Monday, June 2, 2014

What's new at KIC?

Well, since you asked, here’s a brief update.

I made a hat!
This project was loads of fun and I will likely replicate it in different colors with other embellishments. The fused glass flower is the product of a class taken at a local glass studio.  The class was chosen by a 14-year-old artist friend who could only attend in the company of an adult. After agreeing to go I was wondering what am I going to do with a fused glass flower? Put it in a mosaic, of course.

Institute of Mosaic Art
Earlier this year, my piece Coffee or Tea? was accepted into the juried show “Seeing Color” at the Institute of Mosaic Art in Berkeley. It was very exciting to be a part of such a talented group. Really, I am in awe of the amazing mosaics that were included. See them all here.

Playing with clay
In the past few months, I’ve been extremely fortunate to spend lots of time creating with my friend Pat. She is a “real” artist, a retired art therapist who creates in many mediums. Pat is extremely generous with her time, expertise, and tools, including the kiln in her garage. Yup, one of the mediums Pat works in is clay. And she lives in my neighborhood, only a 10 minute walk from my house. See where I’m going with this? Yes! Handmade mosaic tiles! (And probably other things too, because, well, why the heck not?) Thank you, Pat!
Work in progress. These will get an opalescent overglaze before being used in a mosaic.
The creative journey continues
There is always more to explore. Stay tuned …

Monday, October 7, 2013

Making Way For Inspiration

One of my absolute favorite books is Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It’s about how to identify and get past the things that we allow to impede our progress. (And it’s way more interesting than the sentence I just wrote!) I highly recommend you read it. You don’t have to be an artist. Even if you hate art, there is probably still something for you in it.

In the book, the author relates the following anecdote:

“Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or only when struck by inspiration. ‘I write only when inspiration strikes,’ he replied. ‘Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.’”

Farther down the page, Pressfield elaborates, explaining that just the simple act of sitting down to do our work makes way for inspiration.

So here I am, between mosaic projects, and feeling adrift. I have some vague ideas about projects I want to pursue, the key word here being “vague.” What better time to test this theory! What will happen if I just start working? Won’t know unless I try. Out to the garage I go – maybe looking through my stock of plates will shake loose an idea or two …

I laid out some plates on the garage floor, loosely sorting them into color families. Number one canine Daisy assisted.

Hmmm, this combo looks promising: shades of purple with beige. (And to think I almost didn’t buy the beige!)

Could be interesting … maybe with a dark gray grout … might work for the wall sconce idea …

Preliminary conclusion: it would appear that perhaps there IS something to the “just get started” theory of creativity. I will continue the test.

Are you waiting for inspiration? What would happen if you just got started?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Story Behind The Art: Coffee or Tea? Part 3

Coffee or Tea?
 Happiness consists in activity. It is running steam, not a stagnant pool.
—John Mason Good

From the beginning, my vision of this mosaic included steam coming from both the teapot (coffee pot?) and the mug. Originally I envisioned using broken crockery pieces, probably mostly narrow rectangles, arranged to suggest the motion of curling steam. Once I saw the color scheme, though, I knew the steam had to be copper. The copper quest was on!

First stop was my local hardware store. (A real, old-fashioned hardware store! One of the coolest places on Earth, by the way.) They sell copper tubing by the foot, but the thinnest tubing is ¼” thick – too big for this application. Next stop was Home Depot. They sell all different kinds of wire by the foot, including a few different thicknesses of copper wire. The thickest wire, that might have been a good size for this project, was so stiff I didn't have the strength in my hands to bend it. I can only imagine what kinds of tools – a vise? maybe a blowtorch? – I would have needed to shape it into curves. Not happening. What to do?

Dad saved the day! My parents happened to be passing through the house when I had a schematic drawing of the project laid out on the table. I was telling them about the project and my copper dilemma when dad said, “You know, Kelli, an oil pressure gauge repair kit might be just the thing you need.” Off I went to the auto parts store. An oil pressure gauge repair kit, by the way, comes with 1/8” copper tubing that a) is the perfect size for this mosaic, and b) because it’s a tube and not solid, it’s malleable and didn't require special tools or the strength of a bodybuilder to shape it.
If, like me, you've never needed to purchase an oil pressure gauge repair kit before, 
this is what one looks like!
1/8" copper tubing curls beautifully.
Voila! My mosaic has lovely, curved, copper steam. And, I have leftover copper tubing for another project!

There you have The Story Behind The Mosaic. So what do you think, is it coffee or is it tea?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Story Behind The Art: Coffee or Tea? Part 2

Coffee or Tea?
The final vision of this mosaic was years in forming, though the first hazy concept of the project was conceived on The Day the Mug Was Split In Two.  For the longest time I could only see an incomplete picture, an outline if you will. I just had the vaguest idea of what this mosaic should look like, and every time I tried to fill in the picture, to give it color and detail, it just never looked right. Instead of feeling inspired by what I saw in my head, I just felt annoyed. Turns out, there were only two things wrong with what I was seeing: the colors and the shapes. (Oh, good, that’s all!)

The Colors

My original, hazy vision of this project included bright colors, because I like bright colors and they’re mostly what I work with. But it never looked right, probably because of the stark contrast between the white (mug & teapot) and whatever bright color I tried to imagine surrounding it. Then I found this plate at the thrift store.

I was surprised to find myself fascinated with it. It's not something I would typically be attracted to. What would I ever use this for? It was Goodwill though, on sale day (50% off!!),  I thought maybe I should buy it just because … it was really interesting …  I put it in my basket then back on the shelf then in my basket again. It went back and forth at least three times before I finally decided to buy all three that were there. And Good thing because it turned out that THIS was the color palette for the mug project! These colors provided enough of a contrast with the white that the mug and teapot would show up, but not such a harsh contrast as to be garish and off-putting.

Earth tones. Who knew? I don’t work in earth tones. Except that apparently I do.

The Shapes

In my original, hazy vision of this mosaic, the teapot – and it was a teapot back then – was short, fat, and round. Brown Betty shaped. At the same time that the correct color palette hit me (that’s almost what it felt like!) I also saw that the teapot should be tall and narrow to complement the tall, narrow mug. And ever since then I've been wondering if that tall, narrow shape might really be a coffee pot. Coffee or tea, it’s so obvious to me now that the coffee/tea pot was always supposed to be tall and narrow, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I ever tried to see it differently!

Putting The Shapes and Colors Together

Once I had the right shapes and colors, it was time to spread out on the floor to sketch out the design. It turns out that chart pad paper is ideal for drawing out larger mosaic designs. (If you’ve ever worked in a corporate setting you know this stuff – it’s on an easel in every conference room.) The pages are large format, about 24” x 30”, with a 1” grid. My easel was very inexpensive (read: flimsy) and it works fine for giving presentations but for serious (or even lighthearted!) drawing the floor is best.

Here, I was testing color combinations. Furry Murray assisted by showing off how beautifully Mother Nature has used a similar combination of white with earth tones on his handsome fur coat.

Whew! Only then, once the colors and shapes were in place, it was suddenly clear to me that the "steam" I had always seen curling up from the cup and the pot MUST be copper. And that's its own tale.

Next up: The Copper Quest!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Story Behind the Art: Coffee or Tea? Part 1

Coffee or Tea?

When people see this mosaic for the first time they almost always zero in on the half-mug and ask “How did you get the mug to break like that?”

Well, funny you should ask, because that’s how this whole thing started.

It was an ordinary day in the neighborhood. The mug, in its intact state, was innocently resting on the kitchen counter. I opened the door of the cupboard above it and KABAM! Something – I don’t even remember what – fell out of the cupboard onto the mug and split it neatly into two pieces.

This happened 3 or 4 years ago. I had done enough mosaics to know that there was a project (or projects!) to be born from the wreckage. The two mug pieces went out into the garage to reside in one of the bins of dinnerware awaiting slaughter. In the interim other mosaic projects were conceived and completed. I never forgot about the mug pieces.

By the way, I have since learned that you can buy mug halves. If you’d like to use half a mug in your own mosaic or other project, they can be found on Etsy and on mosaic supply websites.

If you had half a mug, what would you do with it?

How did I decide what to do with mine? Stay tuned …

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Coming Out as an Artist

If you’d asked my childhood self what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you “a writer.” This came not so much from a love of writing or making up stories as from a love of reading. I could think of no higher calling than to be one of the creators I revered. “Artist” would never have crossed my mind, because artists can draw, and I can’t draw, so that’s that.

Except that I seem to have a knack for putting colors together, and maybe an eye for layout and design, and some mad crafty construction skills. And yeah, I’ve been using various combinations of those skills and talents for years to create stuff for me and my house, and my friends and their houses, and occasionally getting offered money for projects. Hmm … But am I allowed to call myself an artist? Don’t artists paint? On canvases, I mean. I paint walls. And doors. And furniture. And office supplies. (Maybe sometime I’ll tell you about the stapler …) Even the cat once, but that was an accident. Of course my rational self understands that drawing and painting are only two forms of art and artists use hundreds of different mediums to create art. I get that. 

To declare myself an artist feels like I’m puttin’ on airs, as they might say in the South. So I tried it out on a couple of close friends. Palms sweaty, eyes down, scuffing a toe in the dirt “Uh, so, I think I might be an artist,” bracing myself to hear “No, you’re not!” Because these are people I count on to tell me when I’m delusional. The responses I got were more or less “Yeah, I know,” the subtext being “Good gawd, you’re slow sometimes!”

O-kay. Now what?

For now, my medium is mosaics. More to come on mosaics. Much, much more. I’ve just recently committed to yet another commissioned piece. So, here I am, demolishing dishes, then putting the pieces back together in ways that speak to me and sometimes others, too. Apparently I’m an artist.

My name is Kelli.

I am an artist.

How about you? What is your calling?