I left off at Part Three with finding what I thought to be the best solution for building up the beach balls. I had 6 weeks left to get ten 12 inch gazing balls completed and shipped.

When I built up the first ball, I used a 12 x 12 inch box to place it in to make sure it was the right size. I really liked this idea. I felt like a genius.

A 12 x 12 x 8 inch USPS flat rate box helped me keep the spheres at their requested size

I didn’t have time to make one at a time any longer, I had to make 2 or 3 at a time and keep going until they were built up and ready for glass.

As the weeks progressed and I was building these balls with just packing peanuts, plastic wrap and thin set, I noticed they were way too lumpy and not as smooth as I wanted them to be. The peanuts were different sizes; some were biodegradable, I learned much too late and when they got wet from the thin set which I used to put the peanuts on the balls, some of them disintegrated a bit the next day. What a mess. I took the wrap and layers off of a few and redid them.

I asked my daughter for a loan which she gladly gave me (bless her heart) and ordered more plaster cast strips because the lumps and bumps were really bad on a few of these balls and I wasn’t happy at all. By then, I had made a few without the strips and considered pulling everything off and doing them again but the calendar said: “FULL STEAM AHEAD” and I didn’t do it. I just continued on with the rest once the strips arrived.

What this did was make some look pretty darned good while others looked really lumpy, bumpy and not very spherical. I was so unhappy and starting to feel the stress from the deadline looming, the amount of work I had already put into this order and I was angry with myself too because I hadn’t found the perfect way to make these spheres with the materials I had available to me. They just didn’t look the way they were supposed to.

One morning while drinking my coffee and staring at the balls all around me I was not happy. I almost hated the fact that I had to continue working on them. I didn’t want to do them anymore. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to sleep.

Depression took over as I wondered if I’d do the same things again in the same way? I did some soul searching at this point. In December of 2010 when I got laid off, as I left the building I had worked in for a few years I let out a happy “WHOO-HOOOO!!!” because I knew the next phase of my life would be devoted to my first love of mosaic making. I had severance pay, a bit of savings and would continue to look for work in data processing but knew I would never do that again. I was okay with that because I had a rare chance to spend quality time, every single day, doing what I loved. I knew that it would sustain me in a way I never imagined. What I didn’t see was the economy taking a nose dive and just about the time I started to get a following with teaching basic classes and building a following, everyone would pull back on their spending causing me to crash and burn after the savings was gone. Not finding a job in computer work, not even part time, wasn’t as disappointing as not being able to find anyone interested in taking a class or buying a mosaic.

So here I was, living with my daughter and her family (and extremely blessed and grateful for them all), watching the grandkids when they needed me to, doing what I said I wanted to do which was make mosaics. That was good right? Why was I unhappy? I wondered when that happened. Why didn’t I see this as a possible scenario in my quest?

If the opportunity arrived again to do a big job like this, would I do it? Could I do it? Would I keep moving forward and push through all the tough stuff – pain especially, no matter what, as I’ve always told myself to do? Or would I refuse to do another custom order?

Where did the passion for this medium go? Would I be smarter next time, if there ever was a next time, and think about my overall health and well-being before they became an issue? Did I even believe that my health could take a turn for the worse by doing something I used to love to do? Would I ever love working on mosaics again? What would I do if there weren’t mosaics in my daily life?

I couldn’t answer many of these questions at that point. All I knew was that I was very tired. I sighed heavily and with just as heavy a heart, I started my day with building gazing balls without joy or love for the craft.

By October of 2011, I was no longer driven or enjoying any of it. I had no passion left. No bliss. I was heart broken. Heart sick. Once this order became a job, it changed for me. I never bothered too much about the money end of this craft. I knew I did what I did because I loved to do it. If no one but me liked it, I always said, I didn’t care, I would make them for me first. If someone wanted to buy what I made, that would be cool but not necessary for me to continue with what I was doing. That was why I was struggling so much with all of this now. Somehow along the way I had convinced myself that the money mattered more than the mosaics and because my thoughts changed, my feelings for the craft changed too.

I had to stop obsessing about what was wrong with everything going on around me. I had to stop worrying. I needed to see this job through because I was too close to the end to stop now. I never had to give myself a pep talk before with anything I did with mosaics like this. I truly enjoyed working on them up to this point; I really loved playing and creating with stained glass and dish shards. Even the things that didn’t turn out okay, I was fine with and moved on happily to the next thing to play with and learn. Now, I gave myself a ton of lectures. I needed to continue on my way with this project and stop fussing. I said: “chin up, keep pushing, rest later, get going”.

I told myself to ignore the pain in my body that was slowly creeping up. Spending long hours standing at the work table without giving myself breaks or much sleep/rest was a stupid thing to do. So many times I “heard” that nagging voice telling me to stop, slow down, write to the customer and share my concerns about my physical health, my disappointment with how the balls were going, my exhaustion. I pushed the voices away. I wasn’t a quitter!

Lesson Four: Never ignore the little voice that tells you to slow down and rest. If your gut tells you something isn’t right … listen to it … it’s NEVER wrong.

I pushed on and continued with what I had to do. Once the first ball was completely ready, I covered it in a waterproofing product that is bright pink when slathered on (it is thick and smells but it was something I wanted to do to give the balls the protection to be placed outside after the wedding if she wanted to give them away as many do with centerpieces) and dries a cool looking red. It is something found at all DIY stores called RedGard and is used in the bathroom quite often for shower stalls. $40 for a gallon and well worth the cost because I know it works well thanks to a few mosaicists sharing the info through their own experiences. I was ready, after the waterproofing membrane was dry, to start covering it with gold mirror! Yay! I was finally on my way to getting this large job finished!!

I shared a photo on Facebook and someone mentioned this product didn’t work for them at all. The glass fell off and they had a really hard time with it. Hmmmm. Up ’til now I had only seen good things about this product. I decided to do a test on a smaller ball and it went well. After 24 hours the mirror, stained glass and dish shards I used to test it all stayed on that one section I covered in the RedGard, so I figured it would be fine. I forged ahead and started covering the ball with mirror. About 1/2 way through I decided to quit for the night confident that it would take no time at all to continue when I felt more rested.

The red ball had an odd shape to it (not perfect but then again what is that is handmade?) but it was 12 inches! Yay!

The next day I picked up the ball to continue adding glass to it and all the triangles fell off each time I put it down or moved it. The thin set and the waterproofing product weren’t compatible with each other for me either. Bummer. It’s possible that the thin set was a bit too watery or that I used too much RedGard. I couldn’t take the time to experiment with this. I don’t know why I didn’t when I had the time because I had never used the waterproofing membrane before. No real planning and just charging ahead without thinking about it isn’t always the right thing to do. This is the mind of the contemporary abstract artist. Spontaneous thinking isn’t always a good thing.

While I was very disappointed and a bit upset because this again put me behind by a few days, I knew this process was something I wanted to do but not something I had to do. The customer never asked for. So I pulled the membrane off quite easily and covered the ball with one last layer of thin set. Had it worked I believe it would have given the spheres the shape they needed a little better taking away the bumps and lumps that were visible without it. The balls only had to be used for a few hours in the center of a table. If they weren’t waterproof, so what? That’s not what the customer asked for.

As I worked on each ball building them up I was quickly running out of room in my bedroom where I now work and basically live since my computer, TV and all the mosaic fun stuff is in this room. It got kind of funny after a while, seeing them all over the room placed on the floor on top of each other, on my bed when I was moving them around, etc. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that was still left to do and I was STILL cutting glass as I was going along with working on them.

The bride sent me one of her invitations so that I could see the color she wanted for the grout. Her gold and burgundy colors were gorgeous and I knew I could get the grout mixed up myself when the time came using colorant I could easily find online.

Once I knew the color of the grout she wanted, I added colorant to the thin set in the same burgundy color so that when the grout was added there would be no white thin set peeking through at all. I covered two balls and then placed them on my windowsill to dry. Before they were completely dry or ready for grout I took a picture because the sun was shining so nicely on them as I was working at my table.

I posted it online and wrote to the customer telling her they were posted for her to look at and share with her fiance. She saw them, shared them with her man and both said they looked great.

Side note: Throughout this whole process, except for building up the balls with packing peanuts, I shared everything else on my photostream. I knew that what I was doing with the packing peanuts would have been questioned by many because I was questioning it myself and I just couldn’t face trying to start over once more. I opted to keep that info to myself. That tells me that I was not feeling confident in what I was doing with this process. I’d have shared it online otherwise as I do everything.

Sharing the photos, not only could the customer see the process with each step from cutting up the glass to adding the mirror to the sphere but all my friends could see it too. Many were amazed that I was taking on such a large task by myself with very little cash. Others questioned my sanity for even trying to do it at all. And still others said they thought they were beautiful and that I was doing a wonderful job.

My friends within the mosaic making community keep me going during the hardest times in my life but especially within these past few years. I have only met one artist in person but I trust them all and would feel confident that if I were to show up unannounced at their door step, they’d at the very least stop what they were doing, pull me in, hug me, give me some coffee, tea or wine (or all 3) and plenty of advice and strong shoulders to lean on if I needed it. Rest assured, I would do the same for any of them. I have never, ever, felt so loved in my entire life by fellow artists until I meet the people who I now call my friends through the large online mosaics community. They are a rare breed of people and I’m honored to say I mingle among them even if it is only online. Some long time friends from high school and my early twenties have been there with me a lot too and I’m grateful for every single one of them. Big hugs and kisses to you all!!

To be continued …

Stay peaceful.

©2012 Cindy White, EarthMotherMosaics