Once I made my first item on the wall, and learned a lot of what not to do, I was prepared to do something bigger and better. I decided to make a dolphin. It’s worth noting that except for being able to envision and describe things, I’ve always conceded that I don’t have much artistic ability. More and more though, as I complete this wall and look at some of the crafts and handiwork in my house, I’m thinking maybe I was too hard on myself. I’ve judged my work against artists who can draw something exactly as it looks. But haven’t just as many, or more, artists whose interpretations of what they see filled galleries with their work? My creations are certainly not gallery worthy, or anything I’d sell (except apple butter at fundraisers) but I need to stop thinking of my work as “something a kindergartner would do.” Which is how I usually describe my wall. As you’ll see in future posts, much of it has become a snapshot of people and pets and occasions in my life, right now. It’s a giant tile time capsule. It’s a way of expressing myself and capturing everything around me. It’s art for art’s sake, the best kind.
Since dolphins are complex, I knew I needed to lay this one out on a whiteboard I used previously for brainstorming stories and books. It was collecting dust in the shed so I resurrected it and now it’s my go to layout board. I recall using the tile cutting machine I bought when we did the kitchen, and painstakingly making a black circle for the eye, and carefully cutting the pieces of gray marble. Since then I discovered I can buy penny tiles from Home Depot online, and they’re already perfect circles. They’re the size of pennies and come in a sheet. The trend for home decorating now is white and tan and gray so it’s hard to find any fun colored tiles in the stores. I starting checking eBay and Home Depot for colored tiles. I’ve gotten some for very little cost this way. I also check the Home Depot and Lowes stores for sale tile sheets.
Initially I bought mosaic tile from Amazon but when I got it, it was a box of tiny, thin pieces, shown above for the water and sun. I didn’t use it on the actual wall for the sun and didn’t have any other yellow then. There’s nothing wrong with thin tiles but when you have different height in the tiles, you can lose them when you’re grouting unless you remember to dig away the grout.
This is the completed dolphin before I added any grout. I was pretty excited about it, mainly because it looked so much better than the trees.
Next I added in some water. The blue glass was from a man on eBay who I drove an hour to meet rather than wait for it to come in the mail. The only problem with it is that it’s glass and not ceramic tile, so if I smash it with a hammer it shatters and the shards fly into my legs (I’m usually in shorts and barefoot). Generally I try to fit it and otherwise use different tile when I’m trying to get into small spots. You can see some medium blue triangles. Those were the small ones from Amazon I mentioned. This is how I learned not to use them with the thicker tile. The black tile is from the Habitat from Humanity store.
The next day I grouted. After this follows a later picture when I added a couple of palm trees and a sun. Those we done later but I don’t have a picture of the dolphin and trees only. Looking below I went back and added some other tile to the tree to get it to look better.
Here’s a picture of my go to materials, which I’ll add every time. I also use this adhesive and this grout. You can use something else but I prefer this texture. It’s easy to work with especially on a vertical surface. Since I like to immerse myself in the process I used to do this barefoot, and I never wear gloves because they tear on the broken tile anyway. Eventually I had to start wearing shoes because too many times I got tiny bits of glass or tile in my feet and couldn’t get them out. I still do it all bare handed though and cut my fingers pretty regularly. Not bad cuts though, no sutures yet. The first couple of times I used a putty knife to spread the grout but because of the uneven surfaces it didn’t work well.
Since I’m writing these posts retroactively, here’s what the wall looks like today.
Until next time, thanks for reading.