Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Artesian Well mosaic installation, Day One

I had a late start this morning.  The car needed to be packed with buckets, mixer, thinset, materials, tools, dropcloths, etc.  Then a business matter came up that I needed to take care of, and by the time I got to town, it was 10am.

Luckily, there is a water source right there at the job site.  And I cleared with LOTT (our water treatment center) where I could rinse my buckets, so that is all kosher.

I had this plan: to smear dry grout into the grout lines of the taped fish before applying them to the thinset, so that the thinset would be prevented from squishing up between the tesserae.  This did not work out.  The powder fell out all over as I tipped the fish into the thinset bed, and mixing grout and thinset together just made a mess out of the process.

So, I abandoned that idea right away.  When I used my notched trowel to even out the mortar, it didn't fill some of the odd, curved shapes (like sea glass), so I began laying the mortar on with a spatula.  Thinset is squished all into the grout-lines, quite visible through the clear tile tape.  I have no choice but to go back later and carve it all out.

While it was pretty darn balmy out here in my neck of the woods, it turned out to be cold and windy in Olympia.  I was shaking like a scared rabbit out there, hunched over, dropping my pieces every which way (usually into my thinset bucket.)  The mortar was setting up much faster than usual, probably because of the wind, so I tried to work as fast as possible.  It was a mess.  The lay of the tesserae is much more rudimentary than I would prefer, and there is thinset stuck to all of the surfaces.

My phone alarm was set for 1:30 so that I would have time to clean up and race back to Elma to pick up 3 girl scouts and get them to their meeting on time.  That is a very short, frantic work day.

So, I expect to have quite a fix-it job tomorrow, but I will also be more prepared.  I'll take layers of clothing to be prepared for any weather.  I'll be sure to get a caffeine fix before arriving - something I did not do today.  I'll get an earlier start.  I'll take my knee pads so that I am not in extreme discomfort the whole time.  I'll slow down and take more care with the layout.

I only managed to cover about 2/3 of one side of one pillar, so there is still time and room to turn this around.  On Friday, a mosaic artist from south of Portland is going to drive all the way to Olympia to work along-side me!  It will be very nice to have the help and the company.

Not that I didn't have company; the stream of visitors filling water jugs was nonstop today, and most people wanted to talk.  Predominately, they wanted to know what the heck I was doing to the well?  Some felt compelled to share the history of the well, and one person relayed a detailed description of a new kind of building material he wanted to invent, along with a method of creating free housing for people in need.  If I understood correctly, the structures would be made of corrugated cardboard and the exteriors would be mosaic.

So, it was a day of reckoning of sorts.  I've worked really hard on this project for the past 6 weeks, but it is clear that I am just beginning.  But, when it is done, it will be a really fun place to fill up your jugs.

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