California Backsplash

A visit with architects Susan Ubbelohde and George Loisos in Oakland, CA last summer led to a conversation about me making a backsplash for the 14″ X 38″ space behind the sink in their loft apartment.  My friends have a collection of fiesta ware and I used these colorful dishes as the inspiration for my abstract design.  I also included a sailboat image because Susan and George  are renovating a wooden boat.

Colored pencil drawing in place in Oakland kitchen.
Colored pencil drawing in place in Oakland kitchen.

Once the design was approved, I used underglazes to paint the imagery on 4 X 4 bisque tiles, and then glazed them with a shiny clear glaze.  After the first firing there were a few areas that I wanted to re-work because I didn’t like the look of the brushstrokes.  So I carefully painted those areas with an opaque colored gloss glaze.  Everything looked great after the second firing EXCEPT for one tile that had a little piece of the kiln brick stuck to it.


I spent about ten minutes sanding the area with a rough sandpaper.


Then I sanded for a few more minutes until the offending piece of brick was removed.


Now I will re-fire this one tile and I hope that will be it!

The backsplash minus one tile that is being repaired.
The backsplash minus one tile that is being repaired.

Here are a couple of details that show the dots and dashes that I love because they make everything vibrate.


Thank you to Jill Curtis for her assistance with this project.




Mosaic Workshop at Mass College of Art

I taught a mosaic workshop which took place on two consecutive Sundays in April 2014.  Six students worked on pieces that were approximately eight by eight inches.  The class was six hours on each Sunday, and the time flew by.

mosaic by Christine Demers
mosaic by Christine Demers

I emphasize design and color in my teaching.  We used handmade tiles made in Mexico, called smalti.

Debbie Whitney grouting her mosaic
Debbie Whitney grouting her mosaic

Students carefully decide on the size and direction of the glass tiles to best emphasize the shapes in each composition.

Susan Berman's pair of Boxers
Susan Berman’s pair of Boxers

Sometimes students work on special projects.  The mosaic below was inspired by Roman mosaics, and uses a background called Opus Vermiculatum.    In mosaics, Opus refers to the style of the background, and Vermiculatum means “worm-like”.  So in this case the background color wraps around the numbers first, like a worm, then goes in a different direction, parallel to the borders.

A house number by Elizabeth Brown
A house number by Elizabeth Brown

We learn about a variety of mosaic materials, including ceramic tiles, millefiori, and glass.  Some tiles are matte, some are iridescent.

Aimee Carvalho's multi-media mosaic
Aimee Carvalho’s multi-media mosaic

The flow and movement of the tiles (or tesserae) in a mosaic is called andamento.  In the owl below, the tesserae follow the outline of the owl.  The moon and the branch surround the owl to create a circular movement in this piece.

Mosaic by Kate Larrabee
Mosaic by Kate Larrabee


Kids Need Art Too

My friend Chad asked me to make a gift for his godson who just turned one.  He said it should be a plate with an edge so “his peas won’t fall off” and he wanted a Scottish theme for a Scottish boy.  This is the plate still warm in the kiln.  The boy’s initials are on the back.  If his parents keep this on a high shelf for the next fifteen years he will have it as a memento of his first birthday for a long time.


Three Commissioned Paintings

I spent the winter of 2013 keeping warm by painting three large oil on wood paintings.  These pieces were commissioned for the lobby of a hospital.  I was encouraged to include a few more animals than usual, hence the squirrel.


The painting above is entitled Long and Lovely.  I used Ronan lettering enamel, and most areas have two or three coats of paint.  Then I applied many, many dots to enliven the surfaces and make subtle adjustments to the color relationships.


This painting is entitled Then and Now.


This painting is entitled Short and Sweet.

Starting a New Mosaic

I recently started work on a 5′ X 5′ mosaic for a new park in the city of Boston.  The installation date is June 1st so it will be a busy six weeks.  I worked out the design in colored pencil, using the muted palette of the Cinca tiles I have chosen for this project.


 The working title is City Square with Reflecting Pool.  The tiles in the middle, watery portion of the mosaic will probably be shiny to contrast with the matte ceramic tiles I am using for the buildings.  Below is the first building coming together.