Thursday, April 14, 2011

67: Laying the First Tile!

What an exciting day we had! The teacher and I drew the design for the spring mural on the backer board this morning. The design is based on a series of drawings created by individual students. We selected the tree style and many compositional and design elements from about a dozen student drawings. Here some of the students are choosing positions in the mosaic for special animal tiles they created.

This is the completed portion halfway through the day's classes.

Completed portion at the end of the day. Tiles within the tree outline are adhered, the rest are loose tiles from which the students chose. Early in the day I worried that I would put too much of my own mosaic style into the piece by directing the placement of tiles, but I found little need to micromanage as many of the kids had an instinctive feel for tile placement. A constant stream of students surrounded me as they chose the tiles they wanted to lay and handed them to me to "butter" the back with thinset cement. Thinset is the most secure adhesive for an outdoor mosaic that is subjected to constant changes and a wide range in both moisture and temperature. I feel satisfied with this method of laying the tile that we worked out. It allows every student to actively participate in the feel or "hand" of the mosaic, while allowing for adult control over the adhesive. Thinset is not particularly dangerous but as with all cements, it is best to prevent skin contact.

Tiles before and after the glaze firing. 

This project is yet another step forward in owning myself as "artist." Each time I am introduced to a class, many of the students ask me if I am "really an artist." The first time, I hesitated a moment before responding, "Yes," but after all, the school hired me as their Artist in Residence for this project. I would be cheating the school, the teacher and the students if I believed any less of myself. It's interesting to me that, for many, describing oneself as "artist" is something we must grow into, often haltingly and with many growing pains. I wonder if that is the case in other fields.

Lovely maple helicopters as I left the school today.


  1. Johannah, I'm right there with you. I actually refuse to refer to myself as an Artist. To me, that implies that everyone else is other than artist, which I don't buy. So I correct with specificity. Metal artist, artist-Blacksmith, sculptor, woodworker, ceramicist, etc. I feel your pain.

  2. this is just so wonderful and i'm so glad to get to be on this journey with you through your blog. i know how hard it can be to own that you are an artist. i agree that you owe it to the kids to own it so that they can too someday! you show them it is possible to make a career out of practicing your art. very inspiring.

  3. Own it! And it's amazing to me that even somebody like Josh finds it hard to call himself an artist, after many years of working in artistic endeavors. It would be interesting to read accounts from people who identify as artists, about how they came to embrace that identity.

  4. Josh, that is such an interesting point. I always feel a little frustrated when I hear someone say they are "not artistic," as if artistic abilities are not learned skills. Sure, it comes more easily to some than others, but I think *everybody* can be an artist to some degree.

    Jacqui, thanks for pointing out that by owning it with the kids, I am setting an example for the kids.

    Jess, that would make an interesting book or NPR show. I can picture the topic on Talk of the Nation.