Representation as a Collection of Masks
Painting by Joseph Paton
"What fools these mortals be" - lines from Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer Night's Dream; a play that integrates the world of humans, both aristocratic and lowly, with the fairy world of Oberon and Titania. And while both these worlds intertwine, one cannot but help feel that it is the world of the fairies that has the most impact, for it is the lives of the lovers here that are changed by their brush with these "children of Pan".
What I am attempting to do here is create several of the characters in the play as masks. This is my first attempt at creating masks in mosaic form, and I think, given the story subject, it allows much latitude in the treatment of each of the characters. The ones that will be displayed are Titania and Oberon, Puck (or Robin Goodfellow as he is otherwise known), Nick Bottom, Lysander and Hermia, besides a splattering of other elfin characters.
Note: All pictures below are thumbnails and maybe clicked on to be viewed as full-size pictures.
As usual, I started out with a drawing that I transferred to a plywood base (using graphite paper) that had been previously framed and also stained and sealed - the sealing medium was a 50:50 mixture of Weldbond and water. In this case, however, I added a little lesser amount of water and made up the deficiency with a water-based stain. The tiles will be applied in what is known as the "direct" method - which is merely placing the tile facing upwards directly onto the wood or whatever base you choose. The plywood base measures 23 x 27. For cutting, I used both mosaic glass cutters and tile nippers, the former available at several stores like Smalti.com and Tabularasa and the latter available at all hardware stores. A little pointer to the characters in the drawing -> Titania and Oberon occupy the leftmost top corner; a small caricature of Nick Bottom is immediately to their right; below him is Puck; and under him are Hermia and Lysander. This mosaic will be done entirely in smalti (with an occasional addition of vitreous glass or some jewels), and consequently, will not be grouted. The tesserae are therefore being placed fairly close to each other.
Weldbond is being used to glue the tiles to the plywood. It is available at most hardware stores. Cutting tiles takes a little practice and a few Band-Aids, since you do get an occasional jab from shards of glass, and I suppose that since they also fly about sometimes, it is not a bad idea to use some eye protection in the form of safety glasses.
I started out with Lysander; used these beautiful tiles (smalti) that I got from Michele Petno at Smalti.com, and here is what it looks like. Started in the area around his eyes and worked progressively around. Layered his face with colors to achieve a striated look. Did the leaves and hair last. Cutting the tiles is completely at one's own discretion, so whether you choose to use larger pieces or smaller ones, one hopes that the final image will represent what you want to portray. I have a mixture of larger and smaller tiles here - used to the smaller ones to show a little bit of detail, while the larger pieces filled in the rest. I generally tend to cut a whole section of tile before gluing the teserrae down. Trying to create a mask allowed me free rein to choose whatever color scheme I liked, and I chose vivid ones. With all the bright colors here, I think I am going to have to choose a very consistent and stable color for the background, so that the whole mosaic does not end up looking too "busy". Will I achieve that ? Time will tell. Onto Hermia next.
Hermia turned out to be more of a challenge than Lysander... the colors used to compose her had to complement those used in Lysander, and yet not overshadow them. Used metallic green-copper vitreous glass to outline the eyes and lips, and smalti for the rest. The picture to the right shows a completed Hermia (though the colors again seem a bit off). The photograph on the left shows the lovers together.
Started on Puck next....gave him a green face :-) typical goblin!! Used the same method for laying down the tiles as the others..a chop here and a nip there!! Here, to the left, is the final rendering, and to the right, is Puck with Hermia and Lysander. Used only smalti for his face. I have to admit that cutting tiles for the cap was very trying! All those curves around the big dots....phew!
Started working on the Queen and King of the fairies next, Titania and Oberon .....guess I got a little carried away with the colors...but believe me, I had fun doing so. They are both shown here incomplete and as a work-in-progress. The beautiful metallic cobalt blue used in Oberon's collar ruffle is really white gold under cobalt blue glass, obtained from Smalti.com. You have to hold the tile in your hand to see how absolutely stunning it is..the pictures don't do it justice. The rest of the face-masks are done using smalti and crackled glass. I also used two differently sized pearl strands as part of Titania's jewelry, along with layers of "oro bianco" (white gold) encircling them. Encasing her face are a few layers of "oro rosso" (red gold). The crowns, to be done using gold smalti, are deliberately not completed yet because I'm awaiting several jewels (emeralds, gold sapphires, peridots and citrine) that I'm having set in gold to be placed within. The gems are being set by a wonderful jeweler here in Dallas, Gem Classics, owned by Gabriel and Becky Romo. Their website is :->http://www.gemclassics.com.
The jewels set in gold finally arrived, and now I will continue to finish the crowns on both Oberon and Titania. The large yellow blob is a citrine surrounded with peridots; the miniature "crosses" are also peridots, while the emeralds and gold sapphires are joined on the other pieces. There is a solitary gold sapphire trilliant.
After two months of a heavy work load and much travelling, I finally got around to completing the crowns on Oberon and Titania with gold smalti surrounding the jewels that had been previously set in gold casings. Here is what it looks like.
Created one of the tree sprites using smalti and threw in a few glass beads....all in all, the effect is very colorful, not something I am very thrilled about at this point...am just hoping that with the addition of the background, the colors will all tie in together. Worked on the butterfly next, and toned down the colors considerably. Used smalti for that and some glass tile I bought on the Internet. Also decided to delete one of the butterfly fairies from the picture altogether - it seemed a bit too colorful to add, but I'm repeating myself. Worked in a little bit of the path down the middle of the mosaic using smalti, onyx and agate. Encountered a whole lot of problems trying to cut the onyx and agate. So I just used large chunks wherever possible. In any case, here are the results.
Silhouetted Nick Bottom in burgundy smalti against the path running through the mosaic; the path is also completed and is comprised of smalti, onyx (brownish-white) and agate (green with "mushrooms" in them) pieces. Nick Bottom is depicted in the picture to the left.
The final image is also available on the "My Mosaics" page.