Archive | Stained glass mosaic

My last hurrah with stained glass (at least for a while)

This is it folks. The last stained-glass-only mosaic I intend to do for a good long while. Now it’s on to lots of quality time spent with my hammer and hardie. I’ve started to get back into the swing of things (get it? swing? like you swing a hammer? sorry, that was lame) with the Doodle Bug mosaic – just a quickie with smalti and marble – and then the plan is to FINALLY finish the mosaic I started way back during the Sonia King workshop.

But I digress. What I really want to show you is this new plate I’ve made. It’s stained glass (a very dark translucent grey fading to an opaque green/black combo) with hints of mirror scattered throughout. I like the darkness of it and how much it contrasts with the last leaf plate I did. The mirror was provided by a fellow tree-hugger, who found a box of broken mirror sitting on the side of the road and knew I was just the person to put it to good use. And the plate is, of course, a thrift store find.

So, um, here it is!

stained glass mosaic on wood leaf plate

I was super close to running out of glass on this one! No room for error.

close-up of stained glass mosaic leaf plate

Zoom in!



Sometimes you just need to step away

Thank goodness for fresh eyes!

Thank goodness for fresh eyes!

This piece – done on a leaf-shaped wood plate that was handmade in Haiti – is another one where I was working on my crazy paving and blending colours. The end result is nothing like I had originally envisioned. My initial idea was to use three colours (the green and blue that you see here, plus a nice yellow that was neither too loud nor too muted) and make them radiate out from the centre of the leaf – the middle / vein would be blue, moving to green, and finally to yellow at the edges. In my head it looked oh so lovely.

But by the time I had started to transition from the blue to the green, it became obvious that there wasn’t going to be any room left to fade to yellow. Hmmmpf. Back to the drawing board. New idea: bring in the yellow at the top and fade it out as you move down the leaf. Yes, that would work. But in this configuration, the yellow now looked too harsh. Sigh. I rummaged through my glass stash half-heartedly, but I was feeling pretty stuck. Luckily, it was time to go home to Kitchener for Christmas and I was forced to step away for a few days.

Over Christmas break, I kept mulling over different options in my head.  I kept coming back to this pink glass I had seen while rooting through my bins. Once back in Ottawa, I hauled out the pink glass, held it up against the blue and green sections of the plate and my gut said yes, this is the one. The green and white swirls in the pink glass were just what I needed to help transition between it and the green glass I was already using.

This is the first time that I’ve really had to step away from a mosaic in order to come back at it with fresh eyes, and it’s funny how something so simple can be all that’s standing between you and the way forward. It’s definitely a lesson I will remember in the future, as I’m sure this won’t be the last time I need to do it.

PS This piece is available over in my Etsy shop if you’re so inclined…

Here's a better view of that pink with the hints of green and white

Here’s a better view of that pink with the hints of green and white



Might as well learn something

I’m still in that craft-to-art transition phase (yes, still), working through the craftier / more functional bases that I have stockpiled (e.g., vases, trays, plates, etc.). Since I’m starting to feel a bit antsy to get on with the next phase, I’ve decided to work on at least one skill in each of these last few projects. Might as well make it a learning experience, right?

As you may have noticed in my past work, I naturally gravitate to the “crazy paving” style (or opus palladianum, for those of you who are up on your Latin). However, until recently I had never really done it with any intentionality or strategy; it was always just very intuitive and free-flowing. I used the pieces I had wherever they fit and kept my cutting to a minimum. But wouldn’t you know it, there are rules even for crazy paving. And while, yes, rules are made to be broken, you can break them more effectively once you are good at following them.

So I’m working on my crazy paving. I’m keeping an eye on my range of sizes and shapes, working on introducing “consistent inconsistencies”, and avoiding grout rivers. And you know what? I’m liking the results. But man oh man, following the rules is time consuming! These mosaics took me longer than normal to do. Maybe I’m being pickier or thinking about it too much. Or maybe I just need to re-train my eye and my hands. (Or maybe I shouldn’t be trying to get caught up on Dexter while I’m working, ha ha.)

In any case, here are two of the newest pieces, done with much more intention and rule-following. Both bases were found at the thrift store – I loved the shape of the vase the moment I saw it and the tray is actually a mid-century modern Danish teak tray (oooooh! aaaaaah!). In the case of the tray, I was also working on transitioning gradually from colour to colour – yes, two skills in one project!

Multicolour stained glass mosaic vase by Julie Sperling

Untitled vase (2012)
Stained glass on glass

"Gradation" mosaic tray by Julie Sperling

“Gradation” tray (2012)
Stained glass on a mid-century modern Danish teak tray



The vase, the vase, the vase is on fire

I’m not sure why, but ever since I glued the first pieces down on this vase, I’ve been super jazzed about it.

The blue pieces were part of a box of mystery scraps I picked up at the glass store. When I got the box home and started rooting through it, I was immediately drawn to these curved blue strips. I thought they were very elegant.

The orange that I paired it with was originally purchased for one of my lazy Susan projects, but it didn’t fit into the colour scheme as I had hoped, so it was available for other projects… like this one! And boy am I glad, because I’m digging the blue / orange combo.

And then there’s the textured clear glass. I like how it kind of gives the piece a bit of shimmer. It’s also the first time I’ve thought to put the textured side facing out. (Seems a bit obvious now that I think about it. Not sure why it didn’t dawn on me sooner.)

It’s funny, I don’t usually have a tough time letting go of my mosaics (I’m actually pretty psyched when one finds a new home), but occasionally there’s one that I have a hard time parting with. This is one of those times.

Here you can kinda see the textured glass

Check out all four sides!


Ride the Rocket, mosaic style

Years and years ago, a friend of ours said to me, “One day, I’m going to get you to make me a mosaic serving tray.” I didn’t give it another thought for a number of years, until one day, after this friend had announced her engagement, I came across a serving tray in our local thrift store. Immediately, I turned to my partner (and best thrift storing companion) and said: “This would be perfect to mosaic as a wedding gift for S & K.”

The tray sat and sat in my little mosaic workspace, waiting for me to get inspired. I drew a few sketches during Earth Hour (by candlelight), but still wasn’t completely sold. And then, finally, it hit me: these two live in Toronto (and love the city) and they love public transit. Seriously, if K hadn’t done his PhD in Italian, he would’ve made a top notch transit planner – this is a guy who has designed an entire transit system for Buffalo (his hometown) in his spare time. It’s incredible.

Anyway, you’ve probably figured it out by now, but just in case: the idea was to cover the tray with a mosaic version of Toronto’s subway system. And what’s kind of neat about it is that because mosaics are so durable and the subway system will inevitably grow and change, the tray will be a snapshot in TTC history … a real conversation piece for the grandkids :-)

The TTC, immortalized in mosaic…


A(nother) wedding mosaic!

Very loose interpretation of trees and a stream

So apparently mosaics make for great wedding gifts! This is the 5th or 6th one that’s been snatched up for just such a purpose. Well, technically speaking, this one wasn’t exactly snatched up… it was requested by the bride and groom themselves.

They pretty much gave me complete freedom to do whatever I wanted. The only parameter was that they wanted something inspired by their outdoor wedding location: trees and a stream. Obviously, I took quite a few artistic liberties.

Two little things to point out: (1) If you look closely, you might be able to see that I used two different grout colours (grey for the water part, brown for the trees). It was the first time I’d tried that and I’m not sure why I was so intimidated by the prospect – it was easy peasy! (2) See the little bit of mirror in the bottom right-hand area of the mosaic? That was found by the dumpster with some post-its on it that said “You are beautiful in every way” and “Remember to take your vitamins”. Just a little bit of trivia for ya!

Up close and personal




Double lazy Susan…what does it mean?

When I was home in Kitchener for Christmas, my aunt and I were chatting about me making a lazy Susan for her. Since my parents have what’s known in layman’s terms as “the world’s slowest internet…ever”, I whipped out my phone (I rock an Android, in case you were wondering) and we browsed through my mosaic flickr stream to get a sense of what kind of style and colours she was drawn to. You know, for a girl who has never owned a cellphone before (and who generally has a strong aversion to obnoxious public use of them), I’m finding mine very handy!

Anyway, once back in Ottawa, I dutifully made the trek out to Ikea to pick up a lazy Susan (a journey I generally try to avoid at all costs, as I find it rather soul-sucking). A few days later, while browsing through the thrift store around the corner, I found another (smaller) lazy Susan. I asked my aunt which one she preferred, and her answer surprised me: she wanted both! (One for her, the other for a friend.)

The back-and-forth process of coming up with designs for the mosaics was new to me. My only other commissions had been relatively simple: one was a mashup of two mosaics I had already made, and the other was simply translating a logo into mosaic form. In other words, less “artistic freedom” for me. But these lazy Susans were different. I had a few shapes, styles, and colours to use as a point of departure, but then it was up to me. Truth be told, the freedom made me a bit nervous! But in the end, it wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it might be, perhaps because my aunt was a very easy-going “client”.

Lemon-lime mosaic for my aunt’s friend

Lazy Susan with meandering lines for my aunt

I tend to associate each mosaic I do with the music, TV shows, or movies that are playing as I work. In this case, it was the final few episodes of Season 1 of Breaking Bad, a really fascinating episode of The Nature of Things all about raccoons, and the movie Food Inc. Also on high rotation was the soundtrack to Parenthood, particularly the Josh Ritter song that’s on it, which I’m pretty much obsessed with at the moment.


My divided attention

I’d been meaning to watch The Cove for ages, but I didn’t think I could handle it if I gave it my full attention. You see, I’m the kind of girl who cries more in movies when animals die than when people do (generally speaking). So to give a movie dedicated to the slaughter of dolphins my complete and undivided attention, well, that was going to be a stretch if I didn’t want to turn into a blubbering mess. The solution: watch the movie while mosaicking. And this is the result:


If memory serves…

Do you ever put something somewhere and think to yourself, “I’ll never forget where I put this,” and then two weeks later find yourself tearing your house apart because, of course, you’ve forgotten your super special, unforgettable hiding spot? Yah. I did that with my stash of tealights.

As soon as the grout on these little tealight holders cured, I wanted to see how they looked with candles. But where were my tealights? A frantic search ensued. I checked all the logical places (storage box with other candles, craft drawer) and then all the illogical places (stash of mosaic supplies, freezer, under the kitchen sink). Nothing.

Months later, when the overwhelming desire to see how these little puppies looked all lit up had long passed, I came across my tealights. They were in the box where we stash all the Christmas presents we find throughout the year. Yep, clearly a logical place to also store tealights.



When I first saw this plate at the thrift store, I knew immediately that it had the potential to be a stunning mosaic. I slapped a few coats of varnish on it, but once I saw it all shiny and cleaned up, I just couldn’t bring myself to cover it in bits of glass and grout. It looked so lovely naked. So I set it out on our coffee table and there it stayed for quite a few months.

Then spring rolled around and I was overcome with the urge to [attempt to] declutter our 1-bedroom apartment. In one swift movement, I grabbed the plate, marched it into my new little mosaic nook, got out my bins of glass, and went to work. It actually didn’t take as long as I anticipated to get the pieces glued down, but once I was done I realized I had run out of grout.

So one weekend, after dropping Dexter off at the groomer’s, I found myself with four hours to kill. The perfect opportunity to pop over to the hardware store. Do you know how long it took me to get there and back (by bus)? About 2 hours. Wanna know how much of that time was actually spent in the store? Roughly 15 minutes. Yah. Saturday bus service in Ottawa is not super efficient, to say the least. Anyway, I got my grout (and listened to quite a few podcasts of The Current in the process) and was finally able to put the finishing touches on this bad boy.


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