Monday, 22 January 2018

A Week in Work, Day 1

I wanted to show you all a bit of how my working week would go, at least in terms of mosaicing, not all the other stuff I have to do, that would just bore you to tears.

This week I am going to be focusing on one slightly larger project instead of lots of smaller ones, and this project is a small chest of drawers jewellery box. In the world of micro mosaicing you have to bear in mind that small is relative, because the size of the beads mean that even small jewellery boxes are big projects.

To put it into perspective, I spent last week working on what I call mini micro mosaics. How can a mosaic be even more mini than micro you ask? Well some of the things that I was beading last week are barely bigger than a ten pence piece and so do not have a lot of surface area to cover. This brings it's own set of challenges as the pieces are hard to hold and bead at the same time.

This weeks project is a wooden box, more or less 9.5 centimetres on every side. It has three little drawers in it to put jewellery in and I had designed an owl theme to go on it several weeks ago.

A blank jeweller box, pre design.

I should tell you a little bit at this point about my Granny. Probably not what you expected to read given that linking from micro mosaicing to Grannies is not a natural segue, but in terms of owls, Granny is my big inspiration. She passed away several years ago, but for the entire time I knew her, she was crazy about owls and I find myself mosaicing them so often that I am obliged to point out that wherever she is now, she may be influencing me in my choice of subject matter. Grandad was a bird lover too, but I have no idea if that included owls because anything owlish that came into their house was automatically Granny's. They were both amazing people and I owe most of who I am today to their love and inspiration, so thank you, both of you, in whichever afterlife you reside.

So back to the box. I had this idea of owls in the branches of Autumn clad trees, some sat right out in plain sight and others peering through the branches. I am definitely more of a Spring and Autumn girl, disliking the extremes of weather in Winter and Summer, although I live in England so it is mostly rain whatever time of year it is! In Spring and Autumn though it is a lot more colourful rain, or at least things to see through the rain and so this box has been inspired by Granny and the gorgeous array of colours that you find in the Autumnal canopy over here.

I have to say that this project is a combination of mini micro mosaicing and regular micro mosaicing though, because the owls themselves are small die cut wooden blanks that once beaded are being glued to the box before the leaves are added afterwards. I like the idea that this will bring some sort of 3D texture to the box rather than every thing being on the same level.

Some half finished smaller owls.

On the drawers of the box I am using the knobs with which you open the drawers as beaks and have put eyes of the owls that will be peeping through the foliage.

The pupils of the eyes are black sequins.

On top of the box is one big owl and two smaller ones and the two sides will have three smaller ones randomly placed. The only beading that I will do on the back of the box is around the edges and I will fill the inset back board in with either material or paint, I haven't decided yet. Inside the drawers will be lined with material and the outside edges of the drawers will be painted too.

Today, Monday the 22nd of January 2018, I made pretty good progress. Four of the smaller owls are now done with the beading, I stuck the big owl and two smaller ones on the top of the box and did the eyes on the drawers. I am really excited with how they have come out. There is an awesome feeling in having an image in your mind, one that only you can see, and then being able to produce that image onto your canvas of choice so that everyone else can see it. It must be the same sort of feeling that artists and sculptors have when they see a blank canvas or a piece of un-worked wood or marble.

I also started on some of the foliage, which led to more inspiration, often these projects lead me along by the hand, taking my original ideas and running with them. In this case it was about the size of the beads used for the leaves. The first beads I used were bright red and relatively large compared to some of the other beads I have in my arsenal. This led me to think that changing the size of the beads I use will also add texture to the piece. My biggest regret of the day was reaching the time that I am scheduled to stop mosaicing and go onto the other more boring parts of the job!

Top of the box

The bigger owl just had gaps around the central eye piece so I beaded inside them with very tiny beads so that they were more or less the same colour as the closed in wooden parts of the smaller owl eyes. The two little owls may look a bit lopsided at the moment and my child critics called me out on that, asking whether that was a mistake. I don't think you are ever going to find an owl home like this in which the owls sit in straight lines though, so I stand by my guns, confident that full foliage will make the whole thing look fine.

A birds eye view

I am quite thrilled with how the owls eyes that are peeking out of the foliage on the drawers came out, I think they look friendly and fun owls, what you can see of them! I managed to finish the other two smaller owls pictured above with the silver as well, so it was quite a productive beading time today, even if I could have done more if time permitted. I need to get up earlier in the morning I think.

So tomorrow's plans are to do four more small owls, these have only been coloured in and have no beads on them yet, so I at least want to get the cream and brown bits done if possible. I want to glue the two other completed owls onto one side so I don't accidentally lose them and then I wish to get more of the foliage on the top and front done. I will show you how I get on tomorrow evening!

Bright Blessings, Nici xxx

Thursday, 4 January 2018

OMG Help!

At the beginning of 2018 I have decided to take a much more structured approach to my work, including using my blog to keep an eye on what I am doing.

It's the 4th of January and already I have freaked myself out. I separated my work into things I want to achieve this year and things that could be put off until the following year. Then I made a spreadsheet of all the items that I want to do this year and that is when I started panicking. I have been looking at my in-store data analytics and it seems that most of the searches that lead people into my shop is either for trinket boxes or coasters and I do seem to sell more of them than anything else. Come the beginning of February all of my Christmas decorations will leave the shop, ready to be re-listed in September of this year again. So I really need to stock things up so that the shop doesn't appear empty.

I have several trinket boxes designed and ready to go and 3 more emojinal coasters which I can work on, but looking at the spread sheet, the majority of blanks I have are either bag charms (81), fridge magnets (72), jewellery (38), seasonal items (75) and buttons and embellishments (56).

Now I am in a dilemma. Do I focus on getting the smaller items mentioned above done and in the shop or do I focus on bigger items and then do the smaller stuff?

If I do the bigger stuff can I also be whittling down the smaller stuff as I go?

How long is it going to take to get all of this coloured in and ready to bead?

Do I start beading now and colour as I go?

Oh so many decisions and this was supposed to help me calm down and focus!

I think the best thing that I can do is get on with the design and colouring in for the time being and get as much as I can ready to bead. Then have several projects on the go at once, including a trinket box, a coaster and several of the smaller items. I know that I don't have to do all of this in 2018, but I already have a large tub of things that I am not even tackling this year as well!

My New Year's resolution for this side of my business is to not buy anymore blanks until I have made and sold a good number of the ones I already have.

This brings another problem though, where am I going to store all the finished items? I really need a workshop with a dedicated photography area, a dedicated post and packing area, a warehouse area for stock made, packaged for the most part and ready to go, a place to store all of my materials and a place to work. The chances of getting this altogether seem so slim as to be non-existent though.

So how do you tackle projects like these and retain your sanity?

Bit by bit would be the sensible answer. So rather than waffling on here, I will get colouring, get planning and get ready to go.

Next time I write I will have pictures to put in as well, some of the new designs hopefully.

Also this year I wish to take Mostly Micro Mosaics out into the local community. My lovely Slimming World consultant let me take my mosaics to a couple of her groups and I got a lot of praise for the things I do, so I really want to get them out and about. I have ordered new business cards and self addressed labels as a start and Jess is going to help me work out how to get public liability insurance so that I can go to craft fairs and exhibitions. I also want this year to start putting together packs for people to have a go at home, both individually and in parties. I want to go to people's houses and do Tupperware style mosaic parties and to try to put some workshops together to teach what I know.

So a busy year which will only happen if I get started on it. Wish me luck!

Nici xxx

Sunday, 22 October 2017

How To: Get Inspiration.

One of the things that I am most commonly asked is where do I get my inspiration from. I have to admit that a lot of my inspiration comes already printed on the blanks I buy. For example I am always working on little pieces that can be used as either key rings or bag charms. I buy these blanks from a shop called Baker Ross and they come with the design printed onto them. I just have to prime them and then colour them in before I start on the micro mosaics.

This is Orlando one of my Owl Christmas decoration pieces. Showing here what he looked like prior to beading when I had just primed him and coloured him in.

You can see what he looks like completed and read his story and the stories of the other Metrowlpolis Owls on my Facebook Page.

One of the main reasons that I went into micro mosaics instead of the more usual macro ones is for scope of design. I have spent many years making jewellery so always have a large amount of beads around the house. I got to puzzling about how you could get a really nice amount of detail onto pieces of work that were small enough to sell, relatively cheaply to just about anyone without the postage bills being ridiculous.

Then I remembered all the beads I had around the place and thought that if I used these as tesserae instead of the 1 cm square glass tiles I had been using previously, I would be able to get much more detail into smaller pieces.

I do get a lot of pieces of wooden or cardboard blanks that are just plain however and that is where the need for design inspiration comes into play. It helps that I can draw a little bit, not anything major mind you, but enough to get a quick outline in place.

This piece will be a key holder when it is finished, as you can see I am much better at mosacing than I am at drawing!

I would say an over whelming amount of my inspiration has been nature to be honest, well nature and gaming but mostly nature. As you can see in the picture below inspired by the beautiful Monarch butterfly.

Monarch inspired butterfly.
I think it is important though to think about what you love most. I love nature so much, there is so much inspiration there and a quick trip out with a camera can net you loads of ideas of things to make, from the smallest flower to the crashing waves of the sea.

Nature isn't everyone's cup of tea however, so a great place to start is by thinking about what you love the most. For some people it may even be a cup of tea, or a nice mocha.

Food is a great inspiration for mosaic work as well. One of the big problems for design inspiration is copyrite. You may see some awesome pictures of elves and dragons on Deviant Art, but unless you have drawn the picture yourself, you can't use it as inspiration for a mosaic without the original artist's permission.

Things like nature and food however are different in that you can just take a photograph of them and use that as your template for your work. There are lots of pictures of nature and food in the public domain as well, that you can use for free to inspire your mosaics.

So what do you love most of all in the world? How good are you at drawing free hand or how good a photographer are you? Do you like ships or other forms of transport? Can you draw nice looking ships or are there any close to hand that you could photograph? What about old planes?

A few idea of things that might inspire you:

Weapons - old or new.
Fantasy - any fantastic race or beast that you can draw.
The animal world - can you draw a picture of an animal, photograph one out and about or visit a local zoo?
Religion - Could you take pictures at local places of worship to turn into mosaics?
Romance - How are you at drawing hearts and flowers and curly haired cherubs?
Gaming - Is there a copyrite free place that you game in that would let you mosaic from there?
Architecture - Can you photograph beautiful buildings and turn them into mosaics?

This piece was made as a gift for a friends little boy. Licencing laws usually prohibit you from using their images and work for commercial but don't mind if you are not selling them.

These are just a few ideas, but search your heart for the things you enjoy the most and see if you can make whatever that is into mosaics. Don't forget that with micro mosaicing especially, the scope for details and imagination is huge.

Note Well.  You must always get the relevant permissions to mosaic anything that does not belong to you. So if you visit a zoo, church or museum make sure to ask if it is okay to photograph the things you see and them reproduce them as mosaics. If possible get written permission, legal battles are lengthy, expensive and soul destroying.

Equally if you want to get your inspiration from photographs online. There are a number of photo stock sites where you can either download pictures for free or for a small price. Many of the photographers are also trying to build a reputation and a business so they will often ask that if you do use their work to mention who took the original, with a link back to where you got the picture if possible. This is called attribution and you will never know how frustrating it is when someone uses your work without permission until it happens to you. And it does, trust me.

Do not assume that just because a picture is on Wikipedia or Google Images that it is free to use however you want because you can get into some serious trouble that way.

I hope this has given you some ideas of where to go for inspiration for mosaicing whether it is macro or micro mosaics. In a further article I will be showing how to turn your inspiration into an actual design, so keep watching.

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If you wish to purchase any of my pieces on the blog, pop along to my Etsy shop where you can buy outright or commission orders of your own design.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

How To; Get Started With Mosaics

Right my friends! So this is the first article about mosaicing in the How To section and it's going to be a general quick run down of the processes you go through when you want to create a stunning mosaic be it big or small. I am not going to deep in this article into the tools and suchlike as there will be a separate set of articles for that, this is just a run down to get you started.

Mosaicing is a series of processes that need to be completed in order. These processes are often separated by drying times so that even the most basic of designs can take about a week to finish. Here is a quick checklist so you can see the schedule better.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Micro Mosaics - Then And Now

I have had ambitions to become the most famous artist of micro mosaics of the 21st century  (you have to have a dream right?). This dream was shaken on it's foundations recently when I did a Google search of micro mosaics and found that not even on the first page of the search, I wasn't able to search far enough to find my work on their at all. This was a bit of a surprise because I know that there are not many people doing the kind of work that I do now, so I figured that I needed to do two things. 1; I need to get more of my own work out on the internet so people could see it and 2; I needed to investigate all of these other micro mosaic sites to find out what was going on.
This is a piece of my mosaicing, please do not copy the
picture without linking back to the page!

I discovered to my astonishment that micro mosaicing had actually been around for centuries.
Not the way that I do it of course, as you can see from the photo above, I use glass beads of various shapes and sizes for my work.