One thing I’m learning through Work in Progress Wednesday (WiPW), is that nothing is ever straight-forward; we all get side tracked, life always gets in the way. It’s nice to learn that it’s the case for almost everyone, that progress sometimes grinds to halt, but if we learn anything from today’s guest post, it’s that it’s good to pick ourselves back up again. Today’s post is also perhaps the most unique we’ve had so far, please welcome Jane of Fragglerockin who has been working on a Mosaic!
Back in 2005, I went to Cyprus for the first time, and was blown away by the roman mosaics’ I saw there. They were so intricate and detailed, and quite fascinating to me. Back at home I researched mosaic making on google, bought a How To Do It project book, some tiles and equipment, and proceeded to stick square, colourful tiles on mirror frames, photo frames, coasters, tablemats, and anything I could get my hands on.
When I moved in with my soon-to-be-husband Phil, he had an Ikea table in the conservatory that had seen better days and I thought righty-oh, I’ll mosaic that and make it nice again. I decided I’d do a tiger, and went back to google ‘mosaic tigers’ for inspiration. I found this picture, and used it as my template.
I never for one moment wondered how hard it would be to accomplish the task, but that’s just me, I’ll have a go and not really think I may not be up to it!
To ensure the surface of the table ends up flat, I used the indirect method of mosaicking, i.e sticking the tiles face down on brown paper, which means working back to front in your head, a skill I’m still getting the hang of. Because it is quite a large project and the working desk I had in my spare room wouldn’t accommodate it whole, I halved the design to work on it in two stages, starting with the rear end.
And that was as far as I got for a long time. My work life really ramped up as I went from being employed to self-employed as a Hearing Aid Audiologist. The many jars of mosaic tiles that stood on the shelves lining my room had to make way for hearing aids, accessories, equipment, paperwork. My evenings & weekends were spent updating client records, sorting out finances, programming hearing aids, and so many other bits to do with work. No space, or enough time for the mosaic. I took up photography to keep some form of creativity going, a faster process and less space needed, and I loved it, still do, and even now that’s my main outlet creatively speaking.
Life changed again, as it does. I hated my job so much in the end, that after being inspired by a blog about career change by Laura, https://lolabees.me/category/career-change-2/ and with Phil’s support, I jacked it in. What a relief! I realised that over a period of 6 years I’d become miserable, depressed and not that nice to live with. It’s amazing what doors open for you when you shut one firmly behind you. An audiology friend asked me to work part time for her in her clinic, doing ear wax removal (how many ‘yucks’ and ‘eewes’ will that get I wonder ☺ ) while she gets on with hearing aid stuff, so I do that now, and am happy as larry. Now I have time to mosaic.
Last year Phil asked me what I wanted for my birthday. “A shed” I said half joking, but he took me seriously, and built me a fabulous shed where I have room for all my mosaic equipment and to do large projects. No excuses now then, and I got all the paraphernalia out of the loft, and the tiger mosaic set up on a desk.
After such a long break, it seemed a daunting task to complete, I felt like I’d forgotten everything. I re-read the How To book, and stared at my template picture for ages wearing a worried frown. The template is only a guide, I don’t think it’s a ‘real’ mosaic, more likely a digital image so the tiles I use can’t be made into similar shapes, which means I have to be inventive to get my tiles in the same shapes as the design, another skill I still struggle with.
I realised I hadn’t completed the drawing on the arm/shoulder area either so wasn’t sure what I was doing there, and didn’t know where to start.
Eventually I plucked up courage, and figured I’d give myself a little goal each time. The first goal was to get the eyes in place, the second – his chin and whiskers, and so on, each time choosing a smallish area and working on that. Bit by bit the tiger came to life, and my skills at shaping the tiles got better, though I can’t count how many I cut where the angles were not right, or the tile shattered or cracked in the wrong place and I’d have to do another. My swearing developed exponentially. I bled a fair bit too, shards of glass are not your friend. As I made headway on the face, I realised the rear piece I’d worked on so long ago had too large gaps between the tiles, and my new work had less, and in the older work I hadn’t been so pernickety about the shapes and angles of the tiles, but re-doing the rear was not an option. Precision is a lesson learned along the way.
At one point I realised the tiger’s head hair looked as bad as the old mosaic, and I couldn’t live with that so had to find a way to remove those tiles and start again. Removing tiles isn’t that easy, the glue I use to stick them onto paper is water soluble PVA glue, so I had to soak them in water, which, when I loosened them off resulted in soggy pieces of the brown paper coming away too. To rectify this I cut a new slab of brown paper and sellotaped it underneath the ruined bit. Get it right first time, another lesson learned.
I’m on the last stretch now, I thought the upper foliage would be the easy part but it isn’t, I’m still cutting the tiles and making mistakes, but I’m not sticking them down until I’m happy they fit properly. Phil has painted the table black for me, with added sparkly bronze bits mixed into it,
and when the mosaic is complete the table top will be scored with a Stanley knife, tile adhesive applied all over, and then the mosaic laid onto it, paper side upmost, and left for 24hrs to dry. Then the paper will be wetted and gently cleaned off, no doubt a couple of tiles will come with it and need to be stuck back, and another 24hrs left to re-dry. Then comes the grouting. Originally I was going to use black grout, but I pulled a shot of the mosaic into photoshop and coloured in the gaps between the tiles black to see what it looked like and it was pants. The black stripes looked fine of course, but it was too much on the other colours. I tried again, changing the black to grey, and all the other colours looked fine but the black looked pants. Sigh. I will need to mask off the other colours abutting the black tiles and black grout in between them, then mask off the black tiles and do all the others in grey. 24hr drying time between them too so I don’t make a mushy mess where the different grouts meet. Forward planning, another lesson learned.
Of course this was far too complicated and large a mosaic to have contemplated for the level of experience I had, probably still is, but fortune favours the bold apparently, and I think, hope, it will look really cool when it’s finished, well I’ll like it anyway. Got my eye on our living room table now, which has a candle burn on it so definitely needs a new top ☺
I took several WIP shots on the iphone, and have strung them together in a short video here
Mosaic tiles used:
20mm vitreous glass, various colours
20mm gold veined glass, various colours
Most equipment and tiles from hobby-island.co.uk
Fragglerocking Across the Universe
where I visit loads of historical places mostly in the North East (England) and tell their stories and photograph them.
Fraggle’s Other Place
where I mess about with film photography, iphoneography, collaborate with my Yankee pal Kathy every month, and write about my doings and thoughts on Thursdays.