Sunday, October 26, 2008

stepping up

In 2006, after knocking down the hallway walls and then moving the front door to be flush with the front wall instead of set back inside the house, all the front steps had to be built up the depth of a full step. There was a gap of about 2 inches left under the door, and I spent all winter with a draught excluder roll thing, trying to keep out the wind and dust. I couldn't work out the best solution to the problem, then one morning, in mid-June, it was obvious - tile it, then of course, tiling became mosaicing.....

I found some inspiring images of the stairways in San Francisco.
Because my flight of steps is not high, I decided to decorate the treads, not the face as on the SF ones, which climb right up the hillsides. Inspired by the Gaudi benches in Barcelona, my steps feature random broken tiles from the tip, slate pebbles and some not so random bits cut out of some expensive, ex-display tiles.

During the four days it took me to complete the work, the sun beat down and it was really hot. Sadly for me, but luckily for the tiling, I was working in the shade all day long. I had lots of people stop and comment, and my initial concerns that Ménéac was not ready for this, were soon dispelled. Four months later, people still stop and tell me how pretty they are.

the rose windowsill

After spending the long dark days of February and March with a living room that had still to be tackled, I spent some long days in April ripping off the wallpaper with a steamer and scraper. On a trip to the tip with the bags of wallpaper, I saw someone about to throw away a load of china plates with little roses on. He was happy to let me have them instead of throwing them in. A few days later, on one of the first warm and sunny Spring days, I spent an afternoon in the garden cutting the plates up, with no idea what I was going to do with them. A couple of days later, on a wet, cold and windy April morning, it suddenly dawned on me what to do with them. At that time, it was one of the first things you noticed when you came in the front door.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

the dolphins

In the summer of 2006, I came to Ménéac with my friend James, who was to spend 3 weeks with me before heading off to Greece to make a fresh start there. I was to spend 5 weeks here, and with help from James, would be 'decorating' this house to make it more to my taste. Well, it didn't quite work out like that, and within days, walls started coming down, wires were exposed, rotten wood went to the tip, the cellar floor was excavated. By the end of week 3, it was all too much for me, and the scale of what I'd taken on got to me. James suggested I dig out the bathroom mosaic tiles he'd rescued from a skip in Sheffield a couple of years earlier, and start a mosaic like I'd always planned to. It was one of the best things he ever did for me. It gave me enthusiasm again, and a goal for the bathroom, which by now had been reduced in size with a stud wall and new door that I'd put up. I decided on a large panel for the side of the bath - a bit ambitious for a beginner, but I liked the idea. I sketched out a design of an underwater scene, but when my new friend Bruno saw it, he suggested I put dolphins on instead of the fish I'd drawn. So that was how the design evolved.

2006 was a gorgeous summer, and I spent many happy afternoons in the yard behind the house, chopping and cracking small tiles into bits. James stayed for 3 months, I came backwards and forwards from Sheffield all summer, and Bruno dropped by most days to see the progress. Everyone had their favourite dolphin, including Patrick, my neighbour. James and I both came back to Ménéac at New Year, but the mosaic remained untouched as the kitchen floor came first.

It wasn't until summer 2007 that it was finished, along with a smaller one I started in Sheffield to go with it. Tiling and decorating the bathroom was my goal that summer, and I'd already decided that the panels were too good to be put on the side of the bath, so that is how they came to be on the walls. Incredibly, I managed to get them up there all on my own one boiling hot saturday lunchtime as a wedding party was coming out of the church. I hated the job of grouting them, and swore I would never do another mosaic as detailed as that again! And I also made up my mind to come here to live.