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And now for something completely different

2011 April 17
by elizabeth_admin

Thank you so much for the great discussion on yesterday’s post regarding identity and talent vs. creativity.  I loved reading all your thoughts.  I believe it was Mary Nanna who mentioned the ratio of 99% hard work and 1% talent.  That is so true.  In order to sing well, I had to practice at least 2 hours a day or I wouldn’t be happy with the way I sounded.  And Ruth mentioned, rightly so, that too often we let comments from others on our own talent or creativity affect us.  I don’t think any of us can claim to be completely impervious to other’s opinions about us.  After all, we’re only human.  I urge you to read all the amazing comments left on yesterday post.  They’re all thought provoking.

I am at peace with my palm reading now though.  That’s all I can ask for.  🙂

[insert witty segue here]

How about I share with you some pictures of the mosaics I made before the little boy named Jack came to live with me?  I know I have mentioned several times that I used to be obsessed with mosaics.  I stopped making them because I was scared that Jack would constantly crawl on or step on the randomglass shard that never seems to get vacuumed up.  For those of you who don’t know how mosaics are created, for vitreous glass tiles or stained glass or china, you use tile nippers to shape the tiles as you need them and then adhere them to a board or base.  Depending on the style of mosaic, you would then grout the piece or not and ta da! you have a mosaic.  It’s the tile nipping that produces the glass shards.  The shards fly fast and far.  Surprisingly far.  I used to nip tiles in the kitchen and would find the shards in my bedroom.  Anyway, I stopped because I was worried about Jack’s little knees and feet.  But as I was packing up my mosaic making supplies for my recent move, I was distracted by the beautiful tiles and glass.  It almost broke my heart to put them in boxes.  And once I moved in to the new apartment and saw how much room I had, I realized I could reasonably add a mosaic table next to my sewing table.  Jack is older now and doesn’t spend much time in my room.  So I could start making mosaics again.  How exciting!

Anyhoo, here are some pics…  The first one is actually the first mosaic I ever made using vitreous glass straight from a craft store.  I designed it myself.  I am still pleased with this piece even after having it critiqued by my mosaic teacher.  For having no visual art background and no formal training in mosaic design, I think I did pretty well for the first time.  😉  


This next piece I made in my first mosaic class with the very talented Valerie Carmet in NYC.  It’s a trivet made with china as the medium which I gave to my mom.


I took at least three classes with Valerie.  The trivet above was the kind made in the beginner class.  After that you could work on anything you chose.  I wanted to make a piece with a tree using the most beautiful glass, smalti.  Remember my deep and abiding love for brocades?  Well, smalti is the brocade of mosaics.  It’s sparkly and beautiful with the most amazing deep colors.  I was in heaven working with this glass.  It’s handmade making it tricky to shape due to the varying thickness of the glass sheets.  So it took a great deal of practice cutting to get the shapes I wanted.  Because of the texture inherent to the glass, smalti pieces are usually never grouted and tiles are more densely placed because of it.  This piece took months to complete.  Out of curiosity, I calculated how much it cost me to make it in materials (smalti is not cheap) and time (man-hours it took to complete it using my then current salary as a guide) and it came out to at least $3000.  To give you a better idea of the scope of work involved, this particular piece is only about 12 by 18 inches.


My love for smalti continued for some time.  This next piece was made for my brother who requested a cat.  I used a child’s coloring book to trace the outline of a cat.  I think the perspective worked out really well on this piece.  Valerie helped me figure out how to place the tiles so as to play up the feeling of movement.  I would not have known how to do that otherwise.  This piece is about 5×7 inches.  And the smalti in some places is no larger than a shard!  It’s almost a micro-mosaic.  I placed some of those pieces with a tweezers.


I also made a trivet for my sister using china and stained glass.  My sister likes a more modern aesthetic, so the china she chose (which was very traditional) made this an interesting challenge.  Valerie thought mixing the media and using a Mondrian type layout would make it look more modern.  To cut some of the stained glass, I used Valerie’s glass saw.  It was a little scary at first, but really cool.  I edged the trivet with stainless steel “ribbon” to finish the sides.  I really loved how this piece turned out and my sister likes it too!


I also made a more traditional piece with ceramic tiles.  This tray was gifted to a friend of mine that loves wine.


This next piece was started and completed while I was pregnant with Jack.  I gave it to my grandma for Xmas that year.  It’s a mixed media piece with smalti, mirror glass and shells from the Cayman Islands.  The tightly placed smalti technique is my best effort so far. 


Of course as most people do, I have some mosaic UFO’s too.  I have two boxes in varying degrees of completion for my two cats’ ashes.  A gift for a baby who is now 5 years old.  And a list of huge projects that I wrote down when I was pregnant.  Ahh, the hubris of ambition.

Here’s a snap of my cat Bunny’s box.  The box is only 4×6 inches, so again, this is almost a micro-mosaic.  I used stained glass and some vitreous glass.


I know this is primarily a sewing blog, so I hope you don’t mind indulging me sharing my mosaics.  Most people I know aren’t interested in only one artistic medium or have other interests as well.   I hope that someday soon I can work again with my beautiful tiles.

15 Responses leave one →
  1. April 17, 2011

    You were really good at the mosaics and created some very lovely pieces. Are you remembering all of these because you just moved? And will you take up mosaics again when Jack gets a little older?

  2. April 17, 2011

    I love, love, love the smalti tree. $3000? Wow.

    By the way, how are you dealing with the neighbor’s smoke now?

  3. Becky permalink
    April 17, 2011

    Beautiful! I took a stained glass class many years ago but I gave it up for much the same reasons. You are very talented/creative/whatever label you like!

  4. April 17, 2011

    Wow – that is creativity plus talent! What great work. You can see the passion in it. I too am curious to hear about the smoke situation…

  5. Doreen permalink
    April 17, 2011

    Such beautiful work! I have always looked at mosaics with a lusting eye but have never attempted it. Your work makes me want to run out and do it.

    Inspiration from everything – the mosaics remind me of quilting, whether applique or perhaps a crazy quilt. Now, that would be a year long project!! At least for me.

    Your problems with glass shards showing up all over the house reminds me of a friend with small children ruminating about the mess created when feeding the kids in their highchair. She decided that what she needed was a tiled room with a sprayer at the top and a garbage disposal in the floor. She could then feed her kids and then shower everything off, including the child. Sounds like you could use a room like that too.

  6. April 17, 2011

    Beautiful work. I especially love the cat for your brother–amazing perspective!
    I, too, am wondering about the fuming neighbor.

  7. April 17, 2011

    Wow — I love those. You’re very talented, or creative, or something. I forget the difference. 😉

  8. April 17, 2011

    The mosaics are beautiful! (no problem with divergences from a sewing blog). Really like your sister’s. (I’ve been taking some glassblowing classes, which are a lot of fun)

    (by the way, possible to tweak the site? eg, I read the post, get to the end, want to read/post a comment—but the only way I can find to get to the comments is to scroll all the way back to the top, there’s nothing right there. If there’s an easy fix, it would be a little convenience.)

  9. April 17, 2011

    oh, this IS exiting that you now have a place for your mosaics! They are just beautiful!!

  10. April 17, 2011

    It’s your blog – so why not post about Mosaics if it takes your fancy :)!
    (I love the 1st one, the Tree and the 1st Kitty one best-est.)

  11. Liara permalink
    April 17, 2011

    How very cool! I don’t imagine I’ll ever take up mosaics, but I really liked seeing these. My favorite is the one for your grandma. I certainly won’t mind seeing your work on this blog if you decide to show off more mosaics.

  12. April 17, 2011

    Gosh you really are multi talented, we are learning about a new skill with every post you do! Those are fabulous, I hope you will be able to continue your mosaic making in the future.

  13. April 18, 2011

    How cool! I’ve never really thought about mosaic before, but I absolutely love those you have made, especially the cat for your brother. Is mosaic something that can be picked up using the internet and/or books, or do you recommend at least a few classes to get the basics down?

  14. April 18, 2011

    Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing these. I understand why you didn’t want to do mosaics with a small child in the house— I feel sort of the same way about oil painting around my baby. Sewing seems much easier to pick up and put down. Do you find that there are aspects of mosaics that inspire your sewing and vice-versa? I am always interested in how different parts of people’s creativity interact.

  15. April 19, 2011

    And I was just thinking I might be ready to let my mosaic supplies go…. I never did anything fancy, just used already cut square tiles to cover mirror frames, but I really enjoyed it. (you can see them here: I haven’t done any mosaic for probably 4 years, maybe even 5. Hmmm…

    Love your pieces, and having seen some of them in person I can rightfully say they are impressive!

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