Artist Aly Winningham of Terra Firma Studios has some great mixed-media mosaic artwork. These wall-relief mosaics are a balanced mix of custom ceramic sculptural elements, found objects, and elements of conventional tesserae.
I love mixed-media mosaic, and I love to make it myself, but the problem is that you have to spend time at yard sales when you would rather be in the studio making stuff.
Finding odd items for mixed-media mosaics can become an end in itself for this reason:
You don’t find exactly what you need for the idea you had in mind, but you find something that gives you an idea for a second composition, something that would be perfect in this second composition, if only you could find the other objects needed for it.
While you look for the items for this new idea or the items for the original composition, you find objects that spawn additional ideas and searches.
Sourcing found objects for use in art projects can spiral out of control, and before you know it, you have odd things like a whole shelf filled with 1950’s aquarium ceramic centerpieces: sunken pirate ships, mystical quests to the Isle of Tortuga, giant squid.
Keeping these different collections in boxes or bins isn’t a good option.
You have to keep all this stuff laid out so that you can see it and think about it, and it can be difficult to work with no worksurfaces available.
Pro Tip: Studios can’t function well if they are more storeroom than worksurface. Get yourself organized. Use large trays or boards that can be stacked instead of worksurfaces for laying out your ideas.
Fortunately, there is a solution even if you are like me and sometimes make multiple versions of a particular composition or theme just because you can’t stop thinking about them.
Custom Ceramic Sculptures
Custom ceramic sculptures are the answer.
If you have a friend or local ceramics studio with a kiln, you can make exactly what you need.
Supplement these custom ceramic sculptures with a few well-chosen found objects and some elements of conventional tesserae, and you can complete a large mixed-medium mosaic composition without a long lead time of gathering or excess clutter.
Pattern Not Filler
I like Aly’s mosaics because the elements made from conventional tesserae are as eye-catching and as interesting as the found-objects and custom ceramic sculpture.
One of the definitions of an artist is a person who can make something exquisite from ordinary materials.
In Aly’s mosaics, the stained glass and tile aren’t monochromatic filler between the sculptural objects. There is pattern and visual interest in these areas.
“Always be closing,” as they say. Always be looking for opportunities to increase visual interest and contrast. Never think of an area as space to be covered. Mosaic art is not tiling.
Aly says she fuses some of her own glass tiles.
You really don’t have to resort to glass fusing. You can usually find enough interesting marbling and crazing of color pattern in stained glass.
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