Tag Archives | stained glass

Mosaic workout challenge, week 11: Making copies

This week’s prompt was so terrifying that I nearly bailed. We were supposed to find a mosaic by another artist that we loved and reproduce a small part of it. Yikes. Oh, and of course I was short on time again. But instead of bailing, I had a Tim Gunn moment, modified the prompt, and made it work for me. You might call that cheating, but I prefer “creatively bending the rules.” This is how it all went down…

Title: “Favourite spot”

Size: 4.25″ x 6″

Materials: Smalti, glass rods, stained glass

How long did it take to complete? About two hours

Thoughts: I just couldn’t bring myself to copy someone else’s work (especially if I had to post a picture of it after)—so intimidating!—so I modified the challenge slightly and instead made a mosaic in the style of an artist whose work I adore. I drew my inspiration from Luca Barberini‘s Via di Roma 136 series, which I have long admired. What makes these mosaics so appealing to me is the way Barberini conveys so much life and character with just a few perfectly imperfect tesserae. I love his whimsical glimpses into the everyday. Now, ever since these challenges started, R has had her fingers crossed for a portraiture challenge (PLEASE NO!!!) and she keeps joking with me that I should do a portrait of our miniature schnauzer, Dexter. While a realistic portrait of dear ol’ Dex is firmly outside my current (and probably even future) abilities, I decided that perhaps I could render his likeness à la Barberini and score some major points with R. And while it’s clear that I am no Luca Barberini, I did try to channel his simplicity and ease, and was surprised by how much you can communicate or suggest just with a few pieces of glass.

"Favourite spot" -- our dog Dex, immortalized in mosaic (he couldn't care less, he only has eyes for the fire hydrant)

“Favourite spot” — our dog Dex, immortalized in mosaic (he couldn’t care less, he only has eyes for the fire hydrant)


Dexter approves!

Dexter approves!




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



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