Sophia Othman

Mosaic art & Concrete Sculpture

Posts from the ‘Mosaic Mural’ category

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.

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.