westcoast-boogie

Mosaic Bird Bath Delight

We’re sort of lazy gardeners. We follow the no dig, layered methods and don’t go in for applications of herbicides, pesticides or unnatural fertilizers. We don’t do a big fall clean up either. We just let the garden be at the end of the season, leave the leaves, leave the seeds, don’t take down plant growth. We just walk away and leave it all for the birds and squirrels.

And the birds reward us by coming by and eating all the seeds left on flowers and plants, the berries on our shrubs, the seeds in the trees and rooting around for insects in the layers of leaves and whatnot. We keep a set of binoculars at our kitchen window right next to a couple of bird books to identify who flies in for lunch.

The best thing, of course, is watching our bird baths. The two baths are placed just so we can get a good view.

Two Mosaic Bird baths, summerhouseart.com

We’ve had a bit of cold snap here in usually balmy Victoria, and the water in the birdbaths has been frozen. Yesterday the temperature came up and with it a lot of birds in the garden, mostly Robins.

We saw one Robin trying to get drink around the ice in the birdbath and decided to do the birds a favour.

The layer of ice was taken off and the baths cleaned out and refreshed with new water. Within minutes of our return to our kitchen window we were rewarded with a steady stream of birds coming to bath.

First one, with one waiting on the rim…

Mosaic Bird bath, summerhouseart.com

then two,

Mosaic Bird bath, summerhouseart.com

then three Robins ..

Mosaic Bird bath, summerhouseart.com

and then two Robins and a Towhee..

Mosaic Bird Bath, summerhouseart.com

and then the baths were full of rowdy, splashing birds!

Mosaic Bird bath, summerhouseart.com

We actually had to go out two more times to clean out the baths and refresh the water and each time, within minutes, the baths were filled with splashing and happy birds, who then flew up into the trees to preen and clean their feathers. Thought I’d share our little bit of bird bath delight today. And thanks to Will for creating this little video, he says apologies for the bumpiness and bad resolution.  But hey, you know it’s just for fun.  And also big thanks to Kevin McLeod, who seems to make just the right music for us to use.  You can find Kevin’s work at incompetech.com

(BTW, if you’d like to make a comment, just click on the title.  It’ll take you to comments….and we do appreciate comments )

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Share
westcoast-boogie

Doing Some Artsy Experimenting with Beach Pottery

Beachcombing treasure summerhouseart.com

In the spring and summer I tend to check online for low tides. And if it’s nice out, and the tide is really low in the morning, I’ll be convincing Will that we really need to go beach combing in Sidney. Luckily, he usually doesn’t need much persuading. Now you don’t want to know how much beach pottery I’ve already collected.. ok, LOTS.

But there is something about wandering up and down on the beach, head and eyes down, with the sun and the seagulls overhead, the smell of the ocean around you, searching for those lucky finds. It’s so calming and lovely. If I’m going to have an addiction, I’ll take beach combing any day.

But what do you do with all these lovely finds? So far, we’ve had a good time creating birdbaths and mirror frames with it.

Beach Pottery Mosaic Birdbath by summerhouseart.com

We have plans, in the summer, for making a couple of garden sculptures covered in pottery.

And Will has been making jewelry from driftwood and beach glass and pottery for our new Etsy shop, FoundMadeArt.

Sea Pottery Pendant by Will Bushell, FoundMadeArt

I had an idea of creating small wall pieces with the bits all arranged like a collage, but shipping weight was a problem. Then I discovered Wedi board on an online mosaic site. It’s relatively unknown in Canada, I had to search like mad and finally found a tiling company in Nanaimo that had just started carrying it. It’s a light weight substrate created for bathroom tiling, with foam sandwiched between two thin layers of cement. Trust mosaic artists to see some new uses for this product. Suddenly a lightweight substrate for outdoor mosaic instead of heavy cement board!

I thought if I created some small wall pieces, they would be quite ship-able with the low weight. Wedi board is a bit more expensive than cement board and you have to buy special hangers for it too, but I thought, it would be worth a bit of experimentation. So with thanks to my sister and her husband, in Nanaimo, who very nicely brought down the 3ft x 5ft. sheet for me when they came for tea and goodies, I had something to work with.

The beauty of Wedi board is that you can cut it with a utility knife. I decided to start small with 6 in x 6 in pieces. Then, after lots more research online ( don’t you just love youtube?) I decided to cover each piece with a thin coat of mortar to hide the grey surface.

Then came playing and trying out layouts some chosen bits of found beach pottery. All, btw, freshly washed and dried to remove the salt residue. Kind of funny to think there I was washing dishes that had come from the ocean.

playing with beach pottery layout, summerhouseart.com

The first experimental arrangement went through lots of changes, I even took photos so I could test the look.

Beach Pottery layout, summerhouseart.com

And then, with the air getting rather blue, because of the difficulty of trying to adhere the pieces without getting mortar everywhere, the first piece was done.

Beach Pottery wall piece, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

For the next piece, I decided to wing it. I basically chose the pottery I was hoping to use and applied mortar and stuck them down with less worry about placement, using intuition and speed mainly. You don’t have much time with mortar anyway. It may be a method I’ll use in the future, when I try to create more of these little wall pieces. These are just the start of a new idea. Who knows where it will lead? One day, hopefully, they’ll be for sale on our Etsy shop. One thing I do know, is that I’ve got an awful lot of beach finds that need a home. And I do have a bit of beach combing addiction.

Beach Pottery wall piece, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

(BTW, if you’d like to make a comment, just click on the title.  It’ll take you to comments….and we do appreciate comments )

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Share
westcoast-boogie

Creating Another Beach Pottery Bird Bath (and there’s a movie too!)

Low Tide, Sidney BC, photo summerhouseart.com

Way back in March, we happened to notice that the tides were very low and the idea struck me that we should go out to Sidney and collect some beach pottery. So off we went to the best beach pottery beach and went wild scooping up beach pottery in our little rice bags. Everyone else was looking for glass and overlooked all the lovely pottery. But we had plan for it.

Bag of beach potter shards, summerhouseart.com

We’d made a bird bath before with pottery and beach glass. Way back when we moved into this house, we’d found, under the laurel hedge, at the back amongst a lot of debris, a birdbath pedestal. The basin or bowl was long gone and we’d put it up in the garden with a plastic bowl on top with a couple of rocks in it. Didn’t look great and the birds loved it. The pedestal had a nice classic shape but the plastic bowl made it ugly.

process, Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

With this wonderful haul of pottery we both decided to renovate the old ugly birdbath. We started by applying a mosaic of the pottery onto the pedestal. Now I must mention that the real beauty of beach pottery is its smoothness. And to preserve that smoothness, it’s really best not to cut the pieces at all. So each piece has to be searched for, each piece must fit without cutting it to fit. It takes more time but is worth it, just for the fun of being able to slide your hands over the finished mosaic and take in the feel of pottery that’s been tumbled in the ocean for years and years.

And we took our time, working on the sunny summer afternoons, playing rock and jazz on the CD player and taking lots of tea breaks with tea brought out on a favourite mosaic tray.

Mosaic Tray Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

Once the pedestal was finished we had to think about how to make a basin. Luckily we’d found a perfect glass light fixture at a garage sale and proceeded to use that as a mold for the basin.

process, Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

If you look at the pedestal you will notice that we were going to have to devise a way for the basin to fit over the round projection on its top. And of course we came up with a simple, and I thought, clever solution. Bill cut a round of wood that was the same size as the projection and we built the cement around it as in the little diagram.

process, Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.comprocess, Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

It worked really well. We did have to chisel the glass fixture out the cement but it all worked out.

So next we started to cover the bowl with mosaic. First under the bowl and then the inside of the bowl. Around this time, Callie, our neighbour’s kitten decided to take an interest. She loved to jump on our work table and investigate. She especially liked to push pieces off the table onto the ground. And when she got tired she curled up in an old colander that we’d used to clean pottery. She’s a little character and had us laughing with her antics.

in process Beach Pottery Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.comCallie-in-collanderwm

Then finally, we were ready to grout. We did the basin first. We were really pleased with the inside of the bowl and how the undulating lines created with the ridges of the pottery created a great pattern.

process, Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

One of the things you have to get used to with mosaic is how different it will look with grout. Sometimes I find it a bit disappointing, and have to get used to the look. Here you can see the how the grouted bowl looks against the still ungrouted pedestal. In the end though, I liked the grouted look and actually love how the use of the dark grey-blue grout set off the pieces.

process, Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

And then, the final photo, the finished bird bath. We love it and this time it only took the birds one day to use it once we put it in place after it had cured.

Beach Pottery Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com
The new Birdbath

Beach Pottery Bird Bath Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

And just for fun, every day, as we finished up for the day, we’d take a little movie of the progress. Bill spent some fun time learning how to stitch it altogether into a little video. And then thanks to Kevin McLeod’s music, we posted it on youtube. Ok, it’s a little bumpy and handmade looking but that’s ok. It’s just like the Bird Bath. Hope you enjoy…..

Share
westcoast-boogie

Low Tide and a Haul of Pottery Shards


Horizon with Mt Baker, Sidney BC photo summerhouseart.com



Bill has gotten into the habit lately of taking long walks by the ocean and he noticed that the tide was getting unusually low. Which of course tripped off the idea that if the tide was low in Victoria it would be the same in Sidney. And sure enough, we found that there would be an all time low tide on March 31. Easter Sunday. The lowest at 1:30 pm! And immediately set about a plan of being there to find beach pottery.

I worried, I fumed, I wondered would we be too late? There had been other low tides but at later times, times we couldn’t get there. Had all the pottery been picked clean? On the day I got us up early, Bill protesting that we had until 1:30pm. I said no I have to be there early, as it’s going out, to be there to find what I need. I had mosaic projects in mind, I needed pottery.

The day arrived, sunny, warm, breezy, it could not have been more perfect. The tide is usually much higher than the next shot. And we were able to get into corners and areas that are usually covered by water.

 

Low Tide, Sidney BC photo summerhouseart.com

And what did I find? A beach full of pottery.

Beautiful pottery, in among the beach pebbles and beach glass, lying in the seaweed, ignored by everyone.

Low Tide, Sidney BC photo summerhouseart.com

 


Low Tide, Sidney BC photo summerhouseart.com

 

 

All the others searching that day were only looking for small perfect bits of beach glass in hard to find colors, or tiny,tiny bits of pottery that had a pattern on them also hard to find. But us, we love what everyone else seems to overlook. The warm whites and creams of larger pieces, the curve of the underside of the plate or saucer, the speckled surface, the bit of a cup handle, or even the remnants of a spark plug.

 

Beach Pottery Shards from Sidney BC, summerhouseart.com

 

 

The day was perfect, blue sky, the tide slowly going out. We took our time, enjoying every second.

Taking our best recycled basmatti rice bags to the beach we set about collecting. We took breaks from our bent over searching and sat, totally relaxed, faces to the sun, taking in the sounds of seagulls, breathing in the smells of ocean and seaweed.  We gazed at Mt. Baker, its snowy peak framed by poles set in the ocean, perches for squawking seagulls. Then back to collecting. And oh,what a lovely haul.

 

Beach Pottery Shards from Sidney BC, summerhouseart.com

Soon to be maybe another birdbath or column in garden. Or another mosaic frame.

Beach Glass and Beach Pottery Bird Bath by Helen and Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

 

Beach Pottery Mosaic Mirror by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

But the loveliest thing is the feel of beach pottery, it’s warmth, its smoothness. If you use the pieces as we do, only fitting and arranging without ever cutting them, you can run your fingertips over the smooth surface of a finished mosaic and feel the gentle curves that have been tumbled for a hundred years in the ocean.

 

 

Share
westcoast-boogie

A Serendipitous Mosaic Bird Bath

Or how we made a bird bath from this, an old chimney pot,

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

and this, a big heavy glass ceiling fixture which we used as the mold for a cement basin

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

And how all of that became this: our Beach Pottery and Beach Glass Mosiac Bird Bath

 Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

So this is the story of our Serendipitous Bird Bath, which took us over a year, what with health problems, other work and whatever, to finish.

The serendipity all started with a lucky garage sale find of the Chimney pot, above.

We immediately saw it not as a chimney pot but as a base for a bird bath. Didn’t have a top in mind yet, but we had the base. And I already knew that the base would be covered in a mosaic of beautiful smooth beach pottery with lovely beach glass inside the basin. Because as everyone knows, beach glass only looks good when it’s wet!

Of course this meant we had to go and get some beach pottery and glass but that was fun and easy. A drive up the peninsula to Sidney and the beach at the end of Beacon Ave there. A few happy hours beachcombing for shards of ocean tumbled glass and pottery. And as we do this enough, we did have a rather good stash of the stuff.

So we dove right in and covered the base in lovely, smooth beach pottery.process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com
Here’s a close up of some of the pieces as they were being applied. The masking tape is hold some of the heavier pieces in place until the mortar sets. Since this will be outside in all weathers, the pieces are affixed with a stiff mortar mix. The method by the way has already been covered in a past and popular post on how to make stepping stones Helen’s way.

Of course we still were not sure about the basin and were thinking up ideas for something to cast, when serendipity happened again. On another garage sailing trip, we found this rather large and heavy piece of glass meant to be a huge ceiling light fixture. We got it for about $5.

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

Now you may think we used the glass fixture as a top but  it wouldn’t have been strong enough or able to survive cold winters without cracking and breaking. No, we used it as the mold for a cast in cement for the birdbath basin.

Here is the glass fixtures covered in a garbage bag, ready to be the form for our cement bird bath basin.

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

We mixed up the cement and added fiberglass fibres to give it strength.

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

Here it is after the glass fixture and garbage bag are removed. I’m still trying to decide what to do with the glass ceiling fixture, maybe it may find itself covered in stained glass one day…..who knows. Ideas are percolating.

process, Beach Pottery birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

The underside was also covered in beach pottery, except for a circular area in the middle that was left without mosaic. That was left to create a place for the top to fit over the column.   Which left the inside of the basin to do. That actually sat on our kitchen table for ages while we tried to find time and energy to start on it. Not to mention decide on the design. Luckily we’re pretty used to using our kitchen table for everything else but supper and are quite happy eating supper on the couch in front of a movie borrowed from the library. The whole house is pretty well studio space, everything has to have flexibility. Anyway, by November, Christmas was looming  with the attendant big dinner so the push was on to finish the basin.

process, Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

A spiral pattern emerged.  And a couple of close up shots of how I arranged the edges with curved bits of beach glass.

detail, Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

process, Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

We used a white mortar to fix the glass to the cement. I’ve often had students ask me if they can use beach glass in a mosaic. I always discourage it. Here’s why. On the left beach glass as it is. On the right, beach glass sprayed with water. As I said earlier it really only looks good wet. Plus the other problem is that it is very pitted and the grout sits in it. You have to be prepared for that look.

process, Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

And finally, more than a year from the time we started it, we finally got around to grouting both pieces.

Of course I set up the table with a tray of tea and cups ready for our breaks. I knew it was going to be a long day with a real need to take a few breaks to rest our backs and hands as we grouted and then had to clean grout off each bit of pottery shard and beach glass. If you look closely, you’ll see that we left a space on the underside with out mosaic where the basin fit over the base.

process, Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

All worth we think. Here it is finally set up, from above.

 Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

From the side

 Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

and here is the basin from above filled with water, just what the beach glass needed to shine. Still waiting for the birds to appreciate all our work. But enjoying it all the same.  Update October 22:  A Robin was seen having a good old splish splash bath just a few weeks ago and now all the garden birds are enjoying it too.  We’re both happy that it’s been accepted and enjoyed.

 Beach Pottery and Beach Glass birdbath by Helen and Will Bushell summerhouseart.com

(BTW, if you’d like to make a comment, just click on the title.  It’ll take you to comments….and we do appreciate comments )

Save

Share
westcoast-boogie

Getting Hooked on Pique Assiette Mosaics

I think the whole recycling way of life probably led to us getting involved in mosaics. We always found some way to have what we wanted by finding it used or creating it ourselves.

Our very first pique assiette mosaic came about in 1988 or 89, when I decided that I must have birdbath, a really nice birdbath, not just any old birdbath from the garden shop. I’d seen some mosaic made with old dishes in a magazine and the idea clicked. We needed a mosaic birdbath! From that first stab at mosaic we ended up discovering the joys of pique assiette, which in rough translation, means stolen dishes. Well, of course, we didn’t steal dishes, but we found a lot of good material at my favourite store, Value Village. That and all the Sally Ann Thrift stores that abound everywhere.

The base of the birdbath was made by pouring cement into a sono tube found at the local building supply store. The top was built by lining a cardboard box with a black plastic bag and pouring in cement. We scooped out the middle to create a hollow in the centre which would become the bath area. By pulling up on the bag we made the sides rounded.

Now this was our very first attempt and we had no clue. We wouldn’t do the mosaic the same way now that we know so much more. As soon the cement was cured we just set up the base and the top on a picnic table in the back yard. We’d gone to Value Village and found as many dishes as we could in different colors and spread them out on a picnic table in the backyard. We’d put a dish in a plastic grocery bag and whack it with a hammer. The bag was to keep the pieces from flying around on the grass. Soon we were really good at it.

progress, Our first Pique Assiette birdbath, Helen and Will Bushell, summerhouseart.comThen we arranged the pieces in a loose pattern on a piece of newspaper. For each section we mixed up a small batch of cement, applied a small area of it on to the surface of the base about a half an inch thick and pushed the pieces of broken dishes into the mortar. As it began to set, we would scrape away the cement around the last section as closely as we could to the dish pieces and then mix up a new batch of cement and carry on with pushing the pieces in.

progress, Our first Pique Assiette birdbath, Helen and Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

As you can imagine the sound of all these dishes breaking in our backyard soon brought out the neighbours who one by one made their way over to our back yard to find out what the heck we were up to.

All in all, the bird bath was quite successful. We left the bath area bare of mosaic for easier cleanup of it with a garden hose. We also tried to make quite sure that the pieces on the rim didn’t have any sharp points poking out, didn’t want our feathered friends to get cuts. The bird bath was also very very heavy, and when we moved to Victoria, we gave it to a close artist friend for her front yard where it weathered in beautifully.

Our first Pique Assiette birdbath, Helen and Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I like the look of that birdbath, sort of lumpy and rough. If we were to make the same thing today, we would apply mortar to each piece of dish, apply it to the cement base and when it was all set, we would apply grout. So much easier and better looking.

There is something about the surface of mosaic. Something about the way it glistens and sparks in the sunlight. I was hooked with that first mosaic. Even now when I get a piece done I rush outside with it to see it in the sunlight. All in all, the birdbath was the beginning of a wonderful journey.

Creating art with recycled materials is a triple thrill. You wake up a real sense of creativity, get to see dishes and ornaments in a whole new way and hey, you get to make art-without-guilt, as I love to tell my mosaic students. To see more of our mosaics and what can be done with old dishes, have a boo at our mosaic gallery pages.

Share