Category Archives: Garden Mosaics

Midnight Garden – a community mosaic project with children

As I’ve mentioned previously I was contacted a little while ago by a public primary school here in Canberra to  lead a mosaic project with their students. What came out of the brief discussions we had was to create a feature mural and some extra mosaics that will float around the courtyard. The theme of which is a macro garden.

I went away and created a design that fit to the brief, but that was also going to be simple enough for a whole school to participate in. In my opinion, too much detail can be overwhelming. I also like stylised designs, as I suppose one can tell from my work. I suggested some colour themes and created colour packs for them to refer to, but emphasised that these were suggestions only. I think ownership comes from choice in process and it was important to me not to take that away. I worked in small groups with kids once a week and the teacher leading the project worked with kids throughout the rest of the week. All the kids cottoned onto the hows and whys pretty easily and then took the information and passed it on to their peers who had not yet participated. As we fabricated, the kids made changes to some of the colour selections. 🙂 The kids have been so great! Most of the panels have been fabricated already. There was always a lot of interesting conversation, a lot of problem solving (not only of the mosaic, but also of social matters in their lives). It was a lot of fun to listen to them all talk. Of course, the part they loved the most was smashing tiles!

It makes my day to hear things like:

“When I grow up, I want to be an artist” and  “This is so fun, I wish we could do it all day”, amongst many other uber cool other statements.

Yesterday I started on the installation. One of the teachers walked past while I was working and she said to me “you are such an inspiration to these kids.” I wasn’t too sure what she meant by this and after chatting with her she remarked on me being a woman doing what I am doing and how it is inspiring for kids, both male and female, to see me creating large scale mosaics: teaching, fabricating, installing etc… I never thought of it like this. Ever! Wow. It was a pretty empowering moment and one that makes me feel like I am on the right path for me. I am exactly where I should be.

Anyway, a year 6 teacher was keen for her kids to be involved. They’ll be assisting me in the rest of the installation as well as grouting the project which will basically happen next week and the week after which puts us in line to completion for the end of term.

I also had a number of students discuss with me the name of the mural. They came up with Midnight Flowers, which I thought was way cool. We settled on Midnight Garden, after some discussion, to include the whole scope of the project.

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Big THANKYOUS to all those involved: students, parents of the community and teachers, in particular Hazel who is leading the project from the school perspective and the Principal, Lindsay whose understanding of the value of art for children is invaluable.

I’ll post final pics when we get there 🙂



Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artists, Asian, Australia, Canberra, Community Projects, Female, Flowers, Garden Mosaics, Kids, Kids' Projects, Kim Grant, Mosaic, Murals, My projects, Nature, Ornamental, Public Art, Retro, Round the World, Schools, Uncategorized, Works in Progress

Rosella, Mural WIP Pics & Community Project News

My 9 yo son managed to get his first 3D mosaic completed the other day. It was his first time using glass too. He ended up burning out with the background (all that was really left to do), so I had to help him get that part done, but everything else he did on his own, right down to the cutting of glass. I love that he loves it and doesn’t just do it to please me… He has named the chook Rosella and she sits out by Liberace 🙂

I’ve moved along quite nicely with my Secret Hideout mural. I have three panels left to go. Scored some interesting tile off a tiler in Belco Mall today, who rummaged through his rubbish bin for me. I’ll probably try and use it for the shell section of the snail if I can make it work. I got to use the gran tronconi millefiori that has been sitting in my studio since the SAMA 2009 conference… Almost forgot I had it! I’ve been loving working on this. It’s so nice to work large – I L-O-V-E, love it! Can’t wait to get his one up and start on the next mural for the house. Swimming in ideas. I’m online less (good news), generally more satisfied with life and energised to get on with things. YAY! I love my job.

In other news, the project at a primary school here in Canberra is going ahead. We’ve pretty much started. My design was accepted and now it’s up to me to enlarge, code and chop it into enough pieces so that each class can have a good go. I’ve got tile pack samples to bring in. The kids range in age from pre-school to year 6 and I believe there are about 450 students in total. They will be making their own tiles and firing them in the school’s kiln (yes they have a kiln!!) and these will be used in the border of the mural. Sneak peek of the first draft design:

We’ll be going with a dark blue background on this one as this is the main colour of the school. The flower pods themselves will be bright and colourful with plenty of mirror (of course) and I’ll be using some of the green paua shell tile too. So exciting!! Originally the school was aiming for an end of term unveiling (6 weeks away), but this is now flexible, which is actually good for everyone involved: me, kids and teachers!! Overall dimensions of the mural is 2.1m H x 4m W. So, on my to do list this week is enlarge, code and chop. One of the hardest aspects of mural making. The planning is tedious but necessary or the whole thing doesn’t come together in the end, quite literally! I need to find a good space that is large enough for me to enlarge and template out the design of these sorts of installations. It’s a nightmare doing it in my home as I don’t have the wall space, but by the same token I don’t want to rent space out. Argh! That backyard studio is sounding more appealing every minute of every day, hehehe.


Filed under Animals, Art, Australia, Birds, Community Projects, Flowers, Garden Mosaics, Kids' Projects, Mosaic, Murals, My projects, Nature, Public Art, Uncategorized, Works in Progress

Student Spotlight: Robyn Fetter

One of the great things about teaching mosaic workshops is that I get to meet some really wonderful people, all from different walks of life but we all converge over two days to explore mosaics. I feel so lucky! Really. So I decided that I would start a new series to spotlight some of my students.

My first post in this series is to introduce you to Robyn Fetter, who came to mosaics late in life. She always had a latent interest in the art form but no time to indulge in it, or as she says no confidence to tackle it.

The catalyst came with the drought. Robyn is a passionate gardener and they have a lot of lawn. In common with a lot of other people living in drought stricken Australia she wasted a year or two grieving for lush green lawn before it dawned on her that the devastation could actually be viewed as a creative opportunity. “If we have to reduce the area of grass, paving is one of the most visually pleasing ways of doing it, and mosaic pictures and patterns set into the paving would be essential to break up the expanse. At any rate, this is how I presented the idea to my husband.”

Robyn started by enrolling in an 8-week evening course in very basic mosaics. It begged more questions than it answered, but she found it tremendously exciting. It was taught in part by Tina van Raay, another local mosaic artist. Robyn says, “It was at this stage that I started haunting the tile shops and happened to be there one day when a station wagon pulled up with the Kim Grant Mosaics sign on the side. Kim was scavenging for tiles with a girl I used to work with, who introduced us, and ensured that I got one of Kim’s business cards. When I saw her website I knew that sooner or later I would have to attend some of her classes because this was my idea of how mosaics ought to be – precise enough to give you confidence that this lady is completely in control of her medium, but also quirky and whimsical. I was keen to avoid the ‘smash ‘em up and slap ‘em down’ school of mosaics with acres of grout.”

Robyn also started amassing books about mosaics and found Teresa Mills very helpful for a beginner. “She gives precise, detailed instructions that encourage careful cutting and placing, and this is what I was concentrating on in my first project – the geometric design. I freely admit it’s very anal and unexciting, but I was struggling to get the shapes and measurements right – with variable success, but at least it was a start.”

With the penguins, another Teresa Mills project, Robyn felt relaxed enough to play with the design and insert her own creativity with the sky and water.

“You will be wondering what these works have to do with enhancing the paving in our garden. I’m intending for these practice efforts to hang on the fence, which also badly needs beautifying, and have made a start on decorative paving stones to be inserted in paving in the garden. Baby steps at the moment, but I have big plans.” 🙂 I never fail to get excited on hearing some one with “big plans”!!

Robyn also knits, sews, crochets and embroiders. “All these things, including mosaic, and particularly gardening are, in my case at least, compensating activities for not being able to draw or paint. I am passionate about them all and would find life very grey without them.”

She is indeed very passionate and I look forward to seeing all her future mosaics!

Thanks so much to Robyn for letting me profile her!! I will say it wasn’t without a little encouragement as she felt her mosaics were not ready. I disagree! They’re as fabulous as she is.

And finally, meet Robyn.


Filed under Art, Australia, Canberra, Garden Mosaics, Mosaic, Student Spotlight, Uncategorized, Workshops

Immortalising Childrens’ Art

My 5 year old was playing with sidewalk chalk last weekend on a (very large) stepping stone at the bottom of the stairs of our deck. She drew one of her loveflies, which I adore. I’ve been planning a mosaic rug on this particular substrate and after seeing her gorgeous lovefly, decided to mosaic it instead. It was supposed to be something we did together, however her response to this was “Oh, it’s OK Mum you can do it” 😉

Can I say I love immortalising childrens’ art? What better way to do so than with mosaic!? 😀




Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artists, Finished pieces, Flickr, Floor, Garden Mosaics, Kids, Kids' Projects, Mosaic, My projects, Nature, Pavement, Stepping Stones, Uncategorized

Facebooking and Mosaic Making

Do you facebook? Somewhere I really spend (aka waste) waaaaay too much of my time, but I do like to know what is going on with all my friends OS, so it’s a great tool for exactly that. If you do – check out my page and become a fan!

Kim Grant Mosaics

Kim Grant Mosaics

Am also  in the midst of trying to finish a mural I started a little while back. OK, in all fairness it was a long while back. This is a collaborative effort with my little sister, Natalie Grant, who is also an artist in her own right. Her next artistic venture is on the path to becoming a tattoo artist. When she visited early 2008 I had her outline one of her mermaid and octopus sketches she’s been drawing for many years at full scale in my Dad’s garden. I set about mosaicing it and it has taken me this long to even approach the finish line – which is frankly a long way off.  Still  to finish is 3 octopus legs (almost done) a fish and its bubbles, grouting, sanding and painting before finally sealing…

Arms, tail, octopus, bubbles

It was a lovely Sunday – cool Winter’s day with the sun shining down and warming my every being while I sat and worked non-stop.  Well not quite sat. One also has to be an acrobat when wanting to be a mosaic artist. My Dad perched in his chair looking on, cooking lunch and falling in and out of sleep. Was a good day.

I hadn’t so much as picked up a single tool or tess since returning from my trip OS. Always a little disconcerting but I’ve learned to just go wtih it. It is what it is and I can’t force ‘it’.  I find myself in these moments of exhaustion. Then all of sudden out of the blue it all comes back in a gazillion different images in my mind, at a million miles per hour along with the title of each piece  and then I am fighting for time to get it all out of my head and onto a substrate. I went and bought myself a real sketchbook today for fear of it all disappearing…


Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artists, Garden Mosaics, Kim Grant, Mosaic, Murals, My projects, Rant, Uncategorized, Works in Progress

Artist Watch: Linda Martin

Next in line, good pal Linda Martin who I had the pleasure of meeting in Sue Gianotti’s class at SAMA. It was a huge (but silent) wave and YAAAAAY!!!!! 😉 We hit it off immediately – but I think she has a way with people and hits it off with everyone she meets. Really a very special person – warm and generous.

Linda has always been creative. Always. In high school she carried around a sketch book with her everywhere she went. Whilst living in Hawaii, she sat on the beach crocheting bathing suit tops she sold for “gas money”. She came across mosaics while perusing a craft store with her then 8 year old son: “He always got inspired on a trip to the craft store with mom so I picked up a little mosaic garden plaque for him to do. We started to do it together but I think he lost interest, or I took over, or maybe he lost interest because I took over, in any case I caught a mosaic fever.” 🙂

After that venture, Linda borrowed books from the library and studied them, researched the internet and spent hours studying other artists’ work. “I began to play around with breaking glass, dishes, and tile, ordering supplies and tools from the web, experimenting with everything I could get my hands on.” One of her first projects was covering a lava lamp with broken dishes which she called Shab-a-delic. “At the time I was quite pleased with myself, but looking at it now…. Ahhhhhhh!” LOL!!! Don’t we all have a million of them somewhere?!

Linda also made lots of picture frames, and a license plate cover for her car, all of which she says fell apart as she was using the wrong materials. “These early projects took me forever to complete and were not very good, but I was having fun and learning.” I always say there’s no better way of learning than by doing… Her “coming-out” was with a mannequin titled “Courting Laura” which Linda entered into a fundraiser for breast cancer.

After moving back to her native California, she was conveniently located an hour or so from the Institute of Mosaic Art, in Oakland. “I started taking classes there… lots of classes. That’s how it all began…”

Her future direction is in therapeutic mosaics. Linda has been an Occupational Therapist for a good portion of her life and has done a few projects combining both – mosaics with her patients: “I have the license as an occupational therapist, the skills as a mosaic artist, and the time and resources to go further”. Producing community murals is big on her list of to-dos. I love that. I’m such a fan of art-with-meaning, as opposed to art-for-the-sake-of-art. Not that I don’t appreciate that either…

Linda says, “I want to focus on mural projects with parents and their children, bonding, communication skills, and improvement of quality of life. Now, when I say parent/child relationship, parents of younger children comes to mind. But I want to work with the older population, the elderly parents and their adult children. That’s the bond I want to facilitate with the murals.”

Linda reminisces, “I remember once when working in a skilled nursing facility, aka nursing home, I was doing water colour paintings with the patients. This one female patients’ daughter loved her mother’s picture so much she had it framed and it looked stunning! Two months later the mother died. Her daughter came up to me and thanked me for the work I did and especially for the painting, a final memento of her beloved mother. It’s bonds like this I want to continue.”

Linda’s mosaics can be seen this summer in the juried show “Art on the Wharf”, July 19th at the Santa Cruz Pier. A show consisting of only 30 artists.


Reef(er) Madness


Courting Laura



And finally, the artiste herself, sitting atop her community arts project she led also as an occupational therapist.

Linda Martin with community arts project she led



Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Community Projects, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Garden Mosaics, Hospital, Inspiration, Linda Martin, Mosaic, Public Art, Uncategorized

Artist Watch: Natalie Warne

Jumping right back in, the next mosaic artist I wanted to highlight is Natalie Warne.

Most of you, I’m certain, are aware of her work. I love how her art makes me feel. Don’t quite have my finger on exactly why… Anyway, let’s meet her! I must say reading through the info Natalie sent me, it was uncanny how many parallels there were in both our lives… it’s this weird occurrence which has happened with alot of the artists I’ve written about here.

Natalie was born in Cyprus and resided there for the first couple years of her life. She moved around a fair bit until her parents settled in Plymouth, England at around the age of 5. Not being terribly excited by school, she went to college to do a ‘Nursery Nursing’ course and ended up studying art – this was her favourite subject.

At the ripe old age of 18 she made the move to London (Wimbledon to be precise) to become a Nanny (I did this too… in Wimbledon!!! For 3 weeks, but went for longer!!!). This did not work out for her and she returned to Plymouth to work in the bingo hall in the city. This is where she met her partner, Keith. After toiling in jobs, buying a home together, doing all the things we do they decided to pack up and travel: ” Keith & I had become unhappy with the same old routine of getting up at 6am, getting caught in traffic, doing the same stressful but boring jobs. (we were earning good money, but realised that is certainly not the most important thing in life!)”. So they sold up all their belongings, bought a VW camper van and hit the road 🙂

They used the Netherlands as their base, mainly there in the warmer months and travelled off to warmer pastures in the Winter months – Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt. “…from Luxor we joined with some other travellers & hired a falucca to go down the Nile to Aswan. This was one of the best things we have ever done, we slept on the deck & it was amazing, the scenery, the floating hotels!!…”. Sounds divine! They continued on using the Netherlands as their base for another 6 or so years, during which time they also managed to get away to parts of South East Asia, India, even Hawaii. “Travelling to all these places & experiencing the diverse habitats, people & man made works of art (especially the Wats (temples) in Thailand, which are stunningly beautiful) & learning meditation & yogic breathing along the way, changed us both & led us towards a more spiritual/less material way of life.” Amen.

Throughout this time, Natalie had started making jewellery: earring, necklaces etc all with semi-precious stones. Her Mum and herself decided to open up shop back in the UK – Totnes to be precise which is down in Devon (I lived in Salcombe for a short while, a beautiful little place close by…). This is how they ended back in the UK.

Discovering mosaics four years ago, her hobby soon turned into her passion: “At the beginning all I could afford to use were ceramic tiles, so most of my earlier work is in that medium. I then started buying vitreous glass tiles in mixed colour kilo bags, which gave me different colours & textures to work with.”

Just over a year ago, she thought to give mosaics a more serious try, quit her day job and working part time with Keith allowed her the freedom and flexibility to give it a serious go. “I cannot describe how happy it made me feel to get the time to really concentrate on trying different methods & materials & to start stretching myself creatively.”

Natalie is a self taught artist and believes this enhances her work as she is not limited by the rules that are applied in art. ” I did find the groups on Flickr & have found it most helpful to read the help & tips on these forums.” She has been concentrating on exhibiting her work over the past year, a solo show in her hometown of Totnes as well as sending off a piece to Ciel Gallery, located in the US.

As for her where she feels she is heading, as an artist: “I seem to be moving towards doing mixed media mosaics as I love the textures & play of light on a piece that has many levels, I am not so keen on the grouting part of these types of mosaics and sort of heave a sigh of relief when I am doing an easy grout job. Saying that, it doesn’t stop me from doing them!!! I had a lot of beads & semi precious stones over from my time making jewellery so I love to incorporate them & any other little bits & bobs that I pick up all over the place (charity shops etc). I also really enjoy using stained glass & when I go to a glass shop I am like a kid in a sweet shop!! I have recently discovered tempered glass & am at the moment doing a series of Ladies (seasons) & am using tempered glass, along with other materials, to bring these to fruition. Colours are extremely important to me, & I LOVE bright primary colours, I love rainbows. Sometimes a mosaic design pops into my head just because of a certain glass colour or texture. I think I sort of work instinctively & go with what feels right & mostly that works out for me. I sometimes have a whole design in my head when I start to work on a piece, but often as I start to draw things out on the substrate things change & evolve as I go along. I do not like to be too rigid with myself & just let the creative process morph into being. I have also enjoyed making things for some challenges on the web, as these often take me in a direction I have not tried before & make me be a bit more disciplined. I feel I am so lucky to earn a bit of money doing something I love & it would be great to be able to sell more! I have so many ideas for mosaics in my head I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do them all in my lifetime, but I’m going to give it a bloody good try.”

Well here’s to you Natalie! I think you are giving it a bloody good try too 🙂

Here are some of my favourites, but I do think that you should go check her flickr site for more…

Sun Birdbath

Mr Wizard

Lady of WInter

Rainbow Swirls

Lava Flow

And finally, meet Natalie:

Natalie Warne


Filed under Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Birdbath, Emerging, Europe, Female, Flickr, Garden Mosaics, Mosaic, Mosaic Materials, Natalie Warne, Nature, Round the World, Tempered Glass, Uncategorized, United Kingdom, Wall Hanging