Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Making A Mosaic: Indirect Method, Part 1

I get a lot of questions about how to create a mosaic for outdoors, especially at a site where you can't just sit and directly work on the mosaic. This is the first of several mosaic tutorials on working with the indirect method. I will be creating my mosaic on mesh in my studio. Then, I will transport it to the site and install.

First, you need sketches. (See above.) These mosaics I will be showing you are part of the new McCarver Park and playground in Tacoma, WA. Several local artists were brought in to work on the project.

Next, I enlarge the drawing to scale onto butcher paper. This is an 18" circle that will be placed into a concrete seat.

I cover the drawing with a resist of parchment paper and trace the design again. You might wonder why I don't just draw on the parchment paper to begin with but it is very slippery and hard to sketch on. That is why I use the butcher paper first. The parchment paper will not stick to the glue I put on the mesh. (Do not substitute wax paper; it will stick!)

I hold everything down with Duck brand tape. (Why am I using pink tape, you might ask? It always seems to be the color on sale!) Finally, in this first stage, I cut out a piece of mosaic mesh to cover the design. Now I have a sandwich of mesh, then parchment paper, then drawing.

Before you get started, you have to chose which type of material will be appropriate for the outdoors. Since this is an exterior mosaic in the pacific northwest, I need to use something frost-proof. I like to use these brightly glazed porcelain bathroom tiles. You can also use glass out of doors, but since these will be seats, I don't want anything that could be too sharp on little hands.

The tedious part is separating all of the tiles and cutting off the little rubber nubs. This takes a while and is boring so I try to break it up with other tasks I have to do for the project.

The fun part is now putting all of the tiles together to create the design. I am not gluing anything down at this point; I am just cutting and laying out as I go.

Next up, cutting the tiles and gluing down the design.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Octopus Explosion and the Martime Fest

What you are looking at above is my second octopus. Yes, the first octopus that I was so happy about turned out to have some major design flaws and the tentacles were too delicate and flimsy.

So I started over. And I didn't have time to use air-drying clay, so I used Sculpey instead. And worked on it until after midnight last night and popped it into the oven and after about 16 minutes took it out to discover the head had exploded.

Yes, exploded. It didn't crumble apart; pieces flew off of it.

I used Styrofoam for the interior of the head and I am guessing it just expanded in the heat or something because pieces were all over in the oven.

So I took a deep breath and went to bed (and didn't sleep very well) and got up this morning at 7:30 and patched it and allowed for expansion room and poked a couple holes in the head to allow out gases if that was what the problem was and this time he turned out fine.

So I painted, painted, painted this morning and then varnished and hit him with a hair dryer and got him delivered to the Maritime Fest with time to spare. Phew.

Here's how he looks on site. I was going to have him hanging off of the anchor, but realized you couldn't see his face and that this would be better. The orange and red really pop out.

Twelve artists in all decorated/modified anchors for this event. This mermaid is by the ever talented Jennifer Weddermann-Hay.

And this postcard to Tacoma is by my friend Dave.
All the anchors looked completely different. I am excited to see what prizes they hand out tomorrow.

Get yourself down to Tacoma's Maritime Fest this weekend at Thea Park!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Creating a Maritime Fest Sculpture

The Maritime Festival is this coming weekend here in Tacoma and I have been asked to participate by decorating an anchor.

Now, this isn't one of those projects where artists are given fiberglass sculptures to embellish; instead we are given actual working anchors. Or rather, decommissioned anchors. Most anchors these days don't even look like what we think of as the stereotypical anchor. I was the first one to pick out my anchor and picked the one that does look closest to that traditional anchor look. On the down size, my anchor weighs like 80 pounds and takes two people to move it while the other ones are closer to 30 pounds.

I love octopuses and try to incorporate them into a lot of my art, so an octopus hanging onto the anchor felt right to me. I am making him out of air dry clay.
I still need to finish out fleshing out his legs a little more and make more texture on the skin, but otherwise he is moving right along. He is drying super fast in the 80 degree weather so I should be about to start painting him Thursday, just in time for Friday delivery.

Monday, August 23, 2010

36 Things: Throw a Dinner Party for 20

OK, so this really was one of my most challenging items on my 36 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 37. And in the end, I only had 18 at table. (Only 18, she says.)

I am a big believer in place card settings. I like to mix up my guests: separate couples and match up people who will have something in common. In the past, I made place card holders out of wine corks, reclaimed tin, and funky antique postcards. I was running out of time, and at Metropolitan Market the morning of the party when inspiration struck. In the cookbook section, I spied upon two picture books; one was called "Vegetables" and the other was called "Fruit". I used a box cutter and metal ruler to cut apart the books and punched holes for place cards in each page. Many of the guests thought I chose the images symbolically--"why did you give me a pear?"--but really, I chose them based upon color and the graphic quality of the image. I also let the guests take them home as a little keepsake.

We had three tables set up so we had to put some people on the deck....

.....and some down on the gravel patio.
My friend Greg helped us with set up and helped me get the food to the tables. Here we are assembling the flank steak salads.

My husband Trevor was a trooper. (He thinks I got it out of my system. I am thinking, when can I do this again?)
Two of my dearest friends, Danny and Rosie.
Everyone is too busy eating to notice me taking photos.
Matt is about to dig into his salad.

Dave is digging into goat cheese cheesecake with sour cherry/blueberry sauce.
Trevor explaining the size of our cat's brain.
One of the only photos of myself. Some smart person grabbed the camera when I wasn't looking.

You can never have too many friends or dinner parties in your life.
The flip side: I figured out that NOT counting the utensils, we washed over 130 dishes! Just like working in a restaurant again!
Next time I might hire a waiter. But then again, I like the putting together of everything. I am content. Besides cleaning a zillion dishes yesterday, I spent most of the day napping or reading my book.

The Makings of a Fabulous Evening

Throwing a large dinner party takes a lot of thought and organization. And a lot of shopping. But for me, the planning and organizing is the fun part. I am no saint, however; I complain, I whine, I get a little stressed out. But I love every second of it.

First thing I had to do was buy more dishes. I have been wanting to do this for a while. I still have dishes that my mom gave me when I moved out of the house 18 years ago. And I am not talking about fine china here, just old, chipped junk. I briefly fantasized about buying nice, fancy dishes, but knew this was just ridiculous. I don't want to own anything so precious I will be afraid to use it in case it breaks.

So I took a deep breath, and went to IKEA. And found wonderful, functional dish sets for unbelievably cheap prices. I was able to buy 18 dinner plates, 18 salad plates, and 18 soup bowls for $45. Now that is just crazy talk. I splurged a little more on the water tumblers. (Those were about $1.20 each.) The stemless wine glasses are from World Market. ($1.99 each) I was at a loss for extra silverware and then found out my friend Ann was downsizing and scored all of her old family silver.
I made these paper flowers a couple of years ago and they were very appropriate for decorations. I strewed them along the path from the front yard to the back yard to lead the guests into the party.
The morning of the party we went to the local farmers' market to buy heirloom tomatoes, a half flat of blueberries, and these gorgeous flowers.

It was an amazing feat of spatial relationships to fit everything in the fridge.
Buckwheat cheese straws.

Spinach-edamame soup.
Slicing up the grilled flank steak for the steak salads. It was hard not to eat a lot of this while prepping. My friend Danny can't eat wheat, so I used Tamari for the steak marinade.

Mini goat cheese cheesecakes. I made a few of these wheat free as well.

The arranged flowers.
Our friend Greg brought fixin's for Manhattans. Now that was just what a party hostess needed.

The appetizer table with beet hummus and bacon wrapped dates and jalapenos.
Greg and Trevor setting up the tables. The weekend before, the weather had been in the 90's. That morning we woke up to overcast skies, but by the time the guests started arriving at 4pm, it was sunny again. Phew!

My sister gave me all of the napkins. She knows my style.

I admit, I prefer the look of the wood table to the tablecloths. But we needed the tablecloths to mask the truth that those other tables are my messy art studio tables.

Everyone had a different fruit or vegetable as their place card.

More blogging to come about flower arranging and the dinner party itself, but I first need to share three things I have learned on throwing the perfect dinner party.

1. Cook from your repertoire. Or if you must cook something new, try the recipe out at least once before the day of the party.

2. Make a giant checklist of things to do for the party. I kept this near me at all times. It keeps you on track.

3. Ask your guests to bring the booze. Most of your friends want to help in some way, but usually when too many people start invading the kitchen, it becomes a disaster. So having the guests bring wine lets them participate and cuts down on your grocery bill!