One of the main reasons for me heading over to the US was to participate in the mural intensive workshop offered at the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland, CA. It was FUN!!! It’s all I can say about it really. The workshop took place over a week and there were seven of us – 2 of us came from OS (me being from Australia and another from Canada), 2 others from interstate, 1 from Southern CA and then 2 locally. So we were a diverse mix, not only of location but also in mosaic background. Laurel True facilitated the entire project, right down to designing the mural in advance. Our first day there the mural map was up on the wall, colour coded and all! Seeing it up there did not give me an idea of the work involved until we actually started setting tile. I had an idea of how murals were done, theoretically speaking, but given the opportunity to actually DO it and also be given all of Laurel’s tips along the way was a true gift (pardon the pun, Laurel). It was also incredibly enjoyable working with other artists. Talk about no pressure! We all got stuck into it immediately, setting tile by the second day.
The mural was made from high fire ceramic and mirror. I’d worked with high fire before and it is work getting it cut the way you like. Most of the tile was just broken tile, but alot had to be carved too. I think I’m a helluva lot better at cutting high fire now I even had the torn blisters to prove it… I feel all hardcore, lol!
I really enjoyed watching others work too: how they set their tile, cut the tile etc… It’s all very interesting to me since I’ve always worked alone, and am self taught. I’m amazed really that the finished mural looks as seamless as it does considering the scope of people who worked on it and offered assistance here and there. You wouldn’t know really that there were so many people involved. All the sections just fit together. What makes a project like this such a success I think. I guess that’s the upside to using predominantly broken tile too. I would have liked to have seen all of our work before hand. It would have been really interesting to see how, I’m sure, we all differ and yet are able to come together to work on a single project.
It turns out that two of the participants I “knew” – yet more evidence that the international mosaic community is soooo small ( I mean that in the sense that all the mosaic related forums have alot of the same members, it’s great!) . Pam Goode was a flickr friend that I can now call a real friend… she’s not imaginary anymore either! (Got to meet alot of my efriends this time around, that’s another post…) I love Pam’s work, and she’s as gorgeous as what she creates. Also there was Jill Montgomery whose work I’d seen on one of the Yahoo forums. By the second day I’d put two and two together… Her work is also amazing! Definitely check out their websites! Suzanne was a mosaic beginner, though clearly an established artist. Karla was loads of fun and had only ever worked with smalti. Carol, as I understand, was the IMA-Ho in the class. I so would be too if I lived down the road from them… Renata, the other Commonwealth Cohabitant, was also an established mosaic artist. We’d often look at each other wondrously when everyone started talking inches, feet or fahrenheit… lol! I think I have the inches and feet down pat, basically, but farhenheit I just simply can’t get an understanding for. It really means very little to me. Renata had it right: she came for a month and just fit in a bunch of different classes.
The background on the project was fairly straightforward. For this class Laurel donates the murals to local small businesses and non-profits. This time she chose a coffee shop a couple blocks away. I guess it was a cafe that has changed hands a number of times in the time that Laurel has been in this particular neighbourhood. So in the design process she decided immediately that she didn’t want it to be so specific… The business is called Kefa Coffee. I understand that Kefa is a province in southwest Ethiopia. The owners are Ethiopian and specialise in Ethiopian coffee, but their menu is not Ethiopian food (which I will say is delish). We all chowed down the BLTs there, serious yum fest!!!! So design inspiration came about from Ethiopia and coffee basically!!!
Anyway, it was well worth it. I realised just how much making a mural alone is not possible… Well it is as far as setting the tile (though I’d be setting tile for a really loooong freakin’ time!!!), but actually installing it would be physically impossible and a nightmare. I have a couple murals lined up and this was just the jolt I needed to knock me out of lala land and get with the reality of managing a large scale project on my own. I’m certainly going to change my original plan, I think…
Laurel is a great instructor and a wonderful, fun person. Very animated and all the techy talk was so inspiring (talk to your tile and tell it what you want (at the frustration of not getting the tile cut the way we wanted!!!), BOMP!!!! etc…) LMAO! She’s a classic She also talked a little about her work and plans over in Ghana. Sooo interesting and it’s really refreshing to hear people give back I think. What I’d give to participate in one of her projects over there…
We also got to meet some well known mosaic artists, so the whole week was very inspired: Lillian Sizemore, Karen Thompson and Sherri Warner Hunter was there teaching her concrete form class. I almost did that class instead of this one. Looked veeery fun but I have to say I’m really glad that I did this one. Certainly where I’m going to venture into, and am able to as far as my current studio space. Watching the snowy mess coming out of Sherri’s class made me realise that there was no way I could do this just yet given the available space I own…
*sigh*… wouldn’t it be lovely to travel the world doing workshop after workshop?! I was thoroughly exhausted by the end of the week. I’m not a day napper, but when we finished on the Sunday I went home and promptly fell asleep. Overall just a great experience. The opportunity to participate in a large scale, group project and mosaic all day, everyday for an entire week is a memory I’ll hold close to my heart!
The other section I made with Laurel. I cut out most of the circles… ouch! I loved watching Laurel work. She’s fast and her cutting and placement is just so perfect… gotta do the precision tile setting class!!!
To view more photos of the project, check out my Flickr album.
Here is the actual lowdown on the mural:
Kefa- Coffee from Ethiopia to Jingletown 2008
Ceramic tile, glass and mirror
Kefa Coffeehouse, Oakland, CA
4’ x 10’
Mosaic mural by True Mosaics Studio and students of Mosaic Mural Making Intensive at Institute of Mosaic Art. Design and facilitation by Laurel True. Production and installation by Kim Grant, Pam Goode, Jill Montgomery , Renata Kolarova, Karla Silva-Ruiz, Susannne Takehara, Laurel True and Carol Waldren
Additional production assistance by Deborah Block, Debbie Callen, Kara Graves, Delaine Hackney, Celeste Howell, Rachel Rodi and Lillian Sizemore. Handmade ceramic tile accents by Saundra Warren.