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)



One happy customer


One happy me









A Union of Family Arms

For the last couple of months I have been working on a commission in the other hours between making new pieces of jewellery, Christmas craft markets, packaging sales online and celebrating.

I was asked to make a mosaic for an outdoor wall based on my customer’s family and wife’s families coat of arms. He sent me photos of the arms by the Herald of old Graubuenden, Marco Foppoli. His arms being on the left and his wife’s on the right.


My customer also sent me a picture of a Christmas card designed for them by Marco that was inspired by old sgraffito decorations of the Rhaetia mountains.


Copyright: Marco Foppoli 2015

I was allowed to have a certain amount of artistic licence without changing the images so much that they were no longer  their family coat of arms. So my proposed design was very close to the Christmas card but simplified. I chose to make a winter and summer alpine willow tree and to let the leaves from the summer tree blow across the hare’s feet as well as merge the backgrounds of both families to symbolise their union.


I made it in sections on mesh and indirect and worked the backgrounds and border direct.





The finished mosaic

The finished mosaic

Coat of Arms Mosaic for outdoor wall approx 1metre x 85cm made with stained glass, iridescent stained glass, glass tile and vintage tiles from Marble Mosaic Company once based in Weston-Super-Mare!









Together We Grow

As I watched the sun go down over the hill one evening, it shone directly through the middle of a tree in the distance. It seemed as if it had burnt a hole right through the tree and the leaves around it gradually changed colour from orange to green. The photo I took didn’t reveal the colours, but here it is anyway:


I made a coloured sketch allowing a fair amount of artistic licence to creep in!


I was going to make the background with stained glass strips in sunset colours that gradually change into rain at the bottom of the picture, but as I layed out the background it didn’t feel right. There was too much colour and it seemed to compete and clash with the leaves. So I chose a blue sky of vitreous glass tiles which changed into a rain of grey vitreous tiles and strips of mirror glass.

Together We Grow

Together We Grow

I played with the photo after I had finished the mosaic and I quite like this:



Path to the Sky

The fields in the last few weeks have been an abundance of yellow buttercups. I couldn’t do it much justice with my photos but it was much better than this:


The skies have been pretty impressive too:


webbed sky

webbed sky

No need to look far for inspiration!

I made this mosaic indirectly only because I had to work on it at a Demo day at Somerset Crafts and the table wasn’t big enough for the whole thing. So I made it in 2 parts:


I installed it on cement board so it is suitable to display outdoors:


I grouted it in black to emphasise the colours and the shadows between the blades of grass, the buttercups, the butterflies and birds  (did you spot them?) and the webbed sunset sky. Here it is completed:


Path to the Sky


As with much of the work I post on my blog it is for sale and I’ll be taking this piece to Somerset Crafts gallery next week, unless you contact me first with an offer to buy it!


The Storm

I’ve been working on a final set of mosaics which will bring an end to a “concept album” of work. There are over 40 mosaics in my album (some of which you can see on my website) and they will soon be produced in a book I hope to publish through “Blurb” before Christmas.

The Storm is one of the final mosaics.

My original idea for The Storm was as a series of 5 large stained glass  mosaics and a subsequent video. It was inspired by a cold windy autumnal day last year with many birds flying high in the distance. Every so often the sun would send shafts of coloured light from behind the clouds, catching the birds wings so they appeared to “flash” as they flew. The weather was changeable that day and soon the clouds that came across were heavier and the birds disappeared into them. But then came the rain, great long hard drops of it and as I ducked my head under my jacket I felt as if it wasn’t raindrops hitting me but bits of swooping birds. It was a real Daphne du Maurier/ Hitchcock moment.

I felt as if the storm was caused by the birds, the storm was the birds, the birds were the storm …

Unfortunately I couldn’t make 5 mosaics as my budget wouldn’t stretch to it (I tried to win an award to pay for it but was unsuccessful) so I decided to make 1 mosaic and incorporate the whole concept and changing sky.

I’m pleased I did this as I am pleased with the outcome and quite excited by it.

But on planning the design I came across some mind mangling problems and thoughts. This was my first quick coloured pastel sketch.

Thinking about the sky without a horizon of distant land or sun seemed to turn my ideas of perspective upside down, back to front and inside out.

First, would I illustrate the sky so that it had distance or depth, both, or something else? If it was to have distance then the supposed horizon (at the bottom of the picture) would be the furthest point and there the birds would be smaller, just like in my mosaic “Gathering Darkness” and so I colour sketched this picture.

This would also give it depth but only into the distance. What if I wanted the depth to be above me and the storm and the birds to come down on me? So I sketched this picture.

Then I struggled to decide which drawing to use. Perhaps the first is most understandable and the second is more abstract, but the latter seems to be more interesting. It also describes what happened that day. And not only does it “feel” as if the storm was coming down on me, but it also looks like a view of the sky from the sky, as if I am viewing it from above, perhaps from a plane or a bird.

The Storm (view 1)

The iridescent black glass represents the flickering birds in the rays of sunshine. If you walk past the mosaic the birds flicker and move…

The Storm (view 2)

This is one of my new mosaics that will be included in my exhibition “Crust” with Marcelo de Melo at Bath Artists Studio Gallery fro 23 – 28 October.

I am working on an accompanying video …stay tuned


Catching the Sun (Solar City)

If you read my last post you will have seen the progress so far on a mosaic I am making called “Solar City” which is part 2 of a series called “Catching the Sun”.

I am making the mosaic in the double indirect, or reverse reverse technique for reasons described in the last post.

These are the steps I took to get to the final piece…

The mosaic is all stuck with pva and water mix onto brown paper the correct way up. 

I paste another sheet of brown paper with the glue mix and lay it onto the top of the mosaic…

pasting a sheet of brown paper onto the surface of the mosaic

Once dry the mosaic sandwich is flipped over and the original paper that  the mosaic was pasted onto is soaked and peeled off …

peeling off the first paper

Now the mosaic can be treated as an indirect mosaic:  The underside  of the mosaic is buttered with tile adhesive …

buttering the back of the mosaic

The cement board is also spread with tile adhesive and laid onto the mosaic and then the whole thing is flipped over…

cement board pressed against the mosaic

mosaic flipped over

Then the final paper is removed …

peeling final paper off

peeling final paper off

The adhesive is dug out to allow the grout in …

digging out the adhesive

digging out the adhesive

And finally grouting.  Here I have masked off the rooftops of the city as I originally grouted them white. I wanted to show they were solar panels – however it didn’t look right as often is the case using white grout. Only use white grout in the bathroom and kitchen!  (I thought I might get away with it on this mosaic and break the rules but no, no, no!)


I did, however use a darker grey grout for the water, the sun and the sky …

Solar City

A few thoughts on the mosaic :

The shadow of the tree in the water and on the building is an echo of the past (the tree as the primitive sun catcher from my first mosaic of the series “The Embrace”) 

Shadow and light is mixed up in the mosaic, this maybe impossible but perhaps there are reflections from other buildings around that can cause this. 

The city has enveloped the sun, like a wave.

It is ambiguous.

This mosaic was unlike any other I have made, not quite in my usual style. However, I am sure you have spotted my signature  bird reflected in one of the sunlit windows !

I welcome your comments good or not so good!



Catching the Sun (part 2)

I am working on the second part of the Catching the Sun series (if you missed the first part then have a look at my last post)

The series is about harnessing the sun. This time I wanted to illustrate the city harnessing the power of the sun. It is partly present and partly futuristic, and in contrast to the primeval tree in the first part.

Here are some of my initial scrawls…

scrawl 1

scrawl 2

scrawl 3

Funny how the last 2 scrawls reminded me of the Virgin Mary swaddling the baby Jesus!

But I wanted the whole design to fill the space and I wasn’t sure how I would fill it here, so I came up with a another scrawl this time I feel confident enough to call it a “sketch”!…

sketch for "Solar City"

As you see I named it “Solar City” .

Happy with this design I made a coloured cartoon.

cartoon for "Solar City"

I decided to make the mosaic in stained glass, so I could cut it accurately and I could use streaky glass for the  windows, using the “double indirect” method using paper. This way I don’t lose my design by covering it in tile adhesive as I will need to make accurate cuts to fit the design. I could work in pva onto board which would be the easiest way, however I have been disappointed with the quality of the wood lately as it seems to warp more than it used to, so I now I  use cement board as a backer board if it is a mosaic bigger than A4.  By using the double indirect method  I can lay out the mosaic as if I am building it the right way up so I can see how it looks as I go. This is better than using the indirect method (where the mosaic is laid out upside down and back to front) when using streaky glass  or mirror glass that has a different colour or surface underneath.

This is my progress so far…

Come back soon to see the final mosaic!