recognize. After seeing a picture of the lamp and the small checkered plate I had made, a friend asked if I could make a colourful checkered lamp for her son’s room. I, of course, eagerly accepted the job.

I was pretty excited about the project for a number of reasons: (a) it was my first commission, which was kind of flattering, (b) i thought the end product was going to look absolutely smashing, and (c) the checkered pattern meant that it would be a fairly quick job to finish (at least the gluing part). What I didn’t expect were the endless shards of glass that kept lodging themselves in my poor hands as I cut all the squares. Yes, by the end of this project I was an expert in extracting those little bastards from my skin (or biting my tongue as my partner did it for me using an assortment of pins and tweezers under a harsh bright light).

I think the end product is fun; the colours make me smile for some reason, and I think they really stand out in the white grout. And I’m glad I didn’t make the squares perfectly symmetrical – how boring would that have been? Anyway, I hope wee Josh likes it and gets many years of enjoyment out of it (at least until he enters that teenage angst phase).

checkered lamp - lit


Guilty as “charged”

Keeping my glass supplies stocked has never really been a problem thanks to my mom and her love of stained glass. But with over 500 km separating us now (538 km, to be exact – thank you, Google maps), it’s been a wee bit tougher to replenish my stock on a regular basis. While I’m not exactly running low on glass, my colour selection is dwindling. So one weekend a few months ago I decided to venture out into the great white Ottawa winter and hit the local glass store.

Now, when I say “great white Ottawa winter”, that’s exactly what I mean. The day my partner and I chose for our little adventure turned out to coincide with a healthy dump of snow on our nation’s capital. But like the good Canadians we are, we didn’t turn back. Oh no, we kept going, slowly slogging through the mounds of freshly fallen snow. Of course we had to stop en route at a diner to fuel up with a greasy breakfast first, after which our eyes glazed over and we quickly fell into a grease- and carb-induced torpor. I think that may have been a good thing, because it meant that we didn’t think too much about our 6 km trek through the snowy (and very much unshovelled) streets of Ottawa.

Once we arrived at the glass store, I inexplicably started feeling a little self-conscious, like an outsider. I didn’t know where the scrap bin was and after quickly surveying the shop floor, I started rummaging through what I thought was the scrap bin, which, instead of the irregular scraps I had been expecting, contained neat little bundles of perfectly square glass. I picked out a couple bundles, plus a whole discounted sheet of glass with a chipped corner. When I took them up to pay, I decided that we hadn’t walked those 6 km for nothing and I swallowed my pride and asked if that was the only scrap bin they had. The guy working, bless his soul, didn’t laugh at my ignorance and instead kindly pointed me in the direction of the real scrap bin. I donned some of the holey gloves provided and sorted through pounds and pounds of scrap. Ah yes, that was the good stuff – so many colours and irregular shapes and sizes! I was happier than a chipmunk in a peanut butter jar.

All this to say that some of the glass I picked up that blizzardy day was used for the 2 acacia charger plates seen below – my first projects with bought glass. The designs, by the way, were conceived as doodles while I was daydreaming in French class (and later simplified as I laid them out on the plates, because I inevitably bite off more than I can chew when I’m coming up with an idea for a design).


You spin me right round, baby

Looking back on my childhood I realize that I’ve always kind of liked turny thingies. I loved merry-go-rounds, ferris wheels, those little turning platforms that you stood on and twisted right and left to slim and sleek your waistline (popular exercise gadget of the 80s), and, of course, lazy Susans. Even now, I smile on the inside when I’m chez mes parents and we pull out the lazy Susan to play Scrabble … although that warm fuzzy feeling is quickly replaced with feelings of frustration and despair as my mother handily kicks my ass. As you can imagine, I was filled with sunny, happy thoughts when I saw this lazy Susan just waiting to be mosaicked.

The inspiration for the design actually came from a Chrismas card I received this year. As work progressed, I took more and more artistic liberties and if you were to look at the card and the end product, you’d never guess that the former inspired the latter. Anyway, this little beaut was snatched up by a friend, who gave it as a wedding gift to friends of hers. I felt quite honoured that someone thought it was good enough to be given as a gift. I was admittedly a wee bit sad to see my little piece of turning delight go, but the money in my wallet quickly eased my pain…


A festive mosaic sweatshop

In our quest for meaningful, heartfelt (yet cheap) Christmas presents, R and I decided that this year we would make mosaics for our friends. Usually we do a baking marathon and give our nearest and dearest Tupperwares full of festive delicacies, but the logistics of hauling all those baked goods from Ottawa all the way back home without them getting stale or broken seemed a bit tricky. Small, stackable mosaics seemed like the way to go. As luck would have it, we came across these great little plates at The Bay (of all places!) and they were a real steal. Now all we had to do was mosaic them…

Mine came together fairly quickly because I used fairly big pieces of glass, but R was a bit more ambitious. There were a few cut fingers (mostly mine), more than a few expletives uttered out of sheer frustration (mostly hers), and 2 sore necks from bending over our projects for hours. Yes, it was a veritable Christmas mosaic sweatshop over here. Oh, and wouldn’t you know it, she hates the grouting and polishing too, so guess who got stuck doing that!

I think R did a fabulous job on her mosaics, especially considering it was her first time – she’s got a great eye (not that I’m biased or anything). I also found it really interesting to see how different our styles were.

xmas mosaics


We ♥ Jack (and Sally’s not bad either)

My brother’s fiancée is a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan. We’re talking huge fan – she’s got more Nightmare paraphernalia than Ottawa has civil servants. So this year I decided to contribute to her collection by making her a Jack mosaic. I chose the simplest design I could find, and even once I got it drawn on the plate I had to simplify it even more – Jack’s mouth just had way too many lines! Damn him! Even though this piece was a bit of a challenge, it did have one advantage: if I can’t come up with any gift ideas for her next year, I can always follow up with a Sally mosaic!


And Julie said, “Let there be light!”

clear mosaic lampNot only is Ikea a great place for meatballs and hotdogs, but it is also a good place to find fairly cheap bases to mosaic. I picked up this lamp on a whim, thinking it might look nice in the red that I used for one of my earlier plates (I was still, and am still, trying to get rid of that damn red glass), but then I got to thinking that a simple clear glass lamp with a dark grout would look much cleaner and more sophistimicated. It was a fun piece to do (except the grouting, but what’s new?), and as I worked I excitedly (and incessantly) flicked the light on and off to see how it was progressing. It seemed to be a popular piece among my friends and I have since had requests for a few more of these little puppies, none of which have been filled yet (probably because I haven’t had the urge to shuffle through Ikea with hundreds of other people, jostling to be first in line for the 50c hotdogs).



Dabbling in 3-D

Mosaic vaseMy first multi-sided project was a vase, which was, of course, let’s say it all together: sans lip. Oh boy. By the time this project rolled around, I had finally bought my very own glass cutter and I was itching to use it. The pieces fit together pretty quickly without much cutting required, and my new glass cutter sat idly by, giving me sad, lonely, longing looks. Poor fella. Grouting proved to be even more “fun” than usual, because the grout didn’t really want to stick to the glass base. Grrrrr. Anyway, I kept at ‘er and the final product provoked a bidding war on Facebook – my first bidding war, how exciting! In the end, my best friend won out and this little guy now resides in her living room.


From big to small

Next on my list of projects was a small mirror that I made as a wedding present for a friend. It was quite a change going from doing 2 big tables to doing a small mirror. I was used to having lots of room to play with the glass, and now I felt a bit constricted. Choosing the colours is always tough, but it was especially difficult in this case because I couldn’t remember what colour scheme my friend had in her house. Thankfully I lucked out and red was a perfect choice! Other than that, there’s not much a story behind this piece, I’m afraid.

Mirror for Sharm's wedding

Mirror for Sharm’s wedding

My apologies for the rather ghetto-looking picture – back then, I was still kind of learning how to photograph my mosaics. The 2 nice pictures of my tables (as seen in my previous 2 posts) were taken years later, after I had finally figured out how to take a good picture of a piece – the original pictures of the tables were every bit as painful as this one. Alas, there was no “do over” option for the mirror since it has long been out of my possession. Seriously though, who picks an afghan as a nice, sophisticated yet simple background?? Sheesh. Highly embarrassing.


A rusty old table gets a facelift

My second project was, again, a table. This particular table had lived most of its life at my family’s cottage, and had consequently taken a bit of a beating from the elements. The legs were rusty and housed a good number of spiders, and the top was, well, the top was just plain ugly. In his travels, my dad had found a piece of glass that was the perfect size to replace the existing top. Voila! I was in business!

Since I was still in school at the time, the piece took a while – I worked at it when I was bored and/or fed up with reading, writing, or arithmetic (I was a stats TA at the time, so yes, this last one holds true). The first bit I glued down was the swirly burst-like thingy that’s slightly offset from the middle, and after that the table just kind of developed on its own. Grouting was, again, not fun, especially because the table didn’t have a lip around the edge. It would seem that I have not yet learned my lesson, as many of my projects since then have been done on lipless bases – I must be a glutton for punishment.

Once my partner and I moved in together, we seemed to have a bit of an over-abundance of coffee tables (3 in a 1-bedroom apartment is a bit excessive), but I still can’t bring myself to get rid of this one. I like the way the light passes through this table, kind of like a stained glass window only more practical, because you can put magazines and coffee mugs on it.


The table that started it all…

My first mosaic was a rather big project for a beginner: an Ikea coffee table that I wanted to jazz up. But before I could even begin, I hit a snag: the table resided with my partner, in Toronto, but I was an hour away in Kitchener. How to get the table without her noticing? (This was for a gift, after all, so it needed to be a surprise.) Kidnapping the table, even if accompanied by all-black attire, stealth moves, and the Mission Impossible theme, was out of the question. Since I couldn’t bring the table to the mosaic, I had to find a way to bring the mosaic to the table. The solution: daddy. My dad’s quite the genius when it comes to being handy, so I got him to make this nifty little wooden box-like cover that slid perfectly over the tabletop. Problem solved! I could work on the mosaic in Kitchener, and then transport it to Toronto once it was finished.

After finding a suitable design courtesy of the Internet (a Mayan-looking quetzal, the national bird of Guatemala), I got started. Being deathly afraid of my mom’s glass cutter, I played with her scraps as if they were a jigsaw puzzle and fit them into the design I had laid out. Mom was nice enough to cut the border for me, as well as 3 or 4 pieces that were cut to fit when I had really backed myself into a corner. Due to my inexperience, the mosaic progressed slowly. Thank goodness for good music and trashy TV! After finally glueing down the last piece, I thought I was in the clear. But alas, grouting proved to more of a pain in the ass than I had anticipated. Smushing the goop into the grooves, wiping the tiles, misting the whole thing, water-proofing it, and then finally polishing it…man, did I ever hate grouting. Still do, actually. But my patience paid off and the finished product ended up being pretty nice. Ever since then, despite the hours and hours and hours spent painstakingly putting the design together and then cleaning it all up, I’ve been hooked on mosaics.

quetzal table


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