The Bookshelf: inspiration, evolution and experimentation

Sometimes you start a project with a vision, a plan of how it will go and then as you proceed that plan evolves, you start to experiment and before you know it you are inspired in a completely different direction. This is what happened with this bookshelf. It became a reflection of my evolution as an artist and my joy in realizing that I can make it whatever I want it to be. As a result it is a mish-mash of styles and tastes and yet is also something that is completely unique and perfect for me.

The base structure was provided to me by a friend, Cork Rockingham is how he wants to be known. (His wife has chosen Jorquelin). Cork and Jorquelin are great friends of ours and when I heard that Cork made furniture I was all in, especially as I kept hearing about all the wonderful pieces he had made for Jorquelin. I was even more excited when he agreed to let me take over his creative project and let me style it as I pleased. Thank you to you both!!!!

When the bookshelf arrived I was deep into my glass/tile mosaic period. Using some tiles I had purchased that had proved difficult to use in mosaics, I began decorating. My vision was to turn it into a mosaic masterpiece. Nearly every surface would be covered in tile and/or glass. It would be grouted and would reflect my latest passion and hobby. I continued with this vision while tiling two sides and adding tile coasters to the top. I then began to realize that if I continued it would be so heavy it would fall through the floor, or at least could never be moved.

Tiling the sides. My first step!

So it sat for a long time while I wondered about the best way to continue. My interests evolved while it sat there forlornly in my oh so white former studio. Finally I had enough and said it had to move to its final location as it could no longer clutter up unnecessary space. Just moving it to where it was supposed to be gave me the inspirational nudge I needed.

By this time I was fully into bead mosaics. As a result I decided to experiment with using beads as grout. This was not a totally successful experiment in my opinion as I could not get the beads to lie in perfectly flat straight rows – put it down to the difficulty in getting those porcelain tiles to cut in a perfectly straight line or my inability to lay them exactly equally apart. However I love the shine the beads bring to the bookshelf’s surface and they are far more interesting than the grey grout I had intended to use!

The grouting/beading is still in progress. This bit will take a while, but I find it fun and rewarding to do.
The top is also being grouted with beads. I love the look, although the perfectionist in me wants… perfection! This part is nearly done.

I then decided finally on a backing for my bookshelf. I had dithered between wediboard and plywood (during my tile/glass mosaic period), then I contemplated beads but balked at the huge number that would require. I finally settled on a plain rustic framed mirror which I happily attached to the bookshelf using several screws through the frame. It was a great pick, not only do you get to see your legs advancing down the hallway, but it has the added benefit of reflecting a large amount of light into what used to be a dark area!

The mirror install in progress!

By choosing a mirror I had created a new problem for myself. How to make it look like it belonged to the bookshelf rather than looking like it was slapped on the back. (Some people would tell me that seeing your legs everyday would be their major problem, but I have to confess I do not mind it, especially as I now get to see the faces of my pets as they run backwards and forwards!). I decided that as the mirror was flimsy I needed something to make it sturdy and stable. My thoughts immediately turned to Apoxy Sculpt. That stuff sets rock hard and yet also allows one to paint it, use different colors and be creative! I love nature so I decided to invite it in, in a controlled manner of course!!!!

I loved the color so much that I was inspired to change the slipcover on the couch!

Above is the back, finally finished and complete. A mix of apoxy sculpt, acrylic paint and varnish. It always makes me smile whenever I walk down that main hallway!

So all that remained now was to decide what to do with the inside of the bookshelf, or the shelves. Way back at the beginning I had intended to create a tier of sea creatures on the bookshelf back. I decided to transfer these to the shelves and instead of doing them as a mosaic I would do them with simple paint and a coat of varnish! Easier and would help to disguise the various materials that made up the shelves.

Unfortunately the backing of the mirror was a thick paper that crinkled when painted. However strangely enough for me, I like it as it makes it feel more watery to me.

I love how the shelves are turning out. I am still to do an octopus on the bottom. The edging is being done with an array of beads that ties the bookshelf to the top. I can’t wait for that bit to be finished!

As you can see, it is a totally unique piece with different things happening all over its surface and yet it seems totally appropriate for the spot where it is. It ties together our room and the adjoining rooms in a wonderful way and makes me smile every time I see it. It has quickly become my favorite piece of furniture in the house. So much so that I want to repeat the creative experience with a side table. I have no idea what the side table will become. I am sure it will be totally different to this bookshelf. But I know that I will enjoy the creative process and watching my vision of how it should be change and evolve as I change and evolve.

KaLiaMosaics is offering classes!

Are you interested in learning how to mosaic with beads? I am offering a limited slot class where I will teach you the techniques I use to create my mosaics. Click here to go directly to the website to purchase. (As new classes are offered, this page will be updated and re-published).

Through Zoom, this class will cover the techniques I use to create my bead mosaics. The class will be offered over two sessions, each session will be two hours in length.

Each session will guide you through the process of creating a bead mosaic, from drawing your desired pattern onto the substrate, to adding 3D elements to a piece (see the dolphin and dog image for examples of this technique), through to the differing techniques I use to add the beads to create the effects I want. Demonstrations will be offered as part of this course, so you can see how I do it.

The course has been designed so that you will have time to practice the techniques I show, should you desire to do so. To assist with this, a materials list (and where they can be purchased) will be provided once you have signed up for the class outlining what you will need in order to get the best experience from my teaching.

Dates of Class:
April 11, 1-3pm and April 18, 1-3pm
Zoom link will be provided close to commencement of class. Class is offered live, in English.

An Artist’s Workspace: my studio

For the last two weeks I was cleaning up and organizing my studio prior to starting on my next big piece – actually make that two big pieces that I have lined myself up to do!

It made me think about studios or in my case the 5×5 space where I now work in our basement and how personal it is to each and every person. We organize our spaces so that the things we love to use the most are in easy reach and so that we are in a space that is conducive for us to create.

Mid-2020 I got excited about studio space and had a room painted the whitest of whites. Those who know me will know it is my least preferred room color. My house is a riot of different shades from yellow, jade greens, pale greens, orange-red through to many differing shades of blue. I chose white because I felt that it would interfere with the artistic color choices the least. I chose that room because it had lots of light, a window with a lovely view of trees and grass and my garden. I did not use that room as I felt separated from the things I loved, being with my family as we relaxed in an evening. My studio had no space for my significant other or my pets and there was nothing to do there except create.

My studio in one of many layouts I tried. Nice and spacious, a lovely room, but separated from the life of the house.

Needless to say, the white room is no longer in use as a studio, long since converted to multiple other uses – including a sewing room for the occasion when I sew myself or my significant other a new top or pants. I have now moved myself to a small square in the basement which has become the entertainment complex in our house. My significant other has room for his hobbies, there is an old big tv and I have positioned my desk such that I can watch while working should I so desire. The room is the darkest color I have used in the house – a nice boathouse blue and thus I find it restful and calming.

There is a spot on the floor for the dog and spots on the daybed positioned against the wall for the cats. There is even room for a small office for myself.

My tiny work studio. I love it! It has everything I need close by and I am with my family as they do their own things.

I love working here. It is cramped and tiny but everyone can join me and we can be together while I work. The nice thing about using beads is that the materials I use can be used around others as long as I take the appropriate precautions – windows open and air purifier on should I use silicone. Gloves when using apoxy sculpt and tacky glue – no particular precautions required as I use non-toxic glue.

Initially when I moved down to the basement I had items strewn everywhere. But this is slowly changing! My drawing materials are under my desk. The beads are organized in rows on the wall using a system I designed to keep them there. My substrates are in a box stored elsewhere as they need infrequent access.

For those who are interested in how I created my bead storage system: steel wire attached to nails embedded in studs. Beads were then packed into ziploc bags and attached to the wire using thick jumbo paperclips.

My bead wall! My significant other did not mind when I commandeered the wall. I think he was happy they were off the floor.

In a small bookshelf to the side are my many colors of apoxy sculpt and my original jewelry making tools and beads I used when making peyote stitch bracelets – these often come in handy in all sorts of new ways!

You can see a collection of acrylic paints spilling out below, still to be homed.

And in a small container on my desk are the tools I use every day. Screw drivers, tweezers, exacto knives, scissors and pens and pencils, not to mention what I will require for my latest project, beads loose and strung. I usually only do one project at a time so this set-up provides me with all I need to happily create!

Until next time….

Maximilian: My first commission piece

Let me introduce Maximilian the 11 x 14 inch bead mosaic. He is based on Max, a most famous Pug and is my first dog bead mosaic. Max the Pug is the wonderful companion of two friends of myself and my significant other. Last year, our friends came to visit, saw my bead mosaics and mentioned how special they were. I mentioned that one day I would have to make one for them. Shortly after, they sent me a picture of their pug and Maximilian the bead mosaic was born. I have done my best to do justice to Max’s spirit, and feel that I have captured at least one of his expressions (green beans anyone!), even if my mosaic is not an exact replica of the Max I know.

I asked member’s of my bead mosaic group on Facebook what things they would like me to discuss regarding how Max was made. Three elements were mentioned over and over: shading and values, bead placement and my use of 3D components. I will address each of these below. But first I am going to start first with how Maximilian came to life.

Maximilian was created based on the original photo of Max that was shared with me (it will not be posted here as it is not my photo and I do not have copyright). It is not a great drawing, but it was good enough for me to get an understanding of how Max’s shape flowed and the key elements that are Max and to give me the base plan on which my mosaic could be created. It also captured the element that to me was the most important part of the piece: an expression that was part of Max’s personality. By drawing I gained an understanding of the subject matter and how I wanted to treat it when creating the mosaic, and intend to do this for all my major pieces going forward.

I wanted to give Maximilian a 3D component to make him seem like he was jumping from the page and looking at you directly. I had done this before and liked the style. Before I placed anything on the glass substrate, I took the time to explore the elements that I wanted to make 3D. The most successful method I found for this was using tin foil. That’s right, easily molded, it allows you to see how various components would look if raised from the page. Once happy with my selection, I recreated the look using Apoxy Sculpt, adding in any corrections I wanted to make based on errors in the original drawing. I actually succeeded better than I anticipated and have included images of the finished work on the side so you can see how the 3D elements worked out side on.

With my bead color selection I did my best to select a palette of colors for Maximilian, but as always I was limited to what I had available in my collection and what was available to purchase. The palette was chosen by picking a color that I wanted to use for the “sunny” side of Maximilian and the best corresponding color I could find that would be used for the “shady” side of Maximilian. This meant that when referring to the photo (and that is all I had to refer to), I would know which colors to use when.

In addition I broke colors down into light, medium and dark values – I think of this as the depth of grey present in a black and white photo. A dark value would be for elements of dark shading and the lighter values for lighter elements in the photo. This imbued Maximilian with depth and perspective.

I used color also as a perspective element for the background. I wanted to make Maximilian look like he was in the foreground with mountains and a time-lapsed star scape behind him, yet to do this I needed to create a sense of distance. Based on paper mosaics I had done previously (see below!) I knew that color can successfully be used to provide a sense of distance. So I used the same technique with Maximilian, darker in the foreground, lighter in the background.

Finally I angled the lines of the plain so that it created a sense of perspective and a line to the horizon. (Another technique used by artists to create a sense of distance).

Which brings us to the idea of bead placement. How did I determine which way the beads should go. For this I let Max be the guide! His fur all grows in a certain direction, and I knew that if the beads followed his fur I would give him heft and definition, making him come alive and letting the sparkle of the beads help give that gleam of life that might otherwise have been missing. And thus Maximilian was born.

If you need further details, still have questions, please leave a comment below and I will address them in a new blog post! However, tomorrow Maximilian the bead mosaic goes to his new home, which is why I am writing this tonight (just in case there were any last minute photos I needed to take). I will miss him. I have had much fun creating Maximilian the bead mosaic and I hope he gives his new owners much joy!

The Monarch Butterfly: when pieces do not go as planned.

Sometimes you start a piece with high hopes and the thought that it will be the best ever. Then as time goes on the doubt seeps in until eventually you start to realize that it should have been done differently. Such was the case for me with the Monarch Butterfly piece. It is almost complete but already I am planning how I will do it differently next time.

Firstly however I want to digress and tell you the story of why I started this piece in the first place.

My backyard it turns out, is a haven for Monarch butterflies. I’m not entirely sure why they like to come there. Perhaps it’s because I don’t use pesticides when gardening or perhaps it’s because I like my gardens on the wild side – letting them grow as they will during the summer and then bringing them under control once winter is underway.

Needless to say, every year Monarch butterflies arrive and lay their eggs. I get to watch the caterpillars grow and eat everything in sight, and then make their way to their chosen spot to create their cocoons. I am yet to see a Monarch transform from a caterpillar to a cocoon (it always happens at night), but I have had the fun of watching the Cocoon split and seen the arrival/birth of a new butterfly. At these moments I love to document everything with a photo. The Monarchs are such beautiful butterflies so I feel very privileged to be able to follow them around with a camera.

Once I started to learn about copyright, I revisited all these old photos of mine and found this one I took of a beautiful Monarch butterfly perched on a bush.

I love this photo, and I have spent many a happy hour drawing it using various materials: pencil, ink, paints. There is one ink drawing that I really liked. It is not an exact replica of the butterfly’s shape or coloring, but I liked it because it was done just by doodling with pen and ink during a meditative moment. To me it captured the essence of the butterfly in my own artistic style.

This photo and this drawing became a natural starting point for creating something that was truly personal to me, my bead mosaic plan as you would say. Before this, many of my pieces were done as exercises, as I tried to learn and understand the possibilities of bead mosaics. Whereas this is the first piece I chose because it incorporated so many things that were of importance to me. I love my garden and gardening, I love seeing the butterflies in that garden, and I love to photograph and draw the butterflies. I felt that in this one piece, I was able to tie many of these interests together and through them create something new and unique.

The unfinished butterfly bead mosaic.

I did not want the butterfly bead mosaic (pictured above) to be a replica of the photo I took in the garden, or a replica of the drawing I had made based on the photo. I wanted it to be a unique piece in and of itself. So I made some experimental changes to the background. I placed the butterfly amidst a swirling 3-dimensional sky and used different types of beads to achieve different looks.

This brings me back to my original opening and why it did not go as planned. Firstly with this piece, I chose to place each bead one by one so that the beads were connected on the rounded edge, not the flat edge. I am not sure however that that was the best choice here, particularly for the background. As the background was a 3D element meeting in odd angles and lines it was hard to a) place the beads one by one so they faced the same direction and b) I ended up with a lot of gaps that were highly noticeable due to the fact that I was using dark blue as the “grouting component” instead of a pale blue to match the beads.

Secondly, I am not sure I liked having the darker color on top of the spirals. I felt it gave the wrong sense of perspective. I am not sure yet how that will be resolved, but it does show the reason why so many other artists take the time to do mockups of various aspects so that what they want ends up on the main piece.

Thirdly, I did not take the time to make the underlying substrate of the spirals into smooth and beautiful curves. This can lead to an ungainly aspect when looking at the background, as if those curves took a wrong turn somewhere.

So I plan to re-make this butterfly at some point in 2021. I will re-do the butterfly as is, although there might be a few stylistic changes. I was actually very happy with how the butterfly turned out. However the background will be completely re-done. This time I will be doing several mock-ups and the best of these will become the final background. I can’t wait to get started and keep consoling myself with the fact that Van Gogh did his haystacks hundreds of times until he was happy. (At least that is what my sister tells me). It should lead, at the least, to a few very interesting blog posts as I compare my different versions and mock-ups and perhaps at the end I will create something that I consider to be truly special!

Until next time…!