Friday, July 15, 2011

Beginning Mosaics

There may be a slump in the construction industry elsewhere in the world, however, in Tunisia, business is bustling. Everywhere you look, people are building or adding on. As homes usually have flat roofs, another story can always be added when the family grows or children marry and need a place to live (property costs are prohibitive in the Tunis region). During the Bourguiba era (1956-1987), families could obtain only one loan, which had to be paid off before one could seek another. Consequently, people built slowly as money came in. Since then, multiple house loans are available, but, sluggish construction practices persist so many neighborhoods appear to be under perpetual construction.
Tunisia has a long history and its tradition of tilework and mosaics reflects  influences from the Carthaginians, Romans, Andalusians, and Ottomans, among others.  Tiles are part of the environment, and near any construction site the mounds of shards accumulate. For a long time, memories of tossed bits and pieces nagged at me. Then ideas about mosaics took shape, especially as our house renovation came to an end with piles of refuse overwhelming my garden.
Besides 25-year-old crumbling flower pots that required attention, several new pots bought from a local merchant served as bases. And so I began--completely in the dark--with a small pot, a hammer, broken tiles, and a tube of strong glue.
My first pot without grouting. It looked promising to my unpracticed eyes.
With grouting--Ouch, it was better without! I use cement, in this case, white cement. The cement made the tiles fade away, wrong color.  I present this pot to demonstrate that you have to give yourself permission to be bad, really bad, when learning something new. I can also rationalize away any negative thoughts by saying it’s “just” a flower pot. Or "I'm just testing out this new technology." This works for any friendly perfectionists standing nearby as well. I love this white pot and use it still. It sits quietly in a corner of my patio.
2nd flower pot—getting better with the grouting cement, but rather uneven surfaces. These pots are heavy: cats knocked this one off of the scale twice and it only broke into three pieces the second time. Glue and cement came to the rescue and it was as good as new. 
This patio table falls under the category of repurposed: the table base is a radiator, the top is from outdoor stairs. The scale belonged to my father-in-law. Note the Rock Family: mother with baby and two children. After the incident with the cats, the plants got moved.
Usually I try to make every mosaic design different, but I did one series because I had thick floor tiles from our old bathroom in limited supply.
Also under the category of repurposing: an old computer desk frame, with a tossed wrought iron railing as top plus tiles, serves to hold pots. Succulents work best in this spot due to full sun exposure. I am thankful for any plant that can stay any shade of green during the month of August.
         Then I began to see the possibilities. And I had empty spaces in my patio wall, which is also a series of built-in planters. 
The Before: Old cans from paint and olive oil were recycled.

The After. The jury is out on whether paint residue in the old paint cans will affect the plants, so I use hardy succulents from the garden that grow in abundance. So far, so good. There's great satisfaction from recycling: glue and cement + used containers + broken and leftover tiles = a creative and useful project.

At first, making the mosaic flower pots was compelling because of my need for plant containers coupled with my thirst for learning something new and the desire to create. Now, I'm just hooked on the whole process and outcome. Fortunately, I have space for an unlimited number of pots. 


Radka said...

Wow, you have "cracked it"! A love the "after".
Very interesting blog :-))

shirley said...

Your pots and mosaics are amazing, I like the white grouting and the fade out it looks lovely and soft.

Tonya Ricucci said...

love the pots and how you've decorated with them - very fun. yup, gotta fail in order to progress. Can't remember the exact quote, but something along the lines of "if you don't ever fail, you're not trying hard enough."

Magpie Sue said...

Very cool. I can see where making those mosaic designs could be meditative. Appreciate the tips for dealing with Perfectionism too!

lola ruiz said...

Nadia, i love the patterns and colors of the last four!...and the family rock!! Loving and so inspiring. :)
Agree with you on dealing with fails; one have to remember it is just trying to learn something not to make an art piece for a museum.
Do you know my mantra? " Too much thinking kills the spirit"

Anonymous said...

Hello Nadia! I am just letting you know that you have won some goodies from my blog.If you could e-mail me to let me know where to send them. By the way..your mosaics are gorgeous!!!I am a new Follower!

Evy said...

It is incredible no matter the materials, or the way, you know how to make everything brilliantly!
I like the diversion of the radiator, the brilliant one new life!

Beautiful day

Judy Merrill-Smith said...

You have become a master of mosaic! Lovely pots, all of them. Thanks for showing us your first attempts, too - a good reminder that we learn and improve from the doing.

Cheryl Razmus said...

I am so excited that you found me! (I'm curious to know how?) I love your blog and I have joined to follow as well. Did you realize you were lucky number 50? I have only been blogging since last October, but I love how it has opened my world, both literally and figuratively. Oh, and your pots are wonderful, even the white one. Learning from trying is the best lesson.

Anonymous said...

I saw your blog on Stitchin' Fingers, I do mosaics also.

Janet M. Davies
New Zealand

Francien said...

You did a good job Nadia...what a lovely pots and you have decorate them so well..i love your mosaics..i made the same"mistake"with the groutcolor in my first project...but i will always keep it...and it only gets better with every project...greetings from the Netherlands....Francien.

Kim said...

Jumped over from Better After, but I'll be back!
Sounds like construction there is a lot like where we live in Argentina -- it's nigh unto impossible to get a loan so people build slowly, over years. So I totally get the "perpetual state of construction" concept :)

Love the re-purposing of old cans into planters! Hope you don't mind if the rest of us steal your great idea :) We can buy small lots of tile very inexpensively so I see potential to do lots of fun pots! Thanks for the idea!

Jenny said...

Thank you for looking at my blog. Your site is so inspiring and amazing. I have always wanted to try mosaics. It is on my short list. As we finish up our new home, I find I am overwhelmed with taking on such a huge, blank pallet. Your home is what I want to become...

concretenprimroses said...

Wonderful pots! very inspiring use of recycled materials.
I love your table made out of the radiator. And the stone family is very cool to.
Ok OK, I like it all!