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



The Last of the Spiral Series Mosaics


These are the last of my short series of spiral mosaics. I’d been experimenting with shaped “canvases” so to speak, with the motif of a black spiral holding the composition, with “floating” triangular shapes and pillow shapes.

Black Spiral, Yellow Triangle Mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
Although these last two look quite similar, they do have their differences. The first one has the spiral coming out quite squarely from the side, rather bluntly. The colors include purple and greens.

Black Spiral, Yellow Triangle Mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

It has a bright yellow triangle floating near the bottom. Throughout the design there are bits of my favourite “embellishment”, the black and white checkerboard. I do have a weakness for the black and white checkerboard.  Another simple title “Black Spiral with Yellow Triangle”, sort of descriptive, I thought.

Now the last Triangle Mosaic has the spiral coming out, sort of shyly, from behind the composition.

Black Spiral, Red  Triangle Mosaic Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
I had one plate of white specks on black that I used in both pieces. I’d been hoarding that plate for a while, waiting to use it in just the right place. And I’m sure when I finished these two mosaics, there was literally not a scrap of it left.

Black Spiral, Red Triangle, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I find the shape of the entry of the spiral a bit more graceful. And the black and white checkerboard is now a string meandering from top to side. At one point it pierces through the red three cornered shape. This one I titled ” Black Spiral with Red Triangle”, another quite simple title, but it does distinguish it from the other.


Black Spiral, Red Triangle, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I’m sure that for some, in both of these pique assiette mosaics, there is entirely too much detail, they’re just too darn busy, but I like that. And the big black spirals are your only source of calm. And I like that too.




The Beginning of My Spiral Series Mosaics

I think I’m one of those artists who flit about, like a butterfly or maybe a magpie, attracted to the next color or shape. I try things, I meander from one thing to the next. I get inspired by a shape…. or color.

And such was the case with this short series I created in 2009. This piece is the first of four in the series. And then abruptly ended.

What happened? Was it just that my eye had been attracted to something else or was it that I’d worked it through and was ready to move on? Whatever, I think I fully intended to do more and create a much bigger series. And so I haven’t posted them before. I thought at some point I would get back to it. But no, never happened, so today I’ve decided to post Spiral #1.

Yellow Wedge on Blue, Floating,  mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I was playing with shapes, like the wedge of yellow and the spiral. . I must admit that I am a sucker for spirals. Love spirals, still do. Originally, it had been a little sketch on paper with shapes floating about and I’m sure it was Will who suggested that the whole base of the piece could be cut out in a shape as well.

It is not created with the usual mosaic materials of smalti but with dishes and a few ordinary tiles. I had very little of certain plates, precious bits and stuck them down carefully. And they became the little floating pillows, or that is how I think of those shapes. I liked creating a whole new texture by setting down the design of the dish in a whole new deconstructed way.

Yellow Wedge on Blue, Floating,  mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And what to title it? How about something descriptive, like “Yellow Wedge on Blue, Floating”

Yellow Wedge on Blue, Floating, mosaic by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com



My Over the Top Cats and Roses Mosaic

Actually, I created this mosaic a few years ago. Another one of those shrines that come together almost serendipitously. I had an idea of creating a mosaic with cats and to that end I’d been collecting all sorts of cat ornaments. And although there are quite a few on this particular piece, there are still an awful lot left over that are still waiting for homes on a mosaic or at least a shelf or windowsill. I do sometimes bring them out to the kitchen windowsill to sit among the African violets. But I wander from the point…

Ok I had a amassed a huge collection of thrift shop cats, since I tend to have a soft spot for cats. And I was looking for some sort of a background to set them against but nothing had came to mind. Then one summer day, Bill and I came upon a garage sale that had a lovely collection of rosy bone china saucers. As I remember it, the cups were missing so the saucers were going cheap. And they were absolutely full of bloom and color, you could almost smell the scent of roses coming off them. I snapped them up. I’d suddenly had a vision of my cats with all these roses!

Cats and Roses mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Almost as soon as I decided on the theme, I found at another sale soon after or it could have been the same day, quite a collection of rose ornaments with these deep purple roses as well.

I put together a bit of a unique color scheme. Not so pastel, with that dark green around the rim and those dark almost black roses. And now I also had the place for some really outrageous rose ornaments as well. I decided to go over the top!

And it must have been too, because when I had a big display of my mosaics at the local municipal hall, I got written up in the local community paper. And what did the writer wonder about? Well, as I remember, she wrote that although she loved all the mosaics I’d made, she thought the whole Cats and Roses shrine was a bit too sweet and she hoped I was being facetious when I made it.

All I can say is that she did get the gist of it. It was meant to be Over the Top. But I like the combination of Cats and Roses, they have an affinity. Both so beautiful but with sharp bits like claws and thorns. So maybe not so sweet after all? Who cares? It’s not meant to be serious.

Cats and Roses mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

But it’s over the top Kitsch too. And I love kitsch. I once heard of a garden that was full of things that were over the top kitsch like flamingos, vintage signs and the oddest things for embellishment. What I loved most, though, was the unapologetic sign in the garden that said to please tell the gardener if anything “tasteful” was found and he would make sure to remove it right away. Love it. Hope you enjoy my little Over the top take on Cats and Roses.


Bridges of London and Budgerigars, a New Pique Assiette Mosaic

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

the inspiration
I’d had this fantastic plate with the bridges of London all around the rim for ages. I’d had a few ideas for it but nothing that really inspired me into action. Nevertheless, I’d broken up the pieces and kept them together with masking tape for years. They were waiting for me, dust covered and dirty, on my studio shelf. And no, I don’t dust my studio much, there are just too many dishes and ornaments and I’d never get anything else done. Priorities you know.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

the ingredients
For some odd reason I’d always thought of the bridges with Budgies or Budgerigars as the Brits called them. For me they went to together. I just happened to also have a “loverly” set of salt and pepper shaker blue budgies. And I also just happened to have a plate covered in, what else, English Ivy.  Ah the joys of having lots of used plates and ornaments to recycle and transform into something fun.

And that “something fun” was a new mirror for over the sink, so I’d have something entertaining to look at while doing dishes. There are always so many dishes to wash aren’t there? And me, I’ve got a low boredom threshold.

But what shape could this take? What would tie it all together? Finally, inspiration struck. An English Mantel clock! Or at least the shape of one….yes that would work. And with that, all the other questions were answered. I needed another plate for the “shoulders”, easy to find, waiting there all along in my studio stash. And the final touch? Well, what are the Brits famous for? Their gardens of course! So out came the porcelain flowers. You know, those little bouquets your mum collected.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Beginning, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

the finished piece
It took a while, but finally all the pieces were in place.  Well, almost, the budgie perches needed mosaic and the grouting needed doing.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The only thing left to do was glue on the budgies and the flowers. With a bit of careful chiseling I freed some flowers and leaves from their little porcelain pots and glued them into place.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars Detail, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Now, I’ve got the Bridges and Budgerigars of London over my sink, surrounding a mirror that reflects the stained glass window we bought years ago, also from England. And I must say, I rather like it.

Bridges of London and Budgerigars,  Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com


A Study in Contrast or How I Created Two Very Different Mosaics from the Same Shards

detail, Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

A month ago, picking through all my bits of ocean tumbled pottery, I’d started a new pique assiette mosaic mirror. You would think that picking bits from the exact same basin of shards, I would come up with almost the exact same mirror frame that I’d created back in January. That was when I’d first started experimenting with these smooth, aged and beach sanded shards.

Beach Pottery shards, summerhouseart.com

And maybe, I might have. But as I was arranging shards, I found myself attracted to the lighter pieces, the undersides of plates, the curves and how they created a pattern and a movement.

Stealing time here and there from other things, I finally got to the stage of grouting last Friday. And accompanied by the soundtrack to “Monsoon Wedding” CD, ( another lucky garage sale find), mixed up a a couple of different grouts until I got a shade to my liking and grouted it up. BTW, if you have never seen Monsoon Wedding I’d highly recommend it. The movie is colorful, lively and has great music…..but at the end, for all of us mosaic lovers, there is a wedding scene in a mosaic covered grotto. I just kept playing that scene over and over trying to take in the mosaics. And yes that is an old toothbrush, that I’m using to clean off grout. And you thought there wasn’t another use for them.

grouting, Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I was struck by the contrasting frames that I’d created with almost the same ingredients. All the result of my choices from the pool of shards. I couldn’t resist hanging them side by side to enjoy the contrast. The first mirror is a collage of all of the rusty and patterned pieces. The second mirror frame is a quiet, almost monochromatic arrangement, with the movement created by the curves as the central theme.

 Pattern and Pale Beach Pottery mirrors by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Of course, I did add a few little detailed pieces to break up the surface and add interest. In the header of this post, if you look carefully, you will find the tiniest little blue heart. In this corner you will find the few special bits I loved and a found space for, like the floral shard of some long ago shattered tea cup or a remnant of the  manufacturers mark on the bottom of the dish.

detail, Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

And here it is, up close and personal, on a more pleasing background to highlight it’s quiet colors. I’m quite happy with it. It’s a bit of a departure for me too, the artist who likes bright and gaudy, don’t you think?

Pale Beach Pottery mirror by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com


#9 in the Pique Assiette Mosaic Inspiration Series – A Rather Fishy Mosaic

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

Sometimes as you scan the shelves in a thrift store something just calls out to you, reels you in and you know you must have it. Ok I couldn’t resist alluding to fishing terms, but this little fish ornament had me hooked and became the start of this next mosaic. I just loved these little pink fish, even though I had no idea what to do with them.

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

But then, later that summer, I found a really crazy beach-colored teapot, with a seahorse handle. Check out the under shelf area here.

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

It also had a rather wonderful lid with a seashell on it.

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

Well, of course, it all came together, all I needed were a few more fish.

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

The next step was to create the backing. I thought round, like a porthole. And then how was I to attach the little fishies? I needed shelves. And under the shelves I wanted a curved area. You really don’t want to know what a hassle this was and just how much mastic glue there is under these pieces to create this effect. But I love it. It worked.

Suddenly all the dishes in watery colors and patterns called out to be used. And, along with a nice discovery of using the underside of dishes to create this undulating seaweed feel, everything just flowed together. Just can’t resist the watery terms.

A Fishy Mosaic by Helen Bushell summerhouseart.com

Do you remember those fish ornaments in plaster with bubbles that everyone in the 50’s had in their bathroom? Well, maybe not or maybe yes, depending on your age. Giving mine away again. Well, this is my answer to those plaster fish. And of course, it’s hanging in the watery room of the house, the bathroom.


The New Pique Assiette Mosaic Buddha Shrine, Part 1 (In the Creative Flow)

I thought it might be fun to work on a pique assiette mosaic and post the progress and the process from the beginning but in installments. Something to look forward to for some and something to keep me from procrastinating. Because I do procrastinate sometimes. Doesn’t everyone? Maybe procrastination is too hard a word. Let’s just say I get distracted by all the other things like worries and other work. But once I start on something creative, I find myself getting happy.

We are really into garage sailing. Not just for the good finds, but for the time out, the enjoyment of it all.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

This mosaic’s main piece was found while out garage sailing. It had been tossed on top of a pile of things in the back of a truck full of junk waiting to be hauled off to the dump. I just happened to see it while on my way from one sale to another on the same street. The little Buddha had been a lampstand, but the base was broken. I found the owner of the truck and he very kindly gave it to me, probably wondering why I would even want it.

It sat in my studio for weeks. Now and then I’d show my find to my students, proudly holding it up and saying that some day it would be the start of new piece. As soon as I had some time.

Then finally, last week, the little Buddha finally got his day. Will and I needed something to change the day, something to do to relax, get happy. We pulled out the Buddha and began. First we pondered, should we keep the light fixture attached and make another lamp? I looked around the studio for dishes and ornaments to compliment him.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
some of the pieces that would compliment the Buddha
detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com
trying out ideas

Some of these dishes had been saved for a long time, all slightly Oriental and exotic. One idea followed the next and soon we were in the flow. We saw him in front of a pond with a floating lotus flower, meditating with some sort of ray pattern as his backdrop. With this sudden realization we dropped the idea of keeping the light fixture, dismantled it and saved it for some future project.

cutting off the broken lamp base
cutting off the broken lamp base

Will carefully sawed off what was left of the lampbase.

As always, things just seemed to come together. The lotus flower was part of a broken ornament and was originally going to be part of the pond in front in our design.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Then it turned out it fit just perfectly into the front of the Buddha ornament itself. Ok, no problem, I had a slightly worn lotus shaped tea light holder to replace it’s original spot. Oooh, tealights in front of him, now that would be good.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Sketches were made, deliberations on the placement of the pond, the back drop, the curves and layers, and finally the pattern for the stand was cut out of newspaper. Will, obliging as always, went down to the workshop and cut and screwed and glued the base for me from plywood.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

While I listened to sawing downstairs I broke the dishes and spent some time doing a few trials of placement for the back-drop.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Finally, I could start. And in the bloom of the moment I actually got quite a bit of the backdrop covered.

detail, progress, Buddha Shrine by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The golden pheasant plate has become the border, the pheasants flying over his head. One oriental plate with a black background became the ray and two other plates also having a floral oriental feel but with white backgrounds became the filler.

Next will come the pond, the lotus flower and leaves. Will I need a spot for another tealight? Decisions, decisions. Trial and error. Too much pattern? Will it “work” together? I love this part. Doing a bit, stopping, standing back and looking, assessing. I’m getting happier.

Click for part 2 of the Buddha Shrine Creating in Real Time


#6 in the Pique Assiette Mosaic Inspiration Series – Using Intuitive Design on Pots or How Not to Be a Control Freak

Mosaic Inspiration #4 I talked about the intuitive process to create an overall random design on a flat surface like a mirror. And if you’ve looked at our stepping stones you’ll see that I use this method there as well. I admit, I like working this way, it’s meditative and challenging at the same time and never boring. And there are benefits!

 Mosaic Pot by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Now, I have to say that working like this is especially fun on 3D surfaces like pots. I’ve done quite a few pots in this manner. In each case, I selected dishes that had colors, patterns and textures that I liked together. To those, I added some solid colors and a few marbles. Marbles have a way of glowing when the light shines through, that I find totally captivating.

Pique assiette Mosaic Pot by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

I tell my students that doing intuitive mosaic design has one really great benefit, especially if you tend to be a control freak. You will learn to let go. Working intuitively allows you to forget control and just go with the flow. After all you are not creating a picture, or a rigid pattern. Nope, just an overall pattern with a mixture of surface designs. Ah, the freedom to just let go and mix it up.

Going with the flow also applies to fitting dishes onto a curved surface. A dish does not have the same curvature as a pot. To make up for this you often have to adjust how you apply a piece to the curve of the pot. Oh sure, you can keep breaking the piece till it’s small enough to apply to the curve ( um, this could be called exerting control) or…you can just find the curve of the dish and find a place where it will match the curve of the pot. Ah, even less control.



Pique assiette Mosaic Pot by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com



Pique assiette Mosaic Pot by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

Using dishes that have color on the bottom as well, creates an extra little benefit. The ridge on the under side of the plate, once broken, can be pieced back together to create some very nice undulating lines, thank you. I’ve used this often to create a flow or direction. It’s a little trick that I totally took advantage of on some of these pots.

Pique assiette Mosaic Pot by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

The last little benefit about applying pique assiette mosaic to pots is that unlike a flat surface like a tray or mirror frame, you can’t see the whole surface at once. You may ask, how is this a benefit? Well, if you get tired of one side you just turn the pot around and viola, you have a whole new surface to feast your eyes on.


#5 In the Pique Assiette Mosaic Inspiration Series – Feng Shui and the Foo Dog


I like to dabble in all sorts of things, like to shake up my thinking a bit. Feng Shui was one of those interests that I took up for a time and I even incorporated some of its ideas into my home here and there. For instance the far corner of the greenhouse, the “wealth corner”, is full of Jade plants, or money plants. There are other little touches throughout the house too. And I admit that keeping the Chi flowing is a good reason to tidy up. But for an old hippie like me, there are just too many rules to Feng Shui, so I just picked up a few that I liked.

Feng Shui Mosaic, Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

When I found the Foo Dog or Lion at a flea market, I knew I just had to do another Oriental Shrine pique assiette mosaic and I wanted to incorporate a bit of Feng Shui too. I’d already done a small shrine incorporating a couple of Blue Willow porcelain saucers, some chopstick rests, a little Buddha and a stork figurine.  Pique Assiette mosaics, by the way, are a type of mosaic quite different from the usual mosaic made with tesserae, because of the use of the dishes and ornaments.

I’d been trying to cut a round mirror when it just cracked on its own in this wonderful semi-moon shape. Well, something like that cannot be wasted! The shape of that mirror dictated the shape of the shrine and created the shoulders to put the little chopstick rests on. Everything just flowed together.

Where did I get almost all of these wonderful ingredients for the shrine? Well, here in Victoria, we have the most wonderful Chinatown ever. I love shopping in Chinatown, especially in a hidden little alley called Fan Tan Alley which is just too much fun to prowl.

Fan Tan Alley entrance from Pandora Street, Victoria BC, photo summerhouseart.com
The mystery entrance to Fan Tan Alley from Pandora Street

Fan Tan Alley,  Victoria BC, photo summerhouseart.com
Character shops in the alley

Fan Tan Alley,  Victoria BC, photo summerhouseart.com
The window of Dragon Song Music

Fan Tan Alley,  Victoria BC, photo summerhouseart.com
Baskets in a Fan Tan shop window

Now, with the find of the Foo dog, again things that I needed just seemed to fall into my lap. The background was made from some really good, antique Blue Willow dishes, given to me by an antique dealer friend of Eric’s. They were chipped and perfect for breaking. And break they did, like butter! So easy to cut and shape.


detail, Foo Dog Mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

More chopstick rests and another little Buddha were found on a trip to Chinatown. Any excuse to go there will do, after all. Other oriental saucers were found in Value Village and before I knew it, the piece was ready to start.

Foo Dog Mosaic, by Helen Bushell, summerhouseart.com

But this time I wanted to incorporate some Chi into the design. Chi is a flow of energy in Feng Shui . For that I wanted a water flow, so I created a little “golden river” for the fish to swim in, that led to the serene Buddha. The Foo Dog or Lion was at the gate to protect the Buddha and would keep the “Blue Willow garden” tranquil.

And so Feng Shui, with a nod to tranquility, Chi, and the garden became a design element in this little shrine.