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. 

One Singular Sensation

Week 4 - Monochromatic Mosaics - What we made, what we learned...

More fabulous work this week! Green was the most selected hue for the exercise.  It's quite fun to see the variation in pieces that used the same colors.  So many options, even when some choices are limited!

Time is a constant challenge for many, but you're still managing to complete and submit your pieces, which is great. I am starting to get better at understanding my own speed (or lack thereof) and what to consider in terms of design in order to actually complete a piece in one week! 

Note: As some of you have noted, there are a few images from weeks past that are not displaying correctly. I will be working to resolve those issues this week. There are times when all looks good to me but the system decides to make it's own changes - and I need to investigate how to keep it from doing that! 

Artist: Ardis Hanson

Title: Are You Reddy Yet

Materials: Red Stained glass glued with silicone onto a red ceramic 4" x 4" tile.

Time spent 2 hours

Comments: I liked the idea of using one color and left over pieces from a project I am working on. I am pleased with how the pieces of glass flowed onto the ceramic tile in a random but yet ordered manner with one or two rogues sticking out beyond the edge.

Artist: Sima Zeiger

Title: Verde Foresta

Materials: Smalti, green tinted mirror stain glass,  rock, vitreous tile and tempered glass.

Time spent: 4 hrs

Comments: Green was the color I chose and my goal was to create an outdoor forest landscape  that included a river made with green mirror and tempered glass. Also played around with perspective by including the three tall trees in the forefront. Overall, very pleased with my monochromatic mosaic.

Artist: Sherry Wallis

Title: Split Personality

Time to complete: 4 hrs + grouting & gluing on extra peices

Thoughts: I have a lot of different shades/tints/tones of the same hues, but it's a real challenge to find ones that actually go together without a whole bunch of weaving and blending.  To meet the time level, I decided to take your advice about bigger tesserae, and I remembered I had bought some pieces from a person on Ebay going out of business.  They were precut stained glass.  Does anyone need a palm tree?  Mostly I mix these up or use them occasionally, but I remembered that there were two blues, so off I went to search from them.  

Playing around, I thought they looked like wings, and as I rummaged I found a box of stained glass tiles of varying sizes which had almost match blues and that's how my bug was born.  

This was fun!  Actually, they've all been fun except for my one sad piece that knew it was too ugly to live. I'm working on other projects I've put off and thinking about ones that I want to do in the future.  Even dreaming about them, so I guess this has kickstarted my mosaic bug again. 

Materials: Stained glass tiles, glass gem, crystals, fun-wire, and millefiori on artist board.  (couldn't find any blue wire, so it's the odd bit)

Artist: Nan Judson

Title: Rhapsody in Blue

Size: 6 x 6 inches

Time spent: 2.5 hours

Materials: Assorted colors of blue stained glass, china, glass gems and cabochons on MDF board. Grout color is Admiral Blue.

Thoughts: I decided NOT to overthink this one. I grabbed some blue materials, put on Rhapsody in Blue, and started cutting and gluing…and humming. I added the music notes at the end to draw the eye up. Fun to do! I’m still humming.

Artist: Julie Sperling

Title: Dry spell

Size: 5″ x 4.125″

How long did it take to complete? About 3.5 hours

Love or hate this workout? This one kind of terrified me because I don’t work in colour very much (other than muted earth tones). In the end, it wasn’t too painful :-) 

Happy with the result? I was short on time this week, so I just kind of threw myself into this one without really any planning at all. I like the result well enough, but there are some things about the lines that bug me (more specifically, I wish they echoed the soft triangular shape of the vitrogota better). 

What did I learn? The hardest part was selecting the palette, which, I recognize, was the point of the challenge. I got as far as ‘orange(ish)’, and then was kind of stumped in terms of finding the various shades, tints, and tones – this was owing to both my limited stock and my limited knowledge of colour. Some of my initial selections had a bit more of a yellow hue to them and then I got paranoid that I wasn’t really following the rules of the challenge. As a result, my palette didn’t end up being really varied (within my chosen hue) and I ended up playing around with texture more than colour. Oops. So key lesson: I need to do some book learnin’ about—and experimenting with—colour.


Artist: Kathy Richardson

Title: Red Roo

Size: 6x8"

Time:  4 total: 1 hr design, 3 hours working

Materials: Glass tiles, colored grout


Thoughts:  Was really pleased with the results.  I was inspired by single colored dog prints, but didn't want to just copy that.  The andamento was key to the end result.  My first grouting was with a light gray, but decided that it didn't add anything to the piece so re-did it with the red grout.

Artist: Marilyn Descours

Title: Little Green

Time: 3 hours

Thoughts:  I loved this one.  For the first time I felt totally free of the rules I’ve bound myself to.  I had a bunch of round green glass marble pieces a friend gave me.  I had never used them; I painted my substrate pale green then just started randomly playing with them.  I liked it, so I glued them down.  Then I was looking around the room and saw thread cards from a closed mill that I had in all different colors.  They look like dreadlocks and I thought, why not?  So I added some light green dreads and beaded the bottoms.  I don’t think it’s great art, but it made me feel good and I had fun doing it.  And I like having fun with what I’m doing.  

Misha Moore

6" x 6"


As I go further and further into this challenge I am challenged and impressed. The challenge comes from working outside of your comfort zone. I am impressed (don't laugh) at myself, I had no clue that I was able to do some of the things that I am doing. Not that they are necessarily hard, but that has not been my mosaic voice or style. I am learning and growing so much from these weekly challenges.

This weeks challenge was a bit harder than the previous two because I worked with stained glass and smalti. I only had a small amount of the smalti so I had to use it wisely. I chose to mosaic the middle with stained glass standing on edge with smalti on each side. I then cut free flowing circles and added that in between the waves  of darker green. I grouted in black (I grout almost 99% of my pieces in black) and I am not so happy with the result. I could see the substrait under the smalti and middle glass, so I decided to grout there too! Bad idea, the smalti is not very friendly when it comes to clean up and the black grout is way too dark for the piece. But I have learned a few things and love the results (if I squint a little)!

Artist: Deb Englebaugh

Title: Shifting

Size: 6 x 6     2 1/2 hours

Materials: bisque fired red clay

The most challenging part of this assignment was finding the time to work on the piece. I was pleased with the subtle changes in color that the red clay provided. It was very tempting to add some touches of brightly colored blue or green smalti into the design, but for the sake of the assignment, I refrained.

Artist: Cate Thomassen

Title: “Greenscape”

Materials: Stained, art and vitreous glass approximately 6” x 6”. This one went pretty quickly as the method is one I’m very used to. Probably about 31/2 hours. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to grout it yet but will do so later this weekend.

Thoughts: Not sure I learned so much from this one, as time constraints kept me from the experimentation that the others allowed me to engage in. Still fun as mosaics always seem to be. 

Artist:  Julie Friesen

Title: True Blue Crush

Time:   5 hours

What I love:  In some situations, like glass and beads, l love the color blue.  I say that  green and purple are my favorite colors, but I definitely have a crush on blue.  I love the concept and the composition.  I loved having the opportunity to admire these colors and think of the ocean with it's many variations of form and color.  I am happy with the grout color, something that is always a challenge for me.

What I learned:  My cutter ran out of oil when I was working on small pieces, and I didn't notice much difference.  I starting working on this piece and couldn't get a curve right.  I plowed on thru and finally realized the reason for the difficulty.  I spent about an hour and a half on the cutting, then spent about another 2 hours on shaping with my wet saw and recutting some pieces.  I also realized just how much spin this put on my week.  Every little moment when I could work on it I did.  Sometimes mosaics can be an obsession, but as obsessions go, we love having them.

Artist: Randina Casenza

Title:  Purga Verde
Size:  6” x 6”
Time spent:  4  hours
Materials:  Ceramic tile

Thoughts: This piece is my “green purge”.  I have a box of green ceramic tiles, cut up in small squares/rectangles, leftover from a project I did many years ago.  Not being one to throw anything out, I kept it, since “I know it’ll come in handy some day”.  That day came this week!  The colors are mostly green, with a couple of turquoise “hits” thrown in. The white-looking tiles are actually a very pale celadon green.  I set the pieces on tinted thinset since I didn’t have time to grout.  I rushed this project, and now having more time to think about it, I can think of other ways I might have used these colors in a design.  I’m finding this weekly challenge is a great idea incubator for future projects.

Artist: Marsha Lipnisky

Title: Lotus Burst

Time: 8.5 Hours

Thoughts: Enjoyed doing this piece with small jeweled tiles.  I used  a candy dish, 6" dia. with Lexel glue. I will try to grout the piece once the glue cures fully and then send another picture.  

What I learned was to cut up very small glass tiles, work with tweezers and Lexel glue that I had for some time and wanted to try it out.  

Grouting  might be difficult so I may try acrylic paint first.

Christine Jensen

I tried using natural minerals found from a day trip.  I love the natural rustic look!

Artist:  Janice Oravec

Title:  Orangeora

Time:  12 hours

Materials:  Vitreous glass tiles, reverse method

Thoughts:  I know, way too much time.  Stressful week, I needed the relaxation and escape that cutting the tiles into small pieces gives me. Orange is my favourite color so I do like it, although I am not sure whether it fulfils the one color monochromatic theme...oh well those are the orange tiles I had.

The Climbing Wall by Dotti Stone

Monochrome (shades of white)

Size: approx 6 1/2-7" square

Materials:  smalti - several shades (one that is a slightly creme white is photographing pinkish), Sicis 5/8" glass, Vitreous 1/4" & 3/4" glass tiles, Outer background is white thinset

Time: 3 hours

Comments: A series I began a few years ago deals with a dual theme: monochromatic and sculptural. At this point six are finished, my favorite being the white and I decided to go that route for this exercise and began working out something that and the look of a climbing wall and photographing it with the light direction from the top gives it a more natural look, in addition to enhancing the sculptural surface. Being an exercise to take a short period time to do eliminates laboring over the general layout. It is a little congested at the bottom, but overall, I'm fine with the outcome.

Artist: Cheryl Compton

Title:  Hidden Treasures of the Deep

Time:  4 Hours

Materials:  Yellow Pebbles from the Beach and White Sanded Grout on a cardboard backing

What I learned:  It is really difficult to make the image 'pop' when all the pebbles are the same color family.  I used the yellow stones (because they had the most variety at the beach).  I worked through this many times to try and get the hidden turtle not so hidden.  The only way that I could get the image to come out was to spread the outer stones away from the turtle.  The colors just blended so easily that the image was lost.  I don't love the result but I did learn a lot about the placement of similar colored stones.  Unfortunately, the really solid color yellow stones that I took hours to collect are largely still in my rock box because they created a palette that didn't allow the pattern to be seen.  Hope you all see the turtle, it took me a long time to get to it and many tries before I settled on this one for the workout. This exercise really made me appreciate the contrast colors that I have used in the past.

Artist: Mary Beth Binder

monochromatic challenge: red    

Size & Materials: 8” X 8”, painted and collaged wood substrate with colored glass, glass rounds, beads, and 4 types of clear glass: plate, iridescent, and 2 textures.

Thoughts: This was a good challenge for me, I actually carried my color wheel with me while choosing my tesserae which was interesting because so many times I would have rejected an item because I thought it was veering towards violet, when actually it was the correct shade. So I learned that I need to learn more about color, experiment with it, and improve my eye.

I also took advantage of this challenge to try for the first time the “squaretangular” andamento that I learned in Kelly Knickerbocker’s class. I also experimented with letting a second level of color and design on my substrate show through different textures of clear glass, as if I was doing a tempered glass mosaic. I had a lot going on at once but I am really happy with how it turned out. I am noticing however that I seem to have a consistent problem of not letting the interstices work for me: too many times my tesserae are too close together and there is no space whatsoever for the grout line. 

Time: 11.5 hours so far and more to go.

Elizabeth Grindon

Thoughts: Again, this was about the grout for me. This is sable brown. Again, it took away some of the freshness I was aiming for although I like the combo.  Also tiles are more mint green than this shows. Using only two hues of green was very peaceful


Artist: Norma Jene

Title - blah, blah. blah

Time spent - 3 hours on this project just to see what I could do in that amount of time.  Most of time spent trying to make same size and shape glass pieces.  I am getting faster and a little bit better... we'll see if practice makes perfect by the end of this challenge.  :)

Materials - Another project courtesy of The Home Depot.  This time I was looking for something monochromatic and the best I could do was a square of herring bone glass tiles in gray, probably used for back splashes in kitchens.  I was surprised to find that the glass tiles were as thick as ceramic tiles and were all clear glass with colored paper glued or color painted on the bottom.  I had to paint the bottom of my 4x4 substrate white as the cement board was gray and the pieces looked even more blah and boring.  I'm going to consider gluing or painting my own colors on the bottom at some point.  I didn't have time to experiment for this week's project.

Thoughts - The tiles I used didn't have enough contrast... 3 values (?) is not much of a gray scale to do much; 5 would have been a lot better.  The gray glass was also a poor choice.  I was trying to show motion like smoke, but I didn't succeed at that either. I realized that I am seriously limited by what materials I have available.  I have not been able to focus on actual design or concepts.  I haven't made it to the first grade yet... I'm still the student that keeps running with the scissors.  But I am having fun, haven't hurt myself yet and am finding that the weekly workout is challenging yet calming after a stressful day at work.

Artist: Kelli Russell

Title: Spring Flower

Time: 5-6 hours of active mosaic construction

Thoughts: This was a fun challenge; it’s very common for me to use multiple colors of a single hue but this is the first time I’ve ever limited myself to a single hue for the entire piece. I chose green because I have a lot of it, and a flower shape because doing a leaf seemed too obvious. The camera didn’t capture it so I feel compelled to point out that the pale green petals are composed of two different shades of pale green, randomly placed, which creates look I’m quite pleased with. I’m happy with the result, though I would have liked to grout it in green, too. (My challenge to myself is to complete each assignment with materials I already have on hand.)


Artist: Sophia Cordoni

Title: Envy

Size: 4" x 2 3/4"

Time Spent: ~3 hours

Thoughts:  I kept this one very small in order to ensure I could finish it.  The envy is of all the artists who make such lovely, intricate pieces in 3 hours or less when I can barely get a straight line laid in 3 hours!

I'll spend as much time as I have "getting ready" to glue tesserae down so I really tried this week to work quickly, cut as little as possible and just get it done.  One mistake I made was not gathering all the materials I planned to use before starting. Had I done that I might have made a couple different choices and I think I would have ended up with a slightly more flowing color shift. 

As a lifelong perfectionist, I have a tendency not to start doing anything until I'm confident I can do it well, and along with that, I used to rarely do things more than once, thinking "if I didn't get it right the first time, I'm just not good at it" which, needless to say, puts a lot of pressure on everything I do! As part of this challenge am working on letting go of "the ideal" and just seeing what happens, what I'm really working with and where I need help in achieving the results I really want.  I'm quite happy with this week's result (even though I have a few notes about what I would do differently next time.) 

Artist: Kappy Venezia

Title:  Seaweed

Time: 3 hours

Materials:  tile, glass, smalti

This was a fun project.  I have plenty of green tesserae and decided to try a woven pattern.  I left for vacation two days after the prompt so I kind of raced through this one and now I notice in my photo I raced through the clean up too.   I like the idea of this green on green weave.  I'd like to try it again on a larger scale, dedicating a little more time to it.  


Artist: Branwyn Fearn

Title: Blue Blew by Me

Total time: 4 hrs?? Most spent sorting thru color ideas.

Thoughts: This was extremely difficult for me to get started...given that I'm all about texture, color and pattern. I seriously struggled to find a color palette that I would like, let alone some type of pattern/pix. While I feel like I didn't create a "pix", it got to be fun creating patterns and finding a variety of different blues to mix together. 

That's all for now.  

As always I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's "3" pieces.  Back on Friday with the next exercise.