A Two Spark Plug Day!

In my most recent post I was looking forward to beach combing in Sidney. It’s such a treat! I love to go there to look for beach pottery for our mosaics. And also for the calming atmosphere of the ocean at low tide, blue skies, the sound of the waves,

dock-&-seaweed summerhouseart.com

pilings with drying cormorants,

drying-cormorant, summerhouseart.com

sailboats with Mt Baker in the distance.

sailboat with Mt Baker in distance, summerhouseart.com

 Of course, there’s lots of beach glass too, but I tend to ignore it… unless it’s really special.  And the occasional dead crab, this one was so beautiful surrounded by flowing seaweed.

crab with flowing seaweed summerhouseart.com

And I’ve got lots of pottery now, too. What I was really looking for was spark plugs. Spark plugs on the beach? Well, yes, they do turn up, but only very occasionally. And to me they are precious. They stand out in a mosaic of beach pottery and I know I must have some for a mosaic sculpture, already imagined, that we’ll start on this summer.

Oh how I wish I was on the Thames sometimes “mudlarking” and finding clay pipes, so lovely as texture in mosaics. But I am on Vancouver Island, not in London, and I am quite ecstatic at the discovery of a spark plug. A spark plug long ago thrown out in the ocean dump (what were they thinking?) to wash up on shore hidden in the seaweed and rocks.

And though I found lots of pottery and a bit of garbage too, like the plastic fork,

Beach pottery haul summerhouseart.com

and an odd little glass dome, the size of a thimble,

sea glass-dome summerhouseart.com

I wandered up and down the beach, for hours, searching for spark plugs. And then, standing still, staring vacantly at the beach at my feet, I found one! And then I turned and found another! Oh thank you low tide!

beach find, spark plugs-summerhouseart.com

It doesn’t take much to make me extremely happy! A Two Spark Plug day will do it.



Low Tide Fun Tomorrow

Horizon with Mt Baker, Sidney BC photo summerhouseart.com

Can’t wait until tomorrow.  I’ve been checking the tide charts and it’ll be a good low tide at the right time.  We’ll be out on the beach in Sidney, just off the pier and this will be our view for the day, with seagulls wheeling about overhead, and the occasional ferry or sailboat on the horizon. We’ll be out poking through the seaweed, searching for pottery shards and getting very mellow.  I’ll check back with our finds.  We’re planning a couple of new sculptures for the garden to go with the birdbaths.  Looking forward to summer and making more Beach pottery mosaics.


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…..


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.




Inspiration, Pique Assiette Mosaics and A Quote by Picasso

Picasso quote on studio door, summerhouseart.com

I found this quote the other day in my internet wanderings and immediately copied it and attached it to my studio door. A little reminder to find some time, no let me rephrase that, make some time to let inspiration find me working. My time is so precious, there is just not enough of it and sometimes I feel like I squander it. Oh, I really do need, somehow, to find a way to do it all, all the things I need and want to do.

Right now I’ve got all my bits of ocean tumbled pottery spread out on what little space is left on my studio work table. I’m creating a new mosaic with them.  The first mirror I made with them is in a previous post, The Beach Shard Pottery Experiment.   The plants are crowding out the work space because I had to move them to the table, so I could put the starter seeds in the window instead, but that’s another story and another place I’ve spent my time.

in progress, Pattern Beach Pottery mosaic Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

But I have made some time, put some music on and started to move the bits around to find the right composition. At first, I looked for the odd bits with pattern on them and made them the focus.
in progress, Pattern Beach Pottery mosaic Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.comLater I realized that I was enjoying the off white bits, the bits that had curves of the plate rims on them and started to see that I could use them as the focus and create an interesting surface with those.

in progress, Pattern Beach Pottery mosaic Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I’m trying to create a sense of movement with these curves.

in progress, Pattern Beach Pottery mosaic Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

So there it is, that’s as far as I got. Only a little time and then I went off to help with Easter dinner and make a Rhubarb Cobbler with fresh spring rhubarb from the garden. Delicious, by the way. My mosaic will have to wait for me, but I will get back to it, now that inspiration has found me working.

If you find mosaics intriguing I hope you’ll spend a little time yourself on my posts about my pique assiette mosaics.