Sophia Othman

Mosaic art & Concrete Sculpture

Sophia Othman Bay area mosaic artist and concrete sculptor  applies underglaze and glaze glaze to handmade ceramic tile for garden art bench Mosaic of flowers bees and butterflies
Glazing handmade ceramic tiles to fire in the kiln

Today I am I’m in the blissful creative zone where time flies and every tiny task in my art studio (even tidying up and cleaning the tables) is a pleasure. Specifically, today I’m glazing tiles to get them ready to glaze fire.

After The handmade tiles are fired in the kiln the true colors show through.

 Glaze firing Photo of handmade ceramic tiles  by San Francisco bay area mosaic artist Sophia Othman
Just finished glaze firing the flower tiles
Sophia Othman Bay area mosaic artist and concrete sculptor  applies underglaze and glaze glaze to handmade ceramic tile for garden art bench Mosaic of flowers bees and butterflies
Yellow orange cone flowers and red handmade ceramic tiles destined to be part of a mosaic garden art bench

I have several projects that are billable and getting them done allows me to finish a commission and receive payment for it. Then I have many creative projects of my own that are incubating and are at various stages of doneness. Ranging from still being idea psychic babies and are merely thoughts in my head and some are at the stage of being on paper somewhere. Some at the stage of having the design drawn out enough that I can start creating it and some are at various stages of being done in terms of having an armature for a sculpture ready or having the tiles bisqued but not glazed for a mosaic mural, etc.

This is a mosaic garden art bench that I’ve been working on for a couple of years in my spare time. The bisque-fired handmaid tiles have been sitting in a box asking for attention – today I gave them some and they reward me with creative pleasure. I think the tiles at this stage look like cookies that are being frosted. The ceramic glaze and underglazes will start off being intensely colored when wet and then as they dry out they get powdery and pastel. So by the time they dry out they look like frosted cookies.

Sophia Othman Bay area mosaic artist and concrete sculptor  applies  glaze to handmade ceramic tile for garden art bench Mosaic of flowers bees and butterflies
Orange ceramic glaze in squeeze bottle Makes it easy to draw fine lines are using Ceramic at glaze
red phoenix birds green leaves blue background glass mosaic mural youth community mosaic art lead by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist
Phoenix Mosaic symbolic of wildfire burning through green leaves and new life regenerating from the ashes.

This mosaic mural panel was pieced with the help of young artists participating in the Vallejo Community Arts Foundation (VCAF) Youth Summer Art Camp.  

sophia othman bay area mosaic artist teaches youth how to piece mosaics at summer art camp
Art Camp Youth proud of their mosaic work

The Art Camp included youth aged 7 years to 14 years.  All participated in piecing the Phoenix Wildfire glass mosaic panel. 

Detail of right side of phoenix glass mosaic.

The art camp kids used hand tools to cut glass and the older (11-14 year olds) kids even got to use a glass grinder and ring saw wet saw.  All kids helped piece the mosaic.

Detail of the left side of the phoenix mosaic.
sophia othman bay area mosaic artist teaches youth how to piece mosaics at summer art camp

The kids worked in groups on different parts of the mosaic and rotated to different areas to gain more experience.  Here Sophia is demonstrating how to cut glass with glass nippers. 

Production assistance by Kristina Fiorini. 

“Our Oak” Finally Installed

Oak Tree & Native California Animals School Mosaic Mural

Third Grade Students Work in Teams to Piece a Mosaic Mule Deer for School Mural

Well, it is finally up on the LRC (Learning Resource Center) wall!!  The Oak Tree of Life Mosaic Mural is installed and ready for students to come back to school in September and see their gorgeous and epic handiwork.  You can really see in the mosaic that an entire school participated in it’s creation.  The handmade ceramic tiles all look unique and you can tell each was the creative effort of one student.

Brief Backstory

The mosaic mural is a parting gift dedicated in honor of the school’s retiring Head Of School, Lucinda Lee Katz.  We estimate that over 600 students (Kindergarten to Eighth Grade) and staff were involved directly in the making of the mosaic.  The project started in December, 2017 and was permanently installed on a wall of the Learning Resource Center building (LRC) on August 2nd, 2018.    For more about how we designed the mosaic and which grades created which mosaic design elements read this post. 

Here are some photos from the installation process recently completed.  

Marin School Oak Tree Of Life Mosaic Mural Installed On Library Exterior Wall includes california native animals poppies butterflies mule deer doe fawns quail gray fox gray squirrel barn owl red tailed hawk opossum hare rabbit moths bees

Oak Tree California Native Animals Mosaic School Mural 10’x10’8″

Mosaic Mural Completed Installation in August 2018

These photos of the installation process showing the progression from bare cement board frame and how we install one mosaic fiberglass section at at time like a giant puzzle.  The metal frame and cement board backing was fabricated by Don Carlson, who has been incredibly supportive during the installation process.  

 

The Library building with the mosaic frame ready to go


A blank canvas ready for mosaic fiberglass sections. We are going to build a mosaic puzzle.


The first two mosaic sections are up!


The third mosaic section is up, only 31 more to go.


Notice that all three sections of the mosaic Mule Deer Doe are now installed.


The bottom third of the mosaic is installed.


This scaffold, loaned to us by Don Carlson, was essential to getting the job done.


Hanging around with an opossum halfway up a mosaic tree


The last two sections are left to be installed. I love the soaring red tailed hawk.


One last “keystone” fiberglass section to install with Carol Bevilacqua and Siram.


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

The install team is tired but happy. Siram and Carol Bevilacqua helping. Grout is next!


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

School Mosaic Mural Grouted – Install Completed – Library Building


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

School Mosaic Mural Installation Process – Grouting All Done – One Happy Mosaic Artist!

Read more about the design process and our inspiration for this mosaic.

 

Installation team included Siram and Carol Bevilacqua.  Mosaic production assistance by Siram.  

image of Marin Community Built School Mosaic Mural -Oak Tree Of Life with California Native Wildlife mule deer doe fawns barn owl gray squirrel red squirrel opossum gray fox sleeping in tree red tailed hawk hare rabbit quail hen and quail cock butterflies moths california poppies oak leaves bees hummingbirds

Marin Community Built School Mosaic Mural -Oak Tree Of Life with California Native Wildlife

It was an Epic mosaic project!
Lucinda Lee Katz, beloved head of school at Marin Country Day School, was to retire in June 2017 after 14 years of outstanding service to the school.  The school administrators and staff wanted to create a special going away gift in appreciation of her many years of dynamic service to the school.  They decided to create a mosaic mural in her honor.  I had the privilege of collaborating with them and facilitating this gorgeous community built mosaic mural.  All the staff and students had an opportunity to be involved in the creation of the mosaic.  We estimate that over 600 students (Kindergarten to Eighth Grade) and staff were involved directly in the making of the mosaic.  The project started in December, 2017 and was permanently installed on a wall of the Learning Resource Center building (LRC) on August 2nd, 2018.  See photos of the installation process here. The Oak Tree Mosaic Mural was a challenging and hugely fun project.  I got to work with an entire K-8 school!  I worked closely with the school’s Art Team to collaborate on the themes for the design and how to logistically include over 600 students to contribute to the mosaic mural.
Collaborative Context Based Design
I worked with the Art Team to collaborate on a context-based design that included values, symbols, and experiences shared by Lucinda and staff and students.  The design elements came from the school’s cherished beautiful natural setting and the many wild animals living there.  This was to be a community built mosaic so they wanted to give every student an opportunity (during art class) to contribute to the making of the mosaic mural. Because the mosaic mural was to be a parting gift dedicated in honor of Lucinda Lee Katz, this gave us the foundational idea for the design.  We started with a central design element inspired from the school’s logo which is a stylized oak tree.  We also borrowed from the idea of a Tree Of Life.  Choosing a large tree as the main design element had the advantage of providing hundreds of students with a chance to create handmade ceramic tile oak leaves and acorns to be included in the enormous canopy.

MCDS logo Oak Tree

MCDS Playground Live Oak Tree

Sketch of Early Design Iteration with Oak, poppies, and quail.

Illustration of Final Design

Installed Mosaic Mural shows the work of over 600 Kindergarten through 8th Grade students

Installed Oak Tree of Life Mosaic Mural shows the work of over 600 Kindergarten through 8th Grade students

Mosaic Design For Community Engagement

The overall inspiration for the design is California grassland with a Valley Oak and native animals.  I was told that Lucinda loves the deer that show up on campus, often with fawns in tow in Spring and Summer. So we included the Mule Deer doe and two fawns as a major element in the design.   The Art Team wanted students to be able to create art that reflected classroom work studying local native animals, insects, and plants.   So we included gray foxes, a red tailed hawk, gray squirrels, opossum, quail, a hare, a Barn owl, butterflies, California poppies, moths, humming birds, and bees. We chose so many animals for several reasons:
  • they are present and loved by staff and students in the natural setting of the school
  • they reflect subject matter students had explored in class and already felt a connection to
  • we needed manydiscrete small design elements so that 600+ participants (staff and all students) could have an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the mural
  • the variety allowed us to optimally leverage each grade’s skill level from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • some grades could piece large mosaic animals – students could work cooperatively in small teams piecing large mosaic elements for the mural
  • some grades created handmade ceramic tile – allowing hundreds of students to create one tile each as their unique contribution to the mural
  • some grades pieced small individual mosaic elements to be included in the tree trunk
Designing Mosaics for Large Groups
It is always a challenge when designing for a large group of people to make an opportunity for each individual to contribute to the project and still be able to express individuality in the creative process.  School kids like to be able to point at the final mosaic mural and say, “look! i made that butterfly !!!”  Balancing the need for the work of many hands with the desire to honor individual creative energy is one of the challenges in community built art. Including many many discrete design elements has the risk of looking too busy and crowded and confusing in the final art work.  Luckily, we had a large canvas on which to compose our design efforts so there was room enough  to include the variety and sheer number of each creature in the mural.  We had more than 80 butterflies, about 21 moths, hundreds of oak leaves, over 20 bees, two humming birds, about 30 acorns, over 60 California poppies, about 20 bark tiles, over 30 diamond-shaped mosaic tree bark tessellations, and over 10 ladybugs.
Small Hands Big Mosaics
Groups of students worked as teams to piece the larger animal mosaics and their work also had a distinctly individual quality to it in the final outcome, different groups of students had different approaches to their own animal mosaic.  You can see that in the final mosaic animals in the mural.  The third graders mosaiced a Mule Deer Doe and two fawns, a Red Tailed Hawk, and a Barn Owl.  Because these animals were larger ones in our design that allowed these younger students the ability to piece the animal mosaics using larger pieces of tile, making it easier for them to produce beautiful work without the need for exacting precision.  The more detailed work in the larger animals was pieced by third grade students who felt confident in their ability to do so.  We let them make decisions about color mixes, how to piece color transitions, and to negotiate how they would piece the animals as a team.
Big Hands Small Mosaics
The smaller animal mosaics were pieced by the 7th grade.  We chose older students to piece smaller animals because their motor skills and past art making experience would help them succeed in making mosaic in small spaces with no prior experience.  The 7th graders worked in small groups, 2 or 3 students per mosaic team, each team piecing one of the small mosaic animal designs.  The 7th grade pieced the mosaic opossum, hare, two quails, two gray squirrels, a sleeping gray fox, a gray fox in a tree, and a Barn Owl.

This glass mosaic commission was fun to make. The glass tile colors are a joy to work with.  The client’s home is built on stilts directly on the water just where the Napa River joins to top of the San Pablo Bay.  Pelicans are regular flyers in this area so the mosaic was a way for the client to bring the beauty of these creatures in the heart of the home, the kitchen.  

pelican sunset waves glass mosaic kitchen backsplash by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist
Pelicans flying into sunset over waves - kitchen backsplash for a home along the San Pablo Bay in Vallejo, CA

The pelican glass mosaic backsplash installed with tile trim.  The client installed the panel and added tile trim border around it framing it perfectly.  

Stained glass tile for the backsplash - finalizing the color palette for the mosaic.
Grouting the pieced pelican mosaic panel.
The pelican mosaic panel ready to be installed above the stove.
pelican sunset waves glass mosaic kitchen backsplash by sophia othman bay area mosaic artist
Glass Mosaic Pelican Backsplash - installed.

We had fun with the installed mosaic photo shoot.  I am an avid birdwatcher so it was a delight to create the pelican mosaic for this client.