I finished the grouting at home today. Grouting can be so time sensitive. If you clean it too early you remove grout and too late and it becomes hard to clean. Today I was lucky and got it just right. I mixed grey Portland cement today since I’ve been working with it on my own projects. The proportion I use is one part Portland to 3 parts yellow sand. You can use commercial grout unless you have big spaces between tiles. When the tiles dry and lighten I rub off grout with a dry sanding sponge. Then I use a wet sponge that has been rung out and not too wet. The last step is to use a dry towel to polish the tiles a bit and then you are done. The grout can be stained with diluted acrylics if needed or you can add powder or liquid color to the mix. I will color the base once it drys. The doves still need to be filled out with a white Portland cement and white sand mix. It is harder to find but the very fine bright white sand sometimes used in ashtrays is my favorite. Next I will put a foundation in the garden and install in the Bancroft garden. I can’t wait!
Today we started setting small pieces of glass tile to fill the spaces around the handmade tiles.
Ezekial watching me place tiles on a totem section.
Today I attached the handmade tiles to the form. I use red sculpture clay so whatever leftovers I have I use for these projects. Since this will be outdoors the tiles need to be frostproof so they are fired to cone 5. I used thinset for attaching the tile. I like Custom Building products and use their versabond or flexbond. The next step will be to take the sections back to Bancroft when school starts and we will fill in the blank areas with glass tile. Commercial glass mosaic tile or porcelain are suitable for outside projects. I took the photo before cleaning thinset off the tiles. There is quite a bit of clean up in cement projects!
Seeing all those smiling mouths brings me good memories. Grayson loved to laugh and I loved making funny noises to get him laughing. I miss that kid.
The next step is to put a rough coat of cement on the parts. Many make the mistake of making this too thick especially kids! Children love to play in cement so you need to exercise a lot of control. You just want to cover the mesh. Cement gets heavy so you want to keep things as light as possible. For small pieces I mix my own sand mix. This is 1 part portland cement and 3 parts sand. When I am covering a large project or having many projects going a once I just buy a 60lb bag of commercial sand mix. Sometimes it is called topping mix. You can buy smaller amounts at a local hardware store. The big stores like Lowes only sell 60lb bags. I think 40lbs is the smallest amount. This is what I used this time since I have a lot of personal projects going on. This is basically using a typical building construction technique (a house stucco finish) for art. Artists can learn so much from the building trades. Something to remember with cement work is anything loose in a form will crack. It is a very forgiving medium but you want to try to make your forms as stable as possible. Tomorrow I will brush off the excess with a course brush or an old file I only use for this work.
I have done this so many ways depending on the situation but this is how I will build a form for the Bancroft totem. I’m starting with a builders tube from a Lowes. I cut it into 6 inch sections with a utility knife. One for every child that has passed this year. I made one section 2 ft high to bring the parts closer to eye level and protect the artwork. I made plywood circles the size of the inside diameter of the tubes with a center hole the size of 2 inch pvc plumbing pipe and attached them top and bottom to the builders tubes with brads. Each section has a piece of pvc pipe through the center. These sections are then covered with either hardware cloth or stucco lath. I attach the wire cloth or lath with rebar wire loops that I twist on the inside and pull tight with pliers. I attach the wire to the plywood with a staple gun.