Oh, Those Crazy Mosaic Artists!

Spent last week in [beautiful] Houston, Texas at the annual Society of American Mosaics Artists conference. I was in the company of 300 other mosaic artists, so I felt right at home.

It is important to talk with as many other artists as possible at one of these conferences, in order to find out how others solve technical problems, run their businesses, teach students, and think about how mosaic work fits into the universe. One great way to chat with other mosaicists informally is over the table at the Mosaic Marathon.  ‘What is the Mosaic Marathon?’ you may ask.  

At each year’s conference the team in the host city selects a worthy non-profit entity to receive a mosaic installation created by the conference attendees during conference week. Yes, you read that right: hundreds, maybe thousands, of person-hours go into the production of a piece of art in only four days.  Scary to anticipate and plan for, but satisfying once the project is installed.

Here are a few scenes from the production of our three panels that were installed in Smither Park on Sunday morning.

Austin Mosaic Guild members waiting to set up the mosaic marathon room at the SAMA 2014 conference in Houston, Texas

While we awaited the arrival of the vehicles carrying the rest of the mosaic supplies, we were pretty happy and carefree. (Dianne in a light moment.)

Austin Mosaic Guild gathered around panel three at the mosaic marathon SAMA 2014 in Houston, Texas

You- out! Panel three has its beginnings on this very table. (I have a pretty good idea she’s not really ordering people around.) The red aprons are the Austin Mosaic Guild- in charge of the 2014 marathon.

Man mixing mortar adhesive at the mosaic marathon at SAMA 2014

Yep, it takes a lot of mixing to keep these people in thinset adhesive.

Working on panel two of the design for the mosaic marathon at SAMA 2014 in Houston, Texas

Seems a little dark to be working on this panel, doesn’t it?

mosaic panel being constructed at SAMA 2014 in Houston, Texas

Oooooo- lot ‘o’ smalti on that third panel now. Still working in the dark!

mosaic panel being constructed at SAMA 2014 in Houston, Texas

Panel one people racing to lay down that glass!

Making found-object flowers for a mosaic panel at SAMA 2014 in Houston, Texas

And then there’s the table set up for making the found-object flowers for panel three.

Woman using an epoxy gun at the SAMA 2014 conference in Houston, Texas.

You just can’t make this stuff up- a red-head using an ‘AK-47’ epoxy-mixing gun.

Mosaic artists from SAMA 2014 ready to install panels at Smither Park

Oh, yeah, check out those flowers! Panel three is completed and ready for installation at Smither Park.

Installing the mosaic marathon pieces from SAMA 2014 at Smither Park

Let’s all try to remember how important it is to dry-fit the panel into its niche BEFORE applying the epoxy adhesive! Oops, disaster averted, but just barely. Dianne thought of everything, including a handy-dandy power saw for trimming edges.

panel two mosaic marathon SAMA 2014 installed in Smither Park in Houston, Texas

Panel two, “Vortex of Memory” installed on the Smither Park wall. This 400-foot wall has been, and will be, a work-in-progress for several years.

panel three of the mosaic marathon of SAMA 2014 installed in its niche in Smither Park

Panel three, “In Memory of Suzan Germond” is installed in its niche. We made flowers in our best Suzan-style!

blue and green mosaic of a fountain with doves at SAMA 2014 mosaic marathon

Panel one, “Ancient Memory” is a modern take on an ancient mosaic.

Smither Park in Houston, Texas

Mrs. Smither herself arrived for the dedication of the three new SAMA 2014 conference panels installed in the park memorializing her late husband.

part of mosaic wall at Smither Park in Houston, Texas

Of course, I had to take a selfie on a part of the wall mosaicked with mirror pieces.