I’m having a challenging week but it is good to be challenged once in a while. Mostly my challenges are personal in nature this week; thank goodness it hasn’t stopped me from doing mosaic work. For me, making mosaics are as necessary when life is bumpy as they are when life is smooth sailing. I try to always give myself time to concentrate on my favorite creative past time no matter what is going on these days. I have learned it’s important to me.

The mosaic-related challenges have been enjoyable, in truth. They allow me to brainstorm and experiment. Two of my favorite things to do. It also takes my mind away from the personal stuff — always a nice diversion.

I started prep work on the gazing balls this week. I am “bulking up” the spheres. It was impossible to find 8-10 inch Styrofoam balls in my area and when I was able to find a few online, the expensive was beyond me. My budget is limited, so creative ways to use what I have been able to purchase for prepping is the way to go. 6 inch Styrofoam balls were plentiful! Plaster cast strips and thinset cement combined will do the trick of making them the size I need them to be. It is a long process of waiting, mostly, before adding another layer.

Once I start cutting the gold mirror, I will use a sealant on all the cuts to try to prevent the mirror from getting black spots over time. This sealant comes in an aerosol can and for large pieces of mirror is quite easy to use. Just spray all the edges you’ve cut with glass cutters. However my cuts will be small and made into about 1/2 to 1/4 inch pieces and spraying the edges would be too difficult to make sure they are protected with sealant. For that reason, I spray a small amount into a cup and use a craft paint brush to brush the edges. This too can be time-consuming but worth it if it protects my work. That is what prep work is all about!

cutting 1/8 inch squares for the 6 inch prototype took 2 days

When I made the prototypes using the 6 inch Syrofoam balls, they were only 6-1/2 inches in diameter once completed. I wasn’t as concerned with the size as I was with the cuts of mirror I used to show how different each sphere can look depending on the cut of the glass/mirror. These are a fairly nice size to decorate with within a home or garden and could have many decorative uses. As centerpieces for a wedding like these 12 inch gazing balls I’m working on now will be used for, or for a garden party or even a formal indoor dinner. The fact that they are handmade makes them interesting. The prototypes were a great success and I’m pleased with the results. I can physically bring them with me to show potential local clients what they look like or they can be placed on the table for my own decorative use when I do craft shows/fairs/festivals. If people are interested in seeing them in person, and I believe to really get the full impact of them they should be viewed in person whenever possible, I can transport them easily without struggling with their weight.

The ones I’m working on now will be heavy but the perfect combination of plaster strips and thinset cement will be used to get them to the size I need.

plaster cast and thinset will be added until they are the proper size

For these gazing balls, I have a waterproof membrane to paint onto the ball once it is ready for the mirror so protecting it from that point on will be easy. I want to make sure there is no moisture allowing fungus to grow within the membrane on the inner part … yuck … keeping them dry and solid is crucial to their success and mine. Patience is necessary during the building process … something I often struggle with.

using gloved hands I smooth the thinset with water to keep the shape of the sphere as it gets larger

Bowling balls work well and I’ve used them to turn them into garden art. I still have a few in storage to “play” with. The next job I do for gazing balls if it’s for more than one, I would love to use recycled bowling balls in good shape (no splits or damage) depending on the size the client needs and if I can find all the bowling balls I need before my deadline. The best way to find them is to place a free local ad on websites such as Freecycle. I have found quite a few when I did that a few years ago!

Spheres are so much fun to make and can be all sizes and colors. Small ones can make as much of an impact as large ones. Having them sit along side flowers in a summer garden can give your outdoor space a delightful light show when the sun shines (I almost always use some mirror in my spheres for this reason).

Here are a few I’ve made using spheres made of plastic, ceramic, old bowling balls and a Styrofoam ball.

Father's Day Gift for my Dad - Photo courtesy of Patricia Guthrie - recycled bowling ball

Father's Day Gift for my Dad - recycled bowling ball

"Spring Equinox" - Gift for a family member - recycled bowling ball

"Kinetic Energy" - custom order - recycled bowling ball

"Coasting On The Wings Of Tomorrow" - a tabletop mosaic sculpture - ceramic bisque sphere

plastic sphere is covered with broken Christmas ornaments and tempered glass, then grouted - measure about 3 inches in diameter - plastic sphere

prototype using triangle mirror cuts - Styrofoam craft ball

For those interested in ordering one or many mosaic gazing balls for a garden, as a centerpiece or table decoration from me, you can do so by sending me an email through earthmothermosaics@yahoo.com any time.

If you’re interested in creating your own for the first time, I suggest doing a lot of searching online for inspiration and “how-to” information. They are fun to make but can be daunting because they are spherical. Asking questions never hurts and I have found many are willing to share their experiences in the mosaic forums I belong to. Send me a note with any questions you may have if you are unsure about something before you start. Mosaicists are the most open and giving people on the planet. I’ve learned so much. The kindness and openness I have come across has helped build my philosophy on “learning as I go” and to go for it. The sky is the limit!! As a self-taught mosaic enthusiast I approach my work with fun and excitement. I’m always learning!

I made 2 more 4×4 inch donation mosaics to send on to Indiana. I had a few more ideas and made them this week. I’m waiting for the glue to dry, still (it’s been a very wet week here in PA) and once grouted I’ll add bails to the back and put string or rope through the bails for easy hanging.

this daisy will be placed on a 4x4 inch piece of MDF covered in iridescent white stained glass

this shiny dragonfly will be placed on a 4x4 inch piece of MDF covered in blue Van Gogh stained glass

Stay tuned for more pictures in the coming weeks and months to see the progress on these gold mirror gazing balls as I progress with all ten.


©2011 Cindy White, EarthMotherMosaics