Linda Lawton emailed me some pics of her recent owl mosaics, and one of them had an issue that made it a good teaching example about the importance of andamento. That mosaic also became a case study for how to mosaic on top of part of an existing mosaic if you want to rework a detail.
Since Linda is serious about her art and is always working to improve it, I felt like I could be honest with her in a way I couldn’t when critiquing the artwork of “someone I didn’t know.”
Over the past few years, Linda had emailed me about several different mosaics where she had ripped up tiles and re-executed details she wasn’t happy with. Some people have the true artist’s obsession with art and making it better, and it shows no matter the age or skill level.
My son and I took a short break from planting our native and heirloom vegetable garden and digging a second tadpole pond and made Coronavirus Helmets, which are an essential piece of equipment these days. The Coronavirus Helmet featured in this post is mine. I have more about Henry’s helmet later in this post.
As I write, there is almost as much proof that these helmets repel Coronavirus as there is proof that malaria meds work for Coronavirus -at least not any better than any number of existing pharmaceuticals that were designed for viruses and not a protozoa like malaria.
That is why I feel like I have contributed as much in the fight against the pandemic as Donald Trump has.
More actually. I spent much of February warning friends and relatives of the coming catastrophe and encouraging them to buy groceries and make other preparations as soon as possible.
What did the President do in February? He repeatedly claimed everything was under control and played golf.
My apologies to anyone who is offended by that comment, but you might want to give me a pass for several reasons:
My ex-wife is from NYC, and I was aware of all the deeply disturbing things that local people knew about Trump BEFORE he entered politics, including assessments by deeply conservative bankers and tradesmen who hated Hillary Clinton with a passion. Most anyone who worked with Trump described him as a crook and cheat with too many ties to the wrong sort of Russians.
Like any experienced manufacturing engineer, I had a complete safety plan for my employees to work solo shifts wearing N95 masks I purchased well in advance of the crisis, having dealt with outbreaks of flu and stomach virus in production lines before. My criticism of Donald Trump’s lack of a timely response is from professional experience.
The mosaic business is merely one of my activities, and I spent the past year looking into developing an aptameric alternative to protein-based drugs such as Humira. My masters thesis involved microbiology and the University of Georgia patented it.
-Joe Moorman, MS, engineer
How does a guy who has 8 part-time employees outperform the President of the United States? And how did I do it when my decisions were only based on basic information accessible to anyone who follows international news?
I don’t often use words like doddamn and futhermucker when I speak to my momma on the phone, but I did when I called her and explained why she needed to stop watching Fox News.
One of the most well-executed mosaics I have ever seen in terms fine details wrought in slivers of glass came to me in photos in an email last week from artist Irene Clifford.
As Natalija pointed out, ” Most people would throw away tiny pieces like that as scraps.”
The mosaic is excellent work in several ways.
The andamento of the mosaic as a whole is instinctive, and it fits the details and curves being rendered naturally (instead of being rows to cover space without much regard for the shape of the color field).
The size of details relative to tile size is optimal for creating visual interest. That and the andamento impress me more than the exceptionally well-executed details with glass slivers.
Most people could make multiple mosaics without ever coming close to this level of instinctive andamento or being able to work with tesserae that small, being more or less a sliver.
Artist Stephanie Potter‘s mosaic table top designs are mandalas that catch and hold the eye with contrast, symmetry, and visual interest. They are centered so that the outer circle of tile is at the edge of the circular table tops.
Mosaics made on wooden table tops are for indoor use. Outdoors, the wood swells and contracts with changes in humidity, and that causes tiles to pop off.
Of course, it is easy to explain how you keep a design centered if you draw out all the work lines for the rows of tile, which would be more or less required for such detailed, symmetrical designs like these made by Stephanie.
But how do you center a mosaic on a round table if your pattern doesn’t show every row of tile? What do you do when you want to improvise a figure in the center of a table but still surround it with concentric rings of tiles where the outermost ring of tile is at the edge of the table?
Recently I wrote about The Stylistic Range of Mosaic Art and mentioned that I am still being surprised by the different styles that artists are able to execute in the medium, especially those with formal training.
I meant formal training in art when I first wrote that, and I was thinking about how technical innovation is easier for someone who has studied the nuts and bolts of different mediums.
Later I got to thinking about the extent to which art is fertilized by study of other disciplines, and not just the example of how Renaissance artists studied mathematical perspective and anatomy.
Artist Janet Flom used some of our vitreous tile in some pubic space mosaics in 2016-17 that are photorealistic and well-executed, and I wanted to show them off as inspiration. The subjects of the mosaics are prairie wildflower patches and landscapes of the upper Mississippi River.
I say Janet’s mosaics are well-executed because the tiles are arranged in lines that correspond to the shape being rendered instead of being placed in a grid where each tile is nothing more than a pixel.
I greatly prefer mosaics that have this added element of visual interest and think it is worth the extra effort.
Using an andamento that follows the shapes being rendered also allows you to capture smaller details with larger pieces.
Mosaics cannot be a “food safe” surface as defined by the Food and Drug Administration because grout is porous and cannot be cleaned easily or completely, and it sheds material over time. That being said, you can still make mosaic bowls and platters as centerpieces for holding fruit and other decorative uses.
Artist Susan Klug Kahan emailed me some photos of her peony mosaic bowl and asked my advice on grout color. Susan used a narrow grout gap, and so the visual impact of grouting and grout color would be minimal, but there was still a lot of incentive to get it right: The design was all about harmonious colors, and so a poor choice of grout color would be particularly conspicuous.
Religious icons make heavy use of gold leaf glass to represent halos and divine light but also to adorn the figures and to communicate the preciousness of the image. Of course we carry 24 kt Gold Leaf Glass for use in icons and other mosaics, but the material is expensive for obvious reasons, and so the question becomes what do you use when you need to make something larger, such as an altarpiece or a life-size icon?
The answer is the silver-foil glass product known as Imitation Gold Mosaic Glass, which has an epoxy coating over the silver backing to prevent oxidation and blackening by adhesives.
Artist Nicholas Vasco emailed us some pictures of a couple of his recent projects using Imitation Gold Glass, and they are impressive. Both the altarpiece and the mosaic inserts of the chapel entrance way are very well done and worth talking about for several reasons.
I recently saw some stained-glass mosaics by artist Debra D’Souza, and they reaffirmed my belief in the mosaic business and actually cheered me up after a day of work poop. To explain why Debra’s mosaics make me so happy, I first have to explain a problem that really haunts me as a retailer of arts and craft supplies.
Not Rocks with Fake Skins
Most of the stones you see used in mosaic artwork are rounded river rocks, which is fine when they are unique stones collected from beaches and hikes and real life, but all too often they are the epoxy-coated or urethane-coated river rocks of the same type of stone from the same factory no matter where you buy them, which is really sad to me.