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

🙂

One happy me

🙂

 

 

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The Enchanter

This is the second piece I made for the Mosaic Odysseys festival.

I don’t think it needs much explanation except that I see the sun as an enchanter…always luring me towards him. And how enchanting he always is, how beautiful he colours the sky when he rises and sets. I want to bask in his light and feel his warmth on my skin.

drawing enchanter

I made the sun with transparent coloured glass rounds, gold leaf glass and hand gilded metal leaf glass. I also gilded the board beforehand to emphasise the gold colour and add texture to the transparent rounds.

gilding the board

 

Detail before grout

Detail before grout

As well as using Italian piastrina smalti (the red and orange glass) I have also used a strong coloured glass tile very similar to piastrina smalti that was given to me by Elaine M Goodwin. She told me she had bought it from a tile company called Marble Mosaic Company based in Weston Super Mare in the 1980’s. She said they were an Italian family. I wanted to find out more so I got in touch with the company.

It is a fascinating story of the company’s mosaic history passed onto me by the Marble Mosaic Company director Stephen Maddalena. Stephen even came to do his first mosaic workshop with me where he told me more snippets of information and then sent me photos of the some of the company’s mosaic panels from the early 1900’s.

However I can’t do the story justice here so I will write another post about it soon with all the photos he sent me to show you!

So here is my finished piece.

The Enchanter (glass tile, gold leaf glass, millefiori, hand gilded metal leaf glass, glass rounds, metal leaf on board)

The Enchanter
(glass tile, gold leaf glass, millefiori, hand gilded metal leaf glass, glass rounds, metal leaf on board)

 

The Mosaic Odysseys Festival

The first exhibition will run for a week at the Hellenic Centre in London starting on Tuesday July 19th and finishing on Saturday July 23rd.

Meet the artists: Tuesday 19 July, 6.30pm-8.30pm.

Exhibiting artists –

Greek artists :

Ioannis Touliatos, Artemis Klitsi, Eftychia Finou, Vasso Spanou, Lydia Papadopoulos, Alexandros Bassadis,

UK artists:

Dugald MacInnes, Nathalie Vin, Aliyahgator, Arianna Puntin, and myself.

The festival will then move to Athens with an exhibition at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation from September 9th to September 18th.

The final exhibition will be at the Muncipal Art Gallery of Mykonos, starting 23rd September and finishing 3rd October.

Have a look at our website here

Thank you to Artfinder for publicity and for sponsoring our printing costs!

Come back soon to read about the history of those vintage glass tiles

😉

Ten Years – Mosaic Exhibition

TEN YEARS

An exhibition of mosaic art by Kate Rattray

at Somerset Guild of Craftsmen, 23a Broad Street, Wells BA5 2DJ

9th May – 13th June 2016

PRIVATE VIEW – Friday 20th May 4-6pm

I am delighted to announce that I am presenting 10 years of my work at the new back room gallery at Somerset Guild of Craftsmen in  Wells.

Having worked in the art of mosaic for over 20 years now, the last 10 years has been the most productive for me. I have chosen works that explored my interest in folklore, weather, and the apocalypse, featuring birds, moths and butterflies.

Here are three from that apocalyptic year of 2012!

The Storm

The Storm

 

"Chorus at the Wake of the Sun" in sunlight

“Chorus at the Wake of the Sun”

 

Unfinished Symphony

Unfinished Symphony

And two of my latest pieces.

Black Swan

Black Swan

 

White Swan

White Swan

But much better to see them in the flesh amongst a total of 29 mosaics. And if you are interested I am running a mosaic workshop on 21st May in the gallery. See details and book here

Come and see!

🙂

 

 

 

The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons

I don’t know how relevant the four seasons are any more. Our climate is changing and maybe we won’t feel the difference between the seasons quite so much as we did when we were young. I’m writing this watching snow fall outside my window and with layers of clothes on as our gas central heating is broken once again this year! Well it feels like winter to me, but the signs in the garden are of spring, and who can say they haven’t seen fruit trees in blossom this year already? It all seems a bit of a mess now, one day warm the next cold, rain, rain, rain, and then oh good a little sunshine, nature is confused while the earth is trying to find equilibrium.

There was never a time that William Blake’s poem “The Sick Rose” was so significant.

But enough of my bemoaning as I am really here to give you a little joy and hope. Even if it means thinking about how it was, should have been, should be. Perfect seasons. Celebrating them for what they sometimes are, what they were, should be and maybe could be once again.

"Spring"

“Spring”

 

"Summer"

“Summer”

"Autumn"

“Autumn”

"Winter"

“Winter”

Click the links to buy these and see more.

🙂

The Sky is Flying with Flock ‘n Roll!

I have been revisiting an idea I had in 2011 where I made three pieces of work for an exhibition called “Flocks” at the Craft Centre in Dartington, Devon.  You can see the 2011 works here
You can also read about my experiments using photoshop to get an idea of grout colour and how it might work here

And if you are still interested then you can see my animation here

Those pieces came about after spending a peaceful day on Priddy Moor on the Mendip Hills.
As I walked that day the sky was filled with the sound of larks singing, but as I looked into the sky I couldn’t see a single lark. It was as if they had blended into the sky; they made the sky the colour it was.

The Sky is Flying series

So here I am again cutting those bird shapes which I so love doing! Each work is a different sunset or a part of a sunset. While I work it is interesting to see how  the coloured glass works together. I try to replicate colours of the sky as much as I can but some combinations don’t work as I would expect them to and require a different shade which is sometimes quite a subtle change.   I love the glass with the copper fleck bringing that extra hint of sunset light into the pieces.

It takes a little time to assemble the birds so that there is as little space around them as possible, whilst at the same time allowing them to fly free!

You may notice that some of my titles contain titles and lyrics stolen from a few of my favourite rock songs.

See if you can guess what they are. Answers on a postcard to:

Red House,

Black Dog Road,

Solsbury Hill,

Tin Pan Valley

or leave a comment below!

(Btw, I am not really that old, but I was brought up with the sound of 60’s and 70’s rock songs that over the years have become one with the fabric of my being! And today there are very few musicians who can play as well)

😉

Click the pictures to purchase on Artfinder!

ÂŁ10 off any Artfinder art work by clicking this link http://artf.in/2Jp2Rg and joining

Birds Who Bring Sunset

Birds Who Bring Sunset

Flying Sunset

Flying Sunset

A Golden Winged Bird Passing my Way

A Golden Winged Bird Passing my Way

In Formation (the Code of Flying)

In Formation (the Code of Flying)

Amongst Birds of the Sleepy Red Glow

Amongst Birds of the Sleepy Red Glow

Flight from the Waves of Solway

I was delighted to receive another commission from my customer who commissioned the hob back splash Sunset over the Solway .

The brief was to make a smaller picture that would have echos or elements of the larger mosaic whilst also adding something of the magic from a piece she had just bought from my Artfinder shopDreams of Golden Summer” (below). This piece again, like the hob mosaic, conjured up childhood  memories for my customer, who remembered those treasured hot summer days  pulling wheat plants through her fingers and watching the kernels fly off into the wind.

Dreams of Golden Summer

Dreams of Golden Summer

A lot of my work is about things that turn into birds or things made of birds so I suggested that the Solway seascape  could be “a bit later on and the sun is further down , slipping into the sea, still reflecting bright colours . The sea is beginning to get stormy, the waves are choppy, deep shadows are shaped like birds, white crests of foam are forming, also bird shaped, some of them as if by magic fly off into the colourful sky”.

She liked the idea and so the commission went ahead.

This time it was to be direct and again using smalti and a little of that gold mirror she loves in the river of  “Dreams of Golden Summer”.

This was the agreed sketch.

Coloured sketch for the commission

Coloured sketch for the commission

It was nice to use mostly regular smalti this time instead of piastriana, so I could make the most of the holes and irregularities.

set up

When working direct like this it’s important to get the pieces close together, so a lot of time goes into cutting the bottom of some pieces so they can sit next to each other quite snugly. I use both hardy and hammer and nippers to cut smalti, sometimes it is easier to use one than the other. If one way doesn’t work I use the other!

After each session I clean in between the crevices with a dental tool or a needle tool like this one which came from a kids microscope kit given to me by a friend who also makes mosaics. (Ha, you missed a trick Jean 🙂 )

cleaning the crevices

cleaning the crevices

I was especially pleased with my white crest/birds because by using a mixture of very pale colours I have achieved an iridescent effect, one I had planned to experiment with one day.

detail

detail

I must admit it was very hard for me not to grout this piece, I had to tie my hands behind my back for a whole day before I gave it to my customer! Very glad I resisted though, it would have filled all those lovely holes, and made the whole surface less bright.

Here’s the final piece “Flight from the Waves of Solway”

flight from the waves of Solway2

Flight from the Waves of Solway

 

Roll Up For The Greatest Show On Earth!

 

Beautiful Black Clouds

Beautiful Black Clouds

Yesterday evening just before the sun went down I managed to close shop at Somerset Crafts down on the Avalon Marshes in Somerset in time to see thousands and thousands of starlings swooshing over the gallery and on down to the heath. This happens every year at about this time and we have many visitors from all over the world who come to see the murmurations.  This year I would have thought could be a record year for numbers. I must have seen at least 15 large flocks pass by, (and there were probably more before I went outside) some right over my head and others in the distance. It’s hard to say but the numbers of each flock must have been well over a thousand, maybe several thousand as each flock took about  a minute to pass by and they spread out across the sky.

If you are lucky you see them sky dancing – performing amazing patterns in the sky. From where I stood last night it looked as if they were heading over the marshes and perhaps if you were a bit further west you would have seen a most spectacular display.  I saw a wonderful display a couple of years ago but failed to get good photos and in the end I just wanted to watch and not be hindered by taking photos. It really takes your breath away.

Here’s a great video and a couple of photos of the starlings  taken a couple of years ago by my friends Val and Al, who exhibit and sell their photos at Somerset Crafts gallery.

Murmuration of Starlings over Shapwick Heath

Murmuration of Starlings over Shapwick Heath by Val and Al of Avalon prints

Starlings by Val and Al of Avalon Prints

Starlings by Val and Al of Avalon Prints

What I find so thrilling is not just the beauty of watching them but also the sound as they pass by overhead. The flutter of thousands of wings. It sounds almost like white noise. And talking of white, as I stood there last night they dive bombed me in white rain!!! I put my hood up to stop it going in my hair, but amazingly I didn’t get even a speck on me, it had splattered all around where I stood! My daughter tells me I was unlucky!

Inspired we are by what I can only describe as “the greatest show on earth”, each year me and my other artist friends at Somerset Crafts make work for our annual Starling Exhibition.

I began a series that ended up developing fairly spontaneously. After making the first piece (which ended up being number 4) I then started to scrawl a pattern of birds on an old envelope, and I made each piece by matching one to the next, at the same time keeping in mind that each one could also be an individual piece of work. So there was no grand design or cartoon, and the andamento (flow of the tiles) around the birds was drawn onto the board as I went along. Making work this way is a bit of a risk as the andamento should really be planned well beforehand! However I was in one of those “I have to get on with it” moods and there was no time for proper planning. That is the trouble with mosaic, it is so slow, and I always find that half way through a project I want it finished as my mind has moved on to new ideas that I want to start!

Last year I experimented and made this piece using iridescent black glass tiles that I cut into bird shapes. It was successful and  swiftly found a new home, so I decided to develop the idea.

Night Murmuration

Night Murmuration

The first one (now number 4) I made and grouted all in black, but then I decided to re-grout it using a grey on the yellow glass, because once I had made them all and looked at them un-grouted I could see how well the andamento worked around the starlings. I think a black grout would have been too heavy in the sky where it was yellow and blue and would have distracted the eye from the flow of the tiles. So it was necessary to use masking tape to grout the areas in different shades of black and grey. By using a black grout next to a grey (reds are grouted in black and yellows in grey) it is possible to blend them along the gradual colour change i.e. through the oranges, as it is being cleaned off.

grouting the sky

grouting the sky

grouting starlings

grouting starlings

When the masking tape comes off there is a ridge of grout that then needs to be removed.

tool

This work is called “Beautiful Black Clouds“, it is now displayed in Somerset Crafts gallery. Each piece is for sale, and I wonder who dares to buy one and split up the flock!

 

Beautiful Black Clouds (1)

Beautiful Black Clouds (1)

Beautiful Black Clouds (2)

Beautiful Black Clouds (2)

Beautiful Black Clouds (3)

Beautiful Black Clouds (3)

Beautiful Black Clouds (4)

Beautiful Black Clouds (4)

Beautiful Black Clouds (5)

Beautiful Black Clouds (5)

Beautiful Black Clouds (6)

Beautiful Black Clouds (6)

 

Beautiful Black Clouds

Beautiful Black Clouds