Once again I seem to be having difficulty finding time to come inside, sit at the laptop and tell a story. This despite the fact I have a gazillion photos I would love to share and next year when I look back I’ll wish I’d written more! Ah well, here I am with enclosures full of Anise and Giant Swallowtail chrysalides and one caterpillar of each kind chomping their final meals. I’ve got one monarch eclosing today (whoops, eclosed, a healthy female) and one last chrysalis after that, which will bring my total released monarchs to somewhere around 40. It has certainly been a butterfly-filled summer!
You know what’s really on my mind though? I’m learning mosaic! This is very exciting for me. I have actually had very few art classes in my life, which is weird considering I have a degree in Fine Arts and am a professional artist. Somehow though, I managed to squeak by without much proper schooling. So now my wonderful friend Irina is showing me how to mosaic and I couldn’t ask for a more amazing instructor.
I met Irina back in 2002. I had just taken over Trios Gallery, the best and most beautiful contemporary craft gallery in San Diego (not just my opinion, I swear). I was 31 years old and I was freaking out, having zero experience running a business and only a few precious months working in retail. Totally overwhelmed, I chose to focus on the fun part of the job and one of my first major decisions was to accept Irina into the gallery. To this day that was probably the best decision I made in ten years of running the place!
And it’s not just because she makes a lot of butterfly-themed pieces! I swear, I wasn’t even into butterflies back then, I was just so impressed by her skill and I loved her sense of whimsy. As you can see above, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Luckily for me, she recently started giving classes at her new studio in Costa Mesa. And she’s teaching me all her tricks! Ha, well, she’s showing me a lot of tricks, whether or not I am able to absorb them remains to be seen but I’m having a lot of fun. It’s so mesmerizing, time just flies by. It’s almost as mesmerizing as watching caterpillars chomp milkweed.
No one will be surprised to see that my first mosaic is a butterfly. The only surprise might be that it’s not black and orange. Seems the yellow and black swallowtails will have their day after all. I made pretty good progress my first day even as I learned that swirls are not the easiest thing to make with square tiles.
While I worked on my little guy Irina worked on her own gorgeous butterfly, a commission for a client:
Over the course of two days I probably spent as much time crawling around on the ground looking for my flying bits of tile as I did setting the pieces in mortar, but I really enjoyed the process and in the end I’m happy with how it’s turning out. I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated listening to the snip, snip, snip of Irina’s clippers and watching her butterfly take shape before my eyes, but as she reminded me she has been doing this all her life. So maybe in 30 years I’ll be as good as she is? One can dream.
The next step is grout, which I have been told can make or break a mosaic so I’m very happy to have Irina’s guidance. She’s so good her pieces barely even require grout anymore, but mine is going to require a little love to smooth it’s rougher spots. And so as I eagerly await grouting day, and even as I acknowledge the tiniest twinge of envy, I mostly just feel grateful to have the opportunity to watch a master artist at work, learn a new skill and have some fun making stuff. I’m also relieved my real-life butterflies are about finished for the year – I need that space for my new mosaic studio!
Click here to see more of Irina’s beautiful work at icmosaics.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~~~~~~~