Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mosaic Update.

A small selection of images showing recent development.

Hi Cosmo.



I am on the last few 2-3 lines of the poem now and I hope to push on with it during the rest of this week. I am starting to think....how will I do the plain areas without any lettering?  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mosaic Progress 2

Slowly things progress along, if I complete a whole line in one day that is my equivelent of a forced route march. Yesterday I only managed to do    n. Bloss    still every little helps. I am well over half way in terms of text, but still quite a bit of stone to cover. This must mean that there will be plain areas of white to cover.

I have a ritual every morning where I have to scrub and clean up yesterdays work. If I leave it longer than overnight then the cement finger prints I make and the squirt up through the gaps bits are really hard and more difficult to remove. If I try and remove them after the end of the final session it's all to soft and I damage what I just made.

a good scrub with a stiff brush and a tidy up with a metal thing every morning

I give the image files names according to where I am in the poem
This one is called 'a blackb'

this one is called Bloss

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Open Day at Strata Florida.

Free to everyone, talks on history and poetry. Recitals of work from poets, and picnic lunches in a medieval style. For a very good account of the days activities see Hiliares blog click here. My role was to run a mosaic workshop as a way of introducing my sculpture for the site. I showed photos of the work in progress and displayed the maquettes I had made for presentations to CADW earlier. 
My stall was pretty busy all afternoon with visitors contributing to a Strata Florida sign which (when I finish it later) could go at the entrance to the site somewhere. 

Here is a montage of photos I took during the days events

two people working on my sign 

Gwyneth Lewis reading her poem Strata Florida

'where the humble fern blossomed to stone'
Here is the sign when I bought it home after a fun day out in the Abbey ruins. It is made on paper using what is called the reverse technique. I took a large piece of slate home with me to complete the sign and mount it for display. I also was very pleased to meet Gwyneth Lewis whose poems I am working on. 

I will finish this off later when I get time

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Approaching half way and had a sticky moment this morning! I don't have enough tiles in stock to complete this whole stone so I order some more from the supplier I have used for over 20 years........only today their phone is dead? I email them with a tile order, but deep down I've got that feeling they may have ceased trading as things just felt strange.

I spent most of the day trying to source the same tiles to complete the job. I spoke to a general UK tile distributer who passed me onto my recomended dealer for that particular manufacturer and tile range.........The upshot was my tiles were not in stock and it would take in the region of 6 weeks to get some. Further more I could not order single sheets either and could only buy tiles by the box full, thats 14 sheets to box. 

I only need one sheet of that colour 2 sheets of another you know 3 of that one etc .....madness to wait 6 weeks and buy a thousand percent more materials than you require. Great service from my new supplier, thanks.

Later in the day I recieved an email to say sadly yes we recently ceased trading, the long and the short of it is: get your tiles from The Mosaic Workshop for their website click here. They bought what was left of the entire stock of my previous supplier. Panic over and my tiles should arrive by the end of the week......The future of mosaic tile distribution may look a little different if information today proves to be correct? 

Riches below.Through . This door

Of all ages. Pass through this door

Monday, May 14, 2012

'Giornata' (a days work).

drawing of my new cement spreader
 I was surprised at having to pay £12.50 for this tool, I thought it was a lot for little metal trowel spreader thing. But it is a great tool and invaluable on this job, really good for what I call 'cutting back' which is removing the unused cement around the tiles where another work session will join it. The term 'giornata' is Italian and means a days work. This was very relevant during the Renaissance when painting frescoes, as it was the new lime plaster applied today, joining the wok done yesterday. In some old paintings these joins can be seen as slightly different coloured pigments show one days work from another. My concern is the same, in that cement dried yesterday around the edge of the tiles prevents the new tiles from being positioned very close and seamlessly. If done badly a black grout line will appear if the gap is a little too large. This tool is great at removing the excess cement for good joins.

I have other trowel/spreaders but this is great and now I think very good value for my £12.50.
I also bought a pair of new tile nippers which a great. Very good at cutting tiles into thirds, which is what I need for the black lettering. I have well over a dozen pairs of nippers all rubbish at cutting thirds. Maybe it is important to have sharp nippers and I forgot what it was like, or maybe these are just a great pair of tile nippers..

drawing of my new tile nippers

Dimension. Wonder uplands bare

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mosaic Progress

I thought I would just put a couple of photos on here to show progress. Things have moved along and it's easier to imagine the whole stone now. I think it will look amazing.

Into christ the .....expanding. Universe. Dimension:

Through...this door.
 I wonder if I will be able to remember the whole poem by the time I'm finished? Words are not my medium, but I really get what Gwyneth's talking about, as I'm so close to it now.

Monday, May 7, 2012

'Through this door'

It's a slow process, three short lines of poetry in a couple of days! I am always anxious  at the beginning of every mosaic until enough is done to see what things will look like. Things have not quite progressed enough to get a really good idea, but enough to want to rush on with it and get more done. I am sure I won't be feeling like that on the last few lines of the poem on the lower sections of the stone. I have not been able to clean off my finger prints and general mess from the tiles as the cement had not fully dried. I should be able to give it a good scrub in the morning, this will help see what things are looking like.

The first line

The first three lines, it then goes around the stone in a spiral
 'Through this door'. Is very evocative as I mentioned Lesness Abbey where I used to go as a child. The ruins were not so impressive as they had more formal public space around them, which diluted their effect somehow. There were woods nearby as well which were exciting too, so the whole Abbey Ruins thing was woods, public gardens and the Abbey Dungeons. They were not really dungeons, but any room below ground level is going to be one when your ten. There was also a door in a stone wall that I remember quite clearly. Not a main entrance doorway like the one at Strata Florida, just abit more of a regular door (stone archway though) in a flinty rocky wall.  

Strange really as the poet whose work I am transcribing (Gwyneth Lewis) remembers Strata Florida as a young girl, in the same way as I remember my Abbey Ruins. I think I will have re-visit them when I can. Take photos even do some drawings! 

I did walk through the Abbey and get really lost in those woods there one night when I was silly enough to walk home thinking it would be a short cut (I had had a couple of larger shandies) and was totally lost for ages. When I did get home it was time to get up! must have been in the early eighties.  

My 'Through this Door' memory - Lesness Abbey
(courtesy the Internet)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Strata Florida

The abbey was originally founded in 1164. The name Strata Florida is a corruption of the Welsh Ystrad Fflur, meaning Valley of (the river of) Flowers, according to Wikipedia.
For more information about the Abbey (click here).


Through this door as the poem suggests are the remains of the Abbey. I grew up in SE London and I was reminded of a similar ruin, Lesnes Abbey in Abbey Wood. I sometimes went there on my bike through the woods during summer holidays. It was difficult back then, and still is now to imagine what these places were really like, back back in the day when they were the centre for the whole area. 

A mural in the visitor centre at Strata Florida showing a busy 
thriving community at and around the Abbey. Hard to imagine
compared to the serenity if you visit today.

I spent my day arranging the poem on the stone, rubbing it out because it didn't fit, making it fit, moving it around so it fitted better. I had a sense of how I wanted it to look, and was able to fit the poem on evenly distributed and spaced over the whole stone. My commissioner asked me if the making of this work was organic? Yes this initial layout was really organic process, intuative and involved many calculated guesses. From here on in it will be more mechanical with a little bit of unkown to keep you concentrating all the time. I am actually really looking forward to starting, but frustratingly I have a meeting in the morning so wont get to work on it till the afternoon.

sample I made for 1st poem in English on slate coping stones

sample I made for 2nd poem in Welsh on a rock

Things will actually be the other way around now. English on the boulder in my workshop and the Welsh on the coping stones, which will be done on site. 

poem laid out covering the whole stone

the lettering will be obscured by the cement used to stick the
tiles on with. So I expect to do small sections at a time. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

You're going to write a poem on a boulder?

'You're going to write a poem on a boulder?' .......I explained this to a couple of suppliers as I sourced suitable rocks. I explained it to the tool hire company when hiring a pallet truck.  'You're going to write a poem on a boulder'? I explained it to my my neighbour who saw the boulder arrive at my workshop.

'How are you going to do that then?' Watch this blog is probably the answer to that.

'Is it an organic process?'  It most definatley is.

'How do you know it will fit on?' Because I will write it on first.

Steve at Specialist Aggregates sources boulders of different types.

The boulder arrives at my workshop
 I managed to hire a pallet truck with a hydrolic leak, which was unable to lift it up off the ground and I could'nt get it in my workshop. A nice guy drove out from the hire shop and filled the truck with fluid and asked
'Why have you got a boulder ........right .........You're going to write a poem on it? ......oh your not actually writing the poem your copying it onto it. 

I got a reduction off my hire charge as the truck was a bit rubbish.

They are Welsh Granite and will be going back to Wales. Strata Florida to be specific.

well that's woken me up.. and he couldn't even move it