September 25, 2011

Tile Mural for Living Walls Albany

Two days after returning from Living Walls Atlanta we were off to Albany for Living Walls the remix. We arrived early this time and were fortunate enough to set up shop in the Marketplace Gallery. Under the great hosting of the Contompasis brothers we had the time and resources to take on more than just a mural or a painting; We took on the city. And from our many street conversations the residents were inquisitive first and appreciative last. Although there was one reoccurring complaint. And that was, 'why can't you do another one on my building?'

Over the course of the month, we experienced the possibilities of a residency program and made some amazing friends, dinners, and stories in the process. Living Walls Albany may be officially over but it's wake continues on, moving up Livingston to West Hill, from the South End to Arbor Hill, and most importantly from the residents to the Capital.

I wanted to post about everything that happened over the month but accidently deleted all the images after they FINALLY finished uploading to this blog. Nerds! So instead I'm going to post about last big work I did while in Albany.

I think collaboration is a huge part of being an artist. That being said, I was excited when I learned I was doing a mural on a tile manufacturers building. I had never used tile for a mural let alone doing a full out mosaic but now the opportunity was right in front of me. Don, the owner was more than willing to teach me as I went and I was more than willing to experiment with this crazy, new medium. In the end, the mural isn't exactly how I envisioned because it's in the realm of what I couldn't envision. I had been speaking paint for the last decade and now I was speaking tile. I'm sure I'll revert to my natural language but if feels good to know that if I ever emerge in Tilelandia again that I could hold a conversation.

A HUGE thank you to Don Shore and Linda Ellet at L'Esperance Tile Works, Samson Contompasis who made it all happen at Living Walls Albany, my grouting expert and all around amazing assistant Catherine aka White Cocoa, and all the kids in the neighborhood that came down to help out.
When I arrived Samson took me to my wall which was on a small tile making factory called L'Esperance Tile Works.

Don, the owner of the building trimmed back all the overgrowth.

Don invited Catherine and I out to Saratoga Springs where they do most of the tile manufacturing. We got an awesome tour from him and his wife Linda and they walked us through the tile making process. Towards the end of the tour they showed us this huge pile of tiles that were waiting to be thrown out. Don gave us free reign to take as many as we wanted for the wall.

Except these ones which were intended for interiors and wouldn't last as a mural.

But we still came up on a bunch of great tiles and left with a very heavy and low-riding car. This is probably half of what we took back with us.

Back at the wall we had to come up with a plan to smooth it for all those damn tiles. The wall was pocked with huge holes and decomposing concrete.

The wall also had about 4 different types of surface. Brick, concrete, cinderblock, and wood.

I put up a rough sketch so we new our work area.

I also started playing with the tiles. This is one of several color permutations to figure out the palette and pattern.

Don mixing a concoction of concrete and fiberglass to fill the holes.

We reinforced the concrete fiberglass mix with wiring and did another layer of concrete over the top. Long day!

The posse!

One of my best assistants from the neighborhood!  (Photo, Rachel Eisley)
Roberto, me, Joshina, and Don at work.  (Photo,  Rachel Eisley)
Figuring out tile dimensions.

After working on smoothing out the wall all day I took a break to paint a quick piece at the end of the alley. A guy came by and we talked for a while. His name was Josh and he was super cool so I asked if I could take his picture and use if for a reference. That painting is one of my favorites now after I saw how it affected him and his family.

The painting of Josh. Pic by Andy Milford

Inside the building are cool things like this Rube Goldbergesque tile compaction machine. As you can probably guess I'm not sure what it's really called.

And also some of Don's restoration work.

Back outside I was halfway through the tiling process.

The backs of tile are sometimes just as interesting as the front. These ones were made on site and the back proves it!

A simplified depiction of the tile making process. The two outer plates pressing clay and water together making the inner tile.

A collection of the best patterned tiles laying around. Don knows more and i'll fill in the history on these later.

I love me some boney knees too.

A tile in the hand is worth two in the kiln.

Really love how the hands turned out.

Some sample tiles in the mix.

There's no greater satisfaction than signing your piece with an angle grinder!


1 comment:

  1. What an awesome piece. I bumped into Josh when I too a photo of his portrait then a few days later bumped into Don when I captured this piece you just described. He was really enthusiastic about it, though you guys were not nearly finished. What a great collaboration. I think you and I met in front of my wall on Spring St, right? (this one: