Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Buggy Garden - Mosaic Mural

Okay she's finished! The previous posts have described this piece and my process. This is a mosaic commissioned by Nancy at Hug A Bug Preschool in El Cerrito, California to commemorate her 30th year in business. We held a mosaic workshop in her home where 15 parents each made a "bug" to be incorporated into this mosaic mural. 
The final size is 6' x 3'. Begun 11/17/12. Finished 12/13/12. 
This piece is meant to depict a surreal garden. I let my imagination go while I worked on the "flowers".
 Here are the "bugs" flying around this garden:
When I first arrived on site 4 days ago I took this "before" picture:
And here is the "after" picture:
 This is my name tile in the corner. Can't forget that!
Here she is again:

The Buggy Garden
6 ft x 3 ft
©Kim Larson

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Buggy Garden Mosaic - Grouting, Day 1

This is the continuing story of the mosaic mural I created for Hug A Bug Preschool in El Cerrito, California. A workshop was held on November 17th for 15 parents to each make a small mosaic insect to be incorporated into this larger mosaic work to be permanently installed on their site. 
 The install went smoothly on December 10th and the next day I arrived to begin grouting. The weather reports called for a small rainstorm to hit in the early evening so I had a feeling the grouting wouldn't be finished in one day. And I was right! 
 Grouting a mural with the type of "terrain" of this one is a difficult process. Some of the figurines stand out an inch from the base while other tessarae are very flat...some are glossy in texture while others are porous...and some tessarae are very meaningful to the individual who created the "bug". And the grout itself has to have a texture (not too thick yet not too runny) that can easily fill in all sizes and shapes of grout joints! So I knew that grouting this was going to be a slow and painstaking process. And I was right!! 
 But there is such a wonder when "the reveal" begins - the wiping away of the grout and slowly buffing each piece into a high shine!
 As expected, though, the weather took a turn for the worse - dark, damp, cold and I stopped and will go back and finish tomorrow.

The Buggy Garden Mosaic - Installation Day.

In the previous post, I showed you a little bit about the creation of this mural for the Hug A Bug Preschool in El Cerrito, California. The next step was the installation - always a mix of fear and excitement. 
 The key for me is to be organized. The first step was to prepare the artwork by cutting it into manageable pieces in my studio and packing it safely for travel (in the back of my truck!). I also have a written list of materials that I consult so that I dont forget anything.
When I arrive, I lay out my Thinset and mixing materials near the water and electricity, being careful to lay a tarp down first. Then I take the artwork and the installation materials to the actual site. Again I carefully lay out a tarp under the wall space. 
 In this instance Nancy had already gotten a handyman to create a place for the art using Hardibacker board and even made a "frame" for the art out of wood. The size is 6' x 3'.
I begin the process of measuring the wall, taping my design to it perfectly centered and taping off the wood around it so I dont make a mess.
 And then it is just a matter of troweling the Thinset onto the wall, adhering a piece, troweling Thinset onto the next section of wall, adhering the next piece, etc. 

 And voila! Finished and drying. Next step? Grouting.

The Buggy Garden Mosaic

I am currently finishing a commission for Hug A Bug Preschool in El Cerrito, California. Here I just have to stop and show you the breathtaking view of San Francisco from their front door!! 
 I was asked to create this piece to commemorate their 30th year in business. On November 17th I led a group of 15 parents in a mosaic bug making workshop held on-site. They were each asked to bring little pieces that reminded them of childhood - or in some way were special to them - to incorporate into their "bug". This was a wonderful and warm event held on a grey and drizzly Saturday morning.
 I designed several different insects - like butterflies, dragonflies, bees and even an inchworm! I mounted them so the "artists" would be gluing their tessarae onto mesh. 
 Afterward, I took the mosaic bugs home to dry. In a few days I mounted each one onto a lightweight substrate called Easyboard. (I used the last of my stash because it is no longer being made.)
 I knew that my design idea would be a simple one - a garden with bugs and flowers. I really like the work of the artist Hundertwasser so I allowed myself to be influenced by the psychological freedom that his art expresses. 
 The finished size of this is 6' x 3' so I split the design in half and used the mesh method to create it in my studio. The usual types of flowers didnt interest me for this "garden" so I just went with my own vision of "flowers" instead. I created them on a substrate (Easyboard again) to give them depth. I envisioned the large middle one first. In this photo, it is on the right. I "saw" a lollipop-like spiral in red and white.  
 While I created that flower, the vision of the next two, on either side of it, came into my head, with three petals each and stripes on one but checkerboards dominating the other. Nancy, the head of Hug A Bug, asked me to incorporate some small figurines into each flower so I did that too - you can see some of them here. And after those were finished, the last two flowers were created - rounding out my design.
There is nothing like the first time you lay out your mosaic as a whole piece to get a good look at it.
The next step? Installation.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mosaic Stairs - Dawn's Sunrise

My latest work is a mosaic on the front staircase of a home. These were the stairs before:
Here are the stairs after:
My client wanted to paint and beautify the front of her house and wanted a piece of art that would make her happy when she comes home. The design had to be easily readable "chopped up" as it would be on the front of each riser with a thick "lip" separating each image.She and I went through a few design ideas - a tree, a butterfly - but settled on a sunrise. The clients first name is Dawn so we thought this would be TOTALLY perfect!!

 I worked on mesh in my studio. I had some fits and starts at the beginning trying to figure out a lay pattern for the sun. But I was able to settle on one style for the sun (small squares of color)...

 and a more traditional pattern (triangles) for the "rays"- along with different colors of mirror for sparkle!
I finished the studio work pretty quickly but had to wait through several rainstorms for a good dry stretch to be able to do the installation and grouting. Here is my set-up for the installation...
...and for the next day's grouting.
Here are several photos of the finished piece from different angles:

  Dawn dropped by last evening with a wonderful heartfelt note of thanks and a little metal box shaped like a Hamsa for me. I have been very lucky with the type of people who have commissioned me to create artwork for them!!

Dawn's Sunrise 
7 separate mosaics of 54" x 4" each. 
Kim Larson   2012