Saturday, November 27, 2010

My first encounter with mosaic

"More grows in the garden than the gardener sows."...Old Spanish Proverb
See how mossy my terracotta pot (housing one of several cymbidiums in my greenhouse) has become in the year since I've had the greenhouse. 

My daughter and I attended a mosaic workshop today.  It was our very first encounter with this craft form and although she knew she wanted to make a number for the entrance to her home, while I was eager to make a mirror for my garden, neither of us had any idea of pattern, colour, design or even the slightest idea of how we'd set about this prior to today. 

Please click on the read more button below to continue this post...

We had a super teacher in Kerry Atherstone.  For anyone interested in attending her Cape Town workshops or classes, herewith her contact details:

 Kerry's company website address is 
Her facebook page is
Mosaic-bit by bit
You can email her at:

Right from the start of the day's lesson, she had us nicely relaxed and excited to follow her lead.

Kerry started off by showing us several pictures of finished works, all way beyond our level of skill, but intended to serve as inspiration for what can be accomplished, as well as to introduce us briefly to the many different styles and techniques.  We then got to look at a range of mosaic tiles (glass, ceramic etc) in different sizes, shapes, colours and even texture.  At this stage, I still had no clue as to how I was going to approach my mirror project.  Kerry continued explaining about the various glues and surfaces we'd be able to use and cover...once we felt confident enough to jump in at the deep end.  Our task, today, was essentially to get a good overview of what mosaic entails and to begin and complete a basic project in the time allotted to the workshop (9h00 -15h00).

Once she'd shown us how to hold and use the tile cutters and we'd had some practice runs, we then headed on over to the large table displaying the wide selection of tiles we were going to be using in our own projects today.  At this stage, I still had no idea of what I intended doing, other than that it was to be a mirror edging.  All of the participants eagerly set about choosing tiles for themselves - I waited a little while hoping some flash of inspiration would strike me - since this did not happen, I gingerly stepped forward and started looking at all of the colours and shapes in front of me.  I have a great affinity with shiny things at this stage in my life and so selected a little sheet of very pretty irridescent blue tiles.  I then picked up a few pieces of mirror and some nice round glass buttons.  All of a sudden, I spotted something intriguing in one of the "allsorts" containers - it was a pretty bracelet (eastern design) and I immediately crossed my fingers and hoped I be permitted to use it.  Kerry said, "Certainly!" and after that, I was on my way.  Next, I found some lovely peacock green off cuts and a couple of large gold coloured tiles.

By now, I was ready to return to the work area and join the others who were already starting to place their tiles in some sort of order.  I played around with my pieces for a little while, but knew I wanted the links of the bracelet to be my focal pieces.  After positioning them in roughly the arrangement I felt worked best, I was then able to slowly place the others randomly around the main pieces.  When this all gave the appearance of non-structure that I felt was the way I wanted to go with this, it was time to settle down to the real work - cutting the tiles, figuring out how best to interarrange the pieces and then to start working from the outer edge, inwards, as advised by Kerry.  

By this time, the others were well on the way - patterns and designs had been decided upon, colours worked out and cutting and glueing was happening around me in earnest. It was an absolute treat to see everyone's individual style and colour preferences and to watch their creative juices flow.  By the time we'd all completed the glueing of our works of art, the end products were amazing, especially considering it was a first time event for all of us.  My only regret is that I hadn't thought to photograph each creation!  I guess this was partly due to the fact that I was last to finish and I was still glueing in teeny tiny pieces whilst everyone else was already busily grouting theirs!
We'd had a lunch break at 13h00 - this was intended to be "drying time" for the glue.  While my daughter dished up a serving of the excellent vegetarian lasagne Kerry had made for us (served with a fresh green salad), I kept my head down, glueing fanatically.  At my daughter's stern injunction,I took a break to enjoy my meal, then went straight back to where I'd left off, while the others enjoyed their coffee.  Although Kerry had offered to give me some grout to apply at home, I was determined to return with a finished product to show my husband!  No way was I going to have to admit I'd been the class slow coach!

I'm happy to say, I finished shortly after everyone else, but I hasten to admit that Kerry very kindly did my grouting for me :)  At school, I'd probably have been accused of being the "teacher's pet!"  I offered to pack away the remaining, used tiles and pieces we'd all generated during the feverishness of all of the activity and so felt reasonably useful while my mirror was receiving Kerry's expertise treatment.  She also sweetly claimed it was a good "barter!"

The mirror is now safely home but needs to dry undisturbed for 24 hours.  Tomorrow, I will have the painstaking task of gently rubbing off all of the excess grout (we have been instructed to use a damp sponge to do this) and then to buff it all up using a dry, lint-free cloth to give it a good shine.  I am very keen to see the end result, as I intend to proudly hang my mirror in the garden.  Once it's done, I'll take a picture and blog it ;)

My daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and met some delightful ladies.   Kerry provided everything we needed and had it all set out super efficiently prior to our arrival.  This obviously made the entire experience very pleasant and relaxing for us and certainly a lot more economical than having to buy it all ourselves.  Furthermore, she was able to offer us a far wider choice than would have been possible were we starting out on our own, as tiles are expensive to buy and it obviously takes a lot of time to build up a varied stock.  All in all, it was a really fun way to spend the day and is definitely something I'd like to tackle again sometime.  

Although I haven't yet taken any pictures of "the mirror" I would like to share some others taken in the garden a couple of days ago...the mosaic mirror pictures will come soon, for those of you who are interested.

My fuchsias are beginning to flower.  I have several varieties in different parts of the garden.  They always remind me so much of my Mother who used to grow them at her garden in SA.  My parents are now living permanently in Australia.
The star jasmine (above & below!) is perfuming the air outside my greenhouse most deliciously!

Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
and the soil and sky as canvas.

~  Elizabeth Murray ~
   Have a great day :)  Hope you come again soon!


  1. What? No picture of your mosaic frame? Show it, woman! I was dying to see it after your account of the class, and thought for sure your first picture would be of the mirror frame. I know how you feel about being the slow one, I have tried several mosaic pieces over the years, and have never finished a single one. I went through a time several years ago where I was madly breaking old plates, etc. for mosaics, but then never used them.

    I'm sure your project is beautiful, I love all the colors you picked, and I'd really like to see what you did with the bracelet pieces. I've seen lots of mosaics that use things like charms from charm bracelets, or (fake) pearls from pearl necklaces. I just don't have the talent for placing stuff.

  2. Hi Alison:

    I'll be taking pictures tomorrow (before I start cleaning off the grout and then afterwards, once my efforts are fully revealed) and I'll upload the pics...since you asked so nicely!

    If it turns out well, maybe I'll start breaking plates around here, too ;) Pity you didn't pursue your efforts - I don't think there are any rules! Next time, don't be so tough on yourself.

  3. The mosaic class sound so fun! Can't wait to see how your mirror turned out.
    I love seeing your flowers now. I was out today cleaning up and noticed my fuchsias were all frozen in the cold we had a few days ago, luckily they will all be back next summer. Star jasmine is a favorite of mine, I can almost smell your picture!

  4. Hi Catherine:

    I'm intending to take more pictures of my fuchsias and other flowers (now in bloom) to upload soon for you to enjoy during your snowy months :)

    I have star jasmine, Chinese jasmine, muraya (orange jasmine), honeysuckle, brunsfelsia, fiddlewood and gardenias to bless my garden with their heavenly fragrance throughout the year. My neighbour has a large creeper (huge white heavily perfumed fowers - must find out the name!) that tumbles from their side into our garden, so I am also blessed with "borrowed" perfume. It's particularly lovely in the cool of the evenings and I cannot get enough of the fragrance.

  5. Beautiful pics and looking forward to seeing your mirror!!!

  6. Thank you so much, Sharon. Looking forward to having you visit again ;)


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