IMA's Weekly Mosaic Workout Challenge

Institute of Mosaic Art's Weekly Mosaic Workout Challenge. We are challenging ourselves, and whoever wants to join us, to make a mosaic every week from June 6th to November 6th, 2014. 

Black and White All Over

Working Through Week 3

It's been another wonderful week of submissions and our ranks continue to grow so more to be expected in coming weeks and months. 

The work continues to be inspirational and educational. I really appreciate that you are not only making mosaics but taking the time to think about what's working and what isn't and sharing your thoughts with everyone - it is both entertaining and helpful.  

Many of us are learning that proper planning can save a lot of trouble, and that sometimes even if all goes to plan, we didn't get the effects we were hoping for. Also, many of us are noting that we vastly overestimate how much we can get done in a short period of time (I am a key offender in this area!) Even though I didn't finish this week's piece (photo soon - computer issues are delaying me), I'm really glad that I started it and I do plan to finish it as it is helping me work out what I need to plan better for a larger, similar piece I've had kicking around in my head but hadn't done anything with as of yet. 

Note:  I do my best to get everyone's piece up around the same time but sometimes that doesn't work out.  If your piece from the previous week isn't up by end of day Tuesday, feel free to send me a note because there's a good chance I got it ready and then missed actually posting it. I want to be sure to get everyone's work on the site so don't hesitate to nag me a bit!

Artist: Sima Zeiger
Title: Just Around Midnight
Materials: Glass Tiles
Time Spent: 3 hrs
Comments: The two color limit was somewhat of a challenge.
My goal in this piece was to create a city skyscrape. One problem I had with the Weldbond adhesive was the seepage on the underside of the tiles. Overall, happy with results.

Artist: Nan Judson

Title: Capture Life's Moments

Size: 6 x 6 inches

Time spent: 3 hours

Materials: Black and white glass tiles, iridescent white and black stained glass, buttons, glass rounds, tempered glass on MDF board painted white, and 3 pieces of steel.

Thoughts: I really had to use a lot of textured materials to get a sense of depth while using a black and white palette. I spray painted the board with white primer. It was visually easier to work on a white background, and gave me the option of working with more transparent materials, but the tesserae slipped on the Weldbond when I was trying to work fast. Overall I am pleased with the result.

Artist: Cheryl Compton

Title:  A Change of Direction

Materials:  Stones from the beach, pourable grout, pink sand from Eleuthera.

How long did it take:  8 hours

What I learned: First, this is the result of trying a technique from Maggy Howarth's book, "Complete Pebble Mosaic Handbook", pg. 46 - 47.  Second, she makes it look much easier in the book. lol.  Third, it didn't come out at all like I thought it would.  It is supposed to represent how when you start on something, and it isn’t working out (Left corner, big stones, lack of fullness in the design), you have to go back to the basics (small stones and basic line), then you can change directions (opposite corner motif is fuller and facing the other way) and things will come out better. I feel like I needed to explain it because it came out so poorly.

Problems I encountered:  The sand wasn't evenly placed and the grout bled through to the tops of some of the stones.  The sand stuck to the grout.  When I attempted to chisel things into better shape, the piece began to crack on the edges.  The chiseling was really hard to do and time consuming.

How did the Color Restriction Change the way I selected materials:  It didn't really.  I have done pieces in black and white before because it provides such a great contrast in stone.  Many times, the hardest thing is getting all the stones of the same hue (in the browns and blues, etc)  but black and white makes it easier.

Biggest Difficulty in finishing this piece was definitely my limitation on working in this technique before.  But, it was well worth the time and effort.  I believe that with a bit more practice and some useful advice in the areas where I had difficulties, I will love doing things in this way.

Just wanted to say thanks for everyone who took time to really give good write ups last week.  I learn a lot from the descriptions of what you used and how you used it, as well as the failure and success stories.  I'm so amazed at all the amazing pieces that people have produced.  : )

Artist: Janice Oravec

Title:  Black and White (ish)

Time:  3 hours

Materials:  Dried beans set in thinset mortar

Thoughts:  I like it. I find it neat and balanced, everything my life isn't.  It is much easier working with whole beans than stained glass (for me).  Also a faster clean up. Have never worked with thinset, which I found to be pretty straightforward.  I now have a 25 lb. bag.  Anyone need a room tiled?

Artist: Randina Casenza

Title:  It IS Black and White
Size:  6” x 6”
Time spent:  4.25 hours
Materials:  stained glass, glass gem, glass tile

Thoughts: The minute I saw “black and white” in the instructions, this image popped in my mind. The challenge was to work quickly. The temptation for me is to work small, particularly on a small substrate so I kept the background pieces fairly large to cover more ground more quickly. I like the challenge of a limited palette, some of my best ideas come from restriction!

Artist: Marilyn Descours

Title: Fragment

Thoughts: The dog ate my homework and this will be finished next week. I don't like it a lot yet, but I think I might when it's done.  It is contorni with smalti on cement backer board. I normally use thinset because I like the consistency I get. I had mastic leftover from last weeks piece and tried using that.  I can't say it's a disaster, but I'll save it for non smalti pieces.  It's really messy and hard to clean.  I'm not satisfied with the andamento.  I think I started to get frustrated with the mastic and just started laying pieces willy nilly.

Overall, though, I really liked doing it.  It gave my hammer and hardie a good workout and I learned stuff about how I like to work (above).  It also made me even more conscious of the price of smalti!  Sometimes I think found art is so popular because supplies are so expensive!

First Try

First Try

Artist: Sherry Wallis

Title: Puttin' On The Glitz

Times: 1st one 3 hrs., 2nd one 6 hrs

Thoughts: I had an immediate idea for this challenge and ran out to my studio and worked diligently on an ATC 4 x 4 that I had.  I liked my idea but when it was finished, o-la-la, it was AWFUL!  I am just not very good at making precision cuts, and this thing was so sad.  Then when I took a picture of it, it tried to commit suicide by catapulting itself off the ledge.  It lost a piece but, that was okay because I wasn't going to use it.  The next attempt divested it of two more pieces, but I did manage to save it for the "before" picture.

I couldn't stop thinking about it because I really liked the look of the tapestry mirror.  I started laying it out on a 10 x 10 artist board in neat little lines.  But I kept thinking it looked so regular and soldiers on parade.  At heart, I'm a bit of an anarchist, I guess, because it creeps into my art.  Here in the form of these millefiore.  They started in rows, but they're not really soldiers, just an unruly mob and they kind of took over.  Worse, some of the colored ones managed to insert themselves as well.  

Some more spaces need to be filled before the piece is finished, but this is close enough to finished for me to put it up.  Until the glue dries, it's hard for me to actually see what needs filling with more millefiore and what can just be grouted.  

This is tapestry mirror glass, black sparkle Van Gogh glass, white vitreous both iridized an plain, pearl buttons, white iridized glas gems, and millefiore.  I think I'll grout it with black. All my ZIA work is in black and white, but I didn't want to put that in since I already have the bottle at week 1.  I was so disappointed in my first effort because it took a lot of time, and it reminded me why I'm no threat to Jacque Iskander!  LOL

Artist: Julie Sperling

Title: Black carbon (study)

Size: 6″ x 4.75″

How long did it take to complete? Roughly 4 hours

Love or hate this workout? I thought this workout was great. It pushed me out of my comfort zone just enough (because I rarely use big contrasts, like black and white, in my work), but I still felt relatively in control and comfortable because I could work with materials and tools that I knew and liked.

Happy with the result? Yep, I’m pretty happy with the result, although when I get around to making the larger piece there are definitely things that I will change based on what I learned here.

What did I learn? I used this challenge as a chance to try out some ideas that I’ve got kicking around in my head for a larger piece that would be part of the climate change series I’m working on. I’ve never done a test piece / study before, so I found it challenging figuring out how to approach it (i.e., determining what, specifically, I wanted to test out for the bigger piece): Am I supposed to replicate the whole thing, just in miniature? Do just one portion of it? Take some materials and styles for a spin? I opted for the last one, taking the opportunity to work with coal for the first time and play around with size and spacing a bit. The coal wasn’t nearly as difficult to work with as I anticipated (although it was just as messy as I thought it would be!), and I’m looking forward to using it again when I do the larger mosaic. Because I favour gradual, easy transitions, I found it quite challenging to work in black and white, particularly on such a small scale. I’m not sure I really learned how to navigate these contrasts in a confined space, but I did learn that it’s tough and that it’s something I can work on in the future.

Artist: Cate Thomassen

Title: OPposites

Size & Materials: Approximately 6”x6” done in glass. I used iridescent glass in reverse for the black as I had no black in my stores. 

Thoughts: Again, this is something I would not have been likely to do except for this assignment. Most of what I thought about doing

was actually in grey scale and op art seemed a natural for the black and white theme and not dissimilar to what I did in week 2. It took me longer than I had expected—probably in the 5 hour range, (again the grout time isn’t included) with more time devoted to the design phase than I would have expected. As a result, I was unable to finish it as I wanted and ended up crazy paving around the circle rather than continuing the checkerboard. I think it would have been more effective if I had had the time to complete it as I had planned. 

Had fun as always, and I think I may want to do more work along this line, but with my own twist and on a larger scale. 

Artist: Elizabeth Grindon

Thoughts: Decided to use only green and white. A drift of white flowers. Went ok until I grouted. Got it fixed in my head that I was going to stay with the two color limit and since white grout wouldn't work - the flowers would not show up - decided to go with a green grout. Which was okay - mallard green - except it totally changed the mosaic away from the orgininal vision - which was of a delicate, spring-like group of flowers and grasses. After discussing with Studio 9 mates - very helpful - we concluded that in order to have achieved my vision I should have used a more pastel colored grout - such as a light green, minty green, a light blue or even a very light pink. I could have used tints to achieve the proper color.
This exercise had its own lessons as has each of the previous weeks and I have thoroughly enjoyed them! (I have already made a small mosaic for next week so I'm hoping that I can find a way to justify including it!! lol - if not, I'll do something else.


Artist: Deborah Englebaugh

Title: Stopping Point

Size: 6 x 6    

Time: 2 ½ hours

Materials: Handmade stoneware tiles, glazed ceramic tiles, Marcellus shale and rocks.

Thoughts: The restriction of using just the two colors didn’t prove to be a problem as I realized I have accumulated a diverse stash of goodies. I had to hold myself back from using too many materials. The biggest difficulty was using the black pieces on the black thinset. My concern was trying to keep my lines defined.

Artist: Kappy Venezia

Title: The Lovely Natalie

Size: 8 1/2 x 11

Timing: This took longer than expected but once I started I couldn't stop.  About 5 hours.

Thoughts: This was a fun project, I had never done a mosaic in black and white and never a portrait.  But, now I might have to use my other daughter for my next subject.

Work in progress

Work in progress

Artist: Kelli Russell

No title yet, so far I have about 2 hours invested (including thinking/planning time).

Finished piece

Finished piece

Thoughts: This has been a fun challenge and I’m happy with what I’ve got so far. I will definitely finish this piece and (cheat?) grout it with a terra-cotta colored grout. I considered different combinations of black & white grout, but decided against that as I want the grout lines to show but not be emphasized. Possibly it needs a sun companion piece, also in black & white. One learning: on previous pieces, I can tell I’ve underestimated how much time I spend on the thinking/planning phase.

Thoughts on finished piece: I really like how this came out and will definitely do a black & white sun as a companion piece.


Artist: Marjory Milligan

Title: Fred

Materials: Vitreous and Recycled Glass,  A Pebble

Comments: This was my first idea, the tilted top hat resting on a cane. I considered others, but kept coming back to this. I decided not to use grout in order to keep clean edges. Tilting the hat created lots of small and smaller unique triangles. Yikes! But I like the jaunty look. Cutting vitreous glass is always such a surprise, curves when it should be straight, straight when it should be diagonal. So I learned to go with the flow. It took me about 4 hours, 90% of the tiles took 25% of the time. The triangles drove me crazy. So on to the next thing …..

Artist: Misha Moore

Title: Bubble Gum

Time to complete: 2.5 hours

Size: 6"x6"

Thoughts: This weeks challenge/workout was fun. I used opaque pearlescent white and plain white glass. I also used colored glass rods (I couldn't resist). The black is the grout in between the glass as well as in the negative space within the bubbles.  After gluing and grouting the glass appears much pinker than I though when cutting and assembling. I am very happy with the outcome but maybe should have used only plain white for the glass.

Artist: Dotti Stone

Title:  "Ribbons"  

Size: 7"x7"
Materials: Vitreous glass (3/4" tiles)

Time: 4 + hours (This was made from a design I had played around with a while back - it needed some adjustments - so prior time is ?)

Thoughts: I like working in black & white and think any art form can have more impact without the intrusion of color, though I don't think that is particularly the case with "Ribbons." I think it is important to consider how any work would look if converted to B&W because there are times when it may be and if colors are too close in value there will be a big difference in how the work looks and different areas may completely blend together. For me this was an exercise in form and flow and having a limited color palette being the key factor. The andamento on the right central area is not quite the way I would like it and had I taken the time sketch it out may have changed it a bit. 

Artist: Mary Beth Binder

Title: Black and White Thinking (unfinished)

Materials: Thin & thick plate glass over collage on wood substrate, 8 x 10"

Time: 7 hours so far

Thoughts: I decided to go with the concept of “Black and White”  as a way of thinking that fractures our society and creates walls. So my mosaic is actually all the little paper cutouts of words and their opposite. Is it a mosaic or a collage? What is the difference?  I don’t even know. Then I placed it under plate glass and shattered the glass (too lazy to do it right), then the plan was to start building a "wall " in lower right corner on top of that with black painted tempered glass. I don’t like the tempered glass and will instead make “bricks” out of black glass for the construction of the wall.  I have the figures of Gloria Steinem in a rally for South Africa, and Barack Obama, superimposed on thicker glass rising above the fractured “society of opposites”, waiting to be attached tomorrow.

Oh, it’s just so symbolic! Unfortunately it’s also a hot mess for many reasons. Glass too thin, started next steps before the previous steps were completely dry, newsprint from  reverse side showed through when wet with glue, the design is...missing.  I liked being able to make a statement and a “political” piece though.

After this I am suddenly more clear on the concept of this challenge as a way to experiment and learn. I am learning a lot from my mistakes and am going to chill out and be less ambitious!

Artist: Norma Jene

Title: Nippers (in progress)

Time spent:  unknown, maybe 8 hours.  I finished my project from last week as well.  Most of my time was spent figuring out how to use nippers and practicing.  I have to be careful with my time as I get so focused and then realize it is 1:30 in the morning!

Materials: 1/2 a square of floor tile from Home Depot.  The kind intended for bathroom floors with octagon white tiles with black squares.  I intend to grout it but bought 2 tubs of mortar last week instead of 1 being grout.  I'm not sure what color to use... perhaps grey?

Thoughts: I haven't been thrilled with any of my pieces yet. I feel like I'm back in kindergarten learning how to use scissors for the first time; except now they are called nippers.  I don't even think these are worthy of photos on the fridge (bless my mom's heart).  I'm still trying to get the basics of creating mosaics and gathering supplies... as I figure out what I need.  But I am enjoying it.  :)

Artist: Ilse Cordoni

Title:  Burkina Faso House

Time: This took much longer than the three hours allocated, even if I do not count the time making the substrate.

Thoughts: Do I like it?  Not really . . .I loved the image of Burkina Faso Homes that went around on Facebook but re-creating with cinca porcelain tile in a small format was a challenge to my cutting skills.  I like the glass door which is a beautiful piece of Bullseye glass with iridescence that goes either to black or to gold.  For the sky I mixed colorant with thin set but it was such a tiny area that I realize I really could have done it with a bit of paint . . .  This is the first time that I have used Weldbond on a hand-made substrate . . .much quicker and easier than using thin set and similar result.  There are some little spots of Weldbond on top of the tiles from the tweezers. They can be cleaned off but demonstrate that nothing is quite as easy as it seems!

I generally like to work in flowing patterns so this geometric in black and white was definitely outside of my comfort level.  Looking at the photo image makes me slightly uncomfortable I think it is the inaccurate cutting. . . .possibly I would like it better if it were grouted but that was not my original intention and I will leave it as is . . 


Artist: Marsha Lipnisky

Title: "Just Black and White"

Time: 3 hours and much more when finished with the 9 X 11.2 inch frame.

Thoughts: I was happy to work with the two patterns together but really wanted to throw in a  solid red. I'm not sure of the grout color. I learned that what may appear simple can get quite confusing in no time.  Maybe less pattern and more solids.