the many solitudes


Canada, apparently, is a cultural mosaic – unlike the United States which is a melting pot.

(Oh, an aside – fasten your seatbelts, ladies and gentlemen. It’s going to be a long ride today.)

Or so we were always told in public school… and I never really thought this through until the other day when I decided that I should make my dear friend Robert a special mosaic for Canada Day. He, unlike me, is very patriotic and so is having a Canada Day party to mark the official birthday of our country (in 1867 – I know that much at least).

So, I went searching for the provenance of the term “cultural mosaic”. Here’s what I found, courtesy of the ever-insightful Wikipedia:

The first use of the term mosaic to refer to Canadian society was by John Murray Gibbon, in his 1938 book Canadian Mosaic. Gibbon clearly disapproved of the American melting-pot concept. He saw the melting pot as a process by which immigrants and their descendants were encouraged to cut off ties with their countries and cultures of origin so as to assimilate into the American way of life.

Hmm. This, although interesting to me, did not much help me with planning my mosaic. So, I hit the forest for inspiration, like so many Canadians before me:

…and came up with this:

Unfortunately, the only colour of glass that is lacking in my brobdignanian stash (and if you think my yarn stash is over the top, people, you should see my stash of stained glass!) is… you guessed it, green.

So, I had to make do with another colour:

The glass there is actually pink, by the way. I still really don’t know how to operate this camera.

I started by mapping out the leaf shape on a handy dandy glass frame that I scored from the unofficial dumping station behind my apartment building a couple of years ago:

I then – much like the Fathers of Confederation, I suppose –

(If you’ve visited here before today, you may well recognise Sir John Eh?… he’s the one with his head in the middle of the biggest window. I do get a kick out of how painters through the ages have found very similar ways to point out the important guy in the scene..

…but, as ever, I digress.)

Where was I again? Oh yes. Anyway, much like the Fathers of Confederation, I pieced together a symbol of an emerging country, and ended up with this:

(I will pause officially here to note that I actually tried to consult with Sir John Eh? about this but apparently he had started the Canada Day celebrations a bit earrrrly …

…but as JJ reminds me, Sir John Eh was actually from Glesga Scotland.)

So, I decided it was all guid, and progressed apace. In so doing, let me tell you that I injured myself.

This is partly because, when starting the mosaic, I realised that I had left the top of my trusted tile adhesive and when I went to use it, I was faced with a concrete glue pile. So, having no time to spare, I had to whip out the glue gun, and became careless:

Let it be known that I do suffer for my art. I am a proud Canajan in this regard, but our schizophrenic cultural identity as Canajans (that is, half Brit, half Murcan) leads me to adopt the British part and suffer in (virtual) silence. By the way, Robert, eventual recipient of the mosaic, does not use the internet and so will not be reading this post. So, let’s just keep this our little secret (at least, until he sees me tomorrow and says “Hey girl, what’s up with all those cuts and burns on your hands?!?!?!).

Anyway, despite my mortal wounds, I carried on –

(I include this photo, although it’s rather blurry, because I thought that the headline that was inadvertently captured on the underlying newspaper was spookily Canadian. And, by the way, I would welcome any other Canadians, if you feel otherwise, to post a comment or Email me and tell me so – and why. I won’t bore you with my theories at present).

And, eventually, I ended up with a microcosm of what it must have looked like here when they were building all these vast railways and roadways…

Voila!

Now, it’s time for me to confess something. In working on this “cultural mosaic”, I felt for the first time in years a real love for my country. I have been disillusioned of late, really. Champagne socialist angst, perhaps – although I do realise I live in a wonderful country, bit by bit our standard of living is being eroded, and I have seen big changes in my adult lifetime.

(I’ll note as an aside that to me it is frustrating (although interesting) that Michael Moore, for example, has decided to sell a message about the United States by painting my city and country as a gun-free paradise where everyone leaves their doors and cars unlocked and can just attend at hospital and get whatever treatment they want, without cost. That may have been the case twenty years ago, but it is not today. Sorry, Michiganer (Michiganite? Michigonian? friends. I know that Mike has done a great power of guid – but I’m an unhappy Canajan with his portrayal of the situation here and I’ve written a strong E-mail or two!)

But then, I’ve had to get off my leftie high horse and think about what being a Canadian actually means to me. And so I had to give some thought to why I ended up a Canadian in the first place… because of people like my mother’s father who came here at 14, shipped off from Greece to send money home to his family, and made a good life and prospered. And my mother’s grandparents, who came here similarly and did well.

And then, on the way to work today I saw this freebie magazine which I usually ignore

And then I had to remember how moved I was to be at Pier 21 in Halifax and see a photo of the boat that my father travelled here on for a new life:

So, it was very, very good to have the reminder that people came here for a better life and had it… as a result of which, I get to be a lawyer here with a decent pay and get to whine and rant on my blog about the state of the politics in my country, without censure. And, by the way, I can also afford to live next to a beautiful forest where I can go and stroll and steal a maple leaf to inform my artistic endeavours, such as they are.

And then I had to think about the “cultural mosaic” bit from the writer I quoted at the outset – and it finally makes sense to me. I get to live here, speak and write and read Greek, cook Greek, live with a scottish guy, have him and everyone else respect my heritage and also my lifestyle choices. And still be considered a “Canadian”. This is truly a gift.

So, I must make a deep dark confession – I am, indeed, a proud Canadian. I think that my mosaic for Robert reflects the shifting contours and the uncertainty of this nation. And I’m very happy that Robert is hosting this party, and was so excited about buying Canada Day decorations, which made me think I should make him a special Canada Day present, etc. etc. etc.)

(JJ, himself a new Canadian who loves Canada more than I do, said that the piece reminded him of the Magic Eye contests in the paper… you know the ones, if you cross your eyes you see the true image? The true image of this piece is the maple leaf).

As it happens, to me the mosaic looks abstract – I had originally thought to make the background a blatant contrast colour, then went against this. And I’m happy with this choice (although JJ is not) – I believe it better represents Canada as a place where change and adaptability… and progress…are always possible. I’m calling it “Many Solitudes”.

Happy Canada Day! Off now to cook the stuff I’m bringing to the party and make sure the beer is chilling…

some objets d’art

I know, I know… I’ve been rather slack on posting project photos. This is partly because my work on Seascape is going rather slowly, and partly because I’ve taken up work on a rather large-scale mosaic project which I don’t wish to reveal until finished.

(Oh – I’ve also taken up practicing the piano – or in my case, the electric piano-style keyboard, which was until two weeks ago the largest and most expensive dust-collector in my apartment.

However, just to remind my faithful readers (and myself!) that this is primarily a crafts-based blog, here are some photos of the recent balcony work in the House of Brouhaha.

First up, a freeform mosaic (“freeform” meaning nothing is glued down, and so this work can change at a moment’s notice) featuring rocks I collected at the seashore in Inverness, Nova Scotia

Although you probably can’t tell from the photo, this is a water bowl. (Oh, and I should note, the table it’s on was rescued from the back of the apartment building last year but I finally got around to spraypainting it on Saturday). I got the idea from a mosaic book, although that water bowl featured tiles.

Actually, the use of the base bowl (which is a terra cotta thing that is meant to go underneath large planter pots – to this day I don’t know the name) is long overdue as there is a bit of a story behind its acquisition. I had read this idea about a Moroccan style “water bowl” with tiles more than two years ago, and of course needed to find the base right away. I searched up and down the garden centres close to me in Toronto but none of them sold this size (20″) in the clay version, only in plastic.
I had just about given up when JJ and I took a trip down to Kingston to visit my mother. We went for a day journey to Gananoque, about 20 minutes from Kingston, and found a very old-school hardware shop: here’s their blurb on line:

A Tradition in Gananoque, Since 1872
We at Donevan’s Hardware pride ourselves in being a 5th generation family owned and operated business for the past 135 years.
We are an old fashioned down to earth Hardware store. Typically customers come into our store for those hard to find items that no other stores carry.

Well, I am living proof of that statement, really I am. Why? Because I went into this wonderful shop (the type of shop I adore – all sorts of stuff jammed in) and asked if they had such a thing as a 20″ terra cotta dish. Well! I got taken up to the storage attic by one of the proprietors (who was 80 if she was a day) and got a tour of the storage while she looked for this dish, which she “just knew” was there. And so it was. And it cost… gasp!… $35! I had not wanted to spend more than $20 – but just could not refuse. She even insisted on calling up her (80 year old) husband from the cash to come and bring it down for me.

So, sale by sheer embarrassment. Having said that, do check out this shop if it’s still there. You won’t regret it – but just don’t ask for anything you don’t see on the shelf.

But, as ever, I digress.  Anyway, JJ got jealous of my water bowl and rocks so I let him have some of the rocks to put into his special fountain:

Having come across some rather decrepit candles in glasses, I then decided to try a wee experiment – salvaging and chopping up the wax from the dead candles, then putting them back in the pretty glasses with another candle in the middle:

I also put some sea glass in the one at the left as a little experiment.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  So far, so guid.

Oh, and I can’t help but show off another of my Nova Scotia acquisitions: a basalt tea light holder!

Huh?!?  Well, here’s what it looks like at the top:

So, all to say, our balcony is now all ship shape and ready for the party season… day or night!

Happy Tuesday!

religious and other mosaic art

I’ve been looking for some inspiration of late to get back into mosaic work…and just had to take another look at some photos of Park Guell:

It’s a park built using primarily very funky mosaics and unusual building shapes.

The project is located in Barcelona. It was the brainchild of architects Antonio Gaudi and Josep Maria Jujel.

Imagine walking past this to get to work every day!

Now, although the project is now a municipal park, it was apparently built originally as an idealistic housing project.

Here, by contrast, is what your typical housing project looks like in Toronto:

Hmm.

There are also lots of sources of inspiration for mosaic artists in religious buildings. This is a photo of a shrine in Afghanistan:

… and this photo depicts restoration work being done on the Cosmati pavement in front of Westminster Abbey in London.

This, on the other hand, shows a typical religious shrine in Toronto:

North Americans certainly lack creativity, from the look of it.

Sigh.

Happy Wednesday!

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colouring my world

You’re not going to believe this… the other day was the 15th (a.k.a. PayDay) and I did not go to a yarn shop. What steely self-discipline!! (I should confess something, though – that was only because I went to the mosaic shop instead.) My middle name should be “magpie”. I cannot resist shiny glass things, particularly when they are mirrored and I can see my face in miniature warped dwarfdom. I then hit the Goodwill across the street and came across some treasures: The purchases would seem to indicate that I am just about ready to get back to mosaic. For some reason, spring and summer are the only times I seem to break plates and stick them to things anymore. Guess I’ve got to go with the muse when she hits, eh? But now I’m torturing myself because I came across these fabulous tapestry photos on line.

I want one!!!! And check out this stunning tapestries by Irene Dunn!

If I had one of these in my apartment, I’d feel like King Henry VIII. And by all accounts, he had a great time! I’m reminded of the fabric mosaic that the very talented Sequana sent me sometime back, although her colours are bolder as befits the modern ethic, of course!

Oh no. Now I want to take up tapestry and needlework. When will it end?!?! Then again, I probably won’t bother because this is about as talented as I get in that particular arena:

Hmm. I’d be defeated before I started, I think. Wah.