Tuesday, December 20, 2011

on the first day...

Here's an oldie (and a goodie) suitable for holiday blogging... "On The First Day..." was a special holiday commission for The Carolina Inn back in 2008.  In fact, it should be on display there now for their 12 Days of Xmas decor and festivities.  If you're in Chapel Hill, or passing thru and stop, let me know if you see it :)  Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday, happiness and health in the year ahead!  photo by Chris Ferrar

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soaring Eagle, Shining Stars

One more Elementary project completed!  This 3x5' panel  is titled "Soaring Eagle, Shining Stars".  The school recently changed their mascot from stars to the eagle with some reluctance.  So, we created a mosaic that shows both, and the 5th graders I worked with were super!  Like the klutz that I am, I tripped over one of the low seats in the cafeteria as I was leaving the first day, landed on my back like a turtle, and amazingly not one student laughed.  In fact, several jumped up to see if I needed help and was OK.  On the way home I chuckled to myself and thought that maybe they were worried that if I was hurt, I wouldn't be able to come back to finish the mosaic with them... In any case, I know my own children would have laughed for hours... replayed it in slow motion, and logged it in their funny family story memory bank for some unfortunate unsuspecting moment of recall.  Thank you students for your caring and creativity!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

sharing spirit

If you're looking for a way to get in the holiday spirit, share an activity or talent, or just want a pre-holiday boost of amazing energy and spirit, contact your local school (extra plug for public school!) for their next concert or holiday event.  No doubt they need some extra hands, funds, attendees, organizers, volunteers, and cookie bakers.  Sharing your time, as well as talents this time of year is always a great way to give to your community.  You never know how much your small gesture (or large) can make an impact on someone else.  OK, so I know kids can be loud, messy, sticky, strange, goofy, and many other wild and wonderful things, but you can handle it for an hour, a couple of hours, or maybe you'll even enjoy it!  Just pace yourself, and say YES to the opportunities that you enjoy.  Schools and our kids in schools NEED every bit of help they can get!  The days of the little red one room school houses are gone, but it's still vital that communities come together to support young people and learning.  Make it fun, make it a holiday gift to yourself.

Monday, December 5, 2011

birthday boy

My youngest son is turning 12 tomorrow.  We had 10 middle school age boys over Fri nite for good old fashioned at home, playing in backyard, pizza, and birthday cake party... complete with some neighborhood girls just *coincidentally* casually strolling by our house.  Sunday was his family dinner party.  But, tomorrow is officially the day...   This photo is of a gorgeous Venetian sculpture in pure white marble,  about 8 feet tall, outside at the very tip of a peninsula along the Grand Canal.  I photographed it at every angle, this side, in shadow, is my favorite.  The fog was condensing on the smooth surface, creating what looks like sweat dripping off his chin.  Ahh boys.... (at least I can't smell his feet)!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

repaired Venus

If you've been reading recently, you know I went to Italy for a mosaic course in Ravenna.  The course was with Luciana Notturni at her Mosaic Art School.  She is an expert in ancient mosaics, utilizing traditional techniques and tools.  She also creates modern mosaic works, architectural, sculptural, and fine art wall hangings.  It was a special week to be able to learn from her how to cut smalti with a hammer and hardie, traditional tools I had not tried before in my years of mosaic making and experimenting.  I signed up for her 3D mosaic course, since that is one direction my own personal work has taken in the last 5 years after a wonderful sculptural workshop with Sherri Warner Hunter.  I decided on a Venus Flytrap for my project, small enough to finish during the week, but with some intricate details that needed some special attention.  Unfortunately it was damaged in my travels home, but I was able to repair it this week.  I have plans to collaborate with an engineer friend in order to realize a kinetic 6' version soon. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

architectural delights

How gorgeous is this??!!  I wondered who is so lucky that they get to live in a house with this kind of window...  does it look as beautiful from the inside?  How does the view look thru the violet and purple round panes?  What does the light look like as it comes from the outside in to the room?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

frustrating photography

This beautiful violet glass garden ornament is hanging in the sculpture garden of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.  Unfortunately I did not note the artist, but it was glowing with the morning sun, and I couldn't resist attempting to photograph it.  Glass is extremely difficult to photograph, and is one of the things that is frustrating in my own work.  I have hired professionals on specific occasions, but that is usually a costly experience.  I have considered learning more about photography myself, but there are so many hours in a day...  Usually I take multiple photos and cross my fingers.  Sometimes I'm lucky, but often not.
   Most of the mosaic photos from Ravenna and Venice are blurry and dark, so hard to capture their splendor and delicate detail without special lighting, tripod, and super telephoto lens, and years of photographic expertise (none of which I have).   This photo is from the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (5th century).  She was daughter of Theodosio the Great, captured by an enemy and married, then later given back to her brother and married off again to a General.  When he died, she became protector of her son, Valentinian the 3rd, Western Emperor, and was responsible for the next 25 years of peace in the empire.  The intricate and highly skilled mosaic work in her tomb is breathtaking.  There are pictorial mosaics with Christian iconography, as well as geometric patterning, and floral festoons, all created with glass and marble tesserae (pieces) the size of your pinky fingernail or smaller.  Amazing.  Photographs just can't do it justice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bubbles in Venice

I got back to Durham last night at 2am after 21 hours of travel... then up early to get to son's honor roll ceremony at school, so no time or energy or open eyelids to cull thru photos.  So, I'm posting my one video that I took in Venice.  It was a delightful street surprise while walking home from several hours at the Biennale Art 2011 exhibit. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It has been eerily and beautifully foggy in Venice these past two days.  No aqua alta, so, dry on the feet, but very damp in the air and cold.  I have not taken the vaporetto (too cold), so my feet are aching from hours of explorations on foot.  The Biennale is going on now, a very interesting and large multi-location art exhibit, all at the extreme opposite end of the city from my domus.  Also made a stop at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum this morning, for a lovely day of international modern art.  A quick tour of the Orsoni smalti foundry in the morning before a boat trip across the lagoon to the airport and home...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

bagno d' oro

Leave it to the Italians, specifically the Venetians to have a bathroom with 24K gold glass mosaic tile....
leave it to an American to take and post a photo from her bathroom while untold ancient and priceless art awaits....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

sneak peek

Any guesses what I'm making in my 3D mosaic course here in Ravenna, Italy? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

3rd graders rock

I think I've mentioned before about how fun it is to work with kids on mosaics.  They are attentive and eager, excited to do something new with "grown up" materials.  I usually use stained glass or glass tile that I've precut and tumbled in my rock tumbler to smooth the edges a bit.  I give them the instructions that this is a "grown up" art material and should be treated with respect.  Don't put it near your face, don't poke your friend (or enemy), the glass should be transported from one area to another in a container, not your hand, it doesn't go into your pocket, don't toss it... etc, etc. etc.  The 'MOM' tone ('Mean Old Mom') works wonders during this phase of instruction.  This school project was completed by 3rd graders, probably most around 8 years old.  Their school has a special music group called "mustang melodies" and this design was perfect for the residency.  We ended up with 4 sections of music, each one about 40" long x 8" wide.  I cemented them to the block walls, high out of reach, but not out of view.  I mentioned to one class that their project would stay on the walls and they could come back one day and still see their work.  One cutie said that hopefully when she was 'grown up in high school' she would come back to visit and see her mosaic, and remember our fun day together.  I certainly hope so!!

Monday, October 31, 2011

ConAgra Memorial Mosaic

I am honored to have been a part of creating this Memorial at White Deer Park in Garner, NC.  It is a tribute to the community of Garner, and the tragedy of the explosion that happened at the ConAgra Foods plant there in 2009.  The mosaic work is 4'x4', 100% recycled glass tile which depicts a reflection pool with ripples in remembrance of  the three ConAgra employees that perished that day. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Durham Heartists in Raleigh

This past Spring, I accepted an invitation to form a small support group of fellow artists who all share a common theme of creating art that uplifts and connects.  We are called the Durham heARTists.  My friends in this supportive network are Beth Palmer, Steven Ray Miller, and Eleatta Diver.  We had a debut group exhibit in July at Golden Belt Studios, in Eleatta's wonderful studio space, where she has showcased her fantastic "Durham Dreams" series.  This past week, Beth, Steven, and I were able to take our work on the road to the Raleigh Convention Center for the "Speaking of Women's Health" conference.  It is our belief that uplifting, joyful, and inspiring art has a healing effect, and the practice of creative arts helps keep a person's soul, mind and body in a positive state.  We met some incredible folks at this exhibit, and I was delighted to share my latest mosaic sculpture, "Love Lifts".  This sculpture is suitable for outdoors or in, and primarily made with recycled glass tile.  The inspiration for me was the supportive spirit in which our group was formed, and the common goal of creating and sharing beautiful art that instantly connects us.  Thank you friends, for your wonderful art as well as your kindred hearts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

love lifts

This sculpture has been clear in my mind from the start.  A small group of 4 artists in Durham started meeting in the early spring, sharing art that is uplifting and inspiring and not necessarily full of angst and dark undercurrents. While discussing our various strengths and weaknesses, as well as skills, this sculpture popped into my mind.  I had completed it in July, then promptly crashed it on the eve of it's public debut. Note to self, don't try to move heavy objects over garage threshold alone. It needed mosaic repair, although the form was undamaged.  The original repurposed scrappy TV stand was unusable.  Fortunately a friend is an engineering/mechanical/fabricating wiz and was available to make a new, improved, stable stand for my piece. Now, it's ready to show this week in Raleigh at the Convention Center Wednesday night for the Speaking of Women's Health Conference.  I'll be there with my 4 friends, showing uplifting, beautiful art.   Certainly there is a place for all types of creative expression, I just prefer to create work that everyday folks can look at and connect with in a positive manner.  So,go right ahead and call it happy, pretty, neat, cool, joyful, fun, lively, colorful.  I'm totally fine with that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

grout day

It still is a bit daunting, even almost 10 years later, to spend hours creating a mosaic, then smear cementitous grout all over it.  Even though I know it will come off.  To make it more of a special occasion, I like to think of it as 'grout day', something to look forward to, celebrating the end of a project and seeing it's final outcome.  Usually it does match up with the original mosaic in my mind, but doubt is often lurking.  Today was 'grout day' for one of the Elementary mosaics.  So, I didn't lay the mosaic tiles, but did put in hours of designing, planning, and facilitating 5th graders in the making of this cardinal mascot panel.  They did a great job, and grout day was a fun opportunity to get my hands dirty on this one, literally.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Down The Hill

Back in Durham now... trying to avoid unpacking the van.  Had a great workshop with some fun and interesting folks.  And met plenty of new friends taking and teaching other wonderful classes this week.  This mosaic wall hanging, "Down The Hill" will be available at the John C. Campbell Folk School's upcoming Blacksmith's Auction Event.  If you've been to Brasstown, you know this vista as the gorgeous view from Orchard House (down the hill, yes, I admit I'm not very creative with titles).  Please support the Folk School in any way you can--- take a class (weekend and weekly offerings), send in a donation, check out the website or catalog and pass the info along.  This type of learning environment is unique, and special in so many ways.  I'm already looking forward to my next visit in April 2012.

Monday, October 10, 2011

working vacation

It is work.  Really.  I'm back at John C Campbell Folk School, teaching mosaics this week and it really is work.  The temps are just right for early fall, the leaves are beginning to turn, the home style cooking is lipsmackin' good.  I have 5 students this week.  Today they all completed a reverse cast stepping stone of their own design.  Tomorrow they will be starting on a more intricate mosaic panel.  Have I convinced you yet that it's work?  I don't have to  make my bed (unless I want to), I don't have to transport, cook, clean... I'm in a beautiful rustic mountain setting with wonderful people.  Ok, it's a vacation... with a pay check at the end of the week.  I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

elementary x 2

Kids are pretty amazing.  This week I'm facilitating mosaic projects with students at 2 elementary schools.  Did I mention they are totally different projects?  Not only are they different designs, but also materials, methods, and eventually installations.  The things that are the same are the excited faces and eager hands of the students.
One school I go to in the morning, and work with 3rd graders.  They have a border-like pattern that includes musical notes on a blue, yellow, and green rainbow background.  The Monday class completed the black musical notes, the Tues class did the blue stripe.  Tomorrow is yellow, Friday, green.  The mosaics will be secured with tile tape, then I'll install on the interior of the school at the end of the month.
At the afternoon school, I'm working with 5th graders to complete this 3x5' panel which will be screwed into the covered masonry wall at the entry of the school.  The cardinal is their school mascot.  So far, so good.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sunday tidings

Anticipating a couple of very busy weeks ahead.... being prepared, and having a backup plan is usually the key to success with my projects.  Especially working with children.  I'll be facilitating mosaics at 2 elementary schools this week, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.  Rotating classes Mon, Tues, Th, and Fri.  Each project different in design as well as materials and methods.  Gotta be prepared, and gotta have a backup plan (in this case, two).  Meanwhile, gathering and packing for my week teaching grownups at the John C Campbell Folk School starting Sun Oct 9.  And as most of you know/do yourself... balancing the family requirements, activities, and chores... So, my Sunday tidings are peace and faith for the days ahead, for my self and all of you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NCBG and Pitcher Plants

This is a pitcher plant.  There are many varieties, this one is my favorite.  Don't ask me it's name, botany was not my specialty.  They are carnivorous cousins to the venus fly trap, both of which live in NC.  In the wild.  And at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens.

Bugs crawl in, but they don't crawl out.

I'm sure one of the friendly staff or volunteers at the gardens would be happy to tell you more about these really fascinating creatures (plants).  I just love looking at them.  They are beautiful this time of year.  Soon, the chilly nights will turn them brown, but they'll spring anew next year in the swampy coastal plains of Eastern NC.

And at the NCBG, ready to eat more bugs.

Monday, September 26, 2011

waiting on the weather

I admit, I'm a bit of a weather wimp.  I don't like sitting at soccer games soaking wet (although I do). I don't drive on wintery days (especially on a school cancelled "snow day"). Extreme humidity with heat makes me cranky (and sweaty).  Really it's one of the main reasons I don't usually participate in craft festivals. From artist friends I've heard horror stories of blown over tents, art being ruined, sweltering heat, slow crowds on bad weather days. That just seems like a tough gig.

But today is a different story.  I've got an exterior mosaic installation to do this week.  Not just plopping down a finished, sealed mosaic sculpture (like Friday in the misty, mosquitoey coastal plain, aka swamp habitiat at NC Botanical Garden).  This one is a 16 sq ft mosaic at a park, requiring onsite mixing thinset cement,  carefully piecing the sections to fit, mixing and applying grout, sealing... rain is not a welcome factor.

There's a 40% chance of rain today and tomorrow,  supposed to be clear Wed-weekend...  It's sunny NOW, of course.  And I'm sure that if I don't go, it will be perfect weather, and if I do go, it will pour down right in the midst of my work.  Imagining thousands of hand cut mosaic pieces floating away is not a pleasant thought...

So, today, I'm waiting on the weather......

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I love that word.  Andamento.  It sounds smooth and mysterious. It refers to the way the pieces of a mosaic flow and create movement and rhythm.  It is what helps your eye read the pieces and interpret color, spacing, shape, texture, size.  It's detailed and specific, yet gives you an overview.  The beginning and ending aren't really so important, just everything in between.