24 March–More background

Saturday noon, and it’s been slow going.

The blue tile inventory being low means that I have to search a long time for each tile to try to fit into a space. What I wrote on March 18 is more and more true as I go along.

SOMEWHERE out there is that mother lode of tile from someone’s 1950’s kitchen remodel!!

But that doesn’t mean progress has stopped.  Here’s what she looked like at the end of the day yesterday:

You can see all the blue tiles added under her arm (those were still taped up previously); more of the yellow beach tiles, and a lot more filled in under her body and behind her tail.  Here are a few closeups (from yesterday and this morning):

More yellow beach tile, and my first use of a pointed shell (what are those, anyway?) in the design. I’m still very curious how the grout is going to flow around those…

A lot more around the tailfin! Being down on the blue I’m focusing on the green.  One thing that slows me down and makes this take longer, is I’m working on the top of the wall, so I have to go all the way up and down the stepstool, usually at least three times (often more) for each tile.  Since breaking my leg three years ago taking just that many steps off a ladder, I do this very carefully each time.  It’s tiring.

Also, notice way up on top:  those tiles are going off into airspace off the top of the wall.  I may have to reinforce that from behind somehow, but we’ll see.  I’m hoping the cement (or if necessary, the No Mas Clavos) will hold them securely.

Finally, here’s a detail of that one small area under her body, connecting her waist to the bottom of the wall.  I end up using a lot of small tiles (and doing quite a bit of nipping and grinding) to make these fit.


Next page:  25 March–A few more go up


18 March–Every Tile Counts

I really am feeling the squeeze on the pastel blue tile.  I want to cut as little as possible, to try to use what I have to its best advantage.

As my inventory of tile gets smaller, it is harder and harder to find pieces that fit and mesh with what is already on the wall. Because of that, it’s not practical right now to mix up the cement, spread it out, and then choose and place the tiles.  (We keep an eye out for more beach tiles, and others are looking out for us, too.)

So instead, I’m doing what you can see in this photo:

Every piece of blue masking tape that you see is holding up one or more tiles, which I’ve selected to fit (and hopefully look good in) the space–there’s a total of about 40 up there.

Off to the right in the top photo, the two blue-tape stars show about where our two real starfish will go; they’ll give something for La Sirena to be reaching for and looking at.  (Not that starfish actually swim; call it artistic license.)

I’ll place more tiles this way until there’s enough to be able to mix up cement and glue them on.  And if I have some left over, I can work on the yellow sand area at the right; nothing very critical there and there is lots of yellow tile!

Next page: 24 March–More background

13 March–Back After Traveling!

It’s been a long time since my last update!  There were two fun trips in the interim (Veracruz Carnaval and Calakmul), and I have done some work since then.

There was quite a bit of detail work.  If I just have to insert a few tiles it isn’t worth mixing up a batch of cement, so I’m using the No Mas Clavos adhesive again.  GREAT stuff!  But would cost a fortune to do the whole wall that way.

Several people commented that her right arm (that extends backwards under her hair) looked too short. I agonized over this for a while and decided they were right. You can see a couple of tiles just to the right of her shell bracelet; that extra two inches makes a big difference.

I got a birthday gift–a box of golden-orange square glass tiles left over from a remodeling project. It occurred to me that they might make a nice edging for the sand sea-bottom area, so I’ve placed just a few of them onto the wall to get an idea how it might look.

But the big addition today is ocean tile.  A few days ago, I found tiles to fit right around her tail and taped those on the wall (meaning–no racing against time as the cement sets in the bucket).

Then today, I mixed up cement and attached all of those to the wall around her tail.  And then–the big unknown–I had to find tiles to fill in the gap between that “outline” row and what was already on the wall, where I’ve been working in from the edges.

You can see the results here. That “end of the tail” area is about the most complicated on the whole wall, and it required a lot of small tiles to make things fit.

I think that works.  But I’ve also discovered that I have nowhere near enough blue tile, unless there’s more buried in boxes that I forgot about or filtered out in my first sorting (a year ago!).  If I don’t find any more blue, I may have to put out a request to the local Facebook group to see if anyone has any unused ones lying around.

So here she is, as of the end of the day:

Next page:  18 March–Every Tile Counts!

6 February–One More Post Before Traveling

I’ve packed everything up for now since we’ll be traveling for most of February.  But before leaving, I promised a couple of weeks ago to show what the pattern looked like on which I was laying out the tile:

It’s a bit mushy (especially with the shadow of the palm tree in there), but you are looking at the FULL SIZE printout, done on many sheets of paper way back last April.  There is heavy clear plastic over it.  It is blown up many times the original size so that every pixel is about the size of a tile–that turned out to be a good thing.

Next page–13 March: Back After Traveling!

5 February-Right Arm, and LOTS of Hair

Only one more day before we start traveling for most of February, and I really want to try and get La Sirena (the mermaid herself) finished if I can!

Today I focused on two things, her left arm and her hair:

Here’s her arm.  I think I envisioned it a little stronger, and a bit longer, but I did not have enough tile to do that (even adding an inch by giving her a shell bracelet to match her necklace).

I would not be surprised if I end up chiseling that off and doing it again.  That should be possible because her other arm is going to use much less tile than I thought, because she’s grown a lot more hair than the original design!

You can see that bit of blue masking tape at the top center of the picture; that is about where her hand will be.  So there is very little arm that will show from behind her hair.

Tomorrow I hope I can do that arm and then fill in the missing tiles at her waist.  Unless I do decide to beef up her left arm, she’ll be done!

NEXT PAGE:  6 February–One Last Post Before Traveling

4 February–Tail Finished!

I knew this was going to be tough going in.  The laying out of those first rows of tiles were not looking just like the original, so I knew the bottom half was going to have to go tile-by-tile while looking at the drawing.

In the end (and after stripping a lot of the tiles off once and doing them again, here’s the photo of the tail in its final form:

The inset at the lower right is from the original Web photo, and it’s easy to see the different shape.  Still, I think the fin looks good, and the curved placement of the tiles gives the right feeling for the shape of the fin.

Had some adhesive left over, so I went to work on her right arm.   The “V” of masking tape in the photo shows the spot on the wall that I’ll aim to finish with her fingers.


NEXT PAGE:  February 5–Arm and LOTS of Hair!

1 February–The Fin

BEAUTIFUL DAY TODAY!  We’re finally over all that crappy weather; this is what the snowbirds come down here to enjoy.

This morning was my first shot at the tailfin, by far the most complex part of the tail.  Although the top third is mostly just some more rows of tiles, the rest is a mass of curves and angled or shaped tiles.

I’m not even using the big rectangular notched trowel for this; I don’t know exactly where the tiles are going so I’d waste too much.  So I’m using the small one; just trying to make sure I get enough on.


So I got this far.  It’s pretty messy, and I’m going to have to start going tile-by-tile to try to get close to my original layout (a photo of that is inset here).
But I’m letting it dry well first, so I can strip off the masking tape, wipe off the excess and see what the heck I’m doing.


Some Photoshop time to get a better feel for how this is supposed to look.  Superimposed the tailfin from the original Website image on to the tiles already on the wall, and then drew in where the outside wall of small dark blue tiles should be.

You can see that 45-degree angle going down to the lower right; that delineates where the far side of the fin begins.  The tiles coming off that and down to the lower left will be at that angle, giving the whole thing some depth.

Just realized, you’ve never seen that original!  Here you go.


NEXT PAGE: Finishing the Fin

30 January–Major Progress

I think we are finally done with the rain delays!  Today was threatening but ended up just cloudy and windy; later the sun came out and it was a beautiful afternoon for working on La Sirena.

You’ve not seen her face yet!  In the last photo from a few days ago, the brown paper still covered her.

The blue masking tape is holdingup pieces that did not quite stick.  I went back later and used No Mas Clavos glue (in the USA this would be very similar to the stuff called Liquid Nails) to put those up more securely.

I also put up the second batch of tiles that were glued to the squares of brown paper.  I would say about 70% of them stuck, excluding all of the blue glass tiles. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to just put those in logically using the No Mas Clavos.

And that is how she stayed for the last couple of days, until this afternoon.  I mixed up a batch of this adhesive, which is supposed to be good for all kinds of tile, including glass.

I was working fast to use this stuff.  You may remember how I had to pull all the glass tiles off the table because they had stuck to it, put waxed paper under them and stuck masking tape on top to hold them in strips.

IT WORKED.  I went strip by strip, troweling the adhesive on the wall, picking up each tape strip and pressing it into the adhesive.  I’m sorry I don’t have photos of that process (will try to get some next time), but here’s what we have now, at the end of the day!

Nearly the whole tail is done, although the fin may be tricky.  I added more hair as well as some blue sea tile at the left, mainly just to use up the adhesive.  (I mixed a bit too much.)

She’s still disarmed; the arms will extend forward and back, behind her hair.

So, all good!  Now if I only knew if all those glass tiles are actually going to STAY UP.  Time will tell on that one.

NEXT PAGE:  February 1–The Fin

26 January–The Face Goes Up!

This is the third day of forecast rain holding me up, with NADA coming from the sky.  So although I may be tempting Cha’ac (the Maya rain god), today I went out back, mixed some pegamento and put the first square of papered tiles up on the wall.

I’ve mixed a wild-guess amount; about what I saw Reynaldo mix up the other day.  Then spread it on the wall using the big rectangular notched trowel.
I hope it’s thick enough!  I’m not putting it on the back of the tiles as well; it just does not seem like it would work with the tiles glued to the brown paper–would be WAY too heavy and probably pull tiles right off the sheet.

Here she is; ready to go up.  I’ve sprayed the back of the tile lightly with water, and just hope the whole thing doesn’t fall apart as I lift it up.





Here we go; kind of unfolding the floppy tiled paper up onto the wall.

If I lose a few tiles (which I have), it should not be hard to figure out where they go.  Like those last few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.


Pushing, pressing, slamming… whatever you want to call it, just trying to get the tile to adhere to the cement pegamento.

No way of really knowing any of this until I peel the paper off tomorrow!




And there it is!  Somewhere under there is La Sirena’s face, neck, and part of her upper body.

You can see the faint horizontal pencil line near the top.  I drew my best estimate of a LEVEL (that is, parallel to the ground) line while this piece was still on the table, and used that line to get it at the right angle. The bit of blue at the right of the photo is about a foot-long piece of blue tape I stuck up first with my bubble level, so I had something to eyeball against.

Good thing I did those things, because I found I had no idea how to angle the piece without them!

NEXT PAGE:  30 January–Major Progress!