In general, I don’t do much drawing out of designs before beginning a speculative (as opposed to commissioned*) mosaic. I know my tools and materials well, I’m impatient to get started, and my thoughts move much faster than I can draw. Ergo, most of my designing – and a lot of my technical problem solving – is done in my head, preferably with Ray Lamontagne playing in the background. As I’m driving my car, waiting in the grocery line, or drifting off to sleep – sometimes even as I’m building a mosaic – I’m building a new mosaic step by step in my mind, changing and rearranging it as I go, until I can visualize the finished work in its entirety.
This multitasking approach is a huge timesaver, as I don’t have to carve time out from other activities to find pencils and paper, shove the tools and tesserae off of a work surface, and further aggravate my longstanding carpal tunnel syndrome by gripping a small stick for extended periods.
This “in the cloud” design method also feels very flexible and organic. Unfettered by commitment to paper – no tangible representation of what is “supposed to be” – the design can morph and evolve as new ideas occur at any stage of the process. I remind myself of this (ha!) as I begin building the mosaic and theory collides noisily with actuality: this color’s wrong, there’s not enough space here, what was I smoking when I thought THAT placement would work?!?!
I no doubt would have gone happily on like this indefinitely, but a few years ago I began a twice-monthly volunteer gig that requires little more of me than to work on the art project of my choice for three continuous hours while being available for conversation with the folks around me. Hard-material mosaic was my first choice, natch, but it required too much concentration and took up too much space. So I raided the art paper cabinet and began chopping and recombining scraps of brightly colored paper onto larger sheets of paper. Very little concentration or space required, and all I need are paper, scissors and a glue stick.
One afternoon of that and a new design process was born. I’m madly in love with this new way to play with shapes and their relationship to each other and to the space that surrounds them. Shapes snip easily into new shapes (custom cutting has never been so easy!), changes in placement take mere seconds (no chipping tesserae out of cement!), a change in color value is as simple as choosing a different piece of paper (no chopping up another sheet of glass!), and stacking is a snap (no waiting overnight between layers!). I try to complete an entire design during my three hour stint, and I mostly succeed. Twice now these designs have been the foundation of mosaics in hard materials (see photos), and I know others are on the way. I’m still too impatient to dedicate time to paper design outside my twice-monthly volunteer gig, but I’m hugely grateful to have stumbled upon this new way to design. It’s tactilely satisfying, visually stimulating, and frankly, just plain fun.
*Until technology is developed by which I can transfer ideas directly from my head into my clients’, I’ll continue to thoroughly map out their mosaics in a computer program called Glass Eye to assist them with visualization.
After a 22-year program management career with the University of Washington, Kelley founded Rivenworks Mosaics (www.rivenworksmosaics.com), specializing in custom fine art mosaic for public, commercial, residential and gallery spaces. She teaches workshops throughout North America, and locally at Seattle Mosaic Arts.
©2012 Kelley Knickerbocker