The mosaic for the Magnolia Bench is made from Italian Smalti tile. These beautiful glass tiles are roughly the same size and thickness with some variation. We use a nipper tool to cut them to size when we want them smaller. We sourced these tesserai from Glass Mosaic Canada, located on the Queensway in Toronto. Akram Gabra was able to supply us with all the colours we need, along with plenty of technical advice. He sells both the Italian Smalti and also Mexican Smalti tile at his shop.
Our approach to this mosaic was much different than our method on the birds. Since this is a bench, and we want people to be able to sit on it safely, our usual direct and highly textured approach was not going to work. As well, the project was large enough and complex enough that we wanted to be able to build the mosaic in sections in the studio, transport the sections to the site and reassemble on-site. Initially we used tacky clear vinyl to hold the sections in place, with masking tape on the back to reinforce, but we evolved our process to using clear vinyl on both sides. We were able to transport the sections safetly by neatly stacking them in layers with corrugated cardboard.
We tried wherever possible to create sections of mosaic that followed lines in the drawing. The drawing paper represented the contour of the stone. We made a drawing on the paper, which then became the map for the whole piece.
The Magnolia Bench was a commission consisting of a granite bench, magnolia mosaic bench-top and flower and butterfly carving. The carving was created by Ruth Arnold, a great wood carver we’ve known for many years. For this project we worked with the folks at HGH Granite, who were able to do the stone-work and the bench installation. The mosaics were created in the studio in sections and reassembled on-site, and installed using a specialty polymerized mortar. The tesserae for this mosaic are Italian smalti (glass) tiles.