Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Artsy Fartsy

In the winter when I can't garden because of rain or cold, I often do art projects where I make something either for inside the house or for the garden. A couple of years ago I experimented with concrete, Portland cement and hypertufa, and you can read about those projects here and here. And more here. I was pretty happy with how they turned out, although I did a couple of projects then that I never actually finished or posted about. But today I'm not posting about those, I'm going to show you something brand new that I made for my new front garden.

It went through a lot of permutations, so bear with me while I talk about the process. I hope you won't be too bored.

A lot of my inspiration came from Pinterest. Although I Pin way more ideas than I will ever use, I do use some of them, even if it's just to consider them and discard them.

When I first decided to put in a greenhouse I knew I wanted it to have some kind of decorated concrete slab by the doorway, sort of like a welcome mat. My first thought was to embed bottles in a rectangle of either gravel or concrete, kind of like this. But Chris was a bit leery of the bottles shifting over time if they were set in gravel, and they were too tall to embed in a huge chunk of concrete. There are lots of different techniques for cutting bottles that I've found on the web, but that many bottles would just be way too much work. I'd still like to do something with bottles in my garden, so perhaps I'll use them as garden edging, like this.

I'm fascinated by mosaics, as I've mentioned before. I tried putting together a small mosaic tabletop several years ago, but abandoned it after a while as just not my thing. But they keep calling to me. A few years ago I was inspired by a picture I saw on the blog danger garden in this post, about her trip to Potted, where she showed abstract colorful shapes embedded in rectangular stepping stones. I still want to make something similar, and I've been collecting all kinds of beads and marbles and various other items thinking I'll eventually use them for stepping stones.

After I abandoned the bottle idea for my "welcome mat" I hauled out the stash of beads and trinkets that I've been collecting for those stepping stones and tried to figure out what to do with them. Right around this time I found lots of Pins that showed spiral shapes reminiscent of a nautilus shell made out of marbles or stones. Like this. Or this. So for a week or so I toyed around with making spirals out of glass marbles and other bits and bobs.

But they just didn't work for me. Awkward, ugly, not quite elaborate enough.

Then I saw this and a light bulb went on. I set right to work on a similar pattern, and came up with this.

More colorful than stones, but it will fit right in with the colorful plans I have for the front garden. I started working from the center outward. Some of these pieces are actually beads -- the large center piece and the larger flat pink and blue ones, as well as the marbled blue ones off to the left.

I quickly realized this could be IT. I painstakingly transferred the beads onto sticky contact paper to keep the pattern together when I wanted to move it, and then because I needed two of them for each side of the "welcome mat" I put together a mirror image of it. I eventually took out that extra little bit at the lower left, and turned it into a sort of comma shape, or maybe a planet and its satellite. Then I stored them till they would be needed.

Pizza boxes underneath the sticky paper worked well for transporting them

Chris was also leery of setting the mosaic in concrete full of aggregate, so he came up with the idea of putting a layer of fast-setting concrete down first and then a half-inch or so of mortar mix, which is much smoother. Laying that concrete pad was one of the last things his crew did, and then I very nervously set to work transferring the mosaic into the mortar.

I used a ruler to measure how far from the edges to start, and then laid them out starting with the center and working outward in layers.

They look so much smaller than they did inside the house.

I had to push the pieces into the mortar mix so they are just slightly submerged.

The whole thing got covered with a couple of folding craft tables and then a big piece of plastic, to keep the rain off.

Here it is after it's been drying for about 3 or 4 hours.

One thing I really like abut the image that I Pinned is the way plants are encroaching on it at the edges. I'd like to eventually plant some sedums and maybe grasses and a few other dry-loving perennials right in the gravel around it, as well as into the gravel in lots of other spots around the greenhouse and the Folly, so that it loses that sterile wasteland look that it has right now. I don't want it to be cottage garden messy, just not quite so bare.

I'm also starting to wish I had done two more for the other two lower corners of the concrete pad. Maybe I'll try painting a design onto the concrete with a stencil. Or should I leave well enough alone? What do you think?

I still have plenty of colorful bits to play with if I ever get around to making those stepping stones that I saw on danger garden.