My mosaic classes are probably a bit unusual. For one, they are very small. I only have only one or two students at a time, three in a pinch. I teach in my own studio and it’s not very big. I may have 4 to 6 students over a whole summer, and usually teach them one at a time.
The next thing that’s different is that I ask the students to each come up with their own unique project, something that means something to them, something they may have been dreaming of doing. I never set a project for anyone, they set their own. The beauty of this approach is that I never know what will happen or what they will create and it’s quite wonderful.
The last is that my classes are 4 evenings or afternoons over 4 weeks, with lots of time to wonder and create. They aren’t a short workshop over a couple of days. I like to have lots of time for sharing creative ideas and mostly I want it to be an experience that gives my students time to have some fun and go slowly and ponder each piece. After all, mosaic is a slow art.
I have very few students, this year actually fewer than usual. But, I like the fact that my classes are flexible, they can accommodate things that happen, postponements caused by illness or family matters that can’t wait. We often work around all of this and this year was not an exception. The first two students I’m introducing had such problems and their projects spanned a good few months. But the results were worth the wait.
Fern Often someone comes to me with an idea already drawn out, a dream project, something that has been niggling at them and waiting to be made real. This was Fern. The idea was there and when we jumped into her van to cruise thrift shops in the first shopping class, serendipity was at work and she found everything she needed to create her mirror. Bill and I threw in a few ideas for approval and the project was started. That was in July 2009.
In between came illness, a move and long stretches where she couldn’t work. But, we kept in touch by email and I always knew she would finish it. And, finally, this year in January, the time came for the grouting.
The mirror was worth the wait. Fern was a natural mosaic artist, pieces fit beautifully. Plus, she had found the most wonderful brownish-purple glass tile on the net to augment the design on the front spirals and around the edges. It’s a quietly classical and beautiful mosaic complete with hummingbirds.
Marianne was another with a treasured idea, and had all the pieces for it, saved for years. She loved the four reproduction tiles by William de Morgan she had found years ago. Plus she had a huge collection of beach pottery shards. When I saw them I agreed with her that they would make the most wonderful pairing ever. We didn’t even bother with the shopping class and spent the first class creating the design of the large mirror support that would be needed to have the proportions work out. Now, I normally discourage large first projects. I don’t want a new student to burn out and get overwhelmed and then end up hating mosaics. But Marianne was not to be dissuaded and assured me that there would be no stopping her.
Because of its size we decided to have all the classes in her apartment overlooking the ocean view. Lovely, I really enjoyed that view, even with my fear of heights. But, the project was slowed by her suddenly having to go away to take care of her elderly mum. When that was taken care of, Marianne, who had her own health problems too, still soldiered on with a few visits from Bill and I to see the progress and enjoy tea and goodies. Finally, the time came for grouting, the exact color picked for grout and the three of us went at the grouting, working hard. The result? Well, as you can see, it was perfect! The gorgeous tiles were set off beautifully by the mixture of very carefully placed pottery beach shards.
Anne had a lot of experience with other crafts and was wanting to try mosaics. The shopping class yielded quite a few choice dishes and Anne went off home to ponder a design. She came up with a landscape of mountains, trees and a waterfall.
When it comes to design I always try to encourage each person to go with the feel of it. I’m a big believer that we all have our own intuitive sense of composition. We worked together on this in the class and then Anne, led by her own “feel” for what looked best, would adjust, rearrange and create what would ultimately work well for her. The finished piece was lovely and serene, with a bit of influence from Emily Carr’s trees and quiet gradations of tone in the colors.
Della sparks with energy. She’s always busy, always learning new things and has a background in quilting. Quilters, I’ve found, seem to take to mosaics like ducks to water. Della was no exception. Plus, as she said many times, she was into the “drama”. By that she meant, lots of color, lots of movement. She wanted to do a table top and had brought with her a patio table for which she wanted to create a new top.
Well, when we had finished with creating the design of rivers of various surfaces, overlapping and crossing the table top it looked so good that she had to find an even better table to put it on. And she found it! The whole finished table with it’s dramatic top was absolutely meant to be and gorgeous! And soooo dramatic, don’t you think?
Susan and Nancy, good friends, took the class together. Here we all are in my studio working. I did tell you it was a small studio, didn’t I?
At the first class, Susan had an idea ready, sketched out and was ready to roll. The shopping class just had her finding so much good stuff that we had to spend a bit of time fine tuning and putting things back before checking out.
Her rolling waves and ocean bottom wall piece that was made to set off the candle holders (a gift from a sister), was a rollicking and exuberant bit of mosaic work. It even has a reference to the book The Life of Pi with a tiger in a row boat on top of one of the waves! You can just see it, still unglued, on top of the second wave. I basically left Susan to do as she wanted, just giving little bits of direction now and then. With some people, you just let them go with it. And it worked out very well I’d say.
Nancy came to the class ready to mosaic but without any fixed ideas or plans. I assured her that very often students find just the thing at the shopping class. And that’s exactly what happened. After finding lots of dishes that appealed to her, we found the most wonderful little table crying out for some mosaic just before heading for the cash register in the thrift shop.
I always tell students there is only one rule when shopping and that is only buy what you really like. And all of those dishes in colors and patterns that Nancy liked looked great when collaged together on the table top. It really looks beautiful, as though it was always meant to be this way.
I think this years students were amazingly talented and really worked hard to create their lovely mosaics. Now my only hope is that this will spark even more mosaics in their futures. I just love getting people hooked on this most addictive art form. Bravo everyone!