Sunday, August 24, 2014

summer portrait

Since tomorrow marks the end of summer vacation for school age kids in Durham, I thought I'd post one of my summer projects.  This portrait is 2x2' and I really wanted to concentrate on the values of color (meaning dark, med, light).  I worked from a photograph, and made a 12x12" fabric piece first, then liked it so much I enlarged the pattern, and worked with stained glass on wood panel.  It is one of those mosaics that really looks fantastic from 15 ft away, but I do like to study the tesserae (pieces) and andamento (flow) up close to see what I could improve upon for the next work.  Anyone recognize the subject?  xo

Monday, August 4, 2014


This has been a strange summer for weather.  We had almost no rain for a month, mid June-mid July.  Then 2 weeks of very wet and cool temps.  Yesterday, all of a sudden, there were mushooms.  Everywhere on our .5 acre lot.  Mold on mushrooms.  Yuck.  So this morning I got down and really looked.  There are at least 7 kinds of mushrooms that I could easily discern from each other, and I'm sure others that I couldn't distinguish.  This one looked  the most like a " regular" mushroom.

Several of them are lovely shades of red, orange, and pink.

Creatures have been eating some of them, and some are covered in fuzzy mold. Some are growing together like a family, others single.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lakewood Cemetery

Some of the most beautiful sculpture can be found in cemeteries.  
I love the small bits of fungus and organic debris that clings to the stone surface.
This angel was looking right at me.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

color wheel

Since I didn't go to art school, I only had a rudimentary understanding of the color wheel and it's importance regarding the science of color.  For this last school residency of the 2013-14 school year, I wanted to create a large color wheel with Middle School students, emphasizing and isolating colors, while concentrating on shape and andamento of the pieces within each color wedge.

These 7th grade advanced art students were able to learn to safely use a wheeled nipper (with eye protection) and cut glass tile to the shape and size they wanted to use for their patterned section of color.

They worked swiftly and carefully, in small groups, having fun while making wonderful mosaics.  When grouted and hung, the four panels will complete the color wheel.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Fox In The Pines

BUSY with getting a few school projects finished up in the next couple weeks... this one was at Forest Pines Elementary School in N. Raleigh.  Each panel is 2x2' and depicts their school mascot, a fox, with faces and paw prints, with pine trees (our state tree).  Foxes have 5 toes on their front paws (one is a dew claw), and 4 toes on their hind paws.  Some classes of students worked with graphed designs and square tiles individually or in pairs, others worked in small groups to render the tree in a "free form" style with tumbled stained glass.  These panels are freshly grouted, and laid out in my driveway to photograph before packing them up and delivering back to school for hanging.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Good Shepherd Catholic School, Frankfort KY

It was a great week in Frankfort, Kentucky at Good Shepherd Catholic School!  This mosaic was made with Pre K-8th graders, all working together on different sections and different skills, collaborating in this fantastic rendering of their school logo design ( original logo by the principal's brother/sister in law).  It was a pleasure to see some old friends (Ida and Anne Taylor + family) and make lots of new ones (Jody, Sharon, Steve, and about 165 students)!  Thank you all for your hospitality, trust in my work, and willingness to rearrange schedules and classrooms to make it happen!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

grouting in the driveway

I've been playing catch up this week with several school projects.  Instead of one large work screwed into the wall, these schools will have smaller hangable panels.  So, I was able to bring them home to grout (in the driveway) and will return them this week.

This one was created with 5th graders at Baileywick Elementary in Raleigh.  Students worked with art teacher, Carly Savage, to develop patterns that were inspired by flags.  They looked at color, shape and pattern as well as the symbolism and meaning behind each design.  Students were able to take their design on paper and with some modification, translate each section  into glass mosaic, then worked one on one with me to adhere their section in place.  It is four 2x2' sections that can be hung in this configuration to highlight the flag of The United States.

This project was also done with 5th grade students, at another N. Raleigh Elementary, Harris Creek.  Each of these panels are 3x2,' and teachers expressed a desire to combine both of my making techniques: squares on the grid and free form mosaics.  Some students had a graphed letter pattern to create the phrase borders and worked individually, other students worked in small groups to create the NC state icons; bird, tree, fish, and flower.  Learning about NC is part of the standard curriculum for 4th grade, so all of these students were able to render these icons very nicely with tumbled stained glass.

Friday, March 7, 2014

things beyond my control

Be prepared.  Have a plan.  Be flexible.  There are things that happen beyond my control.  Weather.  Interruptions in the chain of communication.  Technical difficulties.  This fabulous project was actually done in October, but due to circumstances beyond my (or the school's) control, it was not ready to grout until late last week, and my schedule wasn't open until yesterday.  Many pieces had been picked off of the stark white mastic, and needed replacement. The small blobs of mastic that needed to be scraped off  had been solidifying and curing to rock hard for 4 months (which took twice as long to scrape).  The "trim" is still not quite adequate, not sure why the trim I provided was not used (and probably will never know).  But, the salamanders are now grouted.  And they look pretty great crawling up and down the wall.  The students who made them had gotten used to seeing the mosaic with the white mastic only... what a difference the brown grout made yesterday!  Thanks for your patience and understanding that sometimes the wait is worth it after all.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

technology, math, art, and selfies

I've been doing some afterschool sessions with the Communities In Schools Of Orange County, and this week made some great connections with Middle School students in regards to technology, math, and art. 
Lately I've had many students mention that mosaics are like a popular game called Minecraft.  It's basically a 3d game in worlds built with cubes.  For old timers, think square legos that can be animated.  For some students, this connection to their technology experiences, helps everything click together (literally).  This student was not particularly engaged until we hit upon the things that he likes, basketball and Minecraft.

He first planned his designs on graph paper, to help with scale, but preferred to access his laptop to recreate Lebron James and Kevin Durant (NBA players).  This middle school is a 1-1 laptop school, and students are used to most of their lessons on the computer.  When the students were finished, I handed them my digital camera (and many of them took their own phone photos) to let them document their own work.

*** Important programming note, when you hand your camera to 13 yr olds, expect some hilarious selfies...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

oh yes, I do commissions too

Reminding myself that I do private commissions too....  I've been working with a Chapel Hill client who is in the middle of a kitchen remodel.  Planning to do their focal wall backsplash too... but need to finalize the construction measurements first.  This is the kitchen island front, which is open to the living room/dining room area.  Funky colors and organic flowing design will bring this great space some energy and zest....
 Overview in my studio, before face mounting tape, cutting/labeling sections, and delivering to contractor.  Can't wait to see this installed!  Let me know if you're planning a kitchen or bathroom remodel and would like some custom tile work!  This mosaic has unglazed porcelain, and recycled glass tile.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

value of process

Many of the mosaic residencies that I facilitate focus on the end product, translation: what it will look like up on the wall.  I get that because often it's a permanent installation and more costly than the average paper or paint project.  And, I do love when a gorgeous visual concept comes to life in mosaic.....

However, there's much to be said about the value of the process of creating, without the pressure of resulting in the ultimate masterpiece.  Expecting anyone doing something for the first time, with new materials and vocabulary, in a one hour class period, to have perfect results is asking a lot.  

The school I was working at this week was gracious in this gift to their 5th graders.

They were allowed to have the freedom to experiment with pattern and color, inspired by Navajo weaving patterns (which will connect with their upcoming social studies curriculum).  They were asked to think about balancing cool and warm color families, and geometric patterning inspired by some printed examples of Navajo design.  Some students worked individually, some with a partner to create 16  samplers of 49 tiles each, so that each of the four classes would have one 2x2' artwork to hang in their hallway as a legacy project for their school.

Thank you Washington Elementary School for embracing the process of creating, enjoy your mosaics!

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Barbieri Elementary School mosaic, Framingham MA.  2014.  Collaboratively designed with original concept by Martha Fuentes, facilitated by Jeannette Brossart, created by 625+ students K-5th grade. 
9' x 5', photo and assistance by Maria Enrique.

"Somos Estudiantes Orgullosos de Barbieri" means "We are proud students of Barbieri", which is part of the school pledge which is recited each day.  The tree is modeled after the Mexican Tree of Life, a ceramic craft tradition, the 4 birds represent the multicultural presence of this community (Bald Eagle/US, Parrot/Carribean, Queztal/Mexico and Central America, and Navarro Pirineo/Spain).  The child is meant to represent "every child", not a boy/girl, not one specific heritage ("skin" tiles are in 5 different shades).  The books represent learning and early education.  The sun stands for Barbieri "CARE" values.

Kindergarten students created the sun.
1st graders created the border letter and pattern blocks
2nd graders created the tree trunk/branches, parts of the sky, and books
3rd graders created the leaves and flowers
4th graders created the birds
5th graders created the child and grass.

Friday, January 24, 2014

collaborating with teachers

One of the really great things about what I do is having the opportunity to collaborate with teachers in order to facilitate a mosaic for their school that is truly meaningful and exciting for that specific community of participants.  For the Boston (Framingham) residency, I had the great fortune of being discovered by art teacher, Maria Enrique, who then was my primary faculty contact as well as daily staff support.  She is an enthusiastic teacher and creative person, and was a pleasure to communicate and work with.  She was able to coordinate concept and sketch ideas (thank you 2nd grade teacher, Martha Fuentes for your fabulous designs), keep up with my emails and distribute information as needed, receive materials ahead of the residency, and coordinate every class schedule to have time with me in her classroom for 2 weeks, whew.

She had trust and faith in me that I knew what I was doing, and could actually facilitate this vision.  I was happy to be able to show her some of the process like using the tile tape and spreading mastic, and she was on hand to help with cutting out patterns, tile tape, and talk through each group of participants and the groups she thought would work best together (classroom management).  

Other faculty, parents, and staff (thank you maintenance dept!), were also instrumental in ensuring that I had everything I needed and that each day went smoothly.  The administration team came to many of the sessions, and were able to understand and experience how their students were able to create this mosaic together.

This is truly a collaborative process, and I am grateful to this sharing and welcoming community!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

pattern piecing

Working mosaics with very young children requires small groups, patience, and some control.  Sticking with simple colors and shapes keeps it from being overwhelming and ending up like tossing a bunch of colorful confetti up in the air and waiting for it to land.  Directional lines help participants understand the flow or "andamento" of the design.

Portioning out a large work so that the classes working on the last day have the same opportunity as the first day is very tricky.  Sometimes adding an extra element (like a specific number of leaves on a tree, or flowers) enables this to work out more smoothly with a specific number of students/classes.  Giving them some creative choices within the structure is important.

As the participants age/skills increase, they are able to use a larger variety of colors, shapes, and more complex use of color like gradation and shading.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Boston Beginning

Ten days ago on a frigid, snowy Saturday, I flew into Boston Logan airport and made my way West on Mass Turnpike to the city of Framingham MA to begin a two week mosaic residency.  The project had been long in the planning, and many preparations had been made.  I arranged to meet some of the school faculty and Cultural Arts representatives on Sunday at the school to be sure everything was in order and ready to begin with children on Monday morning.  625+ children (K-5th grades).

Getting the design transferred to the (3) cement board panels, and holes pre-drilled was one of the first steps, as well as double checking and organizing the glass tiles.  I took multiple square feet of many colors back to the hotel to nip that evening and for the next 5 evenings.