Category Archives: San Francisco

Making Life my Bitch

You know how I said I was gonna grab life by the metaphorical balls?! Yep. I’m doing it and so far it appears I’m doing it right!! I decided earlier this year that I was going to choose different in life. Well not really different. Just to not be afraid of certain things and outcomes that may never be. Choose to live fearlessly perhaps, which was more my natural state when I was young. We condescend the young and tell them they are naive. I don’t know that it is a wise thing to be condescending! The battles of life have left their mark, to be sure, but I am determined to not allow them to rule my life. After having come out of a marriage that can only be characterised as abusive, I fell into a funk that I just didn’t know how to get out of. Looking back on it, hindsight being what it is, there were times I didn’t even know I was in a funk! I would often see these annoying quotes: choose happiness bla bla. It’s not that simple people. Grief is a necessary emotion. You have to go through all of it to be able to get to the other side and to the point of deciding that enough is  enough and that you are able to see it (whatever ‘it’ is for any given person) as a choice (which, mind you, is often not even a conscious decision at the time). Either that or you make the same mistakes all over again, which I will NOT do. Well, after 5 odd years I think I’ve finally arrived at that place and am thinking I might just make it my home!! One day at a time though. Trusting in people again does not come naturally anymore as it turns out. Humans can be so cruel and there are many a day when I wonder at human nature. But I’m still here and I have to live in Life. I think I finally understand that with all of my being (brain AND heart AND everything in between) and once again can see that there is such beauty lying there too.

A few years back I discovered some street art that I instantly fell in love with. In fact, the way I described my reaction at the time was “totally, completely and utterly besotted!!!”. I’ll admit that I don’t always see art that makes me feel. Truly feel something, anything! Understand, too,that Canberra has a very singular idea of art and public art in particular. After having lived OS for a number of years, in particular San Francisco, and having resided in the Mission District where (great) art was on every surface pretty much, returning to Canberra was a real kick in the gut in the sense of colour, fun, amazing, wonder was concerned. Anyway, I would come across this artist’s work and get excited. Like, excited-excited, butterflies excited. I always thought how cool it would be to collaborate – since their designs seemed mosaic friendly but pretty much left it there and enjoyed the moments when I discovered another piece out in the world, getting cranky when they’d get “cleaned” up and thinking how cool and how pure (for wont of a better word) that street art can be. Sometimes it’s such a gift and the artists are not asking for anything in return. As a series of fortunate events, I happened upon their work on the interwebs earlier this year, discovering at the very least the name they went by. Abyss .607. Hmm… I like it… Gimme more… FB page and yesss… An in! It took me almost a month to work up the courage to email the artist and ask if they might be interested in a potential commission where I would then mosaic their artwork. It’s a BIG ask and a lot of trust to allow someone else (you don’t know) interpret your work in another medium… In all honesty I probs would have said no (I was expecting a no) but he said YES! I picked up the work the other day… Am just a li’l excited (read: frikkin’ over the moon baby!). It’s massive. WAY bigger than I expected!!

Sometimes it really pays off to put yourself out there.

And now I have a responsibility to do another artist’s work justice. It’s pressure. I hope I don’t disappoint! He mentioned he’d like to come over once completed and spray some finishing touches on the tile. Does it get better than this? Nope. Not at the moment.

All of a sudden the Universe is conspiring to get my creative juices going again. Yes. When I am not being my cynical self, I’m some crazed new age freak (not really) who believes that there is a reason for everything (really)!! I’ve been very conscious of just how uncreative I’ve felt these last few years. Where once I was quite prolific in the work I put out, I suddenly lost my mojo. It is an incredibly disturbing thing to happen. But it’s back it seems and I do intend on having a love affair with it. I have the mural with Abyss to fabricate, as well as another mural that I sketched out one afternoon while in hospital with my Dad. Designs never come so easy. Designs are often my achilles heel – they take me weeks, months… It’s ready to go. Ready. to. Go!!! Not only that but the finishing touches is about to be applied to another mural – yet another collaboration with my gorgeous sister of one of her beautiful mermaids. She’s adding fish and an octopus to it. Then it needs to be scaled and enlarged and all the other stuff that goes into fabricating murals. Three murals yeah? And to top it all off? I have an assistant! Not to mention all the sculptural stuff I wanna try out. My house is gonna be the best on the block yo!

Winning at life biyatches!

Well. Sort of. I need to get busy and actually start. Ha!

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Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artists, Australia, Building, Collaborations, Design Concepts, Emerging, Graffiti, Inspiration, Kim Grant, Mosaic, Murals, My Home, My projects, Rant, Round the World, San Francisco, Urban, USA

Artist in Residence at IMA!!

After the conference it was onwards and upwards to the Bay Area – my former stomping ground and one place I keep going back to. I always feel like I come home when I go there…

Laurel True was kind enough to let me do a stint at Artist in Residence at the Institute of Mosaic Art (IMA).  When I inquired about perhaps helping out with something at IMA, I wasn’t expecting an ‘Artist in Residence’ tag at all, but was more than happy with it 🙂  Laurel had mentioned the kitchen backsplash which piqued my interest,  amongst many other possibilities. I was worried that time pressures and other personal pressures may prevent me from finishing it, so I left myself open to anything. I had mentioned it to Susan Crocenzi – looking to collaborate with her cuz I thought it would just be fun! When I arrived and went over, I thought to myself the backsplash would be the perfect thing to do. Yet again proof of working well under pressure 😉 With no design ideas in mind and no inkling, at that time, that I would be surrounded by fellow artists a la  Linda Martin, Kelley Knickerbocker and Rachel Rodi [who are waaaay awesome!!! ;)] to help finish the installation I set about doing the kitchen backsplash direct (knowing that I had 4, maybe 5 days to get it all done)! – simply because I had no design in mind and worked it as I went. I knew that if I sat down and drew stuff out, it would not get finished.

Susan came in on the last day (all the way from Nevada City!) and added her tempered glass and polymer clay accents, all of which I think make the installation! Some of the polymer clay pieces she had made many moons ago and they just fit with the theme – colours, shapes… it was just perfect! Like it was meant to be somethin’… We finished just in the knick o’ time.

I have to say designing this was a little scary… 1 because I had no ideas, 2 because it’s in Laurel’s business, 3 because that business is IMA and 4 because how many mosaic artists go through there every year?! Laurel was way cool about it though and just let me go for it. I very much appreciate her support. I figured that she wouldn’t mind a walk on the wild side and wouldn’t necessarily need/want/prefer a traditional backsplash, so I went with something else and I think it fits with the spirit of IMA…

By day 2 I was starting to get just a tad panicked that I wasn’t going to be able to finish what I’d started! I was leaving to go back to Australia and not quite like I could pop in at any time… Mentioned as much on either Flickr or Facebook (don’t remember which) and Lovely Linda came to the rescue!!! She drove up from Santa Cruz to help me on the Saturday. How cool is that?! Kelley was there, having driven down from Seattle the day before, hanging her art for a show she’s got going on (go see it if you are close by – her work is amazing!!!!). We roped her in at some point in the day and when Rachel finished teaching her class… well we just had that glint in our eyes and she couldn’t say no 😉

Last day of installation and the name for the piece hadn’t even cropped up… Susan and I decided to call it Reach.

Have I mentioned how FUN it is working with fellow mosaic artists?!!! Spreadin’ the love is good in numbers!

Me and the Lovely Linda
Me and Linda Martin

Kelley, Rachel and Linda
The Gang – Kelley Knickerbocker, Rachel Rodi and Linda Martin

Crocenzi waving her magic TG wand
The LOVELY Susan Crocenzi

Photo by Gib Robinson

Reach - glowing
Reach, *glowing*

Susan Crocenzi's Polymer Clay and Tempered Glass Creations
Detail of Susan’s work

Photo by Gib Robinson

Photo by Gib Robinson


Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artists, Backsplash, California, Community Projects, Design Concepts, Events, Female, Finished pieces, Flickr, Inspiration, Institute of Mosaic Art, Kelley Knickerbocker, Kim Grant, Laurel True, Lifestyle, Linda Martin, Meeeting of the Minds, Misc. Design Concepts, Mosaic, Mosaic Materials, Murals, My projects, Oakland, Ornamental, Polymer Clay, Public Art, Rachel Rodi, Rant, Round the World, San Francisco, Schools, Susan Crocenzi, Tempered Glass, Travel, Uncategorized, USA

Breathing Life into Inanimate Objects

I must say I love doing it!

My studio has been a bustling place to be these last couple of days. I taught a friend how to make a mosaic (she is, for the record, totally besotted and has already scoped out her studio in her garage!!! Yay) and then a little 4 year old came over (one of my daughter’s womb buddies) and made a stepping stone. She rocked that mosaic!!! We were done in an hour and she was asking me what we could do next 😉 My kinda gal!

I finished, 100%, my commission-du-jour, Sir Elton. He’s not only grouted, but signed, sealed and on his way to be delivered. It’s rather exciting and then not so… The departure is all too sudden. I know, daft really. After all they are just inanimate objects. Why should I get so attached?! I never feel like I do until I have to say goodbye. So Sir Elton is packed in a box, surrounded by a some kind of foam, that was liquid so it could dry into his shape and mould him all the way to Seoul, Korea. He’s the one on the right 😉

Chicky Babes

Sir Elton

Called on the paparazzi for these pictures (by my sister Lee Grant). After all who knows when we’ll get Liberace and Sir Elton together again?! 😉 I have plans for perhaps extending the series even further 🙂 Why not?! I might as well now and from this day forth be known as “The Chicken Lady”. {teehee…} I’m very pleased how he turned out. Let’s all hope that he makes it over in one piece…

Next on my hit list is the next commission – a big fish, another 3D sculpture. I’m excited about this one. Stuck a few tiles on him today and he’s come alive already. It’s exciting to watch. His tail is broken so I’m going to have to make and attach a new section on. I’m thinking mesh + thinset + *maybe* (if it’s necessary) some polystyrene… A bit of Darjit would be useful! Still need to follow up on that workshop. It’d be fun to do. There was talk about a workshop being held down my way… I have considered organising a one here, maybe even at the Art School at Uni. I think there’d be plenty of people interested. Just another thing to do really and fairly low on my list of priorities, I might add. Almost did one while I was over in San Francisco, as there was a course right after the mural workshop I participated in at IMA. Oh if I didn’t have a life and all I had to do was travel, make mosaics and meet lotsa cool, talented artists! 🙂 Hmmm… actually now that I see it in writing, it’s what I do, just part time! That makes me feel better, I think… I think I just implied to myself that I have no life. Hmmm, time to get some sleep I think. 😉

So on that note: Voila! Here is one of my WIPs (I’m actually working on 4 different projects right now, that’s a little psychotic is it not?!). I think he’s going to be loads of fun!


Next in line...


Filed under Animals, Art, Artists, Australia, Birds, California, Canberra, Chickens, Female, Finished pieces, Flickr, Garden Mosaics, Institute of Mosaic Art, Kim Grant, Lifestyle, Mosaic, My projects, Nature, Oakland, Ornamental, Round the World, San Francisco, Schools, Sculpture, Seoul, South Korea, Studio, Travel, Uncategorized, USA, Works in Progress, Workshops

San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Mosaics

Heading back to the Bay Area, an old friend I hadn’t seen in almost 10 years got news of some mosaics being installed in a church. Not one to miss anything mosaic-related, we went over to the church to see what we could and Bob Andrews, the artist happened to be there. Anyway, we introduced ourselves and I told him I made mosaics and was interested in having a quick look-see. He was more than happy to let us have a look around and talk a bit about his career. The church was closed, well and truly so it was really lovely that he let us in. Firstly you need to understand that the man is 83 years old and has been working on this particular church for 60 years, if memory serves me well. He looked no more than 60, truly! The dome measured 60 feet in diameter. IT WAS MASSIVE. {Oops, sorry hit the caps button, but actually it’s appropriate…} This particular install was set to take 3 weeks. We got there half way through the third week and they were just finishing up. He seemed to think about another few days and the install would be done. It was the dome that they were installing – a mosaic of Jesus Christ. The mosaic had taken 2 years to make and was made of smalti – lots of it and alot of gold! He did actually tell me the exact number of tesserae and I forget now. I thought it was amazing in and of itself that he would even count!? How does anyone do that? They can’t possibly count as they go can they? Really is it possible, or is it an estimate?!

Nevertheless, the entire project was made in the reverse indirect. I was in awe! Just the sheer size of it and then having to work it upside down and back to front… Really I’m not one for religious icons but this was simply amazing. Bob made the mosaic with his son in his studio in Italy. They had a three person team come out (from Italy) – 2 men and a woman – for the installation and Bob’s son took the paper off and scrubbed it all down… Alot of work!

He let us climb the scaffolding, 100 ft into the air, on really rickety stairs… I was freakin’ out! Going up is worse than coming done. I never used to be afraid of heights until I had kids. It really does change a woman! 😉 But it was well worth the effort. I’ll never see it that close again and it was stunning, simply stunning!

Andrews has made mosaics in 21 different churches throughout the US. As a Greek Orthodox himself, I got the sense that most of the mosaics were in Greek Orthodox churches… When I asked him how he got started in this medium, he said he came out of Art School having done ceramics and pottery etc… Someone at a University (that he ended up becoming the artist in residence for) suggested that he make a mosaic and that’s really how it all started. Then he mentioned that his church in his hometown had burnt down and the priest asked him to make a mosaic after the rebuild. It all rose from the ashes, as they say…

He was such a lovely man, incredibly fit – he said he works out 3 times a week. That’s 3 more times than me 🙂 and so modest about his work. He was really very humble.

Please understand my photos do not do any of this work justice – you just cannot imagine the magnitude and scale of what these mosaics are like! I also couldn’t choose which photos to put in, so most of them are here! You might just have to go and visit it…

Looking down - Ohmalawd!



Mosaic Map


reverse indirect puzzle pieces


The Book


The Last Supper

In the entrance

Stair risers

Bob Andrews
And here he is 🙂


Filed under Architectural Installations, Art, Artists, Building, California, Church, Dome, Flickr, Inspiration, Mosaic, Mosaic Materials, Murals, Portraiture, Public Art, Religious Icon, Robert Andrews, Roof, Round the World, San Francisco, Smalti, Travel, Uncategorized, USA

Architectural Workshop – Institute of Mosaic Art

I’ve recently returned from a very last minute, very quick trip to the States. It was great, the highlight being a workshop with Laurel True in her studio in Oakland (Institute of Mosaic Art). It was my first mosaic class and reassuring in many ways since I am self taught. I also got a serious heads up on architectural applications – always nice! It is all common sense really, but most of which I didn’t think through as thoroughly, some I didn’t even think of. So in that sense invaluable…

The workshop was a technical class on permanent applications (think floors and splashbacks etc…) everything from the design phase through to finishing. Certainly the area I want to get into. It was fantastic!!!

Laurel True

The space was pretty amazing. Situated across the bay from San Francisco in a part of Oakland referred to as Jingletown. It’s a far cry from what it was like when I lived there. The whole Bay Area has undergone some major gentrification. In any case, it’s full of mosaic. Everywhere I went I saw it. It’s very exciting…

IMA Courtyard

I also got to meet Joseph Norris (see post below). He was teaching a Public Art class. In fact I had a hard time choosing between the two classes but figured grants etc in the US wouldn’t be the same approach here, so chose the Architectural one. He was lovely and certainly has alot of public art up his sleeve.

Anyway, the whole point of the trip was to spend Thanksgiving with family. The kids had a blast with their grandparents and cousins. I went to SF for a few days for the class and to spend time with some friends. It was really great. I love hanging out with friends you don’t see often, but when you do it’s as if no time has passed. The visit has also opened up a new opporutnity to create someone’s website – very exciting!!! I’m yet to talk with the client but fingers crossed it will work out.

Tomorrow will be my first market stall day at the Old Bus Depot Markets, formerly known in my heyday as the Kingston Markets for which I am not allowed to refer to them now that I am a market stall holder! I am nervous, only because I worry I won’t sell anything, but alas that is to be expected. I figure it is all exposure and putting myself out there. Something will work out in the end. If not then I will have ALOT of mosaic around my home and garden, haha.

Oh, I was also payed a lovely compliment on my work by a woman called Donna from Darwin who found some of my stuff on Flickr. It’s really lovely to get good feedback. You can look at it here. It’s a very interesting and concise blog. There’s so much information on it, I don’t know how she finds the time!!! This is what I mean though: mosaic artists are VERY passionate people!

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Filed under Architectural Installations, Inspiration, Mosaic, My projects, San Francisco, Travel, Uncategorized, Workshops

San Francisco Mosaic Murals

I recently put up some pictures of my kids and some of my mosaic on Flickr, primarily for the benefit of friends and family living OS. I started looking at a few public groups and came across one user in San Francisco doing painted and mosaic murals. Well there’s two of my passions in one outfit!!! It was really exciting to see some of my old haunts get brightened up by some awesome murals.

Hoff St Mural by Josef Norris

Hoff St. Mural by Josef Norris

I visited SF last year with my family and did notice so much mosaic, more than I remembered from when I lived there. How inspiring! This is the type of thing that we Canberrans are devoid of. It makes me realise how conservative this town is and so in need of some public art. I long to change it, and it is those thoughts that I now have milling around in my head. Where to start…?

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Filed under Architectural Installations, Community Projects, Flickr, Inspiration, Mosaic, Murals, Public Art, San Francisco, Travel, Uncategorized