AT LAST

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Today is the day.  After a year of looking at the unfinished mess of a shower in our new bathroom, grouting in earnest starts.  Why so delinquent with this effort?  A year ago, I knew what the result would look like.  And it was what was projected.  So I lost interest.

An argument can be made that an artist makes her work simply to see the end result.  And to kind of lift one’s leg to the nearest tree.  Prove that she has been in the area.

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It is impossible to photograph this shower, as you cannot get far enough away from it.  The prone position doesn’t help much.  Most of the lady on the left was grouted a long time ago.

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After the shower floor, just grouted  today, I will take a charcoal grout and apply it around the dark lines defining the bodies.  It is already done in the lady to the left in the previous picture.

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And the horizon lines on each panel will be charcoal.  Simple, elementary, rudimentary.

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Of course, all my materials are free, save for the tile mortar and grout.  The white tiles above are remnants of an old project of Glenn’s.  The little glass tiles in the two inch space were bravely saved for me by a designer, from a construction worker who was pitching them.  I cringe to think of all the waste in the world!

1-shower floor

Above is today’s work, and no more can be done until this dries.  This shower base is made of portland cement, is carefully sculpted down to the drain from each wall.  This tile is porcelain and not having a wet saw to cut it, I simply broke the tile near the drain and filled in.  These floors require a lot of finesse.  I hate that big line in the center left.

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Gorgeous today, and considering my drying shower base, I am going to work on the piazza.

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OH BLACK WATER, KEEP ON ROLLIN’

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Tannic acid.  What makes the slow moving Edisto river waters murky/black and a symbol of equally slow southern living is also making the deck around my pool a mess.  Above, the area under the blue line undulating like the Edisto behaves in the low country of South Carolina,  was grouted only two days ago.  Above the line to the left,  today.  Today, that grout is clean.  Wait until tomorrow.

To be sure, my aesthetic is shabby. I do not expect perfection.  Our house is a 1940’s farm house, mostly tongue and groove, and many planes meet other planes in a happy approximate way.   It is filled with stuff from that decade and the next;  my pocketbook can only afford these precious items that have a “history”—a history of being well used!  We all have our bumps and bruises.

But I will tell you what.  We have had a summer to remember down here.  Today is the first day we have had zero chance of rain since the middle of the spring.  Might have been the beginning of spring.  My head is swimming.

Don’t even know how to describe how wet this spring/summer has been.  Wilting, humid, dirty-feeling, wet-feeling, doing things outside in the rain because it just will not stop, crinkly body parts, fungus, mold, unrelenting, opposing optimism, ponds in places they do not belong, mosquitoes where they were not before, wet paper, wet bedclothes, wet wet wet.

moldI poured bleach on this black mold already where the bricks offset the old entrance to the studio.  Dangerous stuff.  You can see how it is still an issue.  And then there is mildew.

I have heard about mildew in old television commercials.  Saw it years ago on old cheap shower curtains.  It was the old experience of mildew that made me decades ago declare that a shower curtain would never darken my door again,  and ten years ago realize that showers did not need coverings anyway.  Of any kind.

But I never saw mildew as a kind of indoor snow before.  Inexperienced, this is what we did.  Happily living here without air conditioning in the big house for many years now., we invested in a whole house attic fan.  And Glenn had some kind of a system added with our recent construction to pull hot air out of our steep attic.  Both things helped, kind of.

Man did that fan pull the cool air out of the woods and into the house!  It was wonderful!  And this has not been a hot summer for us, just wet.  We would watch the indoor/outdoor thermometer and when temps equalized in the morning, we shut the house up and turned on the dehumidifier.  It worked!  Everything was tolerable until I found the white snow.  First on a fine old hand made table with a marquetry top, which had some varnish problems anyway.  Guess I kind of generalized the two problems together.  Head in sand.

But then I saw snow on the side of the dresser, and looking closer, everywhere.  Battle stations!  And the end of a certain way of life.  My weakness makes me sick.  Do you know what pushed me over to the other side?  Ringworm.  I got a fungus this wet, wet summer on my ankle.

Good bye to this part of green living.

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The other side of the pool deck has no damage from oak trees plus water.  Around it are hollies, papyrus, acuba plants.  Watch, next year we will be complaining about something else.

MOSAIC FIGURES

These figures are BIG.  Each panel is about eight by four.

To create a three dimensional feeling, the contours of the figure are defined with a darker value tile, and the elements are smaller.  The elements get larger as they work to the center of the figure, as we would expect to see in the visual field.

At this point, my idea for grout color is dark.  Having left large boundary lines, as large as possible within the context of what the grout will cover, the figure will be bound by dark maybe chocolate brown lines.

SHOWER IMAGERY

So this drawing is for the three walls of the shower, each one measuring about eight feet by four feet.

Above is my inspiration for the shower drawing, Matisse‘s “La Danse”, version two.

The shower walls have been divided into a one foot by one foot grid, and the drawing is being transferred.

First things first.  Antlers must be installed for holding robes and towels.

At the end of day one.

PROGRESS ON THE SHOWER

Here is a picture of the element used to partition our shower off from the shower entry area, the one which makes having a shower door unnecessary.  The base of the structure is a couple of two by fours, and they are covered with cement board. All seams are taped and imbedded in thin set.

Likewise all seams on the walls of the shower are taped with thin set applied.  Then the application sat for a day.

Yesterday plans for the design of the shower came more firmly into view.  Of course, it has to be made out of tile and etc that is on hand, so I started pulling out possibilities.

At this point everything in the new bathroom and bedroom is very neutral,  except for the paint by numbers paintings in the water closet, but that door can be closed.

Below is part of the alcove where the urinal posing as a sink is located.

From this area which is defined by a wall of glass windows, you can access shower, sink and water closet.

The neutral setting of the bedroom.  To the left around these closets is the bathroom.

Below are candidates for the shower bottom.  I am going to use the off white porcelain and save the brown for something else.  The orange and blue will help create figures on the shower wall, in a real departure from all the neutrals.

As soon as I saw the conformation of the shower at the beginning of construction, I could not get Matisse‘s “La Danse” out of my mind.  I want to take this idea, and create a circle of simplified nudes, maybe with cubist faces.

This is so interesting.  There are two versions of Matisse’s famous work.  The one we as Westerners know the best is the less intense version.  This one came first.  The second version, with more detail and more intensity came second.

The version above was done for a Russian businessman, and it stayed in his home in Moscow until 1917.  Later it found its way into the Hermitage.  I wonder if this version is less known to us because of where it lived and the Cold War.

DETAIL WORK

When my tile guru was here installing the base of the new shower, we looked at a mistake in the shower area.  I laid the tile too close to the wood floor, was in too much of a hurry as always.  What makes a great artisan/craftsperson is attention to detail.  I am too busy creating things and justifying my existence to worry about the small stuff.  It is a  significant personality flaw.

Above is the line in consideration:  the tile is the slightest bit taller than the wood flooring, and if one hits the edge just right coming out of the shower area, the 4″ x 4″ could break.  There are elements that one can install while laying the tile that fit under it and lap over so the tile is protected.  Of course, we could not use that solution here as the work is done.  He said also that the big box stores carry wooden strips that can be installed in this case.  Glenn wants to make his own.  It will be much better, much finer.  And maybe make the mistake not so bad.

We had a similar problem during the construction of the bedroom.  Two of the old doors we saved for the clothes closet were a bit smaller than standard.  If the workers had not cut into the supports on the edge of the closet and sunk the hardware, the doors would have closed nicely.  They did not consider this, dug them in, and our doors lacked about an inch in making a nice closure.  Glenn added a sleek line of contrasting hardwood to one door, and it looks and feels like marquetry.  Good solution.

In my art work, I rarely rip anything out.  Making a mistake, and then altering the plan to integrate the mistake can foster unique solutions that would have never been planned.  I love working this way.

Above is the shower floor waiting for tile and below the walls which need to be taped with grid immersed in thin set.  Then the real fun can begin, although you can see we have already installed antlers on which to hang robes.  They are on each side of the shower opening, and btw, no door is necessary with this shower.

Above is the first shower in this house created with no shower door.  It makes no mess.  I have no idea how shower doors came to be so important.  It may have been a capitalist plot.  All they create is a wonderful environment in which creepy stuff grows.

Above is the second bathroom with no shower door.  All three of these bathrooms have a tile covered four inch by four inch boundary between the shower proper and the floor outside.  Easy.

THE END OF THE SEASON AT THE POOL

Pretty soon, it will not be fun working with water outside.  Things need to be grouted up tightly at the pool.  Then I will begin with the shower in the new bathroom.  Its portland cement bottom is being created today by a real expert:  the man who taught me to lay tile.

White grout will be added here to this area that is slowly getting more beige (or whatever.  I think names for colors is just silly.  How can a name describe a color and value?).

This tile rug was created last week in an effort really to simply take up some space on a huge pool deck.  The outdoor table will sit here.  The flea market provided the jewels and I usually listen to the universe when she offers something up.

In all my work, whether textiles or this, I like to see a frenzy kind of settle down into strict pattern in places.  That is the reason for the little vignettes of rectangles here.

The orangey center of this rug will be grouted with a color called “malt”, half of it is now, in addition to about a foot of the white tile  around that center.  Then I will start in with white grout beyond.

So with the addition of the white grout, this whole area will get brighter as it works out and away.  And another subtle change is happening on those outer edges.

This tile is from the Crossville Tile Company of Crossville, Tennessee.  They have an area of experimental or damaged tile that they give to art teachers.  I often stop when going across I-40, and got these kind of screen printed examples there.  Breaking these up creates a subtle difference in the area surrounding the rug proper.

At the bottom of the image above you can see the screen printed tile.

AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR

This mosaic made from waste tile, marbles and found objects is six feet by six feet.  It is installed in the entry area of a fine home, out from the front porch.

The piece features small details, not seen readily, which relate to the owners of the piece.  The dark shapes below are parts of a smashed mug upon which South Carolina’s ever present palm and crescent were printed.  Those shapes were used, as well as the cup handle.
 
Small animals are also interspersed. 
 
 
There is a small tiger paw in the lower right, for those who know what to look for. 
 
 
 
The original source for the mosaic was the new resculpting of the client’s back yard.  Below is my drawing of a photo of the new back yard area. 
 
 And below this, a photo of the back yard.
 
Now the client’s back yard is also in their front yard!

THOUGHTS ABOUT GROUT

Working at the pool for the last couple of days, I have been thinking about what grout can do for a mosaic image.

I am using bright white grout now.  It looks great around the pool at this point, but we will see how it ages and maybe curb our enthusiasm!   I decided that in all areas, the grout will either get whiter near the edge of the pool, or at least a lighter shade of what is being used in more intensely colored areas.  That has been done in the area of the horseshoes and the acuba plant forms in the image above.

Also at the very edge of the pool I will use white cement paint to continue the white up to the edge of the liner.  Not wanting to interfere with changing the liner in years to come, the grouted edge stops well short.

The tile in the ground area of the design is getting subtly darker as it migrates towards the foreground in the picture above.  Therefore, the grouted white lines will be more readable there than in the lighter areas.  I want that to happen: for me, color and value must always be changing.

Additionally, I am experimenting with using totally different grout colors within the prickly pear leaves.  They were grouted first, and the white grout added later.  I am looking for a kind of approximated painterly line where the two grouts merge and have not succeeded with that yet.

In the piece above, done a couple of years ago, my changing color and value philosophy gave me fits.  My idea was that in the center of this piece, the grout would be midnight blue.  As it worked towards each side, it would get yellower, finally being the yellow of the tile surrounding this rug (but before it would get yellow, it would be greenish, thanks to color theory).   I wanted the tile rug to have dark drama, but also wanted the lines in the big yellow area around the rug to disappear.  If midnight blue had been used for the area around the mosaic, the bold lines against the yellowy tile would fight with the mosaic image.

Looking at the central area of the piece when the grout application was first finished ( a rectangle bounded by two arrows),  it looks as though there is a haze caused by not wiping the grout well on either side of an area which has the  darkest grout.  The problem here was not my failure to wipe and therefore causing a haze on the tile, the problem was color theory!  The tile being on the yellow/gold side, and the midnight blue grout having a handful of yellow/ivory thrown in, created a complimentary color situation in that area that read as “haze”.  It was absolutely confounding!

The first of the three pictures above shows the ungrouted problematic rectangle.  The second is a detail of the rectangle after it has been grouted according to my plans.  You can see that the center of the shape is clear, the edges of the shape are clear, but between the two, where I was mixing the two colors, a strange effect is happening.  It looks hazy, but is not.

In the last of the three pictures, the problem has been solved by using only midnight blue throughout that entire rectangle.  It reads fine and is not confusing considering that the rest of the mosaic contains grout which is gradating from blue to yellowish.  Experience is a great teacher.

CONSTRUCTION WORKER INTERFACE

Yesterday I was required to do a short succinct job to keep the other construction workers working on our bedroom addition.   This  is a very big deal if you are the customer of construction workers.  Any wrinkle in any plan can put you way behind.  I am sure these guys love this:  my husband just rips things out and redoes their work on the weekend, and after they leave EARLY on Friday.  I tell him to let me know when they drive up Monday morning because to be elsewhere is my choice for that scene!

First of all, the  workers laid down this cement board on the plywood flooring without using thin set and not using the prescribed amount of screws, which is six inches apart around the perimeter and eight inches apart within.  Knowing they were wrong, I took up the cement board.  I relaid it with thin set and also took care of the seam between the two pieces of cement board with a plastic grid and more thin set under and over it. The wood you see will also be covered with cement board, and it is the boundary for the shower, which is behind it, to the right.

Today they were going to build shelving for the bathroom, and one of those units will rest on this tiled area.  That was the reason for the hurry.  So the above picture shows the area, about four by five that had to be re-boarded, and then tiled yesterday, and grouted this morning before the workers arrived.  Grout is pretty forgiving after about a half hour.

I first thought I would use some fine tiles that a friend had found on the street and presented to me at just the right time, almost as if the universe were offering them.  They proved not to be such a good choice.  Part of the bunch was porcelain and we don’t have a wet saw.  Rummaging around, these remnants from my husband’s former house came to the top of the mix.  They are typical white four by fours almost exclusively used in bathrooms.  When I looked at these, and then at our urinal/basin, they were great together.  Very industrial looking, and the rest of the bathroom will work in concert.

Having the right tools to cut this tile, which is organized in groups of sixteen with latex in between, it was an easy job to  tailor the tiles to fit my space.  After the workers left for the day, I applied another layer of thin set and laid the tile.

Here is the finished job, yet ungrouted.  The darker lines are the only ones that will take the grout.  I didn’t even have to rush this morning to finish the job.  I can grout later after the shelves are finished.

I broke many rules when laying this tile, but sometimes you have to.  It is like making art:  there are rules, and they need to be followed by the inexperienced.  BUT sometimes you have to intelligently create some new rules and follow them for the best outcome.  The dark area in the foreground is our pecan flooring.  The merging of these two surfaces has to be perfect, and perfectly aligned.  Normally, one starts to lay tile in the middle of a floor, and works out to the walls, leaving partial tiles that have to be cut near the walls.  Here, like the perfect middle of a big tiled floor, the perfect part has to be that union of wood and tile.  So I started the laying on that edge.  And since the construction is very square, the edge to the right fell into place as well.  The cut tiles are to the left and the back edges, and they will be covered by shelf and baseboard.  Some time you can get away with stuff!