This past Summer I was contacted by Laumeier Sculpture Park to see if I would be interested in installing the ceramic mosaic portions of the two Sam Falls sculptures, Spring and Super Bloom. Unfortunately, Sam’s regular installer and craftsman was not available for this particular project and consequently, the park needed to find someone capable of overseeing the mosaic installation. Amazingly, the park’s staff found me because of a recent blog post I had made about the 2017 mosaic project my Sculptural Ceramics class and I created for the University of West Florida campus. When invited to come in and discuss the project, I was of course honored by the invitation and jumped at the opportunity!
Sam’s paintings are created outdoors with the use of moisture and time sensitive dyes, layering local fauna and flowers on canvas to create colorful abstract compositions of shadows and light. As it can be seen in the four detail shots below, taken from four paintings included in his exhibition at Laumeier Sculpture Park, August 24- December 22, 2019, his process creates a depth of layering that goes in and out of sharpness and clarity, and leaves an amalgamation of visual information for the viewer to loose themselves in.
For the outdoor aspect of Sam’s exhibition, he made two large sculptures titled, Spring and Super Bloom. It was for these two pieces that I was hired to install the ceramic mosaic. Each piece was created with a 30 foot steel I-beam, metal mesh backing and handmade ceramic tiles. The metal mesh was tacked into the insets on both sides of each I-beam and was used as the surface to attach all of the mosaic tiles. Prior to adhering the ceramic tiles with mortar to the metal mesh, each tile had to be unpacked, composed, measured and final cuts made to fit between the two edges of the I-beam frame. By making each tile composition longer and wider than the space in which they would be installed, it allowed me to use a jig & tile-saw to create a very precise junction between the ceramic and the steel. In total, both sculptures were a combined total length of 120 feet.
Once all of the tiles were placed and mortared, I was able to move onto the next step of grouting. However, with Sam’s tiles being heavily textured, they all needed to be individually masked with painters tape in order to keep crisp grout lines. As this is a very tedious job, I was extremely fortunate to have had the assistance of friends and Laumeier staff as part of the process!
To complete the mosaics, each grout line was inspected, cleaned and sealed. First I aggressively scrubbed all of the mosaics with a wire brush and then wiped them with a dry cheese cloth. Once all was clean of any residue or dust, each face of the two sculptures were sealed with an industrial sealant that ultimately will help them to stand up to the elements of time.
It was an honor to work with Laumeier Sculpture Park on this great project and installation. I appreciate this valuable experience and it was truly a privilege to spend time working with the artist, Sam Falls.