Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making
A book by David Bayles and Ted Orland
I read this book in the hope that it would help me relax as a creator of art and it indeed did so. There were a lot of nice thoughts in favour of continuing one’s artistic pursuits without fears of competition or self-doubt. I’ve decided to share a lot of its text with the readers of my blog in the hope that it helps them as well. These thoughts are certainly worthy of revisiting so that’s another reason for committing them to my blog–to hold onto them and reread them.
Part I. The Nature of the Problem.
The sane human being is satisfied that the best he / she can do at any given moment is the best he/she can do at any given moment. That belief, if widely embraced, would make this book unnecessary, false, or both.
The point is that you learn how to make your work by making your work, and a great many of the pieces you make along the way will never stand out as finished art. The best you can do is make art you care about — and lots of it!
Part II. Art and Fear
Virtually all artists encounter such moments. Fear that your next work will fail is a normal, recurring and generally healthy part of the artmaking cycle.
After all, in making art you bring your highest skills to bear upon the materials and ideas you most care about. Art is a high calling — fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, disguising themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others — indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best shot. What separates artists from ex-artists is that those who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit. Each step in the artmaking process puts that issue to the test.
Vision & Execution
Vision, Uncertainty, and Knowledge of Materials are inevitabilities that all artists must acknowledge and learn from: vision is always ahead of execution, knowledge of materials is your contact with reality, and uncertainty is a virtue.
Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.
Part III. Fears about Yourself.
In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work. Both families surface in many forms, some of which you may find all too familiar.
Fear that you are not a real artist causes you to undervalue your work.
The increasing prevalence of reflexive art — art that looks inward, taking itself as its subject — may to some degree simply illustrate attempts by artists to turn this obstacle to their advantage.
You make good work by (among other things) making lots of work that isn’t very good, and gradually weeding out the parts that aren’t good, the parts that aren’t yours. It’s called feedback, and it’s the most direct route to learning about your own vision. It’s also called doing your work. After all, someone has to do your work, and you’re the closest person around.
Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won’t count for much. The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts, sometimes conspicuously flashy gifts, yet never produce anything. And when that happens, the world soon ceases to care whether they are talented.
Artists get better by sharpening their skills or by acquiring new ones; they get better by learning to work, and by learning from their work. They commit themselves to the work of their heart, and act upon that commitment. So when you ask, “Then why doesn’t it come easily for me?”, the answer is probably, “Because making art is hard!” What you end up caring about is what you do, not whether the doing came hard or easy.
If you think good work is somehow synonymous with perfect work, you are headed for big trouble. Art is human; error is human; ergo, art is error. Inevitably, your work (like, uh, the preceding syllogism…) will be flawed. Why? Because you’re a human being, and only human beings, warts and all, make art. Without warts it is not clear what you would be, but clearly you wouldn’t be one of us.
Adams was right: to require perfection is to invite paralysis. The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do — away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes. Believing that artwork should be perfect, you gradually become convinced that you cannot make such work. (You are correct.) Sooner or later, since you cannot do what you are trying to do, you quit. And in one of those perverse little ironies of life, only the pattern itself achieves perfection — a perfect death spiral: you misdirect your work; you stall; you quit.
To demand perfection is to deny your ordinary (and universal) humanity, as though you would be better off without it. Yet this humanity is the ultimate source of your work; your perfectionism denies you the very thing you need to get your work done.
For you, the seed for your next art work lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece. Such imperfections (or mistakes, if you’re feeling particularly depressed about them today) are your guides — valuable, reliable, objective, non-judgmental guides — to matters you need to reconsider or develop further. It is precisely this interaction between the ideal and the real that locks your art into the real world, and gives meaning to both.
But the important point here is not that you have — or don’t have — what other artists have, but rather that it doesn’t matter. Whatever they have is something needed to do their work — it wouldn’t help you in your work even if you had it. Their magic is theirs. You don’t lack it. You don’t need it. It has nothing to do with you. Period.
Unreal expectations are easy to come by, both from emotional needs and from the hope or memory of periods of wonder. Unfortunately, expectations based on illusion lead almost always to disillusionment.
Conversely, expectations based on the work itself are the most useful tool the artist possesses. What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work. There is no other such book, and it is yours alone. It functions this way for no one else. Your fingerprints are all over your work, and you alone know how they got there. Your work tells you about your working methods, your discipline, your strengths and weaknesses, your habitual gestures, your willingness to embrace. The lessons you are meant to learn are in your work. To see them, you need only look at the work clearly — without judgement, without need or fear, without wishes or hopes. Without emotional expectations. Ask your work what it needs, not what you need. Then set aside your fears and listen, the way a good parent listens to a child.
Part IV. Fears about Others
With commercial art this issue is often less troublesome since approval from the client is primary, and other rewards appropriately secondary. But for most art there is no client, and in making it you lay bare a truth you perhaps never anticipated: that by your very contact with what you love, you have exposed yourself to the world. How could you not take criticism of that work personally?
What is sometimes needed is simply an insulating period, a gap of pure time between the making of your art, and the time when you share it with outsiders.
Such respites also, perhaps, allow the finished work time to find its rightful place in the artist’s heart and mind — in short, a chance to be understood better by the maker. Then when the time comes for others to judge the work, their reaction (whatever it may be) is less threatening.
the real question about acceptance is not whether your work will be viewed as art, but whether it will be viewed as your art.
The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts — namely, whether or not you’re making progress in your work. They’re in a good position to comment on how they’re moved (or challenged or entertained) by the finished product, but have little knowledge or interest in your process. Audience comes later. The only pure communication is between you and your work.
Finding your Work
The work we make, even if unnoticed and undesired by the world, vibrates in perfect harmony to everything we put into it — or withhold from it. In the outside world there maybe no reaction to what we do; in our artwork there is nothing but reaction.
If, indeed, for any given time only a certain sort of work resonates with life, then that is the work you need to be doing in that moment. If you try to do some other work, you will miss your moment.
Simply put, certain tools make certain results possible.
Working within the self-imposed discipline of a particular form eases the prospect of having to reinvent yourself with each new piece.
For most artists, making good art depends upon making lots of art, and any device that carries the first brushstroke to the next blank canvas has tangible, practical value. Only the maker (and then only with time) has a chance of knowing how important small conventions and rituals are in the practice of staying at work. The private details of artmaking are utterly uninteresting to audiences (and frequently to teachers), perhaps because they’re almost never visible — or even knowable — from examining the finished work.
The hardest part of artmaking is living your life in such a way that your work gets done, over and over — and that means, among other things, finding a host of practices that are just plain useful.
Once you have found the work you are meant to do, the particulars of any single piece don’t matter all that much.
A view into the Outside World
To see far is one thing: going there is another. — Brancusi
And so you make your place in the world by making part of it — by contributing some new part to the set. And surely one of the more astonishing rewards of artmaking comes when people make time to visit the world you have created. Some, indeed, may even purchase a piece of your world to carry back and adopt as their own. Each new piece of your art enlarges our reality. The world is not yet done.
It seems harmless enough to observe here that having an MFA (or even a knowledge of modern art) should hardly be a prerequisite to making art. After all, art appeared long before Art Departments, long before anyone began classifying or collecting artists’ works.
The Academic World
When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college — that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?” — Howard Ikemoto
… art has the dubious distinction of being one profession in which you routinely earn more by teaching it than by doing it.)
If you teach, you know that you gain as much from the interchange as do your students. The classroom studio, after all, gives you
Teaching is part of the process of being an artist.
The chances are (statistically speaking) that if you’re an artist, you’re also a student.
Ideas & Technique
But while mastering technique is difficult and time-consuming, it’s still inherently easier to reach an already defined goal — a “right answer” — than to give form to a new idea.
Simply put, art that deals with ideas is more interesting than art that deals with technique.
In essence, art lies embedded in the conceptual leap between pieces, not in the pieces themselves. And simply put, there’s a greater conceptual jump from one work of art to the next than from one work of craft to the next. The net result is that art is less polished — but more innovative — than craft.
A work of craft is typically made to fit a specific template, sometimes a painstakingly difficult template requiring years of hands-on apprenticeship to master.
Yet curiously, the progression of most artists’ work over time is a progression from art toward craft. In the same manner that imagination gives way to execution as any single work builds toward completion, an artist’s major discoveries usually come early on, and a lifetime is then allotted to fill out and refine those discoveries. As the Zen proverb suggests, for the beginner there are many paths, for the advanced, few.
The difference between art and craft lies not in the tools you hold in your hands, but in the mental set that guides them. For the artisan, craft is an end in itself. For you, the artist, craft is the vehicle for expressing your vision. Craft is the visible edge of art.
In routine artistic growth, new work doesn’t make the old work false — it makes it more artificial, more an act of artifice. Older work is ofttimes an embarrassment to the artist because it feels like it was made by a younger, more naive person — one who was ignorant of the pretension and striving in the work. Earlier work often feels, curiously, both too labored and too simple. This is normal. New work is supposed to replace old work. If it does so by making the old work inadequate, insufficient and incomplete — well, that’s life. (Frank Lloyd Wright advised young architects to plant ivy all around their early buildings, suggesting that in time it would grow to cover their “youthful indiscretions.”)
All this suggests a useful working approach to making art: notice the objects you notice. (e.g. Read that sentence again.) Or put another way: make objects that talk — and then listen to them.
Once developed, art habits are deep-seated, reliable, helpful, and convenient. Moreover, habits are stylistically important.
Making art depends upon noticing things — things about yourself, your methods, your subject matter. Sooner or later, for instance, every visual artist notices the relationship of the line to the picture’s edge.
Viewed over a span of years, changes in one’s art often reveal a curious pattern, swinging irregularly between long periods of quiet refinement, and occasional leaps of runaway change.
Artists come together in the clear knowledge that when all is said and done, they will return to their studio and practice their art alone. Period. That simple truth may be the deepest bond we share.
The only work really worth doing — the only work you can do convincingly — is the work that focuses on the things you care about. To not focus on those issues is to deny the constants in your life.
Today, more than it was however many years ago, art is hard because you have to keep after it so consistently. On so many different fronts. For so little external reward.
Like many other perfectly good theories, that one didn’t work. In the end the work got done the way such things always get done — by carving out solo time for the project and nibbling away at it one sentence at a time, one idea at a time.
I had believed to be able to manage my life just fine without getting an Aadhaar id. After all I’ve had my other id documents in place that sufficed for all requirements. A recent registration with authorities, however, necessitated the Aadhaar id so I saw no choice but go over to its main center in Gurgaon and go through the process of acquiring it.
Here are the specifics of getting this identification in Gurgaon.
The Aadhaar registration center
There are small booths in multiple locations in Gurgaon that accept application form for an Aadhaar id but I went to the main registration center. It is at:
Opposite Mini Secretariat
Ahead of Rajiv Chowk
A hall on the Ist floor of Vikas Sadan at the end of the only corridor on the left of the staircase had a small stage with 4 executives sitting with 3 computers. The hall looked like the image on the right.
The document requirement
. Filled application form
. Original photo id
Application forms are given out by the person without a computer and he attempts to answer questions on the details to be filled in. Details are simply one’s address and mobile number. It helps that one doesn’t have to give photographs or endless photocopied ids in support of one’s application.
A filled form with an original photo id (in my case, I handed my driving license) is to be given to one of the 3 executives facing their computers. That officer inputs the applicant’s name and address in the system, and guides them to use the eye and finger print scanners. He advises applicants to verify details on a spare monitor and point out any errors.
After about 5 minutes of this exercise, an acknowledgement form is printed out and handed to applicants along with their original id. The form mentions an enrollment number and date/time of the form’s acceptance.
The Aadhaar number
A few days later (4 days in my case) an SMS on the applicant’s mobile announces that their Aadhaar number is available for download on the Aadhaar website at https://eaadhaar.uidai.gov.in/
An online form on the link has to be filled in for an OTP that in turn prompts one to enter one’s password for downloading the e-Aadhaar id. The password is the pin code provided in the application form. The e-Aadhaar id then appears on the screen for download and printing.
The original card may or may not arrive in mail so the downloaded e-Aadhaar id can be printed on a colour printer and laminated for records.
The whole process would complete in 15 minutes but between the applicant queue, the speed of their server or the mood of the executives, it could also take about 30-40.
No fee is charged for new Aadhaar registration but I saw Rs30 being charged for making address or any other changes in one’s Aadhaar records.
My old post on my experience of renewing my driving license seemed to help many get some answers so I’ve meant to write this one on my recent experience.
When the old license is from a different city
If your old licence is from Delhi, you’d need to first get an NOC from the issuing office and then follow the process I’m sharing below. If, however, your old license is from a city outside of NCR, the general advise I’ve heard for the person is to apply for a learner’s license, clear a driving test within 6 months and then get a regular license. This is because the process of getting an NOC from another city would mean travelling to that city and dealing with that license office to get that piece of paper.
When the old licence was issued in Gurgaon
The steps involved are fairly simple:
. Reach Hall 1 of Mini Secretariat between 9-9:15 am with the following items:
2 passport sized photos, pen, plain sheets of paper, glue-stick, Rs660 in cash, the old licence, self-attested copies of your id and address proof
. Buy a Renewal form—it costs Rs50 and comes in a cardboard file but they may charge you another Rs10 for a cloth-bag to encourage its use over polythene bags! The bag is yours to take away.
. Sit somewhere and fill the forms – they include a medical form and a Personal Particular Form that are easy enough to fill.
. Paste your old license on the given page of the folder, add your self-attested copies of photo id cum address proof
. Go to Hall 2 where the medical check-up takes place—pay the required fee of Rs150 or thereabouts, stand in the small queue in front of the medical officer in this hall itself. He sits next to the payment counter and appears totally relaxed at that hour. His test may just be a question or two or a quick read by you of some cards to rule out colour blindness.
. Handover your file at the specified counter in Hall 1. Women and senior citizens may find 1-2 individuals before them but at that hour even men don’t have to wait for more than 5-10 min for their turn to handover the folder and get the next set of instructions.
. Pay the renewal fee of Rs450 or Rs420 (it was 3 months ago for me so I forget the exact amount) at the next counter and then simply reach the last part of this long counter to sign a tablet and get clicked by a web camera for your new license.
. After this you’d be handed an insignificant looking slip torn out of your application form with a date to revisit and collect your licence. Do take good care of this slip.
. On the day of collection, go over by 10 am, pick up a strip of card qualifying as your licence and have it laminated at a photocopiers’ shop you like visiting,
That’s it! You’d be done with the process for the next 5 years. The whole routine takes less than an hour so do give it a fair chance instead of seeking a tout.
What is absolutely essential is that you reach the place as it opens and not at 10 am or later. There is no need to reach before 9 am as the place is closed then.
My previous posts attempt to share leads to tools, tiles and adhesives used in mosaic-making but an interested learner may still be flummoxed in the face of choices and may still wonder how to go about making a mosaic. My view is to follow the approach below.
Join a Mosaic Workshop
If one can find a trainer, making even a small mosaic under guidance
demystifies the process of holding the nippers, cutting tiles, arranging their flow, sticking them and then coming to grips with the messy but all important grouting process. One may have How-to Project books, good Net bandwidth to watch video tutorials but there is really nothing as ideal as learning by doing it under guidance.
Since the last year that I’ve been running the Facebook group Mosaic India, I’ve learned of a few India based mosaic-makers who train as well. If you wish to connect with a trainer, join the FB group and enquire about trainers in your city.
Learn to cut Stained Glass
India has more Stained Glass practitioners than mosaicists. It may be, therefore, easier to track down a stained glass artist than a mosaic-maker. Reach out to artists in your city, request that they teach you to cut stained glass shapes. Traditional stained glass requires steps of grinding shape edges once they are cut, copper-foiling them and then soldering multiple shapes to create a composition or 3D piece. To make mosaics, a learner can get oriented on scoring and cutting shapes of stained glass, and then move on to the steps of sticking shapes and grouting the composition.
Buy a Mosaic Kit and Make it
A small mosaic kit comes with materials and instructions on making a mosaic. The kit doesn’t carry any nippers but it does have pre-cut tiles and other essential items. Making a mosaic using a kit demystifies the basic steps involved in creating a finished mosaic and that can get many learners going onto more. In India, I’ve heard of only 2 sources of basic kits but on Amazon US I can see 8-10 kit options. They don’t ship to India but any friend from the US may be asked to bring you one.
Offer to be a Mosaic-maker’s Assistant
Even those mosaic-makers who do not run workshops or teach in one-on-one sessions, may value help to finish their commissioned pieces. Be on the lookout for such opportunities to learn as you assist.
Just Make It
If you have none of the above options available to you, just make a mosaic based on your understanding from How-to books or videos and get going. Ask questions, share your experience of making your first mosaic in the FB group and keep taking leaps beyond.
In the next post, I’ll describe the exact process of making a simple mosaic to help remove any further hesitation that a beginner feels.
Since mosaics can be made with varying media and substrates, a careful thought on adhesives becomes necessary. Some quick considerations that come to mind are these:
. The intended location of the mosaic – outdoors or indoors
. Weight of tesserae – ceramic tiles, glass, shells or stones
. Size of mosaic – a large wall, a 3D installation or just a small coaster
. Climate conditions – overly humid or frost-ridden or dry
. Substrate material – cement, glass, stone, wood or metal
Here are the adhesive choices that I’m familiar with:
Fevicol is the most popular PVA used in India. The craft quality fevicol is graded as MR and it’s good enough for small wall art, but as the size of substrate and weight of tesserae go up, it’s prudent to use the carpenter quality PVA or Fevicol SH. Of late, I’ve seen Fevicol Marine being sold as a more waterproof variant but I still need to test it for outdoors.
Fevicol dries clear and it’s good for mdf, wood and fibre mesh.
Internationally, silicone is recommended for mosaics meant for outdoors. My own experience shows me that the silicone we get here in different brands has less adhesion than Fevicol SH. I’ll keep checking more brands of silicone and post an update on the brand that works better than Fevicol SH.
For Glass on Glass, artists recommend thinly and evenly applied silicone as it dries clear. Those of you with experience with silicone should please share the silicone brands you’ve found effective.
If not Silicone, the adhesive highly recommended for outdoors is Thinset. It’s essentially grey or white cement with chemicals for better bonding. Thinset is mixed with water, allowed a few minutes of slaking time and buttered on the reverse of tiles to stick to substrates like wood, metal, stones or walls. If a mosaic is created on fibre mesh, the mosaicked mesh can be applied to its intended substrate using Thinset. White or grey colour can be chosen based on the colour of tiles and substrate.
Popular brands of Thinset used by folks I’ve connected with are Laticrete, Asian Paints, Ardex Endura and Roff.
Epoxy adhesives come in the combination of Resin and Hardener as in the popular brand Araldite. Once mixed, the adhesive has to be applied quickly as it hardens within minutes. Epoxy adhesives are waterproof and bond strongly but because they don’t dry clear and they give little time for applying to tiles, they aren’t favoured by many.
Pre-mixed Adhesive Pastes
I’ve known of white pastes from Kerakoll and Roff that are recommended for adhering fibre mesh or direct tiles to walls but because they come in large buckets, I haven’t acquired them for testing as yet. Those of you with experience with these adhesives are requested to share your views on the brands you’ve found effective.
I use these adhesives for those odd tesserae that weren’t stuck properly and come off the substrate as I start grouting the mosaic. Their instant adhesive and drying qualities are helpful in those situations.
I’m sure I’ve missed many glues from the list above. In international groups, I keep hearing of liquid nails or elmer’s glue and the hugely popular Weldbond, none of which I’ve had access to. So do tell if I should include any more adhesives in my mosaic kit.
After covering leads to tools and media for creating mosaics I’d like to share ideas on materials that can be mosaicked. The base that one uses to create a mosaic is called a Substrate. This base can be flat to hang on a wall or a 3D object to place indoors, outdoors or can be a wall itself. Every material and its intended location would need consideration on the adhesive suitable for it; a topic I’ll cover in another post.
Here are some ideas on what you could be using as a base for your mosaic:
Medium-density Fibreboard or MDF is easier to cut, and weighs less, than commercial ply and it can be easily bought in the required sizes from local framers or wood suppliers. The thickness recommended for mosaics is generally 8 mm to carry the weight of tesserae but framers provide 4 mm ones that they themselves use for supporting frames, and those have served me well enough for sizes under 11″x14″. I get them in small or medium sizes from a local framer very cheaply and keep them handy for vitreous or stained glass mosaics.
There are shops and online craft stores that can provide mdf shapes in varying shapes that expand the range of mosaicked products one can create. These can be coasters, trivets, trays, shaped photo frames, boxes and more. The online sources that I know for mdf shapes are these:
Since mosaic-making is still a lesser-known art, mdf shapes are made available by suppliers essentially for Decoupage. However, any 4+ mm mdf cutout providing large enough area for glass pieces to adhere can be used for mosaics.
For heavy ceramic tile or crockery cuts, or large sized mosaic compositions for indoors, it’s best to use a commercial board or a thick ply to prevent its sagging under the tesserae and grout weight. Get it cut in the required size from the place of purchase.
Wooden bowls, driftwood or stumps of trees are all good for mosaicking too.
Cement Paving Tiles and Other Objects
Pre-made cement stepping stones are favourite substrates among many for gardens or pathways. Cement flower or plant pots, bird-baths, fountains, garden benches or tables can also be mosaicked, and they look wonderful with a colourful play of ceramic or glass tiles.
Planters, bird-baths, fruit-plates can work as substrate choices.
River Stones and Boulders
If these stones offer flat patches then they can be mosaicked and placed outdoors or small river stones can be used as paperweights for indoors.
Walls can be mosaicked using a direct method onsite or double-direct method that uses a fibre-mesh offsite for eventual adhering to a wall indoors or outdoors.
Glass on glass (GOG) is a favourite method or subject of mosaicking for many. Window panes or sun-catchers can be created with stained glass so light reflects through them. Glass lamps or bottles get covered in this category too.
Plexi-glass or Polycarbonate Sheets
These can be cut with a mechanical tool or special scissors to create garden-stakes or other garden art as this base works like glass for sunlight to filter through.
Iron metal tables or garden stakes are popular substrate choices among mosaic artists for creating objects for outdoors, and they look rather charming because of the stark difference between the black metal and colorful tiles.
Besides above, I’ve come across mannequins, dense foam, plaster of paris sculptures, slate tiles, the reverse of ceramic tiles etc. being used by many artists as substrates for their mosaics. Another favorite substrate for vertical art meant for outdoors is Wediboard. This board is made of foam, covered on both sides with a thin layer of cement and it’s waterproof. It’s also light-weight and cuts with a sharp kitchen knife so mosaic artists internationally prefer its use for outdoors or shower areas. I’m still to find a similar product in India but for now, given the wide substrate choices listed above, I already have a long list of substrates and tesserae to experiment with to further my skills as a mosaicist. And, so do you :)
This is a post I’ve long meant to write. As I could only find basic orientation on cutting and adhering of tiles, I felt that my further learning will come from published books, blogs and other Net resources. Even though they are wonderful in opening up a learner’s thought span, Net based features or blogs tend to offer only fragmented knowledge. I’ve therefore picked up many paper books and some ebooks to feed my childlike enthusiasm for mosaic techniques and wherewithal.
As on date, I’ve 9 paper books and 3 ebooks in my personal library on mosaics, and only 1 out of them was bought locally. Since mosaics are still a low-visibility art in India, I knew that I won’t find many books in the local bookshops or even in online sites. Till I could find a helpful friend travelling from the US to bring me books, I scanned Amazon India for any ebooks on mosaics that I could buy instantly. I found a few and bought 3 of them. I’d however recommend only 1 out of those to other enthusiasts. Even among the paper books I own, I’d advise investing in only 3-4. Here are those recommendations:
Mosaic Garden Projects by Mark Brody and Sheila Ashdown: A year ago, this was the only Kindle ebook available from Amazon US/India that offered multiple project ideas and detailed How-tos. I recommend this book for its instant availability, outdoor projects and the suggested double-direct method.
Mosaic Techniques and Traditions by Sonia King: Available for purchase from Amazon India, I recommend this book as a must have in any learner’s collection. It carries a good blend of the mosaic history, inspiring creations by experienced mosaicists, mosaic techniques and guided projects (17 of them).
300+ Mosaic Tips, Techniques, Templates and Trade Secrets by Bonnie Fitzgerald: The title says it all. The author is an experienced mosaicist and trainer so covers How-to projects and shares techniques for early to intermediate learners. The book is now available from Amazon India but I had a friend bring it from the US. A good book to have.
The Mosaic Idea Book by Rosalind Wates: I quite like the idea of this Idea book. Many templates distinctly show the flow of tesserae to encourage good tile cutting and laying habits. BUT this book, the 300+ Mosaic Tips book and the next one are by the same publisher, a London based company called Quarto Publishing. Disappointingly, all 3 have many identical mosaic templates.
The Encyclopedia of Mosaic Techniques by Emma Biggs: An enticing title and a nice book to browse but this book too is by Quarto Publishing, London, so carries multiple How-to projects from the above 2 books. I advise only 1 out of the above 3 for one’s personal library.
Mosaic Craft: 20 Modern Projects for the Contemporary Home by Martin Cheek: I was drawn to the book’s cover showing fruity stools, and otherwise too found Mr. Cheek’s peacock and animal caricatures very inspiring. He has been increasingly using fused glass for his mosaics in the recent past, and otherwise, the book carries projects showing a high use of milliefiori which we don’t find in India. Still, a nice book to browse.
Mosaics: Inspiration and Original Projects for Interiors and Exteriors by Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth: My newest book, I saw it recommended by mosaicists doing Picassiette. Handling floral crockery has long been on my learning agenda so I’ve sought it out. I love 2 projects in it: a tapestry inspired accent chair and a portrait, both by Bahouth. The rest of the projects use a blend of crockery, ceramics, shells, stones, pearls etc. in random cuts or Opus Palladianum, much like Raymond Isidore’s style of mosaicking. This book was published in the year 1999 and has an old world charm about it so it’s nice to browse.
I have these other books that I like flipping through for their good paper or colorful mosaics, and if you’re a book and tool hoarder like me, you’re welcome to ask for my impressions of each of these books. For spartan mindsets, I’d recommend just the first 2 or 3 from the list above.
The Complete Book of Mosaics: Techniques and Instructions for Over 25 Beautiful Home Accents by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin
Garden Mosaics: 19 beautiful mosaic projects for your garden by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin
Beginner’s Guide to Mosaic by Peter Massey and Alison Slater
Beautiful Mosaic Flowers: A Step-by-Step Guide: Volume 3 by Sigalit Eshet : Kindle book
The Magic Mesh: Mosaic Mesh Projects: Volume 6 by Sigalit Eshet : Kindle book
Are there any books outside of this collection that you own and enjoy using repeatedly? Do tell me.
Other than documenting in this blog what I’ve learned on mosaic tools and more, I’ve started a group on Facebook to encourage new mosaicists to seek inputs on their work or ask questions. There is still little orientation available to adequately learn the art of mosaics in India that I’m hoping this budding community to provide a good mentoring ground to further mosaic learning and making. Those who are running workshops can also be tracked through it. As good art is being created, avenues for marketing it can also be identified by members of the group. The group members are both India based and international to bring in their advance and varied experience. Besides, I share inspiring feeds on mosaic artists, sites, blogs and mosaic methods to maintain the atmosphere of learning and knowing more about mosaics.
Anyone with little or advance experience in mosaic-making will benefit from being part of the group. Come join it if you’re a mosaicist in India or with interest in connecting with India based mosaicists.
If a mosaicist wishes to include ceramic tiles in her range of media, then a couple more tools become necessary to acquire. Ceramic tiles are cheaper and rugged so prove useful for outside applications. Garden paving stones, planters, walls or staircases can be more effectively mosaicked with ceramic tiles than vitreous glass alone so a mosaicist’s ability to use them can broaden her range of mosaic products to create.
As of now, my use of ceramic tiles has been limited to those I’ve broken with a hammer and applied on a yard step but I do intend to cut these tiles in a more controlled way so I’ve been researching the tools necessary for them. Here they are.
Hammer: This is the most common tool in use for breaking ceramic tiles for large wall murals or other cemented structures. Tiles can be placed inside newspapers and broken with a hammer to prevent the pieces from flying or the tile dust from getting into one’s lungs. These pieces can then be arranged in Opus Palladianum or random style to fill the drawn shapes.
Scorer-cum-snapper: This tool has a scoring wheel on one side and a fat movable plastic wing on the other side of its mouth. It is used to run a deep score on a ceramic tile which can then be held by the black wing and snapped. Strips of tiles can be cut with this tool that compound nippers can further nip into shapes. I haven’t found this to be an easy tool to use but with more practice it may act as intended.
Compound nippers: These are used to nip off small bits of a tile to create circles and other shapes. This is an essential tool to keep for ceramic tiles.
Side biter or nippers: Much like a pair of compound nippers, this tool nips off small pieces of cut or broken ceramic tile to give it a defined shape. This is another tool I’m trying to come to grips with! Many mosaicists find it effective enough. Commercial tile layers in India call it ‘Jamboora’ and do use it for nipping.
Manual Tile saw: I find this saw to be the most essential tool to cut ceramic tiles. Its function is also to score and snap a tile along a score which can be made vertically or diagonally. Its scorer on the lever does an effective job in comparison to the hand-held scorer-cum-snapper. Thin strips of tiles can be cut with this saw that can be further shaped using a pair of compound nippers. As this is a heavy tool to get shipped from another country, I’m pleased to learn after making multiple enquiries from Amazon India that a local hardware supplier in Mumbai (NBHT) has been importing them and can provide them easily. They also give a 2-year warranty on them. Prior to getting this response from Amazon India, I’d learned of Somany Ceramics providing a similar saw (not Rubi) as part of their 11-Tile Master Kit. After some follow-up, their Sales Manager was kind enough to bring over the kit to give its demo. I’d found their saw to be heavy to handle but it did work as intended. I’d have liked a lighter and smaller saw but I’ve just learned from a user that Rubi 12978 was easy enough for her to manage and made her wall mural-making a less strenuous process for her.
Grinder: It is used to smoothen the edges of tiles. There are wet grinders by Gryphette that are mostly used for stained glass pieces or stone grinders used for glass or ceramic tile pieces. I’m still to establish their necessity for ceramic mosaics as with practice nippers can do an acceptable job of giving usable edges to ceramic pieces.
Ceramic or porcelain tiles: Much as I’d like to believe that ceramic tiles are available in varying thicknesses in India, on my visits to tile stores, I’ve only found heavy floor tiles in 8+ mm thickness. Even handmade tiles tend to be too thick for any hand-held nippers to shape. When I do find ceramic tiles as thin as 4-8 mm, they are usually remnants of a store’s very old stock so available in just a few colors or leftover pieces. Fresh stocks of tiles tend to be in 12 mm or more thickness making them suitable only for walls or fixed structures.
With this post, I’ve covered all the essential tools needed to create mosaics per my understanding. I’ve also linked the tools above to the sites they can be purchased from. If I’ve missed any tool that you’ve found useful, do tell me. Or, if you’ve an easier source to suggest for these tools, do share the lead.
New Bombay Hardware Traders Pvt. Ltd.
Plot-107, Sector-23, Janata Market Road
Turbhe, Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, 400705
Landline: +912227833331; +912227835529
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.nbhtpl.com
Contact person: Mr. Akshay Jain, GM
Somany Ceramics Ltd.
F-36, sector-6 Noida-201301
Contact person: Mr. Suresh Raina, Senior Manager, Tile Laying Division
Email: email@example.com; Mobile: +919716256317
This post is for level 2 of mosaic-making. When a mosaicist finds her vitreous glass tile color palette to be limiting her designs, using stained glass along side will increase the colors available to her. Another advantage would be that stained glass would allow cutting of bigger and varied shapes for a composition which the small size of vitreous glass tiles doesn’t permit. A bigger size, however, brings with itself the challenge of cutting and shaping stained glass, so an added set of tools is needed to manage this media.
Here’s what is needed to use stained glass for creating mosaics.
As opposed to 2×2 cm or 1″x1″ vitreous glass tiles, stained glass comes in sheet sizes of 2’x5’ or 2’x6’. It comes in transparent, semi transparent and opaque colors. As for brands, I’ve only seen Spectrum stained glass that comes from the US. It has a dealer in East of Kailash, New Delhi–Superior Float Glass–whose store I’d visited some months ago to buy small quantities of glass to experiment with. Good quality stained glass comes expensive at its price of Rs250-Rs500/sq ft so warrants practiced glass cutting and shaping skills to avoid its wastage. I’d heard of stained glass discards being stored by big glass stores which I was fortunate to find at the Superior store. While it wasn’t easy to rummage through their single gigantic wooden crate of broken, dusty discards, with the help of a worker I did extricate usable opaque glass pieces in many colors. They weighed 3 kgs and came much cheaper at Rs150/kg. In addition, I bought 8 sq ft of stained glass in different colors from their large or leftover sheets, and returned home with plenty of colors and sizes to play with. In the image on right, discards are in the purple container and are large enough to create big or small pieces for mosaic compositions. The rectangular pieces on the table came at prices between Rs250-350/sq ft.
I’ve learned of an inferior and cheaper quality of stained glass that comes from China and available with a store in Kirti Nagar, New Delhi. I still have to track down that place and product.
Glass scorers are used to create a deep enough straight or curved score on stained glass that fractures the glass along the line. The glass is then held by Running Pliers against the score and snapped along the line. Glass cutters in India have long used diamond tipped pen scorers to fracture and break all sorts of glass. Good quality pen scorers, however, come with a tiny carbide tipped wheel on their tip and have an oil reservoir in the stem to keep the wheel lubricated and moving freely. Stained glass artists use either these pen scorers or pistol grip scorers for ease of gripping them. Fortunately, oil reservoir pen scorers are easy enough to find in hardware stores in Gurgaon. This link on Amazon India shows the scorer I mean and it’ll cost less than its displayed price in a local hardware store.
These are used to hold the glass against a score and snap it neatly. It looks like this, and while it should be possible to source it locally, I got it from Amazon US.
A grozer snips off small pieces from the edge of stained glass. They may be protruding ends that need removal or intentionally snipped small pieces that are needed to fill a shape. A grozer is also used to break thin strips from stained glass that running pliers don’t help break as the narrow strip may be too close to the edge of the glass. Running pliers need enough area on the glass edge to hold it firmly. I got a grozer from Amazon US but it should be available with hardware stores here as stained glass artists use them in India.
Wheeled Mosaic Cutter
These cutters have been covered in my previous post. They continue to be immensely useful in cutting geometric or curved shapes out of strips of stained glass much like they do with vitreous glass tiles.
Also called a rubbing stone, this rough stone is available at local hardware stores to grind jagged ends of shapes cut with cutters.
I find that stained glass strips break differently from vitreous glass tiles. Cutting stained glass sees shards flying in a less controller manner than one witnesses with vitreous glass tiles. Using a grozer throws around even more tiny pieces of glass rather unpredictably. The use of simple protective eye glasses is therefore necessary. I’ve found this pair by 3M to be adequate for this purpose.
Although not a tool, it took me a while to figure out the right oil to use for glass scorers. Glass workers advise the use of kerosene oil but hardware store folks suggest turpentine oil. I’ve used latter and found it working well. One can simply dip the wheeled pen scorer into a bottle of oil, dab the extra oil on a tissue and run it on glass to create a score.
There are more tools that a mosaicist may want to own or at least want access to. I’ll cover them in a Part 3 post that will cover ceramic tiles as the media of choice.
Meanwhile, do tell me what else can be added to the range of tools covered in these 2 posts.
. Supplier of Spectrum Stained Glass:
SUPERIOR FLOAT GLASS CO. LTD
198/8 RAMESH MKT NEAR SAPNA CINEMA EAST OF KAILASH
NEW DELHI, INDIA 110065
. Glass Tool Supplier:
Mr. Sudhir Arora
Techno Trade Links
B-46, Ansal Chambers-1,
3,Bhikaiji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066
Tel.: 91 -11-26102729, 26170056