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Category: Process and Materials

A to Z Challenge 2012: G is for Grout & A Grout Monster

Grout is the mysterious element of making mosaics.  Grout can unite the pieces or make them stand apart.  The word Grout may come from the Old English “gruta” meaning coarse meal, a kind of porridge.  Grout fills in the spaces, as if a sustaining porridge, yet has no adhesive quality in and of itself.  Grout obscures the surface when applied, but then helps reveal the ultimate beauty of the glass.  Grout is why I spend so much time in hardware stores.  Grout is the fuel of my friend Joanne, The Grout Monster, who loves to grout as a healing process of playing in the mud.  Joanne is in the middle of her 2012 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County program, and for the month of April, National Poetry Month, I give a shout out to Joanne Leva, Grout Monster and poet extraordinaire.

Fruit of the Spirit: Refreshing the Roots and Bearing Fruit

Fruit of the Spirit in Polyester
Fruit of the Spirit Mobile by Margaret Almon(Age 12)

When I wrote earlier about my Fruit of the Spirit Mobile that I painstakingly stitched from polyester double knit, my mother emailed this photo to me, as she has it hanging in her dining room.  I had forgotten how pleased I was with the pineapple of Goodness, and the plaid on a diagonal for texture!  Self-Control is emblazoned a banana, my least favorite fruit, but I still enjoyed the curve.  I may have had a jumper made of the pale peach of Self-Control, and the vibrant orange of Kindness is where my eye goes to now.  Seeing it all in the flesh(fruit-flesh that is), brings back the tactile sense of making the stitches, lining up the fabric.  This part of the root system that led to my life now as an artist, and my new manifestation of the Fruit of the Spirit via the commission from Suzanne Halstead.  On Wednesday, Suzanne and I grouted Faithfulness and Kindness.  The scale is much larger than my mobile, as is my excitement in seeing it all bear fruit!  More photos to come as the process continues.

Faithfulness and Kindness Emerge from the Grout
Margaret Almon and Suzanne Halstead Grouting Faithfulness and Kindness

The Nutmeg Designs YouTube Channel: Mosaics and Stained Glass in Motion

In our partnership of marriage and craft, it is good that one of us has some geek talent, and that Stratoz puts it to such good use.  Over Memorial Day weekend he took on iMovie and made 4 videos about our art, and created the Nutmeg Designs YouTube Channel.  I admire Stratoz’s ability to learn by doing, to fully immerse himself in the process.  He’s already thinking in video, imagining what would be brought to life with motion, sound, and jazz.  My friend the “Grout Monster“, Joanne Leva, came over for a grout session, and here are the results of Stratoz’s handiwork(as well as Joanne’s and my hands!)

The latest Nutmeg Designs Production is a cool stop-motion-like chronicle of one of Stratoz’s mosaics. Yes, he mosaics. He is multi-talented! At first, I felt a twinge of protectiveness of my identity as the Mosaic Artist, but it’s fascinating to watch people at craft shows, as they hone in on the ones he’s made, and say that they are definitely made by someone else. His style is all his own, and I love how they incarnate his doodling designs. I do get covetous of his ease of grouting, with the sleek surfaces and larger pieces! Check out his Kurt Elling Sings Joe Jackson as a Mandala Comes into Being:

A Sand and Sea Mosaic Mandala: Beach Colors and Exploring New Shores

I love it when someone challenges me to play with new colors!  A customer, who used to live in Pennsylvania, but now lives in Florida, described how her PA colors seemed too dark for her light filled, spacious rooms in her new home.  She is drawn to beach colors, aqua for the sea, sandy browns, white for the clouds.  I grew up in Edmonton, AB, Canada, which is even farther from the beach than PA ever is.  In the prairie province, the beach was not something I referred to, or understood as a concept.  Yes, I lived in Oregon for awhile, but that’s not the beach, that’s the coast, dramatic, rocky, rainy.

Sand and Sea Mosaic Mandala

I had this piece of abalone shell I’d found at a bead shop, and which seemed to beautiful in and of itself to break, and which immediately became the focal point of the wave in this mosaic mandala.  The shell spirals into aqua gold smalti, with its metallic glow and then glass tile, and stained glass in shades of blue, aqua and seafoam green, and ending with silver smalti for a bit of white foam.  Light colored grout added a sandy quality to the swirl of mother of pearl tile, iridized glass tile and stained glass.  This was invigorating fun to deliberately go light.

What sparks your creativity?


Commission your new color.

The Universe of Cosmos Glass Tile: Speckled Loveliness

Red Blanket Flower Mandala by Margaret Almon with a Center of Cosmos Glass Tile.
Red Blanket Flower Mandala by Margaret Almon with a Center of Cosmos Glass Tile.

New materials are gifts to my creative spirit, and Cosmos glass tiles have a universe of possibility.  Said to made of 80% recycled black glass, with a metallic iridescence flashed onto the surface, looking like constellations of tiny stars.

Even better, in my love of the imperfect, the seconds, broken or oddly, are called “Meteorites” as if they burned through earth’s atmosphere!  The center of this Red Blanket Flower Mandala begins in coppery orange Cosmos.

The iridescence reminds me of when I looked longingly at the eyeshadows on the drugstore cosmetic shelves.  After high school, my eye shadow use dropped drastically, but I still love looking at the compacts of shimmering colors.  My attraction to adornment has moved to more permanent kinds.

Cosmos in Gold.
Cross by Margaret Almon Using Cosmos in Gold.



Film Noir Heart by Margaret Almon with Silver Cosmos Tile.
Film Noir Heart by Margaret Almon with Silver Cosmos Tile.

Y is For Youghiogheny Glass

47 166/365 This is not my studio floor
Youghiogheny Glass Factory Parking Lot. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

Stratoz took a trip to visit a friend in Cleveland, and stopped at the Youghiogheny Glass Factory in Connellsville, PA,  on his way back.  He was greeted by this really cool parking lot of glass scraps!  He bought several sheets to bring home, and we’ve been enjoying the rich variegated colors and the dimension and beauty they bring to Stratoz’ stained glass and my mosaics.

47 169/365 Up close with Youghiogheny Glass
Up close with Youghiogheny Glass. Photo by Wayne Stratz.


Welcome Sign Mosaic in Warm Tones
Welcome Sign Mosaic in Warm Tones by Nutmeg Designs


47 215/365 went home with a friend
Blue Green Starflower by Wayne Stratz.

We are proud that Youghiogheny glass is from Pennsylvania!

V is For Van Gogh Glass

Radial Cross in Blue and Maroon
Radial Cross in Blue and Maroon by Margaret Almon.

Van Gogh Glass is a mystery that I enjoy using in my work.  It is made in the US, of glue chip glass(which has the lovely feathery patterning amazingly caused by special glue as it dries on the glass), painted with metallic automobile-type paint and then with a black coating.  It has a three dimensional effect, as if you are looking into the depths of the glass.  All this information comes from snippets from sellers of the glass, but no one actually claims the title of the manufacturer of this glass.  Definitely a mystery, but a beautiful one.


Film Noir Starburst Mandala by Margaret Almon

Antique Gold and Mother of Pearl Frame


Another Favorite V:  Vitrium Glass Tile

U is For Uroboros Glass

Uroborosimages Uroboros Glass, founded in 1973 by glass artist Eric Lovell, is based in Portland, OR, and turns ordinary sand into extraordinary art.  Here is how Lovell describes the origin of the name Uroboros:

Uroboros is an alchemist's term often represented by a dragon symbolizing the cyclical Nature of the Universe. The uroboros has its tail in its mouth creating a circle of renewal or life everlasting. Our name honors the traditions and lore of medieval alchemists as they struggled to turn non-precious lead into precious gold. Today, we use non-precious sand to make some of the most precious hand-cast art glass available in the world.

I love using art glass in my mosaics, with the unusual textures and colors, never two sheets exactly the same, and traces of the creator, a kind of fingerprint.  Sometimes what might not work for Stratoz in his stained glass projects will look marvelous in mosaic and vice versa, and even within one sheet, there are enough variations to keep us always interested. 

Here's a cool video of the hand blown, hand rolled process of making art glass:


T is For Tesserae, Tesseract and Tessering

Tesserae Drawer number 2

One of the pleasures of making mosaics is the word “tessera” which comes from the Latin for “four” and means something four-sided, square like a game piece or a tile.  Mosaics originally were made with  square chunks of marble, but the word tessera has generalized to mean any material used in a mosaic, whatever the shape or substance.  Tesserae is the plural, and the photo above is of one drawer of what I refer to as my “tower of tesserae.”

This word may sound familiar to those of you who are fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which was one of my favorite books as a girl.  The main character is named Margaret(although she goes by Meg), which endeared me to the book, and she and several other characters travel through space with the help of tesseracts, which wrinkle up time, and make long distances much shorter to leap.

In the math world, a tesseract is a 3D representation of a 4D cube, which is hard for me to visualize, but I came across a really cool digital Tesseracti, for your enjoyment: