Two Mosaic Studies Created With Broken Dishes

 Studies are like sketches or perhaps experiments. I quite like the idea of doing studies, just to see where an idea will lead, curious to see what it will look like when done.

Just working on small 6 inch by 6 inch pieces of wood as a base for the mosaic studies, I went through my many many containers of dish bits and put together a small set of colors and textures that appealed to me. The first piece was made using bits of dishes that I’d cut into only rectangular or squarish bits. The pieces aren’t exact or tidy rectangles or squares like you’d get with normal mosaics, but the uneven, variances that you get when cutting up dishes which I think adds to the surface interest.

I arranged them in an intuitive order, balancing the colors and textures as I went.

Mosaic in Broken Dishes, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Then, looking at my work table, I realized I had quite a few triangular pieces scattered about and decided that, as my next study, I would use only triangular bits of the same dishes. An entirely different composition but still fun to look at.

Mosaic in Broken Dishes, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Looking at them now, I’m quite enjoying them and seeing many possibilities as well. We’ve become interested in surface design in the last few years and Will and I have been having a bit of fun teaching ourselves how to make repeat patterns. And we’ve also been applying our work to all sorts of other products from prints to pillows on our various online Print on Demand shops like Society 6 and Red Bubble. Looking at these studies, I can see some fabric design ideas, prints and other possibilities. It’s a whole new avenue to explore. Watch this space to see what we make with these…..much more to come.

(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 )

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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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An Experiment in Too Many Stripes

Stripe mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

 I do have sort of a weakness for the black and white stripes. I like to add just touch of stripes here and there, in a lot of artworks. They just jazz up a pattern or surface.  We make a type of mosaic called Pique Assiette, made with broken dishes. So you can imagine how excited I got on spying a whole stack of dishes with black and white stripes in the thrift store. But, believe it or not, I actually left them behind, on the shelf, when on a dish buying trip with mosaic students.

In the end, of course, I just couldn’t resist. I did get exceptionally lucky when I went back on the seniors discount day and found them still there and promptly snapped them up and also got 30% off! Always nice to get a discount, you know.

So now I had this huge stash of black and white stripes to work with. It occurred to me that instead of using them for just an accent here and there, that I could go mad and also have some fun experimenting with using way too many black and white stripes, just to see what would happen…. especially with a few other dishes to take it right over the top! That’s me, just an artistic rebel, ha, ha.

I’d started with just the stripes, the black and white with a “river” of colorful stripes and it just needed something. Which was when I noticed I did just happen to have a few of these bits of cups with black and white bulls eye on them.

Choice of dishes for mosaic, summerhouseart.com

Finally, almost done with the tedious breaking, gluing and fitting. You’ll have to excuse the glue everywhere.  There’s just no way to avoid that messy gluey stage.

mosaic, pre grout, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And now a new decision to make.  What color grout?  And here Will came to the rescue, by Photoshopping a few choices.

Grout color test, summerhouseart.com

Since I was already over the top, I did consider really colorful grout. Then black too, but I decided that the uneven black paired with the very straight black on the dishes just wouldn’t work. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the pale grey set off all the pieces and that I really couldn’t/shouldn’t push the composition any more than I already had.

Here it is again, Finished!

Stripe mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And a side view too. 

Striped mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I’m quite happy with it, oddly. I know it’s over the top, too much pattern, eye popping, on the verge of looking like camouflage, but it has a nice sense of fun to it. The size, by the way, is 8 in x 8 in.  Still haven’t come up with a title….

Oh, Will just came up with a perfect title…..”One, Two, Many”

(BTW if you’d like to comment, and we do like 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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A Deceptively Delicate Floral Patchwork Mosaic

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

There is, to me, a visual connection between pique assiette mosaic and patchwork quilting. In fact, one thing I’ve noticed with many of my mosaic students, was that those who had previously worked with fabric patchwork, had no trouble at all visualizing a patchwork of patterns with broken dishes. They instinctively reached for dishes in the Thrift shop, that though very different in pattern, had a thread of color or style that could easily work together.

This little mosaic is only 8 inches by 8 inches. Before I started it I had been looking at fabric patchwork and as a change from my last much more abstract piece, I decided to use up a few of the floral designs I’d been collecting.

from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

As I was working, arranging bits of dishes and deciding on the patterns and colors,

from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

it occurred to me to introduce a bit of surface relief with lids, a bit roundness to contrast the square format of the mosaic.

I happen to have a rather nice collection of orphaned lids and was spoiled for choice. I left spaces for the lids as I went along,

 from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

but glued them down before grouting.

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

As I work in my studio, I like to play all sorts of music and I found that I seemed to be listening to a lot of music by women. Which got me thinking about quilts made by women and how floral patterns are so often associated as being feminine.

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And it occurred to me as I worked away, cutting and gluing, sometimes singing along, and sometimes pondering, that quilts, fabric, flowers and women are often associated with being delicate and only beautiful. But women know that that look of delicacy may be very deceptive. Women, far from being the “delicate sex”, have a strength of their own, often shown by their nurturing skills. And fabric quilts, while beautiful and fragile looking are often made in hard times, and still survive  for many years, a bit frayed but still strong and warm.

from Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Flowers too, while being delicate and having a short life, are sometimes the crowning glory of robust plants that have pushed up through hard soil and even the cracks in cement! OK, I suppose, I was having one of those feminist moments.

But, as I broke dishes and reassembled the pieces into other patterns, I also thought of the strong women in my life that have dealt with and are dealing with breast cancer, and just how strong you have to be to come through that challenge.

At any rate, back to my little mosaic. It is a mixture of delicate flowers and even delicate china, as in that fragile golden cup handle that just felt right attached to the side. It is probably the most “feminine” looking mosaic I’ve done for a long time, and I love it.

Floral Patchwork mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

 

 

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What a Difference a Grout Makes

In the summer, Will and I often work together on a big mosaic project, facing each other across a worktable, under the pergola, which is covered in vanilla scented clematis. It’s a time that we enjoy as we chat and work, while listening to music and enjoying the aviary that is our summer garden. Usually, the project keeps us at work for a few weeks.

But this summer we didn’t get a chance to and missing that time of working together, we decided to spend some time together instead in my studio each creating a small mosaic, but still enjoying our chats and music. There is something very companionable about working with another artist even if on different projects.

We’d picked up some 8 inch x 8 inch wooden box panels at the artist supply store and after a quick gessoing to give us an undistracting ground, we set to work.  We work in a type of mosaic called Pique Assiette, which uses broken dishes.  I’d saved a lovely plate of black speckles on white, precious to me because I only had the one. I also had a small amount of black plates with a jagged white line that I’d set aside long ago for some special project. Today seemed like the time to use them. Will, on the other hand, wanted to create something with mostly white dishes, with a minimal design and color. We save the middle of dishes just for the great supply of whites, once you’ve used up the fancy edges on top of the dishes.

So after snatching time in the studio over a few weeks, we finally got to the grouting stage. And then of course, the big question is, what color grout?

I’d already pretty well decided on black since I wanted to set off the white bits with black grout and create a contrast with the lines created on the black dishes with white lines. Here is the piece without grout. I especially enjoyed how often the piece of black plate had these wonderful little x’s or crosses that I could feature in the design.

Ungrouted Speckle Mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.comshell, summerhouseart.com

And then, voila, the difference with grout.

 

Speckle mosaic grouted by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And Will also decided on black grout to create even more interest in the design he’d created. And as I alluded to in the title, I’m showing how different the look of each piece is after grouting. In his piece the contrast is the greatest and I couldn’t resist showing the difference. Without the grout his white areas are as one, a white background united setting off the arcs.

Ungrouted Blue Over mosaic by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

With black grout the whites are suddenly set apart and create a whole new texture. A whole new composition!

Blue Over mosaic by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

 

One thing that we have learned is that with black grout you have to be ready for surprises and be able to use them. The surprise is that all those little scratches on your white dishes that you were unaware of, suddenly show up when you apply black grout. You can look at them as a blemish or you can look at them with an artist’s eyes and see them as line work that adds texture to the whites. So the latter is what we expected and used.

The other interesting design element that I like about working on this type of a panel surface is that you get to play with the top and sides too. So I thought I’d share those with you too. Love those little x’s!

Top side Speckled mosaic, by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

Right side Speckled mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Bottom side Speckled mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

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A Whole New Look at a Couple of Our Mosaics

Will and I have been wondering how our Pique Assiette mosaics might look on entirely new Products, like prints for instance.  We weren’t sure how mosaic would translate into print.  Recently I posted about a table top/ wall piece by Will called Blue Fandango.

Blue Fandango Mosaic, Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Since we have a shop on Society6, we chose them to do our first experiment.  They do such a great job of printing on all types of products from Prints to Shower curtains.  It’s all Print on Demand so only printed when ordered.  Just click on the pic to take you to our shop on Society 6. And I have to say we were quite pleased with how Blue Fandango looked as a print…

Blue fandango art print Society 6 by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com

So, we thought why not a Blue Fandango Pillow?

Blue Fandango Pillow Society6 summerhouseart.com

And then how about a Blue Fandango laptop cover?

Blue fandango laptop skin Society6 by summerhouseart.com

Which made us think of other mosaics like the tray with the Toucan colors that I posted about some time ago.

Toucan Tray by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And we tried that as as shower curtain…

Toucan shower curtain Society 6 by summerhouseart.com

Then an Iphone case.  I actually like the way the glass marble ties in with the camera on the phone.

Toucan phone case Society6 by summerhouseart.com

and thought, hey why not leggings?  You’re never quite sure how a design will wrap around, but we were pleasantly surprised.   Look for all of our products that we’ve created on Society 6 at our Summerhouse Art shop there.

Toucan leggings Society6, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

 

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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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