Sunday, November 17, 2013

Making More Frames

Six Sets of Mosaic Frames
I spent some time cutting down some of the lumber I purchased last week into pieces for six sets of mosaic frames.  3 sets of 2' x 1' and 3 sets of 1' x 1'.  The actual dimensions of the pieces are 26.25" and 14.25". Click here to see how I cut these pieces and how they get assembled into frames.

Check out the final result of these frame pieces as they become mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I'm working with a new client on a mosaic art piece.  At first I thought we were going to something with penguins, but her husband didn't like that idea.  Next she decided to do something with a Southwest theme.
I'm partial to penguins BUT [my husband] isn't, so it would need to be something Southwest in theme, like Kokopeli or cactus or coyote, etc. Whatever strikes the artist and whatever the artist can work into mozaic.
She sent this note to me several weeks ago.  I read it at the time and in my brain I logged it as Southwest theme and then continued to finish the other mosaic projects that I had in the Queue.  Well today, I finally got back around to this project and I re-read her note.  Cactus - OK.  Coyote - OK.  Kokopelli - What? What the heck is a Kokopelli.  Thank goodness for the internet.

According to Wikipedia - Kokopelli is a fertility deity, usually depicted as a humpbacked flute player (often with feathers or antenna-like protrusions on his head), who has been venerated by some Native American cultures in the Southwestern United States. Like most fertility deities, Kokopelli presides over both childbirth and agriculture. He is also a trickster god and represents the spirit of music.

Kokopelli Reference Drawing
Next I did a pencil drawing of a desert sunset and incorporated Mr. Fertility.  And I added shadows to everything.

Kokopelli Rough Draft
And then I added some desert sunset colors.

Kokopelli Rough Draft with color
Next we send to the client to get her approval and/or changes.

Update 12 Nov 13 - I received the following from my client.
"Jack I love the concept. You did a great job of researching kokopelli and then incorporating the Southwest theme. I also like the shadows idea. What colors are you planning to use?"
Here is what I was thinking for colors.
(Click on links below to see colors)
For the frame, I was thinking golden mahogany.  I used it for my fox mosaic.
Sky - Shades of purples (Iris, Fig, Pansy), Shade of Yellow (Citrus)
Cactus, Kokopelli, and Shadows - Night Black
Desert Floor - First Layer Terra Cotta, Second Layer Sand
Sun - China White

If you would like to change any or all of the colors, just tell me which company and which colors and I will order the colors you want.  The three tile companies I primarily use are Mosaic Mercantile, Opus Mosaics and Maryland Mosaics.

Now that the client has approved the colors, we prepare the frame and transfer the sketch.

Prepared Frame

Sketch Transferred to Frame
And here is the final piece.  A few days for the grout to dry and off it goes to its new home.

Kokopelli Final (Click on Photo for Larger View)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Creative Minds Are Rarely Tidy

Creative Minds Are Rarely Tidy
Creative Minds Are Rarely Tidy.  When I first started doing mosaic work, I sorted all of my different mosaic tiles into bins.  I was very organized.  But then as the creative mania overtook me, I spent less and less time sorting my materials.  Now the tiles pretty much remain in the plastic bags from the vendors until I use them.

Check out the result of what happens to these loose tiles in my Gallery.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mini Bird Mosaic

This is the first of what I am calling my mini mosaic series.  My goal is to make some less expensive pieces for my customers who want a Jack Mast Mosaic, but can't plunk down the big bucks.   For this piece, I skipped all of the preliminary design work and sketched my drawing directly on the mini mosaic frame.

Bird Mosaic Drawing on Frame
And then I immediately started cutting and gluing.  For this piece I used inexpensive mosaic stones from Stone-By-Stone (SBS).  The entire piece took about one hour to cut and glue.

Bird Mosaic Gluing Complete
And here is my completed mini bird mosaic.

Check out some of my other mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How To Grout Your Mosaic

Now that we have cut and glued all of our tiles to the mosaic base, it is time to apply the grout. Before we begin though, here are a few helpful hints.

  • Once we start the grouting process, we have to finish the job.  I often worry that I will get some important phone call during while grouting.  Once the grout dries, it is really really hard to clean up.
  • Grout is a little dangerous because it contains concrete.  Concrete can harm you in two ways -- breathing its dust and contacting your skin. Therefore, please wear appropriate safety apparatus. Wear a mask to prevent inhaling the dust.  Wear gloves and eye protection to keep the grout off of your skin.  
  • No matter how careful you are, grouting is messy work.  Don't attempt to grout your work on the dinning room table.  I'm not saying whether or not I have actually made that mistake.

Now to begin grouting:

Step 1 - Collect Your Tools - Collect up all of the required tools and equipment before you start mixing the grout.  The clock starts ticking the minute the water hits the grout. Here are the things we will need:

  • Grout ~ sanded or unsanded.  Use sanded for gaps of 1/8 inch or larger.  If you are only doing a small project, you can use the small containers of grout sold in the craft store.  Otherwise, I recommend buying a larger bag at Lowes or Home Depot.  It is a lot more cost effective.
  • Mixing container.
  • Wooden paint stick or spoon for mixing grout 
  • Latex gloves to protect your hands. Grout is caustic and will dry out and possible irratate your skin.
  • Mask - Use will mixing to prevent getting concrete dust in your lungs.  
  • Safety glasses to make sure you don't splash concrete into your eyes.
  • Small float ~ you can substitute this with a stuff rubber spatula.
  • Bottled water ~ Use bottled water if you have funky tap water. In some areas, tap water can slightly discolor your grout. You only need a small amount of bottled water for mixing the grout.
  • Paper towels - To clean up the mess you will make.  Notice I didn't say "If" you make a mess.
  • Pail or bucket ~ fill with tap water
  • Plastic sheets for covering table work surface or floor surface.
Step 2 - Put on your safety gear.
Mask and Eye Protection

Latex Gloves
Step 3 - Mix the grout - You will need about 1 pound of grout for each square foot.  I like to mix different colors of grout to get exactly the shade I am looking for.  For example two parts white and one part black gives you a medium gray color grout.  Or you can just do it the easy way and buy exactly the color of grout that you wanted from the store.

Add dry grout to mixing container
The we add the water.  We are looking for grout that is the consistency of peanut butter.  Not too dry and not too soupy.  Just add a small amount of water at a time and keep mixing until you get the consistency that you want.

Mixing Grout
Step 4 - Apply the Grout - Next we apply the grout to the mosaic.  I like to start by dropping portions of grout in the center and in the corners of the mosaic.

Next we use our float to work the grout into all of the nooks and crannies.

Grout applied to mosaic

Step 5 - Clean up the Tile - Next we alternate between a wet sponge and paper towels to remove the grout from the surface of the tiles.  Be careful not to press too hard.  We just want to remove the grout from the surface and not the grout lines between the tiles.

Paper Towel

Wet Sponge
Step 6 - Admire your handiwork

Completed Project

Step 7 - Stop Admiring your handiwork and quickly clean up all of your tools and your work space before the grout that you slopped around everywhere hardens.

Check out some of my other mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Covered Bridge

I started working on a new commissioned piece.  For this piece, my client provided me with some specific reference photos.  These photos are from the Pennsylvania Covered Bridges website.  My client has fond memories of playing on similar covered bridge as a child in Somerset County, Pennsylvania and wanted to capture this memory as a mosaic.

Client Reference Photo #1

Client Reference Photo #2
As part of the process, I discussed with my client what she liked and what she didn't like about the photos in order to come up with a composite sketch.  In short, my client liked the profile of bridge #1, the coloring of bridge #2, the fall foliage of bridge #1, and wanted to remove the trees from the foreground of bridge #1. Based on that we started with a sketch that captured the profile of bridge #1 and filled in the missing parts that were obscured by the foreground trees.

Initial Composite Sketch Covered Bridge
Next we added some color.  We used the general color scheme of bridge #2 and added in some fall foliage. We also added in some water which wasn't visible in the original photo.

Covered Bridge drawing with color added
As this is a commissioned piece, my next step was to get my clients approval of the drawing.  I think that I met her expectation for this step because she stated, 
"Jack, the drawing that you sent was perfect.  I like the one you chose.  Looking forward to seeing the finished mosaic."
So there you have it.  Next I transferred the drawing to the already prepared mosaic frame.  And once again, I must be doing something right because I received more positive feedback from my client.
"Jack, looks good so far, I really like the color of the frame.  Very excited!!"
Covered Bridge Drawing Transferred to Mosaic Frame
Now I start the cutting and gluing.  The framework of the bridge was very time consuming (1.5 hours), but that part is now done.  The rest of the project should be easy in comparison.

Covered Bridge White Framework Completed
It has been a busy week and I haven't had much of an opportunity to work on this piece.  But I finally got a chance to spend some quality time on it this evening.  After about 5 hours of cutting and gluing, I am now approaching the half way point.  The trees and sky will actually be easier since they will mostly be triangles. Triangles are easy to cut and glue together.

Covered Bridge about half way glued

The last bit of cutting and gluing I have to do on the project is the fall foliage.  For this portion of the project, I am using Canary, Meadow, Bright Green and Pumpkin cut into triangles.

Cut Tiles for Trees
I finally finished cutting and gluing the covered bridge piece.  It took about 12 hours to cut and glue this piece.
Covered Bridge Cutting and Gluing Complete
And this piece is complete.  A couple of days of drying and off it goes to its new home.

Covered Bridge Mosaic Final
Check out some of my other mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Tile Colors for this project
Bridge - Tomato, China White, Night Black
Abutment - Mini Slate
Grass - Meadow and Bright Green Mix
Trees - Oak, Canary, Pumpkin, and Bright Green
Sky - Sky Blue
Water - Deep Blue
Road - Sand

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Isn't it Good Norwegian Wood

Fresh Load Of Lumber
Actually I have no idea where this lumber originated.  Probably not Norway.  Regardless of where it once grew, I picked it up at Lowes.  And soon it will become the canvas for my next works of art.

In the front we have some furring strips for the mini mosaics.  In the middle is the 2' x 2' 1/4 inch birch plywood that forms the back of the mosaics.  And in the back is the 2x2s for my regular size frames.

Check out how this wood gets used in my mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Peacock Mosaic

My next mosaic is going to be a stylized rendition of a peacock.  Do I have a customer for this one?  No. This is just the first thing that jumped into my head.  And I have a bunch of bright green mosaic tiles left over from some previous pieces.

As always, we start with a rough sketch or two or three or many.

Next we refine the drawing on  a grid.

And then we transfer the drawing to our already prepared mosaic frame.

And just in case you had the impression that mosaic art isn't any fun.  Sometimes it includes crayons, wine and snacks!

Next we start cutting and gluing.

I'm am now about half way done with the gluing on this mosaic.  I need just a few more hours to finish it up.

Peacock Mosaic half way done
And now the gluing is complete.  This one took a total of 9:45 of cutting and gluing time.

Peacock Mosaic Cutting and Gluing Complete
It took me a while, but I finally got time to grout this mosaic.  Enjoy!

Peacock Mosaic Final

Check out some of my other mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mini Mosaics

Mini Mosaic Frame
At the arts and crafts show this past weekend, I realized that there are a lot of people who want to buy a piece of artwork, but just couldn't afford to plunk down the number of dollars that I have to charge for my mosaic art pieces.  I was very happy to sell two pieces, but there were a lot of folks who would have purchased a more affordable piece.  The experience got me to wondering if I can make some nice but inexpensive pieces.  Something like a stocking stuffer.

My normal pieces are either 1' x 1' or 2' x 1'.  Not counting drying time for glue, stain and grout drying, it takes me about 21 hours to make my normal size pieces.

So the challenge: Find a way to make the frames quickly and cheaply, but still nice enough that folks will want to buy them.  I came up with a design for my 13" x 7.5" frames.  Inexpensive furring strips cut to length with a 45 degree angle and glued together. This frame is then mounted on a small piece of plywood. The frame is then sanded and stained.  I am very happy with the results.  I have to give a special shout out to my friend Jim Nelson who is an awesome wood worker. He taught me how to get a very tight 45 degree angles on these small pieces of wood.

My goal is to get these mini mosaics down to about 3 hours of total construction time.  I'll let you know how I am doing.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Two Sales Today

I sold two pieces today.

Moon Tree

Snow Mountain
I didn't realize how popular these two pieces might be.  Several people wanted to buy them.  I think I could have sold multiple copies of each.  I may have to make some copies.

Check out some of my other mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Angel

How many angles can dance on the head of a pin?  I don't know, but it only takes one angel to make my head spin.  So, if you've read my blog at all, you will have realized that I mostly do wildlife.  A Turtle, A Frog, A Fox. A Bumble Bee.  I also do some outdoor environments like the beach or a farm.  I'm comfortable with that sort of thing.  I have a client though who does not particularly care if I am comfortable. This client has insisted repeatedly that I do an angel.  And despite my protests that I only do wildlife, this client would not take no for an answer.  So I said to my client.  What exactly do you think an angel looks like.  This was my client's sketch.

Customer's Sketch

OK - Don't panic I say to myself.  Just start sketching and something will start to look good. Not there yet, but I start to see something in my sketches......

My Initial Sketch

And this is the image that starts coming through.

My Refined Sketch

And then I added a little color.

Color Grid Drawing

And in keeping with my process, I transferred the grid drawing to my already prepared mosaic frame. Now I just need to invent a new method to add the facial details.  Doing this with glass tile only is not going to work. Wish me luck.

Drawing on Frame
Here I am half way done with the gluing.

Middle of Gluing
So I finally finished the gluing.
Gluing Complete
Next I had to grind the facial features.  I told you when I started this project that the fine features of the face were just going to be too hard to do with tile alone.  I decided to use my dremel tool with a grinding attachment.  I know that some of my mosaic art friends are probably screaming right now, "No Grinding", but hey, my art is my art.

Grinding Face

Now it is time to apply the grout.  For this project I am using my secret recipe for light gray grout.  One part black grout and two parts white grout.

Applying Grout

And at last the angel is finished.  I don't expect to be getting any more commissions in the near future for angels so please enjoy this one. (Click on photo for a larger view)

Finished Angel

Check out some of my other mosaic art pieces in my Gallery.

Tiles used in this project
Hair - Yellow
Skin -Ice Pink (Opus Mosaics)
Gown - China White (Opus Mosaics)
Wings - Sky Blue (Opus Mosaics)
Purple - Fig (Mosaic Mercantile)
Blue - Deep Blue (Opus Mosaics)

Random Angle Facts
There is nothing in the bible that says angels have wings.  I'm going to stick with my pop culture image though because there is also nothing in the bible that says that angels don't have wings.