The whole reason I got into working with molten glass at GSS Studio was to learn how to make my own murrini (or millefiori ) and to pull glass into stringers in the colors and sizes I wanted for micro-mosaic pieces.

starting a murrini

the start, 2 layers of glass so far!

So what are murrini anyways?  Most likely, you know what it is – or you know it by the name millefiori.  It is slices of glass, cut from a rod that has a pattern in the cross section.  It is most famously made on the island of Murano outside of Venice Italy.  Often you see it in jewelry or on decorative vases or paperweights. The pattern can be anything – when it is a flower based pattern it is called millefiori (a thousand petals) other patterns are called murrini, though many would use the term millefiori loosely for any pattern as it is the more well known name.

Murrini are complex to make, involving many layers of molten glass being put together and shaped, then heated up till red hot and finally pulling the hot blob by hand into a long rod.  You have to be careful to not twist or turn the blob of molten hot glass when pulling or you risk messing up the pattern created inside!  After the rod has cooled, it is cut into slices revealing the pattern in the cross-section.

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rod just after it has pulled

I buy commercial murrini made in Italy and use it in my micro-mosaic jewelry.  So why would I want to learn to make it?

While I love the murini I can buy, I just thought it would be so cool to create unique patterns myself.  Then if I’m using my handmade murrini in my handmade micro-mosaic jewelry designs, it makes the piece of jewelry that much more unique, that much more “one-of-a-kind”.  Truly, no one else in the world will have anything like it.

Most of my murrini patterns so far are abstract (my ultimate love) or geometrical.  There will be more complex designs as time goes on but so far it’s a good start!  Here’s some pics below – look for some of these in this year’s holiday collection of jewelry coming soon!  😀

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Remixin’ it up!

Posted: September 28, 2017 in Mosaic General
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In Ottawa each year there is a neat festival called Remixed.  It is held in Chinatown and pairs local businesses with artists for 1 month.  The idea is to “remix” the businesses and neighborhood.  Bring art into groceries, restaurants and shops where you might not expect to see it and draw in art lovers to some of these same shops they might not know about.

It’s a fun and different vibe with businesses all along the main drag of Chinatown participating.  On opening day there is a big festival atmosphere.  All the artists sit with their installation in the business they’re paired with as visitors walk around stopping at each location to collect a stamp for a chance to win a prize.  There’s fun stuff happening outside too, along the route you’ll find various performers, demonstrations, or large scale artists working.

Art House Cafe building

The festival is a juried entry and this year I was lucky enough to be one of the artists chosen!  😀  In another but of luck, I got paired with The Art House Cafe, a great business that opened this year in Ottawa and is a hub for artists and art lovers alike.

Three of my mosaics went up on their wall and will stay there for a month.  During the opening day I had a 2hr time slot to do demos.  It was a hot day but that didn’t stop a steady stream of folks from visiting.  I’d taken a project to work on during down time but didn’t have any so only stuck a few bits on!

Roman-Byzantine-Modern Mosaic styles

For the demo, I’d set up a little “history of mosaic” table showing different styles of mosaic ranging from Roman to Byzantine to Modern.  There was also a table with examples of materials and backings you can use, some fun tools and several books with amazing mosaic pictures.

As an interactive bit for visitors, I offered to let them try out cutting a some glass with the traditional tools of the hammer and hardie.  The hammer is heavy and it shocked everyone who picked it up, but they all did great making a cut and had fun.

It was a great day, so much fun to share my love of mosaic and my art with others.  I am so happy to have been a part of this wonderful event.  If you’re in the Ottawa area visiting, the art is up throughout Chinatown till October 16.   Find a map of all the locations on chinatownremixed.ca

 

 

The second half of our spring trip that gave my brain a good shakeup was in Kyoto, Japan.  I’m really drawn to the Japanese way of life, sense of style and history.  Kyoto especially had long been on my travel wish list.

We spent most of our time there visiting gobs of temples, admiring beautiful cherry blossom trees just starting to bloom and eating like crazy!

We decided to make Kyoto an adventure in food as well as history and natural beauty.  We tried high end kaiseki, low end (but great!) conveyor belt sushi, fermented wonders, yummy sweets, street food, you name it – we tried it!

beautiful tamago rolled omlette (not done by me but something to aspire to!)

Loved so much of what we ate – and how we ate – that I’ve tried to incorporate it into my eating at home.  After the trip, I figured out a bunch of recipes that mimic what we had in Japan – including eating fish for breakfast(!), cooking mushipan steamed cakes, and working on perfecting my technique of the tamago rolled omelet in the new purple tamago pan I bought (oh so good!).  I got a little book of 300 bento style recipes and have been experimenting with all sorts of new things.   Cooking lotus root is a delightful new find!

The way we ate while in Japan made so much more sense to me, it felt much healthier than what we do at home even though we’re pretty healthy eaters by North American standards.   I’m eating so much fish now that I can probably ditch that Omega-3 vitamin!  😀

Our last day in Japan we left the traditional beauty of Kyoto for the lights of Osaka.  Capsule hotels are so fascinating and I always wanted to try one, but they don’t often allow women.  The husband was able to find one that did and he generously put up with a crappy room all so I could sleep in a tube on the women’s floor.  He’s a good man! 🙂  The experience was super fun but not one I will repeat.  Love the energy in Osaka, so many people, crushing almost – but everyone is respectful and polite.

a few of the mushipan experiments

Japan shook up my brain in a great way, exposing me to some beauty and giving me renewed interest in food and cooking after having been in a rut for awhile.  I was so set on getting just the right mushipan recipe that I went nuts trying tons all in one day.  The husband saw the day’s production all laid out on our counters and wanted to know if I was starting a mushipan factory!  But it’s great, stimulating new areas of the brain and learning new things can only be good for all other areas of my life.

Below are some pics from Japan.  Next blog is back to stuff about glass and mosaics as summer is now upon us and I can get to work under the glorious sun outside. ☀

 

Have you ever not realized how much your brain needed something to shake it up?  I’d not realized how in need my brain was of something completely different till recently when we went on a big trip.

I’m not good at being “in the moment”, my brain is always moving, usually bouncing around future and past thoughts more than present thoughts.  It is hard to not think of things elsewhere from where you are, whether it is a worry, a project, a conversation you recall out of nowhere.

We took a trip this spring that I was looking forward to (we’d been planning it for 2 years) but didn’t realize how much it would impact me.  We were to visit China (Beijing, Guilin & Shanghai), the husband had lived there in his 20s and wanted me to experience it a bit, and after China a stop in Kyoto Japan (my choice due to a long love of most things Japanese) for cherry blossom season.

China was our first stop.  I knew Facebook was banned there, but forgot about Google being banned – and thus my email, which is a gmail account.  Immediately, I had no contact with anyone back home and decided to take that opportunity and run with it by not going online to read daily North American news.  It was a complete disconnect from all things tech and news from everything at home – which was wonderful.

Not that I had the time for tech and news anyways!  I was blown away by China.  Beijing and Shanghai were wonderfully fascinating places to visit.  We saw some amazing sights (the Great Wall, Hutongs in Bejing, the Marriage Market and Propaganda Museum in Shanghai) and learned so many interesting bits about life from various guides.  But my new love on this planet is the Guilin area of China.

I’d long wanted to see the mountains around the Li river and we spent several glorious days there with a suburb guide.  We climbed up peaks in the dark to watch the sun rise over the mountains, we rode on small rafts on the river surrounded by gorgeous vistas, went to ancient villages and met the most amazing people who let us take their photos and told us about their lives.  I can’t even being to describe without writing a novel how many things I learned, how much I cherish the experiences we had, how wonderful and warm the people were.  My brain never once thought about anything back home (except checking in on the beloved dog) the entire time we were here – every day was simply amazing.  I hope with all the hope in my body that I get to return to the Guilin area one day.

We had a week+ in China and on our plane ride to Japan both remarked how wonderful it had been and that we could have happily gone home at that point and counted it as the best trip ever.  But we got one other week in Japan which was spent in Kyoto – I’ll share more about that with you in the next blog post.

So I’m home now, with a rested brain that is humming with Chinese and Japanese inspired ideas.  🙂 It will be fun to see what all comes out of it (kind of want to try and learn some basic Mandarin now).  The 2 weeks of being so stimulated with everything new and interesting that it didn’t allow my brain to be anything other than “in the moment” has sort of held.  I’m doing much better at being in the now and looking forward to the rest of the year in a much more relaxed mode.  Think my brain was really in the need of learning and seeing some new exciting completely different bits.  Before this entry gets any longer, will end with a bunch of favorite photos from the China portion of the trip, and a wish that you too get to experience a brain shake up (in a good way) soon.  🙂

Thar she blows!

Posted: March 21, 2017 in Lampwork
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me blowing on the pipe

While I’m busy working on new mosaics to blog about in the future, I’d like to share a bit of my other glass journey, flameworking.  Started flameworking at the wonderful GSS Studio in late 2015.  You can read about my initial foray in this old blog post -> here.

Early last year I learned a new skill at the studio – glass blowing!

This is glass blowing on small scale, not big vases or cups, but beads or little forms.  To do this, you use small hand held metal pipes, get a blob of glass molten in the flame and stick it to the end of the pipe then blow on the opposite (this part is important 😉 ) end.

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grabber tool and 2 pipes with ruler as size references

Sounds simple, but it’s hard to get an initial bubble of air into a blob of glass.  It feels as if you’re blowing your lungs out sometimes and nothing is happening!  You can help your initial bubble along by holding your pipe certain ways and also using your tongue to stop up the air in the pipe which forces it to expand into the glass.  But, once your bubble gets going it’s really easy to then blow too much – or hold the air in the pipe a bit long and it expands too quick – then POP!!  Your glass bubble blows up and out and all over the place in tiny little shards.  Sadly, this has happened more than once to me but now with practice it is a lot less.  🙂img_7674-516x640

After learning round bubbles, I’ve tried making different shapes or opening the bubbles up and sculpting them to make some fun forms.

Don’t know what I’ll do with what I’ve made so far – some have turned into necklaces and the rest are just some pretty baubles resting in a clear glass container.  I’ve been playing around with some ideas for incorporating them into the mosaics – but not sure yet how that will play out.  For now, this small scale glass blowing is just a bit of super fun stuff to play with and relax.  Some pics of the creations so far are below.  🙂

Getting ready to go on a little adventure, so will be MIA for a bit but will return soon with fun pictures to share!

I’ve always had an attraction to black and white, in all areas, fashion – art – photos – movies – pets.

dogs BandW

A few years ago my Mom bought me this Stephen Huneck print because of my strong attraction to black and/or black and white animals.  Nearly all of my pets growing up (and currently too) fit this color pallet.

My wardrobe is chock full of  “calypso black” and “carnival grey” as the husband jokingly likes to call it.  Goes great with my Morticia-like white skin.

**side secret – I actually love colorful clothes, but inherited a dribble tendency from my Dad and Grandmom.  Darker clothes help conceal a wayward dribble – if I wore light colors, you’d be more likely to notice that wet spot where I tried to clean off some of my morning coffee! 😀

I didn’t blog much last year for several reasons, but one reason was that I was working out a few new creative directions and wrangling with some technical problems they were bringing up.  A lot of those problems have been resolved and I’m getting started now on building some mosaics.

Choosing the color pallet for the new mosaics was one of the first steps.  While I do love the shimmer and bling of colored gold smalti, my old love of black and white has won out.  Here’s one of my worktables full of the new materials that will be used in the upcoming mosaics!black-adn-white-materials I might throw in a tiny bit of color here and there just for some jazz, but maybe not.  Black and white has an elegant simplicity that is tough to beat.

So it seems 2017 will keep me in my very black and white world!  Hope you’ll continue on this year’s journey with me (can’t believe it is mid-March already!) and soon hope to show you some of the new mosaics!  😀

 

Happy Holidays & New Year Wishes!!

Posted: December 23, 2016 in Uncategorized

option-2-964x1024It’s good for my holiday spirit each year to take a moment and work on something a bit fun and holiday themed.  2016’s holiday mosaic is a little star ornament of blue mirror with some black line accents.  Our household moose sculpture (a must for all Canadians!) helped hold it for a picture. 😀

It’s been quiet on the blog while I’ve been working out the kinks for some new projects.  Hopefully that quiet will change as 2017 looks promising for new work to share with you soon.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays (for whichever one you celebrate) and may you have an amazingly wonderful New Year!!

What do cufflinks & a log have to do with each other?  Nothing, except they’re both recently related to my mosaics. 🙂

jc626-1-blue-cream-square-mosaic-cufflinks-mercedes-mosaics-800x600Usually in November, I’m showing new jewelry created in time for the holidays.  This year though, I’ve put jewelry making on pause to focus on developing larger art pieces.

However – I really missed making those little jewels and decided to add a few pairs of cufflinks to the shop.  I did a mix of regular and micro-mosaic styles.  I definitely see my jewelry style moving more and more towards micro-mosaic.  It is really fun working with such jc630-1-blue-yellow-white-circle-micromosaic-cufflinks-mercedes-mosaics-800x600tiny pieces and I love the extra connection that I get by pulling my own glass in a flame and making murrini.  Pics of all the new cufflinks are below.

Now, about that log…

We’ve all had those special things that thrill us to no end yet causes others to shake their heads in bewilderment.  The acquisition of a log was one of those things for me this fall.

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hammer & hardie

One of the tool sets in mosaic that many people use is called the hammer and hardie.  It is a traditional tool set that has been used since ancient times.  The hardie looks a bit like a chisel and needs to be placed into something (usually a piece of wood) in order to use it.  Once the hardie is installed, you then put the bit of glass or stone on top of it and give it a tap with the hammer to break your material.

My hardie currently rests in a piece of wood that is great to work at while sitting.  But, I’ve begun working more and more while standing and needed something taller.  This put me on the hunt for a log just the right height to make a standing hardie.

m-and-log-1smOne lucky afternoon the perfect log was found after I combed through a downed pile.  It was slated to be tossed in a bonfire and had in-fact been partially burnt already.  I pulled it out, cut it to the right length and dragged it home.  It had to be de-barked and still needs some sanding after it dries a little more, but soon I’ll be standing and chopping away!

m-and-log-2smIt even has a cute little knob on the side that makes for a perfect place to grab while moving it around.  I was so tickled by finally finding the right log and rescuing it from just being burnt up.  The internal wood is really quite beautiful and it is nice to be able to give it another life as one of my tools.

Members of my household did indeed give me a bit of a head-shake about the log, especially as I was working hard to de-bark it!  But even though my extreme level of enthusiasm was not shared, they were able to appreciate how happy this acquisition made me.

Enough blogging for today – below are pics of all the new cufflinks, they make great holiday gifts (hint, hint 😀 ) and all are available for purchase in our shop by clicking here.

Winter cold made me slow and not terribly productive.  Summer warmth and sun have given energy but made me not want to sit behind the computer.  Both things have made me hugely neglectful of this blog!

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black & white mosaic with wires in progress

Hoping to rectify this and get back to regular updates and regularly reading all my other favorite blogs.  Connecting with and being inspired by others is my favorite part of blogging – the summer sun this year has just been a stronger pull!

So, what’s happened with all that sun-inspired energy?  Well, recently finished 2 mosaics that I’ll show you soon.  One is a black & white piece that I just adore, the other is a cream/copper with tons of shimmery goodness. 🙂

I recently taught a couple of sessions of mosaic at a day camp for kids!  There were about 26 kids a session, aged 7-12 with some social skill challenges.  This was a bit daunting as I don’t have much experience with kids (don’t have any / never around any).  I was worried if I’d do ok with them.  But the kids were awesome and it was both totally exhausting and totally exhilarating!  So much fun to help them make a cool project and see them happy with the results.  Even one kid who at first told me it was “boring” ended up doing the most creative stuff and had a great time.  Think he just need to get past the hump of starting ( I can relate! ).  It was wonderful to get their little hugs and thank yous after the class was over.

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shimmery bronze in progress

I’ve also been keeping up with lampworking, making neat stuff with glass melting it in a flame.  The past few months I’ve learned new techniques and improved my skills a lot.  I’m now trying to create sculptural glass forms that can be incorporated into mosaics, not quite there yet but think something neat will come of it.

Lastly – tossed the mosaic plan for 2 collections that I’d laid out for the year.  I’d completed 1 of each when the husband had a thought.  He knew I had other ideas floating around and suggested making summer all about just exploring those.  He’d thought it could potentially be very neat, maybe better than planned stuff.  At first I resisted – but then went for it and have gone down a bunch of paths that led to tons of new ideas.  Fun but also kind of hard to wrangle a million ideas down to a reasonable bite to chew off. 🙂

Hope the past few months have been as lovely and creative for you as they’ve been for me.  Looking forward to catching up on all your blogs and hope to update you soon with pics of new work and other ramblings!

creative process smIt’s been a bit of a slow go since February.  Some of it I blame on winter.  Even though I’ve been in Canada (from Florida) 5 winters now, still find it a bit hard to be so shut in.  Not having open windows and lots of hours of sun makes it hard to get up and go. Hopefully spring will come soon, though as I’m writing this, it is snowing. o_O

The other part of slowness I’m blaming on riding the creative process roller coaster.  It wasn’t a lack of creativity – in fact, I had a project to work on that’s been planned for quite some time and was really excited about it.

Why the slowness then?  Since we moved last summer,  I’d not worked on a larger wall mosaic at all till now.  Instead focusing on jewelry for the holidays and then more for Valentine’s Day.

When it came time to get back into creating a new bigger wall project I had so much anxiety just starting.  Really liked the design I had and wanted to do it right yet started questioning all the plans that I’d had for it and fell into analysis paralysis.  Then, once I got going,  I went into the up and down rollercoaster ride of:  this is going great!  this is awful!  maybe it’s ok….  wow – I’m crap what was I thinking!

This up and down happens to me on nearly every project.  Except for jewelry.  Guess because they’re small and over with in a short amount of time that it doesn’t allow for that roller coaster of feelings to come.  It just had been awhile since I’d experienced this ride and and this time it really slowed me down productivity wise.

I used to think it was just me who had this awful ride on projects.  Then awhile ago someone posted online this funny “Creativity Process” list in the pic above. 🙂 It was such a perfect description that I printed it out, framed it and put it on the wall right next to my worktable.  This way – when I’m in the “This is shit, I am shit” part of the process it gives a little levity and reminder that probably it will work out in the end!

As fellow creatives, I’m curious – do you go through this ride when creating your projects?  Does it ever slow you down and if so, have you developed any tricks to get around it?