February 2012: Living in Bliss

Turning "junk" into art: sorting by color

I mean, seriously, how hard could it be?

The fact that my friend Nancy and I had no experience creating mosaics was never a deterrent.  In retrospect, however, I would advise someone attempting a mosaic for the first time to start on a smaller project before embarking on a thirty foot long wall. Do as I say, not as I do, right? In my case however, ignorance was bliss.

My contractor, HHCC, built the walls and covered them with hardie board which is the same material you would use behind any tiled surface. Do not try to create a mosaic on top of sheet rock. The combination of wet grout and weight of the mosaic is a recipe for disaster. Tear out the sheet rock and put up hardie board in it’s place.

The word went out to friends, family, neighbors and associates: Do NOT throw anything away. Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled junk yearning to breathe free. Your trash = a new life as Berry Austin art. For months we collected all kinds of stuff not knowing how, or if, it would work. Then came the task of organizing. With a huge variety of recyclable items, I found it helpful to sort items by color rather than type of item.

Heavier items need to be taped in place while the mastic dries.

Once all the “junk” was organized into boxes, I drew a rough sketch on the wall of how I wanted the color to move across the mosaic. Then it was a matter of placing the objects on the wall. I put the bigger pieces up first, working from largest to smallest. The adhesive I used is extra strength Mastic – the same adhesive used on standard tile installations. If an item was particularly heavy I would add masking tape to secure overnight until dry. Color and composition is really important at this stage. It can easily morph into a jumbled mess without planning.

Surprisingly – designing and attaching the objects on the wall was the easiest part of the process. Once everything is in place, the next step is grouting. It took as long – if not longer – than the amount of time to put up the entire mosaic. It’s messy. It’s goopey. It’s the dirtiest part of creating a mosaic.

About the Grout: the topic of the next blog.