Sophia Othman

Mosaic art & Concrete Sculpture

The mosaic mural layed out on the studio floor in prepartion to cut it apart into pieces for installation
teal and green glass mosaic butterfly large mural iridescent teal stained glass COVID10 art by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist mosaic studio dog

Two views of same butterfly mosaic to show reflection and iridescent stained glass

The Piedmont High School graduating class of 2020 wanted to leave a positive mark of hope and beauty.  The design theme we developed for the project was of a swarm of huge glass mosaic butterflies flying off into the future.

Blue and green large butterflies with words Gift of class of 2020 mosaic mural design rendering by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Butterflies as symbols of transformation through the COVID19 pandemic & 2020 California Wildfires – students grow through adversity and fly into a brighter future

The students are all graduated and on to new wonderful endeavors.  They wanted the mosaic mural to represent transformation and evolution through the time of COVID19 and a brutal wild fire season in California.  So positive transformation out of calamitous change was a fitting healing design theme for responding to the fires as well.

COVID19 art project Gift of Class of 2020 Piedmont High School glass mosaic butterfly mural by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

A ribbon of cut mirror mosaic gracefully ties the butterflies together and provides a frame for the words.

full scale print drawing of butterfly mosaic mural elements by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

butterfly glass mosaic mural in progress by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Glass Butterfly with iridescent lime green & teal & turquoise glass

The mural will be installed on it’s concrete wall in March, 2022.  Here are images of the mosaic making process.  My dog, Jasmine, enjoys modeling for me.  Here she is a butterfly dog.

graduation art project class of 2020 butterfly glass mosaic mural in progress by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Glass Butterfly Mosaic – dog butterfly

mosaic butterfly dog graduation art project class of 2020 butterfly glass mosaic mural in progress by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Jasmine is the CMO – Chief Morale Officer for my mosaic art studio

teal iridescent glass mosaic butterfly large butterfly mosaic mural COVID19 art

This stained glass is iridescent at one angle and a gorgeous teal color without iridescence at other angles – magical

large mosaic butterfly green spiral iridescent wings by bay area mosaic artist sophia othman

This mosaic butterfly has long trailing swallow tails

green iridescent glass butterfly mosaic COVID19 art by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Detail of the smooth glossy glass surface and iridescent glass

cobalt blue glass mosaic butterfly large mural iridescent blue stained glass COVID10 art by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Iridescent cobalt blue mosaic butterfly

cobalt blue glass mosaic butterfly large mural iridescent blue stained glass COVID10 art by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist art studio dog

Iridescent cobalt blue mosaic butterfly – Jasmine dog supervising

mosaic art studio dog cobalt blue glass mosaic butterfly large mural iridescent blue stained glass COVID10 art by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Iridescent cobalt blue Cobalt blue iridescent mosaic butterfly – Jasmine dog taking a break

turquoise and lime green glass mosaic butterfly large mural iridescent green stained glass COVID10 art by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Iridescent green butterfly wings and a gorgeous turquoise to frame it.

COVID19 art project Gift of Class of 2020 Piedmont High School large glass mosaic butterfly mural by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

I love the iridescence on the lower wing and the sharp contrast of lime green against dark turquoise

Here is how it all begins with a printed full scale design on paper.  Here are a few pics of the process of making mosaics – the mosaic mural is entirely pieced in the studio before installation.

full scale print drawing of butterfly mosaic mural elements by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Adjusting the full scale print before cutting glass for the mosaic

how to make mosaics with fiberglass mesh COVID19 art project Gift of Class of 2020 Piedmont High School glass mosaic butterfly mural by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Fiberglass mesh is used to glue the glass mosaic pieces onto

Here the entire mosaic mural is sectioned up into small sections like a puzzle for transport to the installation site.  I have 2 sections side by side and another layer on top for each wood board.  The wood protects the glass pieces from bending and breaking during transport to the mosaic mural installation site.

how to pack and transport mosaic mural sections COVID19 art project Gift of Class of 2020 Piedmont High School glass mosaic butterfly mural by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Sections of the mosaic mural packed carefully and labeled so that they are easy to locate on the installation day.

Large mosaic butterfly with iridescent lime green stained glass tile.
stained glass mosaic mural of phoenix plant leaves wild fire art expression regeneration after wild fire resurrection hope Visions of The Wild themed art
blue green iridescent stained glass for mosaic mural by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Iridescent Glass Tile in Blues and Greens

How to choose whether to go with glass or ceramic for mosaic? Mosaic artists have used just about any material for mosaics:  ceramic tile, glass tile, stone, shells, found objects, broken crockery, wood, metal.  And in mixed media mosaics, anything goes, with delightful results.  However, if you are choosing mosaic material for an outdoor art piece in a frost prone climate your choices start to narrow and both ceramic tile and glass tile can stand up to freezing if they are chosen carefully.

Is glass tile more colorful than ceramic tile?  Yes! the array of color available in stained glass sheets is dizzying and marvelous.  Most metropolitan areas have stained glass retailers so glass is easier to source in general.  Ceramic tile is available in a wide range of brilliant colors as well but is not nearly as nuanced in the variety available of any one color.   Daltile makes a colorful line.  McIntyre does as well.  Heath Ceramics in Marin county has rich color. Since most consumers don’t tile their kitchen or bathrooms or floor with bright yellow, red, and orange, the retailers don’t stock these colors and they must be obtained by special order.  To obtain brilliant colored ceramic tile can take up to 8 weeks lead time for the manufacturer to custom make the order and ship it.  Also the cost is higher as there are often one-case (12 square feet per case) minimums per color.  If I am designing a mosaic mural with many colors I would have to order a case of the colors of which I need a small amount.

Reflection & Glassy Shine & Iridescence

Ceramic tile with a virtuous glaze will have a shiny reflective look to it. Vitreous meaning glass. However, most ceramic tile will not look as shiny as glass. Matt ceramic tile is deliberately manufactured to achieve a less slippery surface when used in bathrooms and other flooring. Glass tile by definition will have a lot of reflectiveness and look aglow in certain angles and less shiny in others, giving it a dynamic changeability that is expected of glass tile.  Some ceramic tile is available with an iridescent sheen but stained glass and other glass shapes can come with stunningly beautiful iridescent coatings.  Your personal aesthetic and the purpose of the mosaic  will determine the degree of shine, glassiness, reflection, and friction that you want/need for the project.

stained glass mosaic mural of phoenix plant leaves wild fire art expression regeneration after wild fire resurrection hope Visions of The Wild themed art

Stained Glass Mosaic showing shiny reflective glass surfaces and iridescence

Is it easier to cut shape glass vs ceramic tile? Ceramic tile is usually twice as thick as glass used for mosaic. Most commercial ceramic tile used for mosaic is approximately 1/4 inches thick and most stained glass used for mosaic is 1/8th ” thick. Any thicker and they are prohibitive to cut and shape with reasonable ease. It is physically easier to cut glass than ceramic tile. However, to shape either ceramic or glass tile with precision takes skill and experience. Still, glass faster to shape & cut.

ceramic tile mosaic mural tree of life memorial mosaic

Memorial Mosaic Tree of Life Mural

There are many types of glass tesserae used for mosaic, pre-shaped pieces in circles, triangles, rectangles, teardrops, & etc. These come in thicknesses from 2mm to 7mm approximately. Most glass mosaic is made of glass pieces 3mm or 1/8th” thick. Glass tile is generally physically easier to cut and shape than ceramic tile. If you want to shape glass tiles precisely it is easiest to use stained glass. Stained glass comes in large sheets that can be cut into smaller and more precise shapes to do their duty in your mosaic art.

Mosaic Weight or Load on Architectural Support – Another consideration when choosing between ceramic tile and glass tile for mosaic is that the thinner glass will weigh less per square foot than the ceramic tile.

What is the purpose of the mosaic? Backsplashes, walls, murals, fine art mosaics, all these don’t have to withstand people walking on them, so they can be made of thinner and less durable tile. But for floor mosaics ceramic tile is the more durable choice. Ceramic tile that is high fired (harder) is necessary when creating floor mosaics due to the loads floors must support as we use them in daily life. Often higher fired ceramic tile has less vibrant colors are available at that higher kiln temperature. A high gloss finish is usually not desired as it also means less friction and a more slippery floor. So a more matte finish is desirable in floor mosaics that use ceramic tile. Ceramic tile can be manufactured with added grittiness to reduce risk of slipping. All these factors can combine to make the color and texture choices for ceramic tile for floor applications less vibrant and less reflective. That being said, I have seen spectacularly beautiful floor mosaics made with small glass squares called virtuous glass tile usually 3/4″ x 3/4″ x 3mm. The smaller shapes are less likely to break under normal load than longer pieces of glass. Insets of glass tile such as medallions or other shapes can add beauty to a floor without rendering the entire surface in glass and retaining the strength of ceramic tile for the rest of the floor.

What tile to choose for community built mosaics? Ceramic tile is the winner here, allowing individuals to shape, texture, and glaze individual tiles that can then be incorporated into a unified whole community mosaic art piece.  The image below shows a ceramic tile mosaic mural incorporating handmade tile from hundreds of students & staff at a K-8 school.  Each student created one tile.  The second graders created the poppies, the kindergartner’s and several older grades created the oak leaves, & etc.  Groups of students worked together to created the larger creatures like the hawk and deer.

handmade ceramic tile school mosaic mural installation images from beginning to finished product showing fiberglass mesh mosaic sections

School Mosaic Mural using Handmade Ceramic Tile

Glass is used in community art mosaic projects as well by allowing individuals to piece their own small mosaic to be incorporated into the mosaic mural or allowing groups to piece mosaic together. The difference I see is that shaping clay and coloring it with underglaze and glaze is usually an easier & more intuitive creative process when involving inexperienced participants in a community built mosaic mural. Handmade ceramics allow more line work and nuance and colors on each individual piece than pieced mosaic with glass tesserae. The image below shows stained glass mosaic marine creatures each pieced by a family group or a staff member from the school.  This image shows vitreous glass squares in the background of the mosaic in white and blue.

glass mosaic school mural art project stained glass mosaic vitreous glass mosaic group art community built art

Glass Mosaic Mural

These are only some of the practical considerations in choosing between glass and ceramic tile for mosaic.  There is no clear choice as it depends on your specific project’s practical needs and your aesthetic. Happy creating.

The Fairy Garden Mosaic rock sculpture installed in the memorial garden

Joy was a beloved teacher at this school in Napa.  Students and staff honored her with a work of garden art to honor her fascination with fairy imagery and her love of gardens.  

In progress handmade ceramic tile for the memorial mosaic
A sweet memorial mosaic for a beloved teacher
In progress memorial mosaic concrete sculpture rock
The mosaic memorial rock sculpture in the studio ready to transport to the installation site.
In progress rock concrete sculpture
My dog Jasmine is part of the studio production team
Handmade ceramic tile ready to be glazed.
colorful glass mosaic mandala on green concrete bench shaped like a peacock feather with handmade ceramic tile by bay area mosaic artist sophia othman
Peacock Concrete Benches in dappled light - a place to sit and find serenity

Peacock Feather Mosaic Concrete Benches – public art sculpture installed at the SolTrans transportation centet in Vallejo, CA.  Featuring mandala mosaic peacock feather motif using handmade ceramic tile.

pair of concrete mosaic benches shaped as peacock feathers appear to float by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist
The feather concrete benches appear to float.

The visual design was inspired by metal filigree grates at the sculpture site.  There are four pink blooming Crepe Myrtle trees set in a square with peacock feather design filigree metal grates at their bases. You can see the metal grates in the background of the pics.  

The conceptual design themes invokes in this sculpture are:  stillness, movement, serenity from beauty, and compassion.  The feather benches appear to float and inspire us to move gracefully through our day. 

detail of concrete mosaic bench shaped as peacock feathers with dog sitting on them by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Design Development – When coming up with a sculpture idea for the site, a pair of benches seemed ideal for this tranquil verdant spot.  A bench would allow travelers to have a brief moment of serenity and stillness to commune with nature and beauty.  A moment seated on the benches allows a nourishing pause in the bustle of daily bus travel. 

colorful glass mosaic mandala on green concrete bench shaped like a peacock feather with handmade ceramic tile by bay area mosaic artist sophia othman

Design Concepts – Stillness & Beauty.  The mosaic design of a colorful tile mandala adds beauty to the bench and again invokes the idea of stillness in a visual form – mandalas are visual tools to focus meditation.  The mosaic mandala uses handmade ceramic tile. 

green peacock feather mosaic concrete bench detail

Design Concept – Compassion & Beauty.  Peacocks are the national bird of India and are associated with beauty and compassion.  Peacocks are associated with Kwan Yin, goddess of compassion in China, Tibet, and Japan.  

man sitting on on concrete bench shaped like a peacock feather with handmade ceramic tile colorful glass mosaic mandala on concrete bench shaped like a peacock feather with handmade ceramic tile by bay area mosaic artist sophia othman by bay area mosaic artist sophia othman
The Thinker -sitting on peacock feather concrete bench

I chose the placement of the benches so two people can sit opposite each other and both get up at the same time without bumping into each other and to allow easy access by wheelchair.  The inner curves of the feather concrete benches face each other to encourage people to sit and converse companionably.

pair of concrete mosaic benches shaped as peacock feathers with dog sitting on them by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

My peacock feather benches were part of the SolTrans Diversity Sculpture Project.  Several other sculptures were cooperatively built and installed by a team of ethnically diverse artists. The artists who participated in this project were:  Tom Arie Donch (lead artist), Kahalla Bandy-Pasibe, Melissa Berrios-PennyGene Buban, Lorenzo Crockett,  Sophia Othman, and Liberty Pierson.  In this video Tom Arie Donch, team lead artist, talks about the project.

detail of concrete mosaic bench shaped as peacock feathers with dog sitting on them by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist
Inspecting the installation.

Production assistance by Tom Arie Donch, Melissa Berrios-Penny, Gene Buban, Lorenzo Crockett, Liberty Pierson, Omar Othman, Siram, and Wes Horn.

detail of concrete mosaic bench shaped as peacock feathers with dog sitting on them by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist

Last but not least – credit to my Art Studio Dog, Jasmine, CMO – Chief Morale Officer – she brings joy to everything.  Here modeling the use of the mosaic concrete benches as a playground feature. 

Photo by Mosaic artist Sophia Othman of her puppy in her studio Mosaic art San Francisco Bay Area
Art Studio’s Chief Morale Officer – Jasmine the puppy doing a superb “Down” on a kiln shelf

How do you prevent your ceramic wires from sticking to your kiln shelves? you use kiln wash – here’s how to make it yourself

Today I’m repairing, reshaping (with a tile wet saw), and reapplying kiln wash to my ceramic kiln shelves. Pleasant outdoor work on a bright winter day in service to my mosaic art studio. A lot of ongoing maintenance to keep my tools happy and show them love.

Basic Salt Kiln Wash Recipe
50% Alumina
50% Kaolin

To prepare your own kiln wash measure out a ratio of 1 to 1 of each ingredient and add water. Mix the kiln wash dry mixture with water thoroughly to the consistency of whole milk. To prepare your kiln shelf ,sand or grind your shelf as needed to remove flaky old kiln wash and wipe with a moist sponge to remove any loose flakes and dust. Then use a brush to apply a thin layer or two of kiln wash either in bare spots or covering the whole shelf.

These ingredients are very very cheap compared to buying premade Kiln wash and you can get them from any Ceramic supply store. My favorites in the bay area are Clay People in Richmond and Clay Planet in Sunnyvale. If you don’t want to do your own measuring you can buy dry pre-mixed kiln wash powder which is also much cheaper than buying prepared wet containers of kiln wash from the suppliers.

San Francisco bay area mosaic artist Sophia Hoffman prepares her own kiln wash for making handmade ceramic tiles for mosaic garden art bench
Raw Materials to make your own kiln wash

Even if you’re not interested in being frugal there’s a deeply enjoyable aspect to Diy in the art studio and it’s fun to know how to go from raw dry mineral ingredients to a product that matches a commercial kiln wash.

I laid down this kiln shelf separately so I would remember to add kiln wash to it. My puppy, Jasmine, is now eight months old. She can’t wait to grow up like all children saying that they their age is “5 1/2 “ years old – they are eager eager to go forward into life. Here if she is sitting on my kiln shelf saying to me, “ Mom I’m only half baked! “

Photo by Mosaic artist Sophia Othman of Handmade ceramic tile for mosaic art bench fired in ceramic kiln  in her studio Mosaic art San Francisco Bay Area
Handmade ceramic tiles On shelf protected by Kiln wash which is appearing as a bright white powdery surface on which the tile sit these tiles are for an art Mosaic bench with the most recent offerings from the Kiln

More DIY Kiln Wash :

If you want to get Uber geeky about kiln wash, here is a superb article in Ceramic Arts Monthly by John Britt that dives deeply into the topic and offers many recipe variations for specific applications.