Two Students Create Two Very Different Mosaics

I teach Pique Assiette mosaics, a type of mosaic made with broken dishes,  in my tiny, little studio, a sunny former bedroom in a 1922 house. This little room has a big work table and is full of dishes and supplies for all the art forms I indulge in. It’s just the right size for mosaic classes for one or two students, no more. And that’s the way I like it, because it allows me to really teach to the needs of each person and it also allows each student to do exactly what they want, or at least have a chance to discover what they want. And such was the case with Irina and her work mate, Jessica.

Jessica knew exactly what she wanted to do from the first class. She had been inspired by an image of a horse, one from a logo of a computer game her husband liked. So we loosely followed that and created a plywood backing shaped as a shield. The shopping class was easy since she’d already decided to look for white and blue dishes. The trick with a piece like this is to create lots of texture and color interest by intuitively and loosely mixing up the shades of white and blue dish shards. It did become rather a big project and she even had to run out to buy more dishes to finish but she did get a sense of how to create a lovely surface. The mosaic took more time to do and required a bit of delay before grouting. But I’d rather students had the extra time to work and finish what they envisioned in an enjoyable manner.

Here she is, looking pretty happy, after the grouting was finally done, with the mosaic on my easel.

Student Jessica with finished mosaic, summerhouseart.com

The finished piece has this lovely ancient look and feel, a beautiful roughness that the original logo never had.

Student Jessica's Finished Mosaic, summerhouseart.com

Irina, was, much like most of my students, not quite sure of what she wanted to do. This is where the shopping class often shows the way, when you find some dishes or colors you like. Making a mosaic with broken dishes is much looser and intuitive than the traditional mosaics. Mosaics done with glass tesserae, can be quite tight and often lend themselves to very symmetrical designs. I encouraged Irina to tap into the intuitive flow of the patterns and arrange the pieces until they “felt” right. She was really terrific about trying all sorts of arrangements. But I think, as the crunch came to finish in time to grout, she just finally stopped trying to get it perfect and just let the “flow” happen. And I’m so glad she did!

Here she is working hard cleaning off the grout in the last class, still wondering, would it all work and would she like it.

Student Irina, cleaning grout, summerhouseart.com

Well, I think she’s looking happy with the result, don’t you?

Student Irina with her Mosaic, summerhouseart.com

And here it is, a closer look at finished mosaic.  I think she did the most wonderful job, creating a lovely, colorful flow of flowers and colors. It’s just a small piece, but it’s got a real song to it.

Student Irina's Finished Mosaic, summerhouseart.com

Two students, two very different results, but both learning how to use their intuition and how to be loose with the shards of broken dishes and by doing so, finding the flow in creating. Turned out perfectly I’d say!

(BTW if you’d like to comment, and we do appreciate comments, please just click on the title to bring up the post with a spot for comments at the bottom.)

 

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The Lucky Finds of a Dish and a Fish

Mosaic Student Dianne's mosaic dish, summerhouseart.com

This very beautiful mosaic is the work of my Student Dianne. As the title of this post suggests, it’s the result of a couple of lucky finds; a lovely pewter dish and a dish sporting a fish.

In my mosaic classes, I teach a type of mosaic called Pique Assiette, which is making mosaics with broken dishes. On the first class, after I’ve totally overwhelmed someone ( in a good way of course ) with all the mosaic possibilities, given them a very brief taste of how dishes break, and what to look for, we set off to Thrift stores to shop. And that’s when the fun begins. First, it’s all about looking for dishes and colors that spark something for you. Then second, it’s all about luck and finding something that makes it all happen. Dianne was very lucky. On the shopping class she found the very unusual pewter dish. The design on the edge was fantastic and we both agreed that the dish itself would make a great place for a mosaic. Then, during the week, she was lucky again and snapped up a dish with a crackle design surrounding a fish.

The first class was a time of trying out all sorts of ideas. From creating a totally abstract design, without the fish and then finding a way to incorporate the fish at the edge of the plate and working all the other colors and textures around it.

A lot of designing is just about trying things out. Laying out pieces and looking and wondering. You have to follow your instinct. And sometimes, I’ve even taken up pieces I’ve glued down and started over. When Dianne returned the following week, the first thing she said was that she was glad I’d told her about removing pieces and starting over even after gluing them down. Because she’d done a lot of that. I could totally understand her progress since it is much like mine. I’m slow and thoughtful and I just keep rearranging until it “feels” right. So it was great to have a student who gets that idea. And as you can see, all that rearranging and listening to whether it “felt” right had a wonderful result.

The last week, we grouted and again were lucky as I’d just tested a grout called silver and it was perfect to pull together the silver of the dish with the mosaic itself. Here it is ungrouted.

Mosaic Student Dianne's mosaic dish, ungrouted, summerhouseart.com

And here is a pretty happy Dianne with her lovely mosaic…

Mosaic Student Dianne with the finished mosaic dish, summerhouseart.com

 

I happen to know that Dianne is already planning another mosaic and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

(BTW if you’d like to comment, and we do appreciate comments, please just click on the title to bring up the post with a spot for comments at the bottom.)

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A New Direction: Creating Small Mosaic Studies

Floral mosaic study, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

 Lately all you hear is declutter, declutter, throw out, lighten your load, etc, ad nauseam. Recently, I even saw a book that claimed your health would improve by throwing things out. It’s the latest trend.

Well, I happen to be one of those people who hardly ever throws things away. You may think you are throwing something out but it has to go somewhere, like the garbage dump, if it can’t be recycled. As they say, there really is no “away”. We do, however, recycle a lot. In fact, we hardly ever have any garbage for the garbage people to pick up.

I make Pique Assiette mosaics, which means, creating mosaic surfaces from broken dishes. So, essentially, I’ve been making art from all those dishes that others got rid of. I suppose I really should be thankful for all those people who donated all that “clutter” to thrift stores.

Over the years of making mosaics, I’ve accumulated quite a lot of leftover bits and pieces that didn’t make it into the latest mosaic. It’s not clutter. It’s all sorted by color and pattern and stored in recycled salad containers. As I say, there is a lot of it. I just can’t throw it all out. I always have a feeling that someday I might need a certain color or pattern. Of course, whenever I can, my students benefit from my stash of broken bits should they need some color or maybe a floral pattern to augment their pieces.

Which brings me to this latest little mosaic at the top of the post. Looking at all my lovely stash of bits and pieces, I’ve decided to start creating small mosaics. This one is just 6 inches by 6 inches. For the time being I’m planning to make little studies, putting together all those small and precious bits I’ve been saving. It’ll be a nice change from the larger projects I’ve done before. Who knows where it will end? Or how many I’ll make or if maybe I’ll have a show of small mosaics somewhere or maybe post them on our Etsy shop.

This little mosaic, with it’s floral design, will be a gift for a niece’s wedding. Something small and I hope, precious, that she can enjoy in her new home.

Floral mosaic study, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

(BTW if you’d like to comment, and we do appreciate comments, please just click on the title to bring up the post with a spot for comments at the bottom.)

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Two Very Different and Unique Floral Mosaic Table Tops

What I like about my mosaic classes is the way it’s never boring for me, as a teacher. Unlike many instructors, I’m never constantly teaching the exact same project, over and over again. With my classes, each student gets to pick their own project and I just basically facilitate them in their plans. However, that said, students sometimes do pick the same type of thing to create, but I find that they never ever do the that same thing in quite the same way!

For instance, quite a few students do pick a table top as their first project, since it’s a nice sized first project. But, I have to add that each one ends up creating something totally unique and very different. And that’s what keeps it all interesting. For instance, Gail and Jane, two students who took classes separately this spring both decided to make mosaic table tops.

Gail had actually come to her first class with just one thing on her mind, which was to reconstitute a treasured plate, that had been accidentally broken. But I knew that she would have lots of time after doing that and I urged her to do something more in the classes, and create another project. After our shopping class where she’d found lots of floral themed dishes, she decided to create a table top. Hers is a lovely floral arrangement that incorporated whole plates surrounded by a mixture of colors and textures. Turned out great didn’t it?

Student Gail's Mosiac Table top summerhouseart.com

And yes, we did come up with a scheme to resurrect her other treasured plate too. Luckily, I found another wooden plate to glue it on to and she surrounded the original plate with a complimentary mosaic border.  She was happy to be able to display it again. A success, we think.

Student Gail's scenic plate with mosaic border, summerhouseart.com

Now Jane, my last student, also ended up deciding to do a floral table top. But, here, the similarity ends. Her design is unique to her own vision and very different again. Jane came to the 2nd class after the shopping class with a plan of action. She’d sketched out a garden picture, complete with flowers springing up from grass and dirt, all against the backdrop of a blue sky. It all came together beautifully. Each flower, a distinct set of floral dishes and the sky is a mixture of dishes in all sorts of textures but all various shades of blue. The whole arrangement worked brilliantly!  So there we have it, two floral Pique Assiette table tops but each totally and beautifully unique.

Student Jane's mosaic table top, summerhouseart.com

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Another Student Enjoying Mosaics

Summerhouseart Student Tanya's mosaic mirror

The first class in my mosaic classes is all about possibilities. First, I like to show students as many possibilities of what they can do with broken dishes as I can. I give them a tour of all my mosaics, then I show them lots of books of mosaics and for about 10 minutes I give them a taste of actually breaking dishes in my studio with my two wheel cutters. And then …. we go Shopping at Thrift stores for dishes to break! Everyone’s favourite part!

Some students are overwhelmed with all the possibilities and some just get even more excited to start. Tanya was the latter. In fact, between the 1st class and the 2nd one, she made a couple of small mirrors on her own at home! For her project she chose to make a pretty good sized mirror, which was going to be bit of work. But Tanya, who has her own studio/gallery in the Yukon where she makes jewelry, is quite used to getting down to work. And that she did.

As you many have gathered, I teach Pique Assiette mosiacs, which is a type of mosaics made with broken dishes and I always encourage students, when we go shopping, to look for color and patterns they’re really attracted to. I’ve always found that you tend to actually use those dishes, and may ignore the ones that you don’t have quite the affinity for. Tanya chose a lot of blue dishes, in a variety of patterns and I threw in a little donation of one of my hoarded abstract plates to use too.

She had the mirror ready for grouting for the last class. This is us cleaning up the grout and glue from each piece of mosaic.  And yes, that is an old toothbrush I’m using, works really well for this task.

Summerhouseart Student Tanya's mosaic mirror

We’d chosen a grout that would set off every piece. A little comparison here to show the finishing touch the grout makes.

Summerhouseart Student Tanya's mosaic mirror

Summerhouseart Student Tanya's mosaic mirror

One of the things Tanya wanted was to create a mirror that could be hung either horizontally or vertically as a diamond. And for that we devised a pretty balanced design so that it would look great either way.

Summerhouseart Student Tanya's mosaic mirror

Tanya had a far reaching plan too. She wanted to offer more than jewelry in her gallery. When she posted her little mirrors and her finished class mirror on her Facebook, she was already getting orders for more! And no wonder!  I think she’s a natural at mosaic.

She’ll be heading back to the Yukon in the spring and has been busy finding more dishes to take back to her studio there to create more mosaics.  She creates some lovely jewelry too at her gallery/studio Motherlode Jewellery.

 

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The Little Mosaic Table That Caused Happy Giggling

I just love having students that just can’t wait to start making mosaics. All that enthusiasm just makes the classes all the more fun. And I also don’t mind when a student says they have never done anything creative ever before. Because I know that making a mosaic is a great way to discover your creative side. Bonnie fit both of those categories.
The mosaic classes were a gift to herself in a time of lots of personal responsibilities and often stress with elderly family and other things. It was to be a chance to just have some fun and learn something new. I assured her that the meditative aspect of making a mosaic is just what you need when life is stressful.

Student Bonnie with Helen Bushell, mosaic class at Summerhouse Art
The first class is always me overwhelming the student with all the possibilities of what they can choose to do. The more possibilities I showed her, the more Bonnie just got more excited to start. So off we went shopping and at the Sally Ann Thrift Store, as we like to call it, we found a perfect little table. And, since I always encourage everyone to only buy things that really spark for them, Bonnie found lots of really colorful dishes to break. The next two classes were lots of fun. Bonnie is a really cheerful person and also an excellent student. She picked up quickly on every little bit of instruction I gave, from creating texture and movement, to learning how to cut dishes up and how to make the pieces fit.
The last class is the grouting class. And by that time, Bonnie had made the decision to paint the table bright yellow, (it had been a rather unhappy brown), to play off all the color in the dishes on the table top. I loved her choice.
To make sure her little table looked finished she decided to paint it the week before the grouting. I’m so glad she did! It made all the work of grouting well worth it. And yes that is us using old toothbrushes to clean each of the pieces. That’s the beauty of pique assiette, you get to do a lot of recycling.

So here it is! We decided to take its picture out in the garden in the sunshine. Mosaic always looks so wonderful in the sun! And, as for Bonnie being worried about never having done anything creative before? Well, with her enthusiasm and hard work, she had surpassed that goal. She’d created her first piece and it looked good! I know she’s discovered her creative side and I’m sure she’s a natural at making mosaics. When I emailed her all the photos we took of the classes, I told her again how much we  loved how the table turned out. She wrote right back and said, “ I just love the table too. Every time I walk by it I just giggle happily.” Can’t ask for more than that!

Student Bonnie's Mosaic Table, Summerhouse Art mosaic classes
Student Bonnie’s Mosaic Table, mosaic classes, summerhouseart.com

 

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More Student Mosaics, These in Delicate Blues

I often ask students of my mosaic classes when the pieces are done, if they would mind if I shared their work on my blog. And sometimes they’re quite happy to share. Like the two students I had just recently, both busy moms, who managed to fit in the classes as a morning out. Jillian and her sister-in-law, Shannon, were so much fun to work with.

My studio is very small so, of course, I only have very small classes, two students, tops . I teach a type of mosaic called Pique Assiette, which is done with broken dishes and lots of bits and pieces, even ornaments sometimes. Although I often teach just one student at a time, I have found over the years that encouraging friends to take the class together is much more fun for everyone. No stress, just friends enjoying learning something new and having a good time.

Their shopping class yielded not only some nice dishes but also the bases for their mosaics. Shannon found a frame that she will fill in with a blackboard later and use for a notice board at home. She included bits of tile from a home renovation and also some dishes with blue and white designs.

Shannon's-mosaic-2wm

As you can see, in this close up, the result works beautifully.

shannon-mosaic-clswm

And Jillian found one of those beveled boards that when the picture on it was painted out, became a good base for this gorgeous little abstract. Her mosaic was made from a mixture of striped dishes and dishes with delicate pattern as well as some plastic tiles from a craft shop. The composition, very intuitive, works very well too. After a bit of light blue grout, to tie it all together, we were all very pleased. The results were stunning and I’m sure these Pique Assiette Mosiac pieces will add a wonderful personal touch their homes.   Later, Jillian painted the edge a lovely magenta which brought out the color in the mosaic.

Jillian's-mosaic

JIllian's finished mosaic

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Showing off some Student Mosaics

Every now and then, it’s nice to show off the work done by the students who take my mosaic classes. Shelley, who had always wanted to do something in mosaic, brought along her friend Vicki. Both were a lot of fun to teach and said they wouldn’t mind me showing their mosaics on my blog.

Although neither of them had a definite project in mind, they were ready to try anything. The type of mosaic I teach is Pique Assiette, basically made from thrift dishes. The shopping class was where they found their projects. Both found wicker tables that just needed Will to cut out a plywood top for.

Shelley’s Mosaic Table

Shelley found lots of floral dishes that were in colors that all worked well together, but worried that it would all look too busy. Vicki, on the other hand, wasn’t sure about a few black plates with white stripes found in the Bibles for Missions Thrift store. As luck would have it, she then found some great old vintage dishes at home in green. And somehow, as I assured them it would, all of it came together beautifully.

Shelley’s colors and flowers when mixed together with floral bits and solid colors created an overall summery pattern and Vicki’s white striped plates totally worked perfectly and echoed the white wicker table she found.

Mosaic has a way of doing that.

Vicki's Mosaic Table
Vicki’s Mosaic Table

 

 

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Another Student Taking Mosaic in Her Own Direction

I never really know where my mosaic classes might take a student. Some only try the medium out on a one time basis, mosaics being one more thing in a series of hobby classes they “taste test”. Some take off with doing more of the Pique Assiette type of mosaics I teach, like Murray Goode, who was featured recently. And some use the class as a jumping off point to other forms of mosaic. Such was the case with a student I had a few years ago, Anne Hauser.

I always try to encourage every student to work on projects of their own design. My classes feature a shopping class where we look for dishes to break and use since that is my focus in mosaics. But the method of mosaic lends itself to other types of tesserae, like glass. It’s always interesting to hear from my former students and see where they have taken the original classes.

Anne did stay with dishes at first, as shown in this very creative composition she made of a broken teapot. The teapot had been a favourite of a friend and Anne recreated it in a mosaic for her after it had broken. I liked not only the sentiment but the composition was unique too. The pot was the only mosaic on the surface, not surrounded by mosaic in the background. Quite novel.

Anne-Hauser-teapot-mosaic

Anne says she hardly ever works with dishes anymore and has switched to using glass now. She created a music themed piece for her husband as a gift where there is a bit of transition to glass. The sax is from a plate and she added gold sprinkles to the grout as it set. The rest of the piece is from glass. Anne-Hauser-note-mosaic

She’s gone on from there to create collages of a sort with mosaic surrounding photos under glass and a mirror frame with glass and rhinestones! As she said recently in an email   “….I seem to have gravitated to glass and tiles along with odds and ends that I find. I’m working on one now that incorporates a pewter sailboat, beach sand and pebbles, some tree leaves I made from putty, and glass.  Not sure how it’s all going to turn out, but interesting”

I really like that she is having fun and sounds quite fearless, really, with not being sure how the piece will look in the end, but being ok with that.  That’s real creativity.

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Always Fun When Students Get Hooked on Mosaics

 

I’ve given classes to a lot of students over the years and I’ve always enjoyed having a chance to help people create their first Pique Assiette mosaics. Some people come to the first class with a project that they’ve been hoping to do for years and bring dishes they’ve saved just for that purpose. Others just want to try it out and we find dishes and perhaps a table to mosaic at the “Shopping Class”. And I always know that making mosaics won’t always click for everyone the same way it did for me.

Murray Goode's Dragonfly Tray
Murray Goode’s Dragonfly Tray

It’s always a bonus when some of my students keep in touch and send me emails with mosaic projects that they’ve done since those first classes. It’s so much fun to know that I’ve played a little part in getting someone else “hooked” on making mosaics.

Murray Goode's Mosaic coffee table
Murray Goode’s Mosaic coffee table

Murray Goode is one of those people who just clicked with mosaics. I sensed that he was delighted with the medium right away and I enjoyed getting a few emails later with more of his projects. Murray was still working as a school teacher when I first met him, but now he’s retired and finally has really got the time to indulge in this art form.

Murray Goode's Blue Willow Table
Murray Goode’s Blue Willow Table

We were in touch just recently and I discovered that not only is he still making mosaics, but is exhibiting and has his own website too! He has a few pieces being shown at Cabin 12 Restaurant here in Victoria. I’ve picked just a few pieces today to post, but encourage anyone to go to his website to see the work of someone who is really enjoying himself making mosaics. I know I’ll be following his website from now on, just to see what new mosaics he’s created.

 

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