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