Do Swallows Eat Olives?

This commission for a private customer was a delight to make. My clients wanted a mosaic for their wall outside their house. After initial discussions by email and a site visit I made three drawings and they chose this one.

As my clients didn’t want very strong or bright colours I chose to use stained glass as I could choose colours that were not as bold as smalti but fresher than vitreous glass.

I was also able to use a fair amount of gold smalti. As the gold smalti was thicker than the stained glass I decided to make it indirect on plastic. It would need a fairly deep bed of cement adhesive to make a flat surface. The flat surface would make it easier to clean off any algae that might collect on it over the years.

Once the leaves and birds were complete I received my luscious order of gold!

There is always so much satisfaction when placing the last piece!

I used sand to stop the gaps so I could grout from the other side. Here you can also see the electrical cable flex I used as a temporary edge while I filled the mosaic with cement adhesive. (There’s always a use for broken things one day)

 

Thick bed of adhesive and levelling before pushing boards firmly on the top. (And piling on the weight to ensure a good hold)

I made a sandwich of light weight cement boards with adhesive in the middle (my partner called it a custard cream) not only for strength but also because the boards were in two halfs; the first layed horizontally and the second vertically.

However it was still very heavy!

After a few days drying it was turned over and the plastic pulled off.

The trunk was made as a separate piece.

Thought I’d learnt my lesson from the last one I made on plastic and I used a weaker pva glue than then, but it was still a devil to get clean.

Brushed out the sand and grouted.

And gazed at the gold…

I had some help with installing it on the wall.

Final touches glueing olives over the screws.

My two boys doing a few hours work for a change!!!

The Olive Tree (2.12m height x 1.20m wide) (stained glass, ceramic tile. marble, gold leaf smalti glass)

Details

 

One happy customer

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One happy me

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Red Pretty Maid birdbath

In a couple of weeks (9th – 11th June 2017), I’ll be showing my bird baths (see recent posts) and other bits and pieces at the English Country Garden Festival at the Bishops Palace in Wells.

I decided to add to my collection of Mary Mary Quite Contrary themed bird baths that I made last year and made another red “Pretty Maid” to replace the red one sold last year.

This one was made a little differently than the original one as I added a mix of glass nuggets, half cut glass marbles, milliefiori to the cut rounds of vintage glass tile in the centre.

I also commissioned some metal ‘stems’ to hold the baths that can be pushed firmly into the ground.

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Coral Reef bird pool

I had a day off the other week so I went to Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast on the Devon/Dorset border. I had a hunt for some fossils on the beach but the best finds were on a stall on the front.

I bought this wonderful piece of polished fossilised coral which is 345 million years old (carboniferous period).

I thought it would make a great centrepiece for a birdbath, although I felt a bit guilty that I would be hiding the unpolished underside by cementing it to the bowl. So to appease my guilt here’s a photo.

When I got home, I couldn’t wait to start. I made the concrete bowl using the same method and mould as the Garden Treasure bird pool.

Again I just let the fossil inspire my design, I didn’t plan it, just let the fossil talk.

The grey cement mortar you see here isn’t there to make me work fast! It was a coat to bring up the surface so that the coral wouldn’t be raised too high above the rest of the mosaic. Surrounding the coral I used copper gold leaf glass and milliefiori.

I wasn’t sure what to do next and mulled things over for five minutes, then it all seemed to make sense.

I emulated the design of the coral and like nature that does it so well I attempted to find perfection in imperfection.

Picking out the cement that is squeezed up above the surface of the tile.

Grouting and cleaning with my trusty toothbrush (don’t worry, I use a different one on my teeth!)

 

Coral Reef bird pool made with hand made concrete bowl and using  polished fossilised coral, gold leaf glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, milliefiori, glass rods, pearl shell rounds, smalti, glass tiles.

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Garden Treasure Bird Pool

Welcome to new followers and thank you for all your lovely comments about my Pool of Dreams bird bath. I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed but feel privileged to have been featured on Discover .

I have made another bird pool. This one is a lot smaller and constructed by using my other method by casting the cement mortar into a mould which in this case was a plastic melamine salad bowl from Tescos! “You can’t use that” my daughter insisted, “it’s too nice, you’ll get it covered in concrete and we could use it to eat salad out of!” So I had to sneak it into my shed while she was at college and I covered the inside quickly with wire, mesh and cement mortar.

Again I began from the centre with a beautiful ammonite.

I didn’t like the horizontal direction of the first few strips of gold metal leaf glass, so I redid it …

Old toothbrushes are great for cleaning out that stubborn grout!

Garden Treasure Bird Pool

I love using glass marbles in these pieces combined with glass nuggets and milliefiori tiles. The marbles were bought years ago on a trip with my kids to the House of Marbles in Devon. Many years ago we watched the marbles being made in the factory, which was fascinating. I think even my hyperactive boys were mesmerized and settled down for five minutes to watch. We all bought a tub of marbles each and when we got them home they were played with for a short while before being left to collect dust on shelves in the bedroom. When my kids left home and cleared their rooms they gave me their marbles and I stored several jars of them in my work-shed with the idea that I would use them one day. It wasn’t until I discovered I could cut them into two halves (not an easy cut, and not 100% accurate or successful) that I began to use them in my work. That way I had a flat base to stick them into the cement adhesive.

Garden Treasure Bird Pool and the Pool of Dreams.

Hand cast wire and concrete bowl, glass tile, vintage glass tiles from Marble Mosaic Company, glass nuggets and marbles, hand gilded metal leaf glass, milliefiori, ceramic tiles, fossils from madagascar and the Jurassic coast, gold lipped oyster shell from Boris Anrep’s studio)

Happy May Day

Garden

🙂

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A Starling Called Ella

Listening to the radio today it came to my attention that it is Ella Fitzgerald’s centenary !  In a couple of weeks on 25 April she would have been 100 years old if she was still alive! Known as the Queen of Jazz, her version of Gershwin’s song “Summertime” has to be one of my favourite all time songs.

Ella collaborated with many great jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, and one rainy Sunday a few weeks ago I had a naming ceremony for my starlings whilst listening to some of these old greats.

Here’s Ella, she is helping me to advertise my sale in my Artfinder shop.  Some of the other jazz starlings are there too!

Duke and Dizzy are on my website here

Also if you use this code at checkout you will get a further £20 off your first order! http://artf.in/2Jp2Rg

The sale ends this Monday 17th April.

🙂

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Let There Be Light (and Water)!

Pool of Dreams

I wanted to make a bird bath loosely based on The Whirlwind That Takes Me There only using a different colour palette.

Like my Pretty Maids and cockle shell bird baths, I made this one by hand forming the base using wire, glass fibre mesh (I recycle the mesh sheets that mosaic tiles come on) and cement mixtures. I have another bird bath I make using a bowl as a mould but I really prefer the hand shaped ones as they can be any shape and they are so imperfect which exaggerates the idea of hand-made. In this world of highly finished craft objects, this is possibly seen as taking a step back again, but maybe it’s important to do that from time to time otherwise we lose sight of what really is hand-made and the work begins to lose integrity. I see so many craft objects that do nothing for me. Ok, they are technically brilliant which is what the maker has strived for, but what has it become? It’s started as a blob of glass, clay or metal, it’s been melted, beaten, punched and hammered, it’s been transformed into something else, something beautiful maybe, but along the way it seems to somehow have lost it’s soul. Of course if you recognise this mosaic bird bath as an art piece, then perhaps I wouldn’t need to justify it, (since we know art is subjective and can be anything)  but as I always think of mosaic art as craft as well as an art form then I feel the need to justify it a little bit. So yes it has an imperfect shape and yes it is hand-made! And yes it holds water and looks lovely in the garden!

Rant over, I’ll show you some photos of the process…

I started by buying some beautiful ammonites. Madagascan and Jurassic coast.

I was very excited to finally be using some of my stoneware ceramic tiles I made in a pottery class over 15 years ago.

After making my bowl I rendered the bottom brushing the cement mixture to smooth the surface. This can be done at the end but I was waiting for my fossils to arrive!

I began with the large fossil in the centre and began to work around it. I didn’t really have a plan, it was quite spontaneous, I just placed several pieces next to the prior pieces and considered how it looked aesthetically.

And finally picking out the tile adhesive between the tiles before grouting.

When I had grouted it (charcoal colour) and it was finished it wasn’t until I added the water that I felt satisfied. The water brought up all the colours beautifully.

I have used gold leaf glass as well as my hand-gilded metal leaf glass and tried to get a photo to show it shining.

Some details.

Pool of Dreams is 60cm in diameter and holds over 4 litres of water.

I used fossils, glass tiles, vintage glass tiles from Marble Mosaic company, ceramic tiles, hand-made ceramic and gilded metal leaf glass, gold leaf glass, stained glass (iridescent), smalti, slate, glass marbles, glass nuggets, milliefiori, glass rods, gold-lipped oyster shell from Boris Anrep’s studio.

Happy Easter!

🙂

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Marble Mosaic Company and Ansar Mosaic

If you read my post The Enchanter, you will remember I used some beautiful vintage tiles in the work that were given to me by mosaicist, Elaine M Goodwin. They are lovely strong coloured thick glass tiles very similar to Italian piastrina smalti. Elaine told me she had purchased them from the Marble Mosaic Company in Weston Super Mare in the 1980’s and believed they were made by them. 

As far as I know we don’t have any companies in the UK that make glass mosaic tiles today so I was eager to find out more and I contacted the Marble Mosaic company.

The company director, Stephen Maddalena sent me some fascinating information and photos of his family’s company and it was a pleasure to meet him when he came to one of my workshops and made his first mosaic!

So I would like to share with you this lovely bit of history…

Stephen’s grandfather Romano Maddalena founded The Marble Mosaic Co in 1905. He came from Fanna, which is a small town in the Friuli region of Italy, about 75 miles north of Venice and 10 miles from Spilimbergo, where the mosaic school is based (scuolamosaicistifriuli.it).

The company initially focussed on laying marble mosaic and tarrazzo floors, which then developed in the 1950’s to include the fixing of glass mosaic tiles (bought in from Italy) as the external wall cladding of new buildings.

Romano’s sons of his first marriage then joined the business.

MMC-Cork

Stephen’s uncle Peter on the right by the floor polishing machine.

 Uncle Peter went on to become the manager of Marble Mosaic Company’s factory by Temple Meads station in Bristol, during which time it’s activities progressively developed from insitu mosaic and terrazzo work to the manufacture of precast terrazzo tiles and then on to the production of precast concrete cladding panels (the latter of which they still produce today)

In the 1920’s their work included the supply of precast terrazzo and cast stone for the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane.

During the 1970’s they produced  precast concrete panels for the external cladding of Clifton Cathedral  by a method that is similar to the “face-up” way in which an insitu terrazzo floor is traditionally laid, except that the coarse aggregate in the concrete mix was exposed by washing away the cement matrix in order to produce a rough-textured face, instead of grinding and polishing its surface.

The last vitreous mosaic project undertaken by MMC was probably Fairfax House in the early 1960’s. Long since demolished, the site is now the Galleries shopping centre in Broadmead.

Here are some early examples of the company’s marble mosaic work believed to have dated from 1905…

MMC-Archive-Mosaic06

MMC-Archive-Mosaic08

MMC-Archive-Mosaic12

MMC-Archive-Mosaic14

Terrazzo Lion

Terrazzo Lion

However, it was Stephen’s uncle Joseph (“Beppi” – 1st son of Stephen’s grandfather’s 2nd marriage) who separately set up and operated Ansar Mosaic in the 1960’s. Ansar Mosaic initially produced the glass mosaic tiles at Weston, but it became more cost effective for the business to purchase loose tiles from Italy and then set them into paper-backed sheets here. This change was about the time of the move from imperial to decimal dimensions, so may have been necessary to avoid the costs of converting their machinery. Ansar Mosaic occupied what had been the Arena Works of the Royal Potteries off Winterstoke Road in Weston-super-Mare. Stephen recollects a furnace in the building when he was young and stacks of mesh frames used to arrange the loose mosaic tiles before being backed with brown paper. When Ansar closed, it coincided with Marble Mosaic Company’s need to expand. Marble Mosaic’s therefore bought Ansar’s property and an adjacent plot of land in order to built a larger factory to produce its precast cladding panels. It then transferred the business from Bristol to Weston Super Mare.

So there you have it, a fascinating history! And here are some of my Ansar vintage tiles, although I am still not sure if they were made in Weston Super Mare or Italy! Whichever though they are really beautiful and lovely to use.

Ansar glass tiles

Ansar glass tiles

Thank you Stephen Maddalena from Marble Mosaic Company for the information and photos and thank you Elaine M Goodwin !

🙂

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