Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Grab Bag Sea Turtle

So, normally I just start one of my mosaic projects with a sketch and purchase the tiles required to complete the picture.  This time I did things a little differently.  One of my mosaic tile suppliers, Mosaic Mercantile, was having a clearance sale.  They had a grab bag special that contained a large number of tiles at a fraction of the price I usually pay.  So I decided to go for it.

What I got was a bunch of crazy shimmery colors that I had no idea what to do with.  My first step was to sort the tiles into general color categories and types.  I found that after I had done this that there were lots of blues and browns in the grab bag.  I started figuring out what might fit this color combination and what I came up with was a sea turtle.  So next I did my rough sketch.

And then I did a better grid drawing.

And then I transferred the drawing onto my already prepared frame and started cutting and gluing.  I cut the pieces for his shell into hexagon shapes.  It gives him a nice turtley look.

Pretty soon my buddy mr. grab bag started to look like a sea turtle.

Now he just needs a proper habitat.

And once the gluing is done, it is time for the grout.

And at last he is finished.  I give you the Grab Bag Sea Turtle.

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

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Got A New Dealer

So, I've probably mentioned this before, but I am just a little hooked on the whole mosaic thing.  It's not a terribly expensive habit, but it does cost me some money.  If I were a golfer, a round of golf would cost me a heck of a lot more than my little broken pieces of glass cost.  But everyone who knows me, knows that I am frugal.  Some would use stronger language than that, but lets just stick with frugal for now.

As a result of my frugality, I am constantly looking for was to decrease the cost of my mosaic addiction. One of my cost cutting moves was to start making my own frames for my mosaic art.  I've got them down to about $3-$4 bucks for a 1' x 2' frame.

My next move was to find a cheaper supplier of glass tiles.  I started off with retail from places like Hobby Lobby, Michael's and even good old  They typically didn't stock the colors I was looking for and the prices were just too high for the number of tiles I have been going through.  I then started shopping around online.  I've purchase tiles from several different companies including Mosaic Mercantile.  I then came across Opus Mosaics.  The prices seemed very reasonable, but I couldn't really get a good feel for their color selection from the online photos.  And each of the different companies I have purchased from has a different name for the same colors.  I noticed that Opus Mosaics had a sample board that shows each of their colors.  It just arrived today.  This will be very handy because it takes all of the guesswork out of picking the right colors.

OK, so now I just need to order some tiles for my next project.  I wonder what it will be?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Farm Living

Green acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside

New York is where I'd rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue

The chores, the stores, fresh air, times square

You are my wife, goodbye city life
Green Acres we are there

OK, this piece is my ode to the Green Acres TV Show.  I used to love this show.  I haven't seen it in a while.  But anyway, I got to thinking about farm living and how it might be a nice change of pace.  This piece is the result.

As always, I started with a rough sketch.

Rough Sketch

And then I created a more detailed grid drawing to refine everything. The biggest addition was the windmill.  I was afraid it might be too much detail for the tile work, but I thought it was worth a try.

Grid Drawing

Next, I transferred the drawing to my already prepared frame.

Transferring Grid Drawing to Frame

So this is what the backing looks like before I start gluing on all of the pieces.

Farm Living transferred to Frame

I usually throw a few handfuls of tiles on the board just to make sure that the colors work together.  And then I start with the cutting and gluing. 

Farm Living Gluing
And after many hours, the gluing is finally done.

Farm Living Gluing Complete

And then it is time for grout.  For this piece I am using a grout color called "Harvest" which is a neutral sandstone color.  This piece  is 1' x 2' and requires about a half pound of grout.  Mix the grout until it is the consistency of peanut butter.

Farm Living Preparing Grout
And then we apply the grout using a float.

Farm Living Applying Grout

And after the grout has been worked into all of the nooks and crannies, it is time to clean off the excess.

Farm Living Cleaning Grout
And then at last the piece is complete.  I give you "Farm Living".

Farm Living Complete

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

I Was Framed

How to make mosaic frames

A few people have asked me where I get the frames that I use for my mosaic art projects.  I make them myself.  They aren't very fancy, but they look nice and are very sturdy. Around the studio, we euphemistically refer to them as "Rustic".

It all starts at the hardware store.  I usually buy about eight frames worth of material at a time.

Frame Lumber

Once I get home, I start with the outside edges of the frame which is made of some 2 x 2 firing strips.

Raw Lumber
First I cut a 1/4 inch slot down the middle by making a few passes with a Rockwell RK3440K VersaCut Circular Saw. You could also use a table saw for this task, but I don't have room for one in my studio, and the VersaCut is very to use.  It comes with an adjustable guide, so I just set the depth of the cut and the distance from the edge of the board and I am off and running.

Firing Strips with Slots Cut

I then use a 1/4 inch wood chisel to remove the remaining material. I also run a sander along the cut edge.

Removing remaining material

Next I cut the 2 x 2s to length and put a 45 degree angle on the sides of each piece.  I use a miter saw for this task.

Cutting pieces on Miter Saw

And then I am done with the individual frames sections.
Finished piece
After I have all of the pieces cut, I dry fit everything together first to make sure that they fit nicely.  Then I use wood glue on all of the touching pieces.

Once everything is glued and fitted together, I use a strap clamp to hold the entire thing in place while the glue is drying.  I've tried a few different clamp systems, but the strap clamp is ideal for this sort of thing.  It provides even pressure from all sides.  The system I am using is the Bessey VAS23 Vario Angle Strap Clamp.  I certainly endorse it.  It beats the heck out trying to line everything up with multiple standard clamps. Oh, make sure you wipe off all of the excess glue before it dries.

After the glue has dried for a day or two, I sand down all of the surfaces.

Sanding Frame
And then I apply some color of stain to the outside of the frame.  

Applying Stain
And there you have a nice canvas for your mosaic art work.  

  Check out how I use these frames in my Gallery.

Buzz Bee

Ok,  In keeping with my recent living creatures theme, here is my latest piece titled "Buzz Bee".  You all know how I work by now.  I do a doodle.

That then translates into a slightly more detailed drawing.

And then I start madly gluing bits of broken glass onto a frame.  I say broken glass, because that is exactly what they are.  Tiny little slivers of extremely sharp glass that lay in wait for me to jab myself to the extent that I have to go running to Mary for a bandaid.  And Mary is not very sympathetic to my plight.

And after I have finished bleeding for my art, I then slather the whole thing up with a liberal application of grout.  For this piece, I decided to go with a nice sandstone grout.

And he final result is "Buzz Bee".  Say hello to the nice people Buzz Bee!

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

Mister Ribbit

Happy Labor Day everyone!   What did you do on your Labor Day Weekend?  In addition to a High School Football game on Friday Night, "Go Jets!"  And a College Football game on Saturday Night, "Roll Tide!" And some BBQ, etc.  I managed to work in a little time to finish up a new mosaic piece.

This one is titled "Mister Ribbit".  You know... because that's the sound that frogs make.

As always, I was just doodling on a piece of paper.  Probably during a very important meeting at work, but you'll never get me to admit that in a court of law.  Anyways, Mister Ribbit appeared on my paper.

And I thought to myself, "Self, if you were a frog, would you rather be sitting in this meeting or would you rather be out swimming in a lily pond?"  

So, after I sketched Mister Ribbit, I transferred the design to my already prepared frame and began gluing on the pieces.

Once I completed the gluing, then it was time to do the grout work.  I selected a nice dark grout for this piece.

And this to me is the scariest part of doing mosaic art.  After many hours of cutting and gluing hundreds of little pieces of glass, you slather the entire thing up with a bunch of opaque goop.  And you start wondering if your artwork will re-appear and what it might look like.  

 But alas, your worries are for not.  A little clean up work and here is your finished piece.  Ready to hang on the wall.

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