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!

22 January — A Sticky Problem

Way back in May, when I laid out La Sirena’s blue tail, I had to peel every one of the small square pool tiles off of a mesh backing.

Unfortunately, some of the adhesive stayed on the back of those tiles, and now they are all stuck tightly to the clear plastic sheet that I covered the table with. (Also underneath that sheet is the big paper printed blowup of the design; I’ll show that to  you once it’s visible again.)


So today I started the tedious process of peeling off every tile (sometimes with my thumb, sometimes it takes a chisel).  I’m doing this in pairs of rows, and then covering them with a strip of masking tape to keep them aligned.  After that, I’m laying down a little strip of waxed paper, which will hopefully keep them from sticking down again!

Here’s a pic a couple of hours later.  All those tiles have been pried up, then laid back down, taped and wax-papered.  Still have to do the fin, but the job is mostly done.

NEXT PAGE:  26 January–The Face Goes Up!

20 January 2018–First Wall Tiles

Here again is how she looked as of a few days ago.  She has more hair (leftover glass tile from a bathroom project).  A line of small seashells creates a necklace and defines the shape of her face.  You can see her two arms, one trailing behind and the other reaching out front.  All the blue and green tiles are just random; they will be put on the wall one at a time once her body is up.  (Please note that she is still on the table in that photo, horizontal.)

I ended up moving her eye back a little, and better defining her nose and chin.  You’ll have to wait a few days to see how that looks, because here is how she looks as I write this in the late afternoon:

I painted one side of this special brown mosaic transfer paper (ordered from Mosaic Art Supply in the USA way back in May 2017) and spread it carefully over her face and torso.  When it’s dry, I will (theoretically) be able to carefully lift the pages with the tiles intact, butter the back of the tiles with mortar, and place them up on the wall.  The next day I’ll soak the paper with a hose; the water will melt the glue (Resistol 850 Adhesivo Blanco Escolar, Mexico’s equivalent of Elmer’s School Glue) and the paper will fall off.

And here is the result of my first lesson in mounting tiles.

We started at the bottom left corner, far away from where Sirena will be.  Master albanil Reynaldo mixed the mortar and applied some to the wall (you can see the mortar with the lines from the notched trowel).

I picked it up from there, spreading some mortar on each tile and pressing it in place.  I learned fast to wear a glove when using the mortar; my index finger is still feeling a bit irritated from rubbing that stuff.

We’ve got a pile of shells what we want to work into the “rising sand ocean floor” on the right side of the mosaic, so Reynaldo showed me how to stick one up.  It’s the ONLY thing over there and will probably be lonely for quite a while.

A few hours later…

The glue has dried, and I carefully flipped the first sheet of paper over.  It seems to have worked really well!

Just a few tiles and shells didn’t come over, and it will be very easy to know where they go.  In this photo you can see the back of the tiles (her face faces to the left), and the empty area on the right where the tiles used to be.

Now it is late afternoon.  No more will be done today, as we wait and see how well the adhesive mortar is going to work.

NEXT PAGE:  22 Jan 2018

Early Work on La Sirena

This project really started when we visited Barelona in 2016.  Mosaics by artist/architect Antonio Gaudi are everywhere, and we got inspired.

This photo is a tiny detail of a 100-meter-long curbed concrete bench at the Parc Güell, but there is mosaic everywhere in Barcelona.

At the beach, we are cursed with thousands of pieces of abandoned broken ceramic tile, either dumped or washed up on the sand.  Surely a tiny portion of this could be used to create something special?

We started gathering this “beach tile” on our own, and then found someone who had been collecting it for YEARS.  Buckets of the stuff was suddenly available, and the project was born.

The long thin shape of the cinder-block wall suggested a horizontal swimming mermaid, and we had a LOT of pastel blue and green tile to work with!  So I went searching the Web for possibly useful images. (There are thousands of mermaid photos and drawings on the Web, so this was NOT hard.)

The design went thru lots of iterations, mostly to make it work with the available colors of tile.  Here is one example, giving her a yellow tail and having her approach a wall of coral.

I started work in May 2017, and that approach gave this result.  But the tail was just too flat, and the coral was impossible to make detailed enough to look good.  (Remembering that I’ve never done a mosaic before, and we’re trying to make the design match the tile, not the other way around.)

I decided that I really needed to have more control over the tail, which is going to be the most prominent thing in the whole piece.  So I bit the bullet and bought several panels of small glass pool tiles in different shades of blue.  That looks a LOT better!

And this is about how she stayed for the entire rest of 2017, as house project, travel and much more came first.  La Sirena lay out on the three tables in the backyard covered in black plastic until the new year.

NEXT PAGE: 20 Jan 2018