Glass and Cement Menagerie
Learn how an artist creates mosaic sculptures of a variety of animals.
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As an art major at UC Berkeley, Michele Taylor-Heath never much liked making models, which is pretty important when you're studying conceptual metal sculpture. If you're working to match a model, then the sculpture is no longer free to evolve, and evolution is what Heath's art is all about. After college, Heath first used tiles and glass accents doing a commissioned mosaic of a large "lounge lizard" for a desert hotel. As her work has grown, she stopped using glass just for the accents and now hot sculpts her own mosaic elements to color her wild animal menagerie, from lizards and elephants to long-necked birds and turtles.
Each of Heath's glass mosaic animals — some as big as 11 feet long — start as a concept: no models or mock-ups here. This concept is quickly skeletonized with welded rebar, bent to the basic shape of her chosen animal. Once the metalwork is done, she covers the structure in wire mesh, which is in turn covered by two layers of cement. All the glass elements are hand-molded and colored while hot and to the desired shape, size and thickness.
She arranges her glass pieces carefully; not only is placement important, but some of those pieces are sharp! Then she adheres them to the structure with more cement. The whole sculpture is then cured; mortar is used to fill in the spaces between the glass elements, and the whole thing is sealed.
Heath enjoys creating interactive art. That is, sculptures that are outdoors, publicly accessible, and tactile. Building her works out of metal, cement and glass is sure to secure their longevity, no matter where they're displayed.