Calling all Caterpillars

The work of Eric Carle has always inspired me. When I was young I loved reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other books. As an adult, I feel a certain childlike excitement and curiosity when I see the pictures and think about how he made them- collaging layers of brightly painted paper, breathing life and personality into the characters. Aside from teaching children a love of books and reading, I think the most important function of children’s books is to awaken the imagination.

Here are a few of my favorite Eric Carle characters:

My husband Bill loves children’s books as much as I do, if not more. On one of our first dates, we went to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst.

Recently we went again and took these lovely pictures: 

So when I saw a “call for caterpillars” by the staff of the Eric Carle Museum, asking for individuals or groups to create three-dimensional caterpillars out of found objects, I decided to make this caterpillar out of a variety of items I had in my studio:

Photo by Janine Norton

Photo by Janine Norton

If you look closely, you’ll see a key, pebbles, seashells, buttons, the end of a zipper, a hose faucet key, fabric flowers from a Hawaiian lai, fused glass pieces, broken china, handmade ceramic tiles, and a map of California. There are pennies around the edges.

Here are a few more views:

Since doing this project, I have decided to work on building a great collection of found objects. I have been looking at EVERYTHING as possible mosaic material. This is happening at a perfect time, because, with spring comes the start of Tag Sale season! I can only imagine what I’ll find, and what new and fun things show up in my work…

If you want to make your own caterpillar, or if you have a group of kids who you think would enjoy this project, click HERE for more details about the contest (deadline is May 31 so there’s plenty of time). I’ll admit, when I first read the title of the project, I thought that it was only for children, but it turns out any individual, group, class, etc can be part of this. Actually, it made me wish that I had a group of kids to do this project with. I’m sure that would have been even more fun!

“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  ~Pablo Picasso

A Story of Two Love Birds

Yes, this story is as cute as it sounds…

A good friend of mine, Dave Rodrigues, is an amazing Acupressurist.
On several occasions, he has gotten me out of intense pain when I’ve had muscle
spasms in my neck, and he is helping Bill (my husband) get through some current
shoulder issues. He also really loves and values artwork.  Recently when he was over our house (he makes
house calls) he was looking at some of the mosaics hanging on the walls in our
living room, and thinking out loud about how he wanted to give his wife Tammy a
mosaic as a gift. He refined this idea during my acupressure
treatment (I was pretty out of it at the time) and by the end of the hour, we
had set up a deal: I would make a mosaic for him in exchange for a series of
treatments- all working toward a health goal I’ve had for awhile.

The image that he wanted to give Tammy was Love Birds,
because they are monogamous, and they spend lots of time sitting side by side.
Plus they are super cute and colorful.

So there I was in my relaxed state, wondering what I had
just agreed to, never having seen a picture of Love Birds, wondering if I could
do it. Turns out, I’m quite proud of these little guys.

Whenever I do a commissioned mosaic, I have a bit of nervous
energy when it comes time to actually show the finished piece to the buyer. So
when Dave came over the next time, even though I was confident that he would
like it, I was still a little anxious. Looking at his face when he saw it
though, I had no doubt that he loved it. He couldn’t stop smiling. He was
proud of the fact that he had been able to keep it a surprise for Tammy, and
that she had no idea. He said he would be giving it to her as an Easter
present. That was last Thursday.

A few hours later, he called me and said “She loves it!” He
couldn’t wait the 3 days until Easter to give it to her. It makes me happy to
know that this piece that I’m so proud of is going to be
displayed in the home of people who will really appreciate it.

Here are some pictures of the different stages of creation
of the birds and background. This was one of the most fun projects I’ve done in
a long time.

A Sneak Peak… and a Confession

It’s been a busy winter for me.
Aside from building my new website, I have been creating lots of new
mosaic work that I’m very excited about.  This will all be ready for you
to see pretty soon. But…

the meantime, I wanted to share something kind of quirky about myself: I am obsessed
with seeing improvement, visual changes in things that I’m working on.
I’ll admit that sometimes I let a mess build up a little bit longer than Martha Stewart would approve of,
just so I can enjoy how much better it looks after I clean it. My
kitchen floor is a prime example of this. Ok, I know it’s weird. But other than that, I’m completely normal, I swear.

Here are two mosaic frames that I just finished. The first picture of each shows the
tesserae (or tiles) adhered to the frame. The second picture shows the grout
applied, before the surface is cleaned. The third picture shows the
finished piece all cleaned off. Cleaning the surface is like magic.

Black grout has a particularly dramatic effect, almost like a stained glass window. The colors really pop.

Stay tuned for more visual “journeys” through the process of creating mosaics. This is just the beginning.

My recent appearance on TV

On February 4, 2013 I was on WWLP’s TV show Mass Appeal. I did a live demonstration of how to make a mosaic. Karen Totman, the Executive Director of Snow Farm was there to promote the workshops that Snow Farm offers. We had a lot of fun in the studio, talking to the hosts Seth and Ashley, and meeting the other people who were featured on the show that same day. Watch the video!

Learn how to make your own mosaic!

WWLP’s studio is beautiful, with state-of-the-art equipment, and lighting.