10 September 2012

How to Mosaic on Mesh

Sometimes,  it is easier to mosaic on mesh first, rather than directly onto the substrate.
I buy my mesh from a Tile shop. Then, once I have my design idea drawn onto the mesh, I apply a watered down  glue to the back of the tile and stick down on the mesh. Except it’s not that easy. All sorts of things can go wrong. The glue might block the holes of the mesh, the mesh gets stuck to your work surface. If the weather is wet the glue never seems to dry. If the completed mesh squares get wet, or are kept in a humid environment, the glue stops working and the pieces fall off. All of these things have happened to me, and were accompanied by lots of swearing and worrying about the commission being a big flop.
Then I would go to sleep and in the morning I would have the solution.    To read the whole post please go to my new wordpress website with blog posts: How to Mosaic on Mesh        

10 July 2012

A Good 'How to Mosaic' Book

Tracey Boomer and  Deborah Morbin visit the Knysna Pottery House quite often. They were inspired by some of my mosaic projects and they also bought some handmade tiles, for use in projects in their latest Craft book: Mosaics- Decorative Ideas. some of the tiles where used whole, others broken up.

Look- they even have my fishy mirror idea on the front cover! Inside the book, they show step by step instructions to recreate various projects, for those who need some help on what to mosaic, and how.

The book is on sale in most good  South African bookstores, as well as at the Knysna Pottery House (R150)

                                      The cover of the book shows my fishy mirror idea on bottom right corner

My piggy tiles used in this bread bin project. Lots and lots of other ideas .

29 June 2012

How to Mosaic Using Ceramic Leaf shapes

This is how I made the leaf mosaic pieces. 

Press leaves into a smooth slab of clay.- Thickness should be uniform.. Mine was about 6mm thick in this case. I have used wild geranium, nasturtium, bouganvillea and cluster fig leaves.

Then, when the clay has firmed a little more, cut around the shapes with a pottery knife (or an ordinary kitchen knife- that works too)
Leave overnight. Do not pick up the pieces or handle them while the clay is soft.

The next day, once the clay is past the floppy stage, you can lift them and carefully remove excess 'between bits' for recycling.
Use a damp sponge to clean up the edges, leaving the leaf on the surface, to protect the leaf imprint in the clay from being wiped off.

Peel off the leaf and gently wipe edges one more time.

Now allow them to dry. Not too fast or they will start warping.
They are fired 2 x after this, you can apply the colour pigments or underglazes at this stage or at glazing stage, it depends on the effect you want.
The lovely "surfboard" shape of the leaf is wonderful to work with- look how they fit snugly together on the board while they dry. So easy to work with and put into position.
Craig's Table

My table top in progress

Sally, my mosaic student did well with her 2nd mosaic project

One of my first leafy table tops

mosaic seat in progress, with red leaves, a cat and
other bits and pieces

Green glazed leaves over a brown pigment in the veins of the leaf detail on table top

An easy mosaic project, using leaf mosaic pieces in dove grey, blues and mauve

'mosaic lessons' and various mosaic things decorating the outside of the Knysna Pottery House

an owl and a hare with various odd leaf tiles that no one wanted

More chair seats using leftover leaf mosaic pieces

Sally, my mosaic student, doing a fine job of an umbrella stand for her mother, who is the owner of one of my first leaf table tops. So this umbrella stand will match it nicely.

08 June 2012

Winter, mosaic artist in hibernation

I really should update this blog more often. I only like to do that when I actually have something new to show- but I have no new  mosaic projects for a good few reasons. It is winter, it is cold and my enthusiasm levels are low.

I would like to start a new range of really small ceramic things- buttons, inserts, miniature art. The Knysna Pottery House is going full steam ahead, with many projects and commissions and a new pottery teacher on the team. I am temporarily without transport, so am stuck at home for a bit.

My grown up sons have left home,  I still have my kiln and slab roller at home, all I need is some clay, Plaster of Paris for the moulds, and  some enthusiasm. And of course a market to buy the new range.

I have been decorating ceramics- doing quite a lot of houses and landscapes on buildings, painted on large platters and I have enjoyed that for a while. I discovered I can do a good portrait as well. But who on earth would want a portrait of themselves on a tile or a plate- except the Queen of England maybe?

 Recently a SA artist became famous overnight because he did an "artwork" depicting our president with his rude parts exposed. Oh- the hoo ha that created. Maybe I should do an artwork of  Prez. Zuma and his multiple wives and children, grandchildren- - also shocking in some way- and get free publicity?  Ha ha! No way- you have to be absolutely crazy to attract that kind of hate and negative media attention from all the verkrampte (conservatives) in this country. I am certain the artist got a few death threats. Please note- I have not named the artist or the artwork- as it deserves no more attention.

So here are a few of my ceramic plates.

Noetzie beach, Knysna

Palm trees

Thesen House, Knysna

2 large carved vases and a white mosaic mirror by Ruth

Some old houses in Knysna.

04 April 2012

Coffee table with purpose made handmade tiles and glass mosaic tiles

Step One- the galvanised metal base

Step 2: Cut the fibre cement board to size 

Step 3: Attach fibre cement to metal base using a pop rivet gun

Glass has been glued over cut outs in sides and top.
Then the handmade tiles were made especially.
This corner had to be re-done as the original got accidentally broken

Went to the Tile House to buy glass mosaics tiles on special-
R45 per sheet

Start arranging the glass tiles- play around with designs

I used clear silicone to attach the glass tiles to the glass sheet

Making progress, and thinking about grout colour

Drying. Tomorrow I will grout the table and add a photo of  the final result on this blog post

19 March 2012

How to make your own mosaic inserts

Butterflies, leaves and birds, flowers, a snake, broken ceramic tile, glass drops.

I often get enquiries on the actual making of the mosaic inserts. here is an excerpt from a lovely email I received a few days ago, and my reply:

Hello, Marylou! 
You don't know me, but I've been browsing your earthmaid blog website and dreaming about your wonderful work! I especially love your mosaic inserts! I've seen many mosaic projects, and liked them, but your mosaic insert designs are what most captured my attention. After browsing your website, I went on a hunt to find inserts like yours -- I thought I would begin collecting tiles for a future project. However, I soon discovered that your tiles are one-of-a-kind! I couldn't find anything like them anywhere - either locally or even on-line. As a teacher, I recently relocated to a middle school. I'm excited because now I can explore many more art techniques and media with my older students. 
Your work has inspired me to learn more about working with clay. I have done many different art forms, including some basic mosaic designs with stained glass, but haven't done ceramic work -- yet! On your blog, you describe how to do mosaics, which is wonderful! However, I am most interested in learning more about how you create the tiles themselves -- the techniques you use to create the designs on the tiles. I'd love to try making some inserts for my personal use for mosaics --and I'm also imagining that they'd make wonderful pendants, too. I suppose that using polymer clay for pendants would work, but I would like to explore working with clay -- I wonder if my students could try the technique you use to make small projects, or if it would be too difficult. Would you be willing to tell me more about how you make your inserts, and the techniques you use, or point me in the right direction to find information via the internet or an excellent book resource? I am interested in purchasing some of your inserts, but I can well imagine that if I wanted to get enough for a mosaic project like the mosaic table you feature on your blog site, it would cost me a small fortune to get them to Canada! If you do sell them, I'd like information on how I could order them, and the cost to purchase and ship them to Canada. Thank you so much for sharing your work through your blog, and I hope to hear from you soon!

I replied:

Thanks for the email and kind words.
If your school has it's own kiln and pottery equipment then making your own inserts will be a fun thing to do.

I would suggest you start by getting a slab of clay rolled out- about 6mm thick, either on a slab roller or  by using a rolling pin and 2 dowels.. Get a book from the library on handmade tiles to see how to make a slab.

Then when it has firmed a bit, press cookie cutters into the clay. Or press leaves, veins down into the clay. Cut with sharp tip knife around leaves. Or use paper template and a knife to cut out animal shapes, hearts whatever. Remove in between bits leaving the shapes on a wooden board (or bat- as they are called in pottery studios) to dry overnight.

The next day they should be firm enough for you to pick up and clean off edges.

Then when they are dry, decorate and fire in kiln.
I paint on the underglaze, and then scratch through it to make designs- scraffitto

I use plaster of paris to make moulds of the inserts I make, and that is another long process- but if I was teaching a class to kids- I would use the slab method.

Regards and hope you have fun

In addition to the info in this reply, I will add these extra "pearls of wisdom".

There are many good "how to make tiles" books at the local library. Tutorials with step by step pictures will be helpful.

1) Try and make sure your clay slab has no air bubbles in it.
2) Do not handle the shapes cut from the clay slab while the clay is wet and floppy
3) Put a layer of newspaper over the clay shapes,and then a board, with a weight on top of  the board
    so your shapes will dry flat.
4) Sponge off the edges with a damp sponge, when the clay is leather hard, or dry
5) To slow clay slabs from drying too fast, cover unfinished projects with clear plastic- An old fridge is a good store for incomplete clay projects.

You can experiment with decoration techniques. Wax resist, scraffitto and simple one colour effects are best for beginners and children. The results always look better, than a mish mash of colours. Keep it simple. Also try those little rubber stamps which can be pressed into clay slabs- just wait for the clay to be the right hardness- not too wet and not too dry and then let the children and their imaginations go wild. They must remain well behaved and supervised as sharp objects are required to cut around the shapes, impressions. Remove in between bits for clay re-cycling.

Once the impressions and shapes are cleaned off and dry- decorate with underglazes. Apply, dry, rub off  the underglazes and the colour stays behind in the stamped impressions. Very easy. Bisque fire (to 1000degreesCelcius), and then follow that with a glaze  firing either using translucent glaze (or none at all. if you want a matte look)

Pottery is an extensive subject.  Even if you have been doing pottery your whole life, you can learn something new about clay, glazes, firing and decorating every day. This blog is more about mosaic techniques and ideas, but I am glad I have written this post- for those brave people who want to try and make their own mosaic inserts.

PS: If my blog has helped you with ideas information or inspiration, please re-pay the favour by sharing my earthmaid blogspot with your friends and family. One of these days I am going to try and get sponsorship and every 'view' helps. Please add comments too. Thanks XXX

12 March 2012

Outdoor shower mosaic on a curved wall.

This post is about a project I did a few years ago- a commission to mosaic a curved plastered wall for an out door shower/sauna . The client was really brave, the best yet, and said- I want something quirky and fanciful, and please could she notice something new, every time she had a shower? She gave me her collection of mosaic things, a shoebox of a few interesting pieces for me to include in the mosaic.

We made a few tile samples in the colours and designs we thought our client would approve of, and once that was all sorted, we started in earnest making hundreds and hundreds of hand made square and circle tiles, and I decorated some of them using a wax resist method- like batik textiles. The wax burns off in an extra pre-glaze firing,  they are cleaned and then glazed over in light blues, greens or clear glazes.

5x5cm tiles

small hearts and circles

large plate sized circles, thrown on wheel. Some were made to dry in a curved shape to fit the wall of the shower.

these were for in-between the circles, and cutting into smaller pieces
I prepared the wall with key coat/bonding liquid and began the month long mosaicing job. It was in a lovely garden setting and very hot, so I rigged up a shade-cloth cover. I paid my son to help me and we enjoyed working together as a team. 

I worked from the floor upwards

the outside nook for sauna and shower



signed MN

As you can see it was quite a task, and kept me very busy for days and days.

the curved wall and circles creates quite an illusion of flatness

My son Julian has the honour of sticking down the last piece.

exhausted and dirty, but happy, finished grouting

I can hardly notice the curved circles on the curved section of shower wall. Was it worth it?