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



Bah Humbug!

Oh yes it’s that time again when we are all scrabbling around trying to find interesting presents for our families and friends. And there is news that we might have a white Christmas here in the south west UK, so all the more reason to get the shopping done now and then hopefully we can relax!
Well I am using this post to shamelessly plug my new pieces available to buy on my Folksy shop. Hey, you don’t need to behave like Scrooge! Don’t go yet! Talking of Scrooge, I would like to introduce you to my Bah Humbug Bee Pendants and brooches.

bees folksy

Bah Humbug Bees!

Then there are my Fish for the Funky Punks Brooches

shoal folksy

Fish Brooches for the Funky Punks

Both the bees and the fish can be ordered without backs and fixed straight to a wall or as part of your personal mosaic project.

They are made by hand-gilding glass with metal leaf and cutting it to shape. Once used for mosaic the glass is on top because if used gilded side up even after sealing, the grout will ruin the metal leaf.   The substrate for the brooches is aluminium, hand cut and filed. For the bee’s thorax I made some polymer clay half bead shapes that are fired in the oven and then varnished. They were great fun to make and finally we found a use for my daughter’s pasta machine!


I have also made some more box frame mosaic art pieces.

This is my series “Three Golden Birds at Sunset” I think these precious little mosaics made with Venetian gold leaf glass and smalti look quite eye-catching  in the deep boxes, what do you think?

You can see more details about each of these items and more on my Folksy shop

Happy Shopping and have a Very Merry Christmas!

Mosaic Print Designer Scarfs

I have been thinking about transferring mosaic designs onto fabric for years, longer than the big fashion companies such as Dolce & Gabbana! The trouble is they beat me to it!

But seriously I know I will never get as big or famous as they are, (who would want to be that rich and famous??) and I am just doing this as an experiment and through a desire to put down my nippers for a while and do something different. (When I say “for a while”, don’t worry, I am already picking them up again!)

The designs are digitally printed onto fabric. For my scarves I have chosen to use a silky polyester as it drapes beautifully and the colour is bright crisp and sharp.

This is my Golden Leaves Scarf

Golden Leaves Scarf

Golden Leaves Scarf

The design came from a photo of the mosaic leaf candle holders I made last year taken on a bed of autumn leaves, which I have made into a mirror design for the fabric.

I got the photo printed as greeting cards


I had a tie commission with this design too…


Then I made the Dawn Breakers Bird Scarf using a design I took from a mosaic I made called “Dawn Breakers”

Dawn Breakers scarf

Dawn Breakers Bird Scarf


Dawn Breakers


And this one is  my Midnight Sun Scarf using part one of my mosaicDisappearing Sun

Midnight sun

Midnight Sun Scarf

Part 1 of Disappearing Sun

If you want to see more pictures including some on my model, have a look by clicking the pictures or visit my Folksy Shop or my Etsy Shop

I also have cards and prints available of Spirit of the Leaves part 3

spirit folksy

Spirit of the Leaves (part 3)

Very popular at this time of year when the leaves are blowing off the trees and turning into birds!


Sunset over the Solway

I have been busy over the summer months creating a mosaic for a customer to display behind her kitchen hob. I was delighted to be offered this commission as the subject of it was as close to my heart as it was hers. She sent me some photos of the sun setting over  the Solway, a stretch of sea along the coast between Cumbria and Dumfries, with the Scottish hills in the distance. It was the view from her bedroom window when she was a child. Although I also have connections with Scotland (my grandfather was Scottish) my childhood memories of the sunset on the sea are in North Devon where I lived, in the South West of the UK, where I spent many happy hours with my family and our very naughty Bassett Hound! (another story for another day!)

So immediately me and my customer had a shared understanding remembering the beauty of the sunset over the sea, and I knew this was going to be a successful commission. As she lived only a few miles away from me,  I visited her in her home bringing with me  various works and materials, so she could choose the material she wanted me to use.  We wrote many emails back and forth to each other about colour and composition, and it really helped that she wrote with great sensitivity and a deep understanding of her chosen subject, with a clear vision of what she wanted, whilst simultaneously allowing me freedom to use my own artistic expression.

She wanted the majority of the work in smalti and gold, because of it’s sumptuous colour and light giving properties just perfect for a sunset and reflection on the sea.  As it was intended for a splashback behind the hob I made it indirect for a flat surface so it could be cleaned easily.

I used my Venetian piastrina smalti plates and cut them into square tesserae. I often use “piastrina” as it has a more regular surface without the holes, unevenness and irregularities of the “regular”smalti (sounds confusing I know!)  and therefore it is easier to use  for indirect work . However I also used some regular smalti that comes in 2cm x 1cm pieces, but was careful to find the flattest side to stick down on the paper/plastic.


I made the sky on paper and the sea on plastic. The only reason being that I found some plastic after I had made the sky and I wanted to try it out!  Strangely enough I have never tried an indirect piece on plastic, and I wanted to compare the processes.



As I worked on the sea I was beginning to really enjoy the texture of the work as the tesserae were quite different in height allowing the light to play on the surfaces quite beautifully.  But as this was the back of the work it wouldn’t be quite the same.


As the mosaic had to be installed to allow for a possibility of being moved one day, I made some wax tiles to replace 8 tiles as stops.  After the mosaic was made up the stops were easily removed and  holes drilled down through the adhesive and backer board.  After installation I used blue-tak to stick smalti over the screw heads.

wax stops

wax stops

I pre-grouted the mosaic with grey grout as I was going to be setting the mosaic in a white adhesive in order to let the pieces of transparent smalti I had used shine well. The grout acts as a “stop”;  not allowing the white adhesive to seep between the glass.

A toothbrush came in handy to pre-grout the irregular smalti in the sea…


The grout had to be cleaned off well, to allow the white adhesive to show through the transparent pieces.


I made a temporary frame so I could level out the tile adhesive before fixing a backer board to the back of the work.



Once the mosaic and backer board had been spread with adhesive and bonded together (no pictures here as it was a two handed job!),  I left it to dry for a couple of days .

Now for the exciting bit … paper and plastic removal…




Removing the plastic was oh so satisfying! And in comparison to paper? I think a little easier, certainly in removing the plastic. However I used a very strong (builders) pva glue that was hard to remove from the top of the smalti, next time I’ll try a craft pva as it isn’t as strong. Using paper also has it’s time consuming disadvantages, especially when pre-grouting, as the grout seeps onto some of the surface of the smalti, so there was a lot of cleaning and scraping to do before I gave it all a final grout.

To finish I treated it with a water based stain resistant sealer. This can be re-applied when necessary by my customer, and as it is water based and odour-less it won’t fill up the kitchen with smells!

Anyway, here it is finished with some detail shots.





The mosaic is 101cm x 75cm made using smalti, matt ceramic tile (hills) and slate (bird).

And here it is installed!


Mendip Sunset

I take so many photos of the landscape around me, usually they serve as reference points for work that takes me somewhere beyond that which is seen. This time I decided to make a couple of pieces that are purely representational. At least more or less !

The first inspired by this dramatic sunset last autumn.


I made the drawing soon after.


A couple of weeks ago I found the drawing and decided to make the mosaic.


Not exactly the same as the drawing or the photo as you see, just an impression, and of course with added birds, because they are usually there, just not at the moment I took the photo!

I’ll show you the second landscape in the next post.



The Three Trees

I have been playing with my jigsaw again and made  four new pieces of work for  “Six”  – an     exhibition showcasing six local makers – at the Hawthorn Gallery, Blandford Forum, Dorset.

The exhibition began on 14th January and runs until 22nd March 2014.
The series is called “The Three Trees” and illustrates the four seasons.

This is “When The World Was Young” (Spring)

When The World Was Young

When The World Was Young

This is “In The Midst Of It” (summer)

In The Midst Of It

In The Midst Of It

This is “Blown Away” (autumn)

Blown Away

Blown Away

And this one you have already seen – is “When The World Was Old” (winter)

When The World Was Old

When The World Was Old

Go and see the exhibition  if you are nearby, it’s sure to be a good one.



Where All The Fish Go

That mottled sky that inspired “Where The Flying Things Go” (see last post) led to another mosaic, more relevant to the mottled or “mackerel” sky as it is known. It is known as mackerel as the cloud formations resemble the markings on a mackerel fish. Here is another look at that sky:


 This time I wanted to make the design with a sunset sky in contrast to “Where The Flying Things Go” which happens at dawn.

I made a quick scrawly colour sketch in oil pastels:


Then I simplified the design by taking out the boat sail and I let the fish flow naturally into the sun. I love the way shoals of fish make a circle in the water when under attack always trying to get to the middle for protection. This was how I visualised their form in the sun.

Progress of the mosaic:


Once I had filled in the sky with sunset colours (offcuts of stained glass) I had to decide whether to grout the sun as it was or fill it with tiny pieces of stained glass. I grouted a small section in black to try it out, but there was too much reference to my past black suns and this time I wanted more of that dark orange as it wasn’t about dying suns. Orange coloured grout maybe? No, too much will kill the mosaic! So there was nothing for it but to spend a day in the zone cutting and fixing some tiny bits in around the fish.

So finally:

Where All The Fish Go

Where All The Fish Go

Detail of sun:

Detail - Where All The Fish Go

Detail – Where All The Fish Go

The fish outline is cut out of the tile and the grout is painted with silver ink:

Detail of Where All the Fish Go

Detail of Where All the Fish Go

I now have 4 new pieces of work to include in my exhibition at Divas Café, Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome which starts next Saturday 14th September although if you visit this coming Thursday or Friday it will all be up. See here for more details