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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Upcycling to Create a New Boho Daybed

Before: the old couch summerhouseart.com

Ah, Before and After. This is the story of an old hide-a-bed couch being replaced with an up-cycled Daybed very thriftily made and done up in Boho style.

After: New Daybed summerhouseart.com

 The old couch, with its unbleached cotton cover hiding stains, old age, many, many years of wear, not to mention large shreddy bits made by long gone cats, just had to go! It just so happened that we had most of the components for a new daybed, stored in the basement, waiting to be transformed. Something much more comfy and better looking than a lumpy, old hide-a-bed. We’d just been waiting for a little time to tackle it.

First, had to get the old couch hauled away by a company that would make sure it all got recycled. We had the rails of an old Ikea single bed, missing the slats. Not sure, but I think they may have been used for some other project. We had a couple of substantial wooden chair or couch arms that one of our sons had found years ago and brought home.

Will, stapling the slats made from pallets, summerhouseart.com

We had saved the two foam seat cushions from the old couch to make new back cushions from. We cut those in half with an old electric carving knife and made four cushions from them.

Old foam seats now backs for new daybed, summerhouseart.com

Will, in the mean time had ingeniously figured out a way to attach the arms of the chair to the rails of the bed. And like so many people these days…. he recycled some pallets into slats for the bed. The only new thing we ended up getting was the actual foam mattress. An Eco foam mattress, so no off-gassing etc.

The aforementioned unbleached cotton cover was sewn into “new” covers for the foam. And the material from a thrift shop duvet cover became new covers for the cushions.

And finally, a chance to get creative with all my fabric stash, collected from garage sales and thrift shops. Chaos while deciding on the fabrics I’d use.

Fabric chaos, deciding on fabrics for new pillows, summerhouseart.com

Lovely new pillows, in the Boho Style.

2 new Pillows for the Boho Daybed, summerhouseart.com

Love how the fabric looks with an iris.

Iris with new pillow fabric, summerhouseart.com

And tah dah! New daybed! We love it! Finally a place for napping where you can actually stretch right out and really relax. Makes a nice couch too.

New Daybed, summerhouseart.com

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Playing With Collage on Quiet Afternoon

Round the Bend, collage, by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Round the Bend, collage, by Will Bushell

We look for old magazines at garage sales, but with a difference. Not necessarily to read, although we often do, but we are looking more for interesting papers and colors and images to use one day in collage. Lately, I’ve fallen in love with the inside of business envelopes, they often have such lovely textures to use. My favourite for now is Speckle #10.

Map line with speckle, collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Map line with speckle, collage, by Helen Bushell

I’m also afraid that I hardly ever throw anything out. So I also have a box of scraps from former collage afternoons. Just in case we might need that particular letter or color or texture.

It's all in the wrist, collage by Will Bushell, summerhouseart.com
It’s all in the wrist, collage by Will Bushell,

Someone once commented on the fact that we’ve got an awful lot of stuff saved, from magazines, to scraps of stained glass, old dishes and ornaments, and even a stack of old furniture. They asked if we are hoarders. Well, I replied, artists are never hoarders, we’re just collectors with plans.

Grid with color, collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Grid with color, collage, by Helen Bushell

So of course, if we decide on a quiet afternoon to make some collages, we’re ready to roll, or should I say cut and paste in minutes. We have old Train mags, old Wallpaper mags, all sorts of old magazines, we have a big glue stick and a few pairs of scissors. So the kitchen table is cleared and the fun begins! And sometimes, the chaos of magazines, scraps and glue stick might remain on the table for a few days and we eat our breakfasts around it all. Until……one day we say, let’s put it away until another collage day comes along.

Speckle #10, collage by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Speckle #10, collage by Helen Bushell

As you can see, we have very different styles, even though we are both working intuitively. I’m sort of the type who likes to keep piling it on until I like it, the more color the better. And Will, he works slowly, more deliberately, finally creating a perfectly balanced, minimal composition that I always love immediately. Even without the titles, it’s pretty easy to tell which collages are whose, right? Hope you enjoy.

Tornado, collage, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Tornado, collage, by Helen Bushell,
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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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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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Creating Strip Quilted Cozies with Men’s Striped Shirts

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Ok, I admit it, I do like stripes. I like it in fabric, in drawings, whatever. I recalled seeing some quilts done in men’s shirt fabric and really liked the look created when doing strip quilting.

Luckily, when it came time to create a new tea cosy, it just happened that I had a couple of striped shirts that Will didn’t want anymore in my fabric stash. Then, in a recent shopping trip to the Thrift store, I lucked out finding a striking red and yellow striped blouse.

Next, it was just setting some time aside to create some strips of stripes going every which way and basically, sewing them together creatively.  And I do mean creatively, not accurately, since I tend to be a bit of a slap dash sewer. But I just happen to like that look, so it’s ok.

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I figured, since Will has recently gotten himself a coffee press, might as well make a coffee cosy too. I think we’re both pretty happy with the results.  And yes, that is Queen Victoria poking out behind the tea cosy.  Well, the Brits do like tea, so where else would you put her?

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A Deco Style Magazine Table Gets a Facelift

Roxy-beforewmRoxy-front-3quarterwmThis little magazine table with its waterfall top and deco style handle grabbed our attention at a garage sale. It was a bit worse for wear and looked like someone had tried to refurbish it and given up.

But we saw possibilities and quickly scooped it up and stowed it away in our little station wagon. You can’t beat a small station wagon for garage sailing. Just fold those seats down and you’ve got lots of room for hauling all sorts of good stuff home.

Roxy-sidewm
In fact, speaking of cars, the style of the table brought to mind cars of the 50’s, some with two colors. Lovely rounded cars with curved chrome details, in colors like two tones of green or maybe black and pink. Whatever happened to painting cars with two tones? So much more interesting to look at than all these gray cars you see. Our car is gray and I keep looking at it and wishing I could change it. But I digress. Back to the little table.

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Will liked the two tone paint idea and chose a lovely soft almost mint green and black. The body became the mint green. The magazine holders and the contrasting veneer on the top, he painted black.

And then, just to give it a bit more pizzaz, a touch of orange to echo the rounded elements. And now that the little table had a whole new look, we gave it a new name too…. “Roxy”. Roxy will be featured on our online shop on Diggit right here in Victoria.

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A Recycled Post about Recycling for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day or for many Earth Week.  I like to think that every day is really Earth Day.  In honor of the day, I’ve decided to do a bit of recycling.  The following is a post I wrote way back in 2010, but I think it still works.  I’d like to share a bit about how to recycle in the garden and even how to use recycled dishes to create art in the garden.

Actually, Recycling, could be the main theme of our lives.  Now it’s called thrifting too.  We’re a couple of old Hippie artists, who were there for the start of the recycling movement. For us it’s just a way of life. We buy everything used and we also get a lot of “good stuff” as I like to call it, absolutely free. Best price there is. And as I mentioned in other posts, it’s a pretty abundant lifestyle too.

Of course we compost. Every scrap of banana peel, tea bag, coffee ground and egg shell is collected in these recycled coffee bins that I brought home from a job. The tiles on the backsplash behind them are all recycled. In fact every tile was actually free and found at garage sales or from sample boards thrown out by tile stores.

kitchen-compost
The composter the food scraps go into, was also free.  Someone in the neighborhood was tossing it. Our rainbarrel is a recycled drum formerly used for soap.

black-composterIn the green house, I recycle too. Every pot from years past is saved to be reused, trays are sometimes taped up to plug leaks but are still put to work. These Black eyed Susan vines are sprouting in cookie packaging.

cake-packaging

The seeds for the Purple Cone flower, which I am rather impatiently waiting to see sprout, are planted and living under the protection of packaging, which in its previous life housed a cake bought for my birthday a short while ago.

In it’s next use it may become storage for broken dish shards in my studio, like the many, many salad green containers already put to a second use.

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Out in the garden we have, now wait a second, I have to mentally count, at least 4 wheelbarrows. Only 3 are shown here.  All free or almost free. All recycled. I have an abundance of wheelbarrows you could say. I think they are kind of beautiful, in a sort of colorful, shabby, knocked about and used, way.

3-wheelbarrows

 

Now that I’ve reached the garden with my recycling theme, I’d like to show you a few pieces of our garden art. Now maybe art for the garden is an odd sort of theme for Earth Day but a lot of our art is made from recyled materials. The mosaic in the herb garden is a recycled chimney covered in old dishes and tiles.

mosaic-chimney

The stepping stones are all made using recycled dishes and tiles, a type of mosaic art called Pique Assiette. In fact, all of my mosaic artwork is made from recycled dishes, tiles and ornaments.  If you would like to see how to make them check my post Creating a Mosaic Stepping Stone Helen’s Way.

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And old sink found in, I must admit, unashamedly, a dumpster dive, is home to our succulents.

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The chime that Bill fashioned out of an old anniversary cup found at a garage sale and hung with flattened silver cutlery is another recycled artwork. There’s much more art to see on one of my previous posts about garden art called Bill’s Driftwood Chair and Other Garden Art Whimsies.

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There are so many things that we can recycle and reuse for our gardens from artwork to garden furniture to garden tools and implements. There really is no need to go out and buy new most of the time. I always like to say the world is an abundant place as long as you don’t mind second hand. Not buying new saves resources and cuts pollution. Buying used saves more stuff from ending up in landfills too.  And the best thing is getting out and about on the weekends looking for deals at garage sales ( we always plot the most efficient course to save gas), enjoying the  sun at a beach on the way from one sale and the next.   Life is good.  So that’s my little, I hope, upbeat, message in honor of Earth Day.  Even the post is recycled.

(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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Bench Swing Transformation

 

Today, a little story of a colorful “make over”, so to speak, of a tired little bench swing, transformed by taking on the colors of the garden.

 

beforeafterfin

 

A couple of years ago, Bill and I, on one of our garage sailing Saturdays, found this old bench swing. It was kind of old and worn, kind of rusty, but I could see it, in my mind, totally transformed. And for only $7 to buy and another $7 to have delivered, well, we didn’t have to think twice.

bench-before

But as life goes on, not everything gets done right away. And so the swing was used as it was for a couple of summers, and spent it’s winters under a tarp under the greenhouse. But I didn’t forget my vision.

 

And finally this summer the time was right for a colorful makeover. We were planning a party and I decided, ok, this was its year to shine. So preparations were made, the tarp laid out to catch paint drips and the paint, which just happened to have been bought for other purposes, turned out to be perfect for my plan.

 

The metal framework was the first to be painted. A lovely pistachio green, painted on by brush. I’m not a big fan of spray paint, since I’ve always found a lot is wasted and it’s hard to control. Besides I kind of like the streaky texture we got and left it there deliberately.

green-frame

Then we started on the periwinkle blue for the bench.

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and then the red for the side tables.

red-side-table

As we went along I couldn’t help doing a bit of color transformation on my old Crocks too.

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Finally, the bench was painted and looking pretty good. But, as we sat on it, I decided it needed a bit of a cushion too.

bench-after

Which led to going through my stash of fabrics and a couple of days with the ironing board and the sewing machine out in the kitchen. We’d just replaced our foam bed topper and it occurred to me that the old one would make a good stuffing for the cushion. A little more recycling accomplished.

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I had a rather fun time putting together another Intuitive patchwork.

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And finally, the finishing touch was complete. We’ve been pretty happy with the final result and have been enjoying a little swing on a summer day.

bench-finishing-touch

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Earth Day Abundance – Recycled Art Supplies

Leading up to Earth day I’ve been signing petitions almost everyday. There’s one or two in my email everyday. I care about all the things I sign petitions for:  like no oil tankers on my coast, no nasty pipeline through the forests, saving whales from navy maneuvers, the list goes on and on. So many nasty negative things.  But today is Earth Day and I want to talk about being a Positive force and Abundance!

 

I want to talk about up-cycling and recycling from an artist’s point of view. I want to talk about looking for art supplies. And all I see is ABUNDANCE! For those of you who are artists and are already using ephemera and found objects to make artworks, you know what I’m saying. There is just so much out there and it’s cheap, almost free, just waiting to be reused, with imagination. It’s more than a trend now, it’s more than a movement, it’s become a way of creating for many artists. And that makes me feel so much more optimistic, it’s the balance to all the negatives that I’m signing petitions against everyday.

 

My way of life, of finding and reusing everything is so rewarding I couldn’t do anything else now. It’s a way of seeing things. For instance a broken favourite egg cup or milk pitcher causes only a moment of regret and then,

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well, it will join all the other shards collected in recycled salad containers ( made from recycled plastic) in my studio.  Another way to create studio storage.

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And one day become a Pique Assiette Mosaic tray like this one with handles made from old silverware.

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Although I do not subscribe to magazines, since I get them from the library, I do buy old ones sometimes at garage sales

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and they become part of my stock of color supplies for collage birthday and anniversary cards.

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Or for playing with, creating colorful collages.

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And beads, there are so many beads out there, in thrift stores, and me, the eternal magpie always attracted to color and texture can’t help but collect them in my little recycled boxes.

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And the boxes stay under the coffee table and sometimes, when I’m watching a movie I’ll bring them out and string them together into a bracelet or two.

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Even old frames are collected, most free or almost free. I also collect old board that we cut up to fit those frames and with a coat of gesso they are ready to paint on, whenever the urge strikes, and I never have to worry about the cost of framing.

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So this is my little treatise to Earth Day. My little contribution to saving Her from all the baddies out there. It’s small, but there are a whole lot of artists out there just like us and every bit of positive energy counts in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite sure.

 

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