Mid Winter Flight


                                       Keep Warm and Safe … see you in 2017







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.



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


Flying through the Dark into the Light

In 2009 I was taken out of my comfort zone when making a mosaic for the Heavens above  exhibition at the Opus Gallery in Exeter. I am used to working with  warm bright  colours and golds, but I decided to make a night sky mosaic using a lot of black.

The swan wasn’t so bad – I chose an iridescent  black glass tile that was quite mesmerizing as blue and silver notes played off the surface. I used silver leaf glass mosaic tile for the stars and they added to the feeling of heavenliness.

But then came the background sky. As I cut the matt black ceramic squares into lengths and laid them in loose rhythmic lines, I began on a journey , a cheerless journey, one  I had get into to get out of.

As I built up the walls of darkness around my field of vision, I became engulfed in a claustrophobic chasm. Without light it seemed there was no space, I felt breathless, cutting the tile faster and faster, in a desperate bid to finish the piece and feel less of this uncomfortable place. Occasionally there was a little breath from this relentless condition, when I looked at the mosaic as a whole and saw the swan flying down in sparks of little lights. But when I returned to laying the black matt, I was back in the dark again.  My heart racing now, I stayed up late to finish, hunger forgotten, thirst no need to quench. I was beating my wings against the blackness, trying to fly through the a sky as if it were made of syrup.

At last, finished,  I could breathe again, I gulped down the air like water after a long flight.


I have just finished a piece called “Forest Light”. It is for the “Year of the Forest” exhibition at the Opus Gallery, Exeter which will be held from 2 May -30 July 2011

Although I started with the same black matt ceramic in the trees that I used in the sky of Cygnus, I made the mosaic a lot faster which gave me less time to feel that strange claustrophobia, although I think if there were more trees I would have started down the slippery slope! I also knew I would be making a light sky of silver and gold, so I had something to look forward to and it would counteract the  heavy presence of the trees. When I use  gold leaf I feel  elated and light. I use several different tones of gold, ranging from a silver gold which is more silver than gold but has a warmth to it to a deep rich copper gold. Throughout the range I use a bright gold that is more reflective than the others  and  a yellow brassy gold. I find that I feel different with each tone. The  silver golds appear to let in more light,  they are cool and fresh like pale spring morning skies, and I feel as if I am flying in the clear fresh air. As the tones become more orange I become warmer,  immersed in a golden light, flying becomes very comfortable, too comfortable, so I  run the risk of falling into a deep slumber …..

Just as well I finished in time!

Forest Light

Up, up and away!

I have lived in the middle of the Somerset countryside for 11 years now, before that I lived in rural Devon for most of my life, with a few teenage years in cities and towns. When I was a child we would spend our summer days by the beach – about an hours drive away.

Now with my  family we spend our holidays in the cities! To get away from the quiet and enjoy art and culture and the mad  hubbub the city offers. But I do like living in the country, watching the wildlife and the beautiful skies. This week I had two visits from those who travel in the sky.  The first was by a lost racing pigeon. He tried to get into my kitchen and went in and out of the shed, I suppose it was cool and dark like his homing shed. I had just finished reading “The Birds” by Daphne de Maurier (I have never read it although I have seen Hitchcock’s film several times) so I was a little alarmed at this poor pigeons insistence to get in. He eventually flew off when he heard a flock of starlings calling. I hope he found his way.

And then there was this … the balloon took off in the field behind us and sailed gracefully above our house…….who said the countryside wasn’t exciting! ….Cheques made out to Kate Rattray please Triumph!