They Call them Gazing Balls

I prefer ‘mosaic sphere’, but I do like the irony of choosing to make a ‘gazing ball’ while recovering from eye surgery. It just happened that I found some polystyrene balls at Zart Art in Box Hill – and their special ‘will glue anything to anything’ Supertac glue – a few weeks ago. After the surgery I decided to give the mosaic sphere thing a try. It’s much easier to see tiles than warp threads at the moment (not that this is stopping me weaving). Since the spheres aren’t going to be touched or walked on, I could happily use broken tiles with sharp edges and glass tiles with the colour on the surface – which gives me a good use for the tiles I’d bought for the ventilation hole patches that turned out to be unsuitable.

For my first sphere, I had no plan. I just made it up as I went. First some yellow lines to break it into quarters, then flowers out of orange, green for leaves, and lastly filling in the remaining spaces with blue and green. I used up most of the triangle and square glass shapes in those colours, and added some cut glass tiles from Bunnings. I only needed to cut tiles smaller at the end, when I was filling gaps.

The grouting was, er, educational. One day I’m going to learn not to make two to three times as much grout as I need. I also made it a bit too wet, so at first it sagged out of the cracks on the underside of the ball. But I kept adding and smoothing and wiping until it had stiffened up enough to stay put. I did a second coat when the grout had thickened a bit more, too.

I’d watched YouTube tutorials that said the ball should be covered in mesh and mastic so the tiles have something to stick to. I tested the Supertac glue by sticking one tile on then holding the tile and seeing if I could shake it off the ball. It held, so I figured it was worth the risk just using that. The one time I tried to remove a tile that had shifted, I couldn’t even carve it off with a knife. Eventually it came loose, but only by taking a chunk of polystyrene with it. Fortunately the glue stuck it back on just fine. The grout wasn’t inclined to stick to the polystyrene where the gaps between tiles were wide, so for my next sphere I’m making sure all the surface is covered in glue.

Yes, I’ve started another one.

It’s rather addictive.

Ventilation Patch Mosaics – Day & Night

The holes for the old under floor heating in the entertainment room were different sizes and not very square. I guess the installers figured that the covers would hide any inaccuracies. The mosaics didn’t have covers to hide the flaws. We tidied one up as best we could with a dremel, but mostly I figured we’d have to live with the crookedness. Thanks to the thickness of the floating floor, the holes were actually quite deep. We added 9mm thick pieces of wood to bring the mosaics up to level with the floor, but that still left quite a bit of space for the grout to fill.

The daytime one is on the south side of the house, which is the side that faces the pool:

The nighttime ones is on the north side, near the bar we made from an old organ.

I love the nighttime one, but the daytime one came out a bit dull. I used mid-grey grout on both, and maybe it’s a bit too light for the pale blue tiles.

This leaves three ventilation holes to fill in the kitchen. I’ve still got a few trials using slate and cement mortar to do before I attempt a final mosaic. That’ll have to wait for the weather to warm up, as it’s going to be waaay to messy to do in the house.

Ventilation Patch Mosaics

When I did the mosaic workshop earlier this year I came away full of enthusiasm. But I did wonder if, like basketry, that enthusiasm would wane. With basketry, I thought the difficulty getting materials was part of the reason my focus shifted away. But I’ve had enough troubles getting supplies for mosaics that I don’t believe that any more.

I certainly have a lot of tiles now, bought for projects then rejected as unsuitable when they arrived. I learned quickly to get a sample pack before investing in lots of colours. I’m sure I’ll use all the rejected tiles, though. I have projects in mind that they’ll work fine with.

The swimmers clock has been sitting out in the garage untouched, because it’s been too cold to work out there. That’s fine. I’m happy to wait for warmer weather.

Instead I’ve been working on ‘inside’ mosaics – ones that don’t require breaking tiles. That brings me to the ventilation patch project…

When we replaced the old ducted heating here, we wound up with lots of redundant floor vents. Even when shut, they let in cold drafts (and mosquitoes, I suspect). Paul blocked them all off earlier this year. We’ve left the covers on the ones in carpeted areas, which is just the four bedrooms. The rest I want to patch with mosaics.

They need to use a material without sharp edges to cut socks or bare feet. They need to be tough enough to survive being walked on. That means no tesserae, stained glass or broken ceramic. Fortunately there are other options.

The bathroom only needed one patch. I did a classical inspired wave design in blue, burgundy and pink, using small ceramic tiles:

I’d like to do a smaller version as a frieze around the walls, but I had a lot of trouble getting hold of the right amounts of the colours I used just to do the patch. I might see if I have enough left to do a sample strip, then contact the tile seller to see if she can do larger orders.

The entertainment room has two ventilation holes, and it has a floating wooden floor. I designed ‘day and night’ themed patches. Initially I thought I’d use irregular coloured glass ‘melts’ which have smooth edges, but when my order arrived I was disappointed to find they only came in square and triangle shapes, with a couple of bigger trapezoid ones. I laid them out without gluing and didn’t like the result. I considered the Mandala art version of irregular glass tiles, which come with greater variety of shapes, but these, like the ones I bought, had the colour on the surface rather than base of the tile, and I reckon it’d wear off under foot traffic.

A bit more searching and I found 8mm opaque square glass tiles, which were small enough that I was able to get enough detail into the design:

I’m hoping to get them glued in and grouted this week.

The kitchen needs three patches, in something to match the slate floor. I figured… why not slate? So I bought a couple of pieces, smashed them up and made a test patch by pressing pieces into a shallow container of cement mortar, sealing it when dry. I’ve been doubtful at several stages of the test, but the result is better than it first seemed like it would be so I’ll be going ahead with this idea…

… when it isn’t so cold in the garage!