GARDEN REDESIGN

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Mistakes were made.  By me.  Planting two little red bud seedlings together stupidly thinking they would merge into one made our biggest red bud vulnerable in the last ice storm.  And we lost it.  It was in an area of the acreage that I had not paid enough attention to, so it is way past time a little creativity is applied.

And as I look at the space, all next summer is defined for me.  Hate that.

The universe contributed to the project by leading me to Lowe’s and eight red barberry bushes, a little less than dormant, ready to burst, for one buck each.  First thought about starting a garden area for my daughter who has horses; with the stickers on the barberry bushes I was pretty sure they wouldn’t eat them.

But evidently the bushes can create some kind of environment for mold or something that is not good for horses, so why invite trouble?  I took them myself and started the “garden” repair (this area never has been a garden, just three trees spanning the back of the pool).  Above, you can barely see the little bushes within the straw looking centipede grass which most of us use around here.  It crawls along sand “real nice”.

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We have both red and white barberry here, and the deer leave it alone.  It is all stickers during the winter.

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That is a huge consideration.  The deer take over at night.  Barberry shapes itself nicely and puts out a branch where the natural “sphere” it is making needs one.  The new growth is a ruddy pink as you can see on the tag.  It will work well with the trees.  There will be a lot of pink in the spring as the red buds offer a pink flower.

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Look at this grotesque wall!  It simply must have tile and my whole summer was played out for inside the wall on the deck.  Momentum is happening there after two years of work.  And look at the amount of sod that has to be dug out.

The picture above was taken from the point where a new Nellie Stephens holly will be planted to mirror the one at the end of the wall.   Can only find one currently, in a 50 gallon bucket and costing 250 dollars.  Although these will be uneven for some years, it will have to be.  We have nine of these giants around the place in all different stages of life.

The past few years, I have started laying tile on the wall outside perpendicular to this one.  All different shades of white with white grout.  Only work here at the end of the day when some thin set is left.  Same for white grout.  The finished work is slowly growing and no time to speak of has been spent.  My brilliant friend Judy says the wall looks like dividing continents.  She is right, always right.

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The nandina above is a volunteer.  We have them a couple of other places, and they propagate and move easily.   A whole line of them against a white tiled wall would be nice.  And we have the same thing going on elsewhere, which is a good thing for a composition.

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These palmettos are along the bottom face of the front porch.  Busy summer.

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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!

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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.

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.

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.

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.

HOW LONG IS THE CONVERSATION

Before your work of art tells you what it is about?  And is it really “work” if the artist keeps rejecting and rejecting ideas?  What about that work day when all you have to show for your time is eight ideas that were no good?

I may be finally growing up.  Or maybe old old habits take a long time to break.  I would think the most successful of persons would be the ones who observe what they are doing, and if not the best idea, never do it again.  Go on.  Examine something else.  To hell with what once worked at one time.  I wonder if business people are able to let go quicker than visual artists.

In my former medium, embroidery on pieced fabrics, intense labor was required as the symbols on the picture plane were all hand stitched.  I would start with a line drawing, and start stitching, but the theme of the work always changed as the stitching got further and further along.  We were having a conversation, my work and myself.

What you see here is satin stitch and seed stitches on patterned fabric and everything about this takes a lot of time.  This is a detail from a larger piece called “Speculate”.

This entire piece is about nine by nine inches and involves comparing prickly pear “leaves” with my truncated lung after about one third had been removed because of a metastasis of colon cancer.

What I am creating now could not be more different, although the longer I work on this stuff, the more in common it has with the stitched work.  The new work reflects an entire side of life that was never addressed in the stitched work. A side that was often tried WITH the stitched work, but never successfully.

I have just sold the first of these pieces.  It is scary to put yourself  “out there” with an unfamiliar medium.  What does feel comfortable about it however are the objects being used in these “reliefs”, and the process of creating them, with my years of teaching design students about the never ending dance of shifting compositions.  I am finding the camera on my cell phone very helpful with this.

I have always wanted to work in a series, as well.  Never could with stitching.  The intervals working on a piece were so long, everything was inward looking, fine-tuned to get that one idea to stand.  Now, where there is more thinking and less labor, series can emerge, which brings about the question?  What is worth more, labor or ideas?

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!

POOL TODAY

The work going on with the new room addition sucks the day away often, but yesterday there was time to work at the pool.  Do you see the tiny elements which are stuck down into the expansion joints in the cement?  They are waste, and I have used this stuff for various reasons, aesthetic and not,  for years.

When these little man-made elements are tumbled into these shapes, they are worthless.  They start out looking like something else, spend their little lives in a huge tumbler with manufactured tools, helping to remove the unwanted harsh edges, and are dispensed with and thrown away by industry when they look like this.  I often use these shapes in mosaics, and in the pool here, they have been inserted in the joints so that the grout used will not have to cover more space than is recommended.

Years ago, when the big house was first moved here and under renovation, the old windows had to go.  I went to the big box store  to purchase eight windows for part of the house, and stumbled upon a wonderful thing.  Someone had returned seven custom windows and they very nearly fit my needs.  And they were priced at fifty dollars each!  They were not standard sizes.  I snapped them up, and what you see above is how some of the windows were made to fit.  My contractor inserted cement board in this space, and along with marble pieces, little garden pot feet (bought a bunch of these years ago for five cents apiece), and my amazing WASTE, the bargain windows worked fine!

Look closely and you can see another joint filled by these shapes dividing the crescent shape and the acuba plant shape. This area is yesterday’s work.  My grout color is getting to be a deeper and deeper brick color (through mixing grout colors) as the tile becomes redder and redder.

At the top of this picture is the deck area that I am tackling next.  There is papyrus in the garden next to the studio which is pretty much obscured visually by the yucca in the foreground,  and I feel like making lines to reflect it in the composition.