2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 52,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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 🙂

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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.

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

Crystal Thomas Mosaics’ e-Tutorials

I mentioned in an earlier post that Crystal Thomas allowed me the use of two exercises from one of her e-Tutes for the class I taught in Grafton. I’ll make note that I did specifically ask her for this along with a payment to do so (ie: I didn’t just use them) and I thought it was worth writing a blog specifically on these e-Tutes as I found them so very helpful.

Crystal currently has three tutorials:

  1. A Mosaic Flower Tutorial (Check out her flowers, they are done in a layered style and are just beautiful – I own one!!) US$14!!!
  2. An Andamento and Keystoning workshop (SUPER cool and excellently (is that a word?) explained with a ton of exercises, including the “answers” to those exercises – you simply cannot do without this one!! It will change the way you work for the better!) US$18!!!
  3. Mosaic Skulls 101 (Cyrstal’s mosaic skulls are one of a kind) – US$12.50!!!

You are also able to purchase the Andamento and Keystoning workshop with Crystal’s Top Five Tips. I think it’s great to get tips from different artists. It’s always interesting to know how certain people like to work. Crystal is not currently offering any teaching, either as a group or individually, but does plan to do so again in the future so stay tuned. In the meantime spend next to nothing (seriously all these tutorials are worth more than this!!) and purchase all three tutorials.

detail of 3 Poppies, © Crystal Thomas 2010

“Luis” – Talavera skull, © Crystal Thomas 2009

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Grafton Artsfest 2011

I’m back from Grafton! It was such a wonderful week! Full of laughs, loads of information, a class full of wonderful women, warm weather, new friendships, fantastic mosaics… Canberra is cold and blustery and frankly I didn’t want to come back. I’d be happy to hang out in Newcastle for a while longer! Still, I am back and with lots of enthusiasm and energy – I’ve added so much more to my mosaic to do list. I’m going to start sketching out some ideas for a bathroom floor installation. For now, I can’t wait to get stuck into this mural.

I had 14 women in my class, come from all over. Some semi local, some a number of hours away. 14 is about the max that I like to work with. More than that & I get stretched for one-on-one time. I think it’s important to wander around the class and assist/talk/hash ideas out with each individual student. Eight of the 14 had never made a mosaic before while the other seven had some experience so it was a good mix. The class I put together was called Mosaic Sampler: Getting Back to Basics. The blurb for it went something like this:
This workshop gets back to basics. It is content rich full of information and advice. Students will finish the week with a strong foundation in mosaic technique. We will discuss which substrates are right for any given project, how to prep a substrate for its intended purpose, which adhesive to use under differing circumstances and also how to source materials. We will look at mosaic design basics, andamento, colour, cutting techniques, and how to get the most out of your tools. Grouting and how this can completely change the vibe of a mosaic will also be explored. Students will create several mosaics using different techniques: direct, indirect using mesh, reverse indirect, tempered glass, glass on glass and the groutless method of mosaic. Each student is encouraged to create a mosaic using all the techniques listed however time-wise it may not be possible for everyone to do so, as we all work at different rates. Students are then encouraged to create at least two mosaics in the technique that interests them most. We will work primarily with a myriad of different glass for each project. These include but are not limited to stained glass, vitreous glass, mirror, millefiori, glass gems, glass rods, and ceramic, marble.

I spent the first day lecturing, I kid you not, from 9 – 4:30pm. I got so into it that my poor students had to remind me of their need to eat (!) and two came back the second day with holes in their elbows (from leaning on their elbows the day before), LOL!! It was great though, as there were many questions being asked and lots of general discussion so I don’t think they were bored!! Everyone made some fantastic mosaics. Only one made a piece using the reverse indirect method. It turned out wonderfully and guess what glue we used?! It was a little bit of an experiment on my part, but Sandra was up for it and it worked (I knew it would): Clag! Remember that stuff from school? It’s a paste made from flour, so I figured it must be similar if not the same than the traditional flour paste used for the reverse indirect method. Anyway, it worked a treat so I may start stocking Clag in my studio from now on… We had mesh mosaics, the push-in method that I teach was used a fair bit, traditional grouted mosaics… it was all happening. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in a long time! I was even told by one that she liked my laugh which is pretty funny actually as it is a bit of an ongoing joke between me and my sisters. My laugh that is…

I’ve uploaded more pics of the week to my facebook page as I can’t fit them all here, so feel free to take a look there.

Sandra’s mosaic using the reverse indirect method

Carol’s mosaic using the mesh method

Judy’s mosaic using tempered glass

Madeleine’s mosaic using the direct method and the push-in technique

Last day – students with some of their mosaics

It was the last year of Artsfest, maybe not forever, but just while the volunteer committee attend to their personal lives. I was glad to be a part of the last year though. It’s amazing how something that started off so humbly has touched so many lives… Hopefully it will be resurrected and if not, then that’s OK too. It was a part of people’s lives for 18 years. I think to myself that I should start doing a mosaic retreat, or some kind of arts festival here in Canberra or close by, inviting tutors from different mediums… someday perhaps! I need to consolidate and not overwhelm myself (and find a like minded person who would be interested in helping out!!)…

I also managed to get a small piece done while up North. I’ve called it Tappeto II. I’ll make a third soon and the three Tappetos will go into the showroom of a tile shop here in Canberra – so long as they like them I guess!

I went shooting the other day with an old friend and started collecting all the bullet casings… Will have to get him to start collecting them for me!

Now that I’ve mostly unpacked, I have to repack and get ready for the Children’s workshop in Sydney next week.

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Mural WIP and other shenanigans

So I finally got around to transferring a design for a mural the other night. I have motivation AND I have energy. It is such a welcome return. Love what Spring can do… I sketched out a design three years ago and it got shelved due to other commitments, lack of sleep etc… For me, the hardest part of anything is the design and for large scale stuff transferring the design and all the prep involved beforehand. One part of me wants to get it all exact and be overly prepared, the other just wants to get a wriggle on. Anyway, the hard part is done and I can’t wait to get a start on it. The mural will be about 2.3m W x 1.6m H. It’s going to be located on my home, in an area that has come to be known as the Secret Hideout. I have a gorgeous Japanese maple that grows out front, perfect for climbing and of course come Spring and Summer no one need know if you are in that tree, watching the world go by! It’ll be great because the tree loses its leaves in Autumn (when it becomes our Not-so-Secret-Hideout). I kinda wanted a feeling of entering another hidden world… I think it’ll be a lot of fun. The first of four murals intended on my home that I already have designed. I’m sure more will probably come, but I need to start somewhere (says my more patient self). Next up after this one will be another mermaid…

Tomorrow I leave for warmer Newcastle, en route to Grafton to teach a six day workshop as part of the Grafton Artsfest. This is their last year in operation so I’m happy to be a part of it again this year. The workshop I am teaching is called Mosaic Sampler: getting back to basics. It should be a good week, with lots of information and hopefully lots of mosaic making using different techniques… I am overfull, so I’m really pleased that the class has been a popular attraction. My car will be chockablock full of all sorts of things. My tile guy has been awesome as far as providing everything I need. Pretty sure the only thing he hasn’t provided is the kitchen sink, though I’m sure he could work with me even on that one!! Looking forward to warm weather as it is still touch and go here in Canberra but I’ll miss the Jacarandas that begin to  flower a week or so after the festival. I love Jacarandas – one of my favourite trees! I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple exercises from one of  Crystal Thomas‘ eTutorials included as part of the week which I think will greatly assist in cutting and setting tile. If you havn’t already seen her eTutes, I strongly encourage you to take a look at her site and buy some! They are very, very affordable and are a wealth of information. It’ll change the way you work – for the better! Thanks again Crystal! Mwah.

I met with the primary school that contacted me the other week. What a great meeting – the principal, teachers and parents totally got what community means and what art teaches our new generation. The principal made a note of saying that she didn’t want any of the students (~460)  to have token involvement. That did it for me right there. Respectful, kind people. My heart beats a little more solidly knowing there are good people in the world who truly do care for our youngsters without letting their egos get in the way. I havn’t been asked to provide permits that don’t exist, nor a bunch of other unnecessary  paraphernalia. I hope I’m successful with the proposal I have put forward as it seems like it would be a wonderful relationship. The theme of the project was already agreed upon (macro garden) and I’ve already actually created a design for the feature wall that will also allow for each child’s addition in and around the main mural!! So exciting… but I need to pace myself 🙂

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How Mosaic Art Assists Childrens’ Learning Abilities

I’ll be meeting with a primary school this week to discuss a potential artist in residence opportunity and create some work with their students. The prospect is an exciting one but I am also keeping a level head about it at this early stage… This, together with the children’s workshop I will be facilitating through the Sydney Children’s Festival in October, motivated me to put in writing how mosaic art affords some real, concrete learning opportunities for children. This is what I came up with. I’m sure I’ll be updating this post as time goes by so please let me know if you feel there is anything not listed here.

Mosaic art assists in the development of:

  • Counting
  • Matching
  • Sorting
  • Recognition
  • Assembling
  • Decision making
  • Manual dexterity
  • Concentration
  • Attention
  • Patience
  • Problem solving
  • Memory
  • Logic
  • Perception
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Intuition
  • Trust
  • Spatial and visual organisation (basics of geometry)
  • Fine motor skills
  • Coordinating a child’s thoughts and actions
  • Hand and eye coordination – extremely important step to help a child achieve difficult tasks easily, including reading and writing
  • Correlation between seeing and doing (sight and touch senses)
  • Math skills as the child learns about basic calculations, surface area, the best way to break down a larger area into smaller ones, shapes, spatial visualisation
  • Skills children will need to learn to read and write
  • Curiosity
  • Language skills as the child listens and follows instructions and talks about what they are doing
  • Creative self expression
  • Self exploration
  • Self discovery

In addition to the above, larger community projects teach:

  • Peer to peer interaction (subtly helps children to understand the relationships between people while learning to deal with them effectively)
  • Collaboration
  • Cooperative learning strategies
  • Self esteem
  • Confidence
  • That a child is one of many, each as valuable as the other
  • Tolerance
  • Difference
  • That a whole is made up of many parts – each one valid, each one value-adding
  • Community spirit
  • Responsibility
  • Safety
  • Friendship
  • That a child’s voice is heard, valid and celebrated
  • Art appreciation

How does mosaic art help the teacher/parent/caregiver?

  • Making mosaics provides an opportunity for formal learning experiences
  • The care provider can watch children work alone or in groups
  • They can monitor they way in which the children speak, move and concentrate
  • It allows for observation of a child to assess their development
  • It also allows for the care provider to understand what interests the child has, what engages them and why

Most importantly, kids love it!!

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