Mouthing off


See? I told you the mouths would go faster. One week. Boom!

I have to tweak a few things and then it's fill-in-all-the-faces time. Then grouting. Then confronting the cavernous void that is at the center of every adult life.

Or maybe I'll start another project; I haven't decided yet. 

Mosaic slog blog

Hey, I am working on a pretty involved project this summer!


The design might look familiar to some of you.


I used transfer paper to get the design onto the board.


Then I outlined the faces with little black tiles.


Then I started to fill in the eyes. This took me over a month; I had to cut each tile by hand to fit. 

The tile-cutting technique used to approximate a curve is called keystoning, and I got a lot of practice in it.


Sometimes it went well for a good stretch, and sometimes it got ridiculously fiddly. If I had to do it over again I would've drawn  the faces larger; I'm having to fudge some stuff to make the current design work as it is.


Yay! I finally finished filling in the eyes on Sunday. I felt triumphant--for about half an hour. There's still a lot to do here. 

Having to take frequent breaks to keep my back limber and peel globs of gross dried glue off my fingers is not speeding up this process at all, either. 

Sometimes I wish I'd started doing mosaics years ago, but I seriously doubt I had the patience for it until recently. I sort of can't believe I have the patience now. Getting older is cool in a lot of ways.


I was delighted to realize the mouths are going to go relatively quickly. It took about 20 minutes to fill all this in before work today.

I'd like to be finished with this in a month, but I can't tell if that's realistic or not. Probably not, but I am going to tile like hell and see. Onward!

(And no, I never finished the fox. Maybe by Christmas.)

Creative process: Flaky people who work full time and like to drink and take themselves too seriously sometimes edition

I was really into the idea of doing a big, beautiful cactus mosaic, but the design wasn't coming together and then I decided I wanted to do an ocotillo instead, but then that was looking like it was really going to suck too. So I scrapped the whole thing.

Then I just lost all momentum. I spent my evenings drinking wine and sulking in front of the internet for a couple of weeks before deciding that maybe I needed to shift gears for a while.

Suck so much

Really, cut it out!

I also realized I needed to stop beating myself up for not doing something fun and creative every damn spare minute of the day. That's just stupid, as well as extremely counterproductive. (Plus Jesus, take a step back, I'm not not saving lives here. Everything will still go along just as it does if I don't glue some crap to a board or whatever.) 

Luckily, just as I had decided I was not necessarily creatively broken forever, I ran across some projects left over from last year when I had plenty of ideas and no time; now that I had some time and no ideas I was free to finish them up.

One turned out super crappy so I won't post it here, and another is a surprise for someone so ditto, but I can show you this lino cut I abandoned last spring but started again last week.


I need to clean it up a bit and I want to give it a caption, but it's largely finished now.


Once I started making progress on that, I felt much better. I drew a bunch of dumb little doodles and cut them out, just for fun.

This Saturday my friend Phyllis came over. The two of us drew a bunch of little doodles together and cut them out and used them to make a collage.

Tornado warning

It rained all day, so that's where the weather theme came from. Eric sat at the table with us and worked on his own project and we played records and listened to the rain and shot the shit and made a goofy little art piece together. When we were finished we celebrated with a few margaritas. It was a great afternoon. 


Finally, yesterday I got this little dude from the housewares clearance aisle in Marshall's. I plan to tile her up and put her in the backyard. Should be a fast-ish project. 

So now art is fun again. The cactus/ocotillo/failure board will join the growing pile in the corner of my office of unfinished and unstarted projects. Some I'll pick up again and finish; some I will keep stumbling over until I decide to move them to the trash can out front. I'm learning that if something just isn't working that it really is okay to quit, at least for a while. There's only so much time and energy, you know?

Another one down

I finished another project last night, although I'm not really sure what you'd use it for. A pretty tray to, uh, hold things? Like keys, and...treasures?


Yes, treasures. I will definitely put my treasures in there. Hell, I don't know. I'm happy with how it turned out, though. 


These tiles were a pain in the ass to cut because they kept splintering, but they're really pretty so at least that aspect made them somewhat enjoyable to work with.

I like the look of the vertical patterns, and I've gotten a lot faster and more adept at laying them down. But it's time to challenge myself a little more and give the vertical tile thing a break for a while. (Unless you want something with vertical tiles on it--I absolutely take commissions!)


I'm thinking this photo would be fun to do a mosaic of. I took it on a hike last month in Big Bend Ranch State Park, the national park's less visited, more rugged sister.

While I was deciding what to do and how to do it, I wandered over to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission building, the front of which bears six beautiful mosaic seals, in search of a little prickly pear tiling inspiration.


Look at this craziness! So beautiful, right? If you look closely, you can see the artist even included the damn needles!

I'm going for a different style (and ok, I'm also nowhere near that level), but it was cool and informative to see how something like this can be done. I'll post pictures of my progress, so check back from time to time, all right?  

A few things I liked today:

Ooh, shiny!

Ok, this first one is boring because it's just the weather. But oh, wow, today. Cool air, yellow sun, blue skies, green everything else from the rain. Days like this are a Texan's reward for putting up with August.


The next thing I liked is a little boring too. Ok, boring's not fair at all; it was slow and contemplative, as is only fitting about a documentary about a topiary gardener.

I think A Man Named Pearl is only available on DVD right now, but it was worth waiting for. A really sweet movie, with lots of greenery to enjoy if you like that kind of thing. Many thanks to Phyllis for recommending it.

Bow wow

(I don't have a picture of Phyllis at the moment, so here's a picture of her dog Bow Wow instead.)

The last thing I liked today, or at least liked enough to write about it, is this blog. It looks like it hasn't been updated in a while, but it's written by Mad Mike, a man who spends his days walking around Austin looking for, and often finding, drugs on the ground. His lengthy account of the week he spent in jail is excellent. This Vice interview gives a quick background of the guy if you're curious.

Now, sadly, I must stop looking at things I like and go to bed. I hope your day was full of things you like too.

This evening in Friday nights

It's Friday night and I'm drained from an unremarkable work week. I'll probably go to bed early so I can make the most of tomorrow, which is supposed to be cool and rainy. I'm envisioning drinking coffee and working on projects with the radio on while the dogs sleep on my feet. I'd make a big batch of something in the crock pot just to be extra fall weather-y, but I already did that this morning.

Frame start
I've been nibbling around the edges of this picture frame that I'm tiling so my friend can have a nice display for one of her wedding pictures. It's not a difficult project, but lining up all the tiles is fussy. It's the kind of thing that's a pleasure when you have plenty of time and energy to concentrate, but is almost impossible when you're tired and scattered. If I can get a big chunk of that done, eat some leftover spaghetti, and go for a walk in the drizzle I'll be happy.

About some grout

One of the first things they teach you in mosaic class is how much of a difference grout color makes.* It's almost freaky.

I mean, look at this! I used the exact same pattern and the same tiles on these two mirrors. The grout color makes a huge difference in how the tile colors appear:

Light and dark

I can't decide which one I like better.

I was finishing up the earring display I was making for my friend immediately after I was freaking out at the color differences above. I decided it would be fun do an experiment with the various shades of gray grout I had sitting around before I settled on a color.

I made a little test board:

Grout test

Even a slightly different shade of the same color can make a huge difference. I liked the darker one in the top left, but since this is supposed to be for a display I wanted the background to be a little less contrast-y. I chose the bottom right, which is actually the two colors on the left mixed together.

Open display

I need to find better lighting for these pictures.

The grout color ended up being a little lighter when it dried, but it turned out about how I wanted it to. The person it was for seemed to like it too, which is the important thing. 


I also need to slow down and take better pictures. NO TIME FOR COMPOSITION MUST BLOG NOW AAAAAHHHHH

After that, my worktable is clear. I'm on vacation now, hitting the road tomorrow to spend time with friends and family, eat a bunch of food, and see cool shit and get inspired.

*We were also advised not to use white grout unless you're going for a very specific look, say white on white. It tends to look less polished than other colors, or so they say.

Tiny troubles


I made this little pendant out of tile scraps from the mirror frame I did last week. I see some spots where I could have fit the glass together better, but I still really like it and would like to make more.

Unfortunately, the pendant blank I used is silver plated, which means after I wear it maybe twice the finish will wear off and look tacky, plus the copper or nickel or whatever crappy metal is under the silver will turn my skin green and bumpy. 

That is such a bummer, given the amount of effort and squinting it took to fit those little pieces together. Ideally it would stay nice for as long as possible. I'm going to try painting it with clear nail polish, but it would be better if I could use better materials in the first place.  

I looked all over the damn internet for square stainless steel blanks that would accommodate the tiles I use and came up empty. My intrepid coworker Sam suggested trying to find wood blanks instead, and I totally found some. I think the wood will actually look pretty killer with the glass, so I ordered some to try out. 

Also in my searches I ran across these, so if you are into embroidery I think you should get a bunch and embroider everyone some beautiful jewelry.  Ok, great, thanks so much! You can mail mine to me when you're done. 

Grout test, 1-2.

All black

Here's the firewheel mosaic I did a few months ago.

Really red

I finished the other side yesterday. I thought using red grout in the flower part would look fantastic, but I think it just washes the tiles out. 

I was so convinced two colors of grout would look cool that I Photoshopped in a little black to see what it would look like if just the very center were red.

A little red

Not much better.

So all-black grout it is! Which is fine because it's going to be a lot easier to do. 

Now I have to measure the step I want to do the firewheel mural on, lay out the design, and start tiling on mesh. This is going to be a very long-term project, I think.