Tag Archives | wedding

Celebrating love with a mosaic ampersand

This past fall, a dear friend of mine got married. As is apparently now the custom when friends get married, I made a mosaic for her and her new husband. Not only do I enjoy making these personalized gifts, but there’s also something that has always felt appropriately symbolic about wedding mosaics (e.g., the dual importance of both the individual and the whole and how they work in partnership, the enduring nature of mosaic, etc.).

I first met Siti in Australia, many many moons ago. She is one of the kindest, funniest, most genuine souls I know. Over the years, we have kept in touch primarily through hand-written letters, despite the fact that we’re both fairly technologically connected people. Seeing a letter or parcel in my mailbox from Siti completely makes my day. I have developed a sort of ritual for reading her letters—there must be a mug of tea or coffee, there must be music, and I must be curled up on the couch—because they are special and deserve to be savoured and read with my undivided attention. On the writing side, in some ways my letters to Siti evolve much like mosaics: slowly and deliberately, constructed with love and patience, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence.

Reunited after nearly 10 years and engaging in an age-old Canadian tradition: frolicking in the autumn leaves

Reunited after nearly 10 years and engaging in an age-old Canadian tradition: frolicking in the autumn leaves

I have come to know that Siti has a weakness for stationery, old typewriters, and typography. She and her husband, Fad, even take calligraphy classes together. (I know, too cute, right?) So deciding what to make for their wedding mosaic was easy. The typeset letter was purchased from a social enterprise here in Ottawa that is essentially a thrift / antique store with the parallel mission of helping the most marginalized and vulnerable members of the community. A perfect origin for this element, because Siti and Fad are admirably committed to volunteerism and giving back, especially to those most in need.

Love that typeset ampersand

Love that typeset ampersand

In addition, their devotion to their families is readily apparent, making it fitting that the china for the ampersand came from a tureen that once belonged to either a grandma or great aunt of mine (the origins are a bit muddy) and ended up in my hands because it was cracked. I later learned that the pattern on the china actually reminded Siti and Fad of the coffee cups they drank from on their honeymoon. How serendipitously perfect!

And of course I was going to use rocks, not only because they’re what I love, but because they’re stable and humble, and the more you get to know them, the more they reveal their beauty and their secrets to you. All good qualities in a partner and a marriage, if you ask me.

ampersand - top detail

As a final note, I think an ampersand is quite appropriate for a wedding mosaic. Obviously, it’s fitting in that these two are now Siti and Fad. But I also like the way “and” can hint, with the addition of a simple ellipsis, at the promise of adventures to come (as in “And…”).

So, my dear Siti and Fad, I wish for you a life full of love, laughter, patience, adventure, and discovery. I send you all my love as you begin writing your life together like a beautiful, heartfelt, sprawlingly epic letter.

A special wedding ampersand mosaic for Siti and Fad 12"h x 10"w China, smalti, limestone, Eramosa marble, mudstone, thinset tesserae, typeset letter

A special wedding ampersand mosaic for Siti and Fad
12″h x 10″w
China, smalti, limestone, Eramosa marble, mudstone, thinset tesserae, typeset letter



Introducing “River bend” … finally!

"River bend" mosaic by Julie Sperling

Nothing says “congrats on your wedding” like a mosaic

It seems that when friends and family get married, having me make a mosaic for them is a popular request. This particular wedding gift mosaic was for R’s brother and his wife, which R commissioned me to do (although I have yet to see the pay cheque…). The bride and groom gave me a list of earlier pieces of mine that they enjoyed, but essentially gave me free rein in terms of design, colours, and materials. Since the “Mississippi Meander” was on their list, I decided to go with a river theme. I’ve been planning to build a series around rivers for a while now, so this was a good chance to start doing that.

I chose a section of the Grand River that runs through Kitchener (where they live) and then stretched it to cover the substrate I was planning to use, so it’s definitely a loose interpretation of that part of the Grand. Originally, I had wanted to get rocks from their area to use, but time did not permit; instead, I used ones I had gathered here in Ottawa. I absolutely love the grey pieces that have lines in them and the ones that have a bit of orangey-brown at one end.

It was weird working on a project and not being able to post pictures / updates. I kept wanting to tell people (and by people, I mean Facebook): “I’m working, really I am! You just can’t see what I’m working on!” But now the mosaic – which I named “River bend” – is in their possession, so I can safely share pictures of it with you without ruining their surprise. Phewf!


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




Portugal: Moustaches, mosaics, and merriment

This summer my partner and I travelled to Portugal to attend the wedding of some very dear friends. We tacked on a bit of extra time so that we could explore a bit of the country too. We managed to hit Porto, Coimbra, Ericeira, Sintra, and Lisbon – not bad for 10 days!

One thing that really impressed me (aside from the obvious: the delicious food and drink, the beautiful architecture, and the luxurious moustaches) was the street art. It was everywhere and it was beautiful. Oh, and the tiles (azulejos). Wow. So much variety! I’ve included some of my favourites here – who knows, they may serve as inspiration for future mosaics!

But the highlight for me was probably the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, which is a really impressive site and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area. The Conimbriga ruins are also home to some really impressive Roman mosaics. The sheer size and intricacy of them absolutely blew me away. I think one day I would like to try my hand at a Roman-style mosaic. It’s so different from my own style and I’m sure it would be quite a challenge!

And finally, what post about Portugal would be complete without a moustache? You’re welcome.






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.


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