Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Bunny Room Mosaic Mural Installation

I just finished a mosaic that I am particularly proud of.

It is a mural in the Bunny Room of the Oakland Animal Shelter,
1101 29th Avenue in Oakland's Jingletown district.
Marcy Schaaf, the founder of Save A Bunny, a non-profit rabbit rescue organization
based in Mill Valley, CA, was given the project of creating a nicer space in the room
for the rabbits, volunteers and visitors to enjoy.
Rabbits are often overlooked when people are seeking to adopt a pet.
They are an animal near and dear to Marcy's heart and she works
tirelessly on their behalf.

Here you can see that the bunny room was not very pleasant.
It had been used as a storage room until very recently.
I started by checking out the space and designing a shape that would be cool and pleasing but also one that I could carry out and install by myself.

I came up with a ribbon design festooned with hopping rabbits.
Above is the mock-up.

Marcy is also a mosaic hobbyist and has a LOT of extra tesserae at her home.
I went there and chose a loose color palette that I knew I could work with.

Next I cut the rabbits out of Easyboard and mosaicked them with glass and mirrors in a patchwork style.
The ribbon itself was done in tile on mesh in my studio.

Mural painter Gael Antognini - - first painted the wall
with a faux window treatment and a little rabbit near the floor which you can't see in this photo.

That meant I had to take great care to cover the entire wall before grouting.
Even then, I still had to do touch-ups to the paint job afterward.
I left my grout color decision until the end. As I was installing this I realized that one grout color wasnt going to work. So I ended up using three different ones - a bright red for the ends,

darker red around the maroon/purple tiles

and a modified dark blue for the center blue tiles.

These blue tiles in the center are actually made of glass. They are a blue color with flecks of gold and are very bumpy in texture. After I chose to use them I realized, uh oh, the grout is going to get caught in all that texture!

So I used a small wire brush to clean them off after grouting.
All the grout didnt come off so each is left with an even more interesting color gradation.

This mural came out really well.

It measures 15 feet by 2 feet, approximately.
I know it will please visitors and bunnies alike.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Zebra Band Mosaic!

This is my latest mosaic. It is large and heavy: approximately 4' x 3'. The zebras were first cut out of a thin Easyboard and mosaicked with stained glass and mirror.
For visual interest and surprise, some, but not all, of the glass reflects rainbow colors in the right light.

This piece was then adhered using Thinset to a thicker piece of Easyboard and mosaicked with high fire tile of varying shades of white....with yellow for the "music"!

Zebra Band
Stained glass, mirror, high fire tile

"Greener Pastures" Mosaic Installation

For several months - starting in September '08 - I have been working on a large mosaic project headed by my friend and fellow Bay Area mosaic artist Delaine Hackney, pictured below.

Earlier in the year she was commissioned to create a mosaic piece for the front of a new building under construction. This piece consists of 9 pillars, all approximately 14 feet tall and 5 feet around. Delaine named it "Greener Pastures" - for the good times to come - and it now brightens the corner of Adeline and San Pablo in Emeryville, California. After several discussions with the architect and others, the design was honed down to be professional looking, visually captivating and yet not too flashy. Anyone who has ever had to sit in a design meeting hashing out an art project knows how difficult this must have been.

Delaine's final design consists of multiple-sized mosaic circles all in shades of green that sit in a field of 1 inch Penny Round tiles in an off-white color. 650 square feet of these small tiles were required!

But for those of you who know Delaine it will be no surprise that the green circles would not be made of just boring factory tiles!
We used any green tile or bauble that she could find.
And Saundra Warren was commissioned to make 12 green circles of various hues and textures only to have us smash them up to use!

Old tiles, newly bought tiles, found objects like bangle earrings and glass frogs are all included in these circles.

The installation took about three weeks and finished at the end of January '09.

Here are just some of the circles laid out at the begining of the installation.

Our mosaic-artist friend and all-around good egg, Julia Alpers, joined us for the install and was invaluable with her knowledge of perfectly square and level setting. She taught us a lot!

The weather veered from very cold and rainy to very hot and dry.
We worked on ladders and scaffolding and got used to some pretty precarious situations!

As Julia and Delaine would finish a pillar I would move in to grout it.
We were a great team - like a machine!
And for two days Mary Earl, a mosaic artist from Las Vegas, drove all the way up to lend a hand and be part of the action too.

Ichiban, Delaine's beloved dog,

and Julia's Olive, were our doggy support team and provided comic relief.

We were in the midst of some serious construction and at one point Julia was overwhelmed by a desire to pilot this steamroller. I have to say the guys on this job site were great. Helpful, nice, respectful and fun.
As the time passed we raced to stay one step ahead of the window installers!

In this visually over-stimulated world we live in, drivers speeding by will barely notice these pillars.

Pedestrians might notice the multiple colors, textures, sizes and designs as they stroll by.

But for adventurous people who spend time with them - perhaps people who live and shop in and near this building - these circles will provide endless entertainment and visual treasure hunting opportunites. There are 210 circles in total and Delaine and I each mosaicked about half of them. She, of course, did the very special ones!
This job should be done soon so I can post a finished photo without the construction equipment obscuring the view.
See more of Delaine Hackney's work here and Julia Alpers here.

Fireplace Surround Mosaic

In December '08 I received a commission to do a fireplace surround for a very nice family - the Rich's. They have a beautiful Craftsman-style house and were having a new fireplace inset installed as well as a new mantle.

The area around the inset is small - too small for traditional large tiles that are usually used on a fireplace. The area is delineated by tape in the photo above. Instead they decided on a small, simple mosaic and contacted me to do it.
Coincidentally the owners love gingko leaves and,
as you have read in previous posts, I knew the perfect artist to create them out
of ceramic tile - Saundra Warren, a Jingletown artist!

In the above photo you can see the Hardiebacker board that was put in place by the contractor. The flooring around the work area was brand new too so I took extra precautions -
like putting down newspapers, beach towels and then a tarp - to avoid damaging it. The area of the mosaic itself is only about 6 square feet and the room - the dining room - is small too.
So I felt that just a subtle, low-key mosaic was called for.

This is the almost-finished product. All it needs is the mantle to be installed.
I used mostly earthy greens but with various textures and finishes to provide visual interest. And I mixed charcoal grout with the too-bright hue of the straight-from-the-bag dark green grout to tone the color down some.

And Saundra's gingko leaves in Autumn amber and rust provide the highlights.
The mantle is due to be installed soon. I cant wait to see this piece actually finished!