Meet Cactus Joe.
Joe is my friend's father, who passed away a few years ago and who made birdhouses as a hobby after retirement.
A few months ago, I came across a box filled with cards given to me through the years along with many photos from my sweet friend. These photos were of her life 3,000 miles away. In those days, between 2000-2006, we didn't have a digital footprint and instant photos came from an instant camera that used film. We still had to take it to the drug store to get copies made. The quality of these photos were usually hit or miss. Mostly miss, but they conveyed what we wanted them to, which made them good enough to share.
As I was looking through all the photos ranging from a tiny grandchild to a daughter's wedding, I found a photo of her Dad. In this photo he was under a lean to portion of a porch next to a birdhouse he made. He was standing tall and proud as he posed, showing his creativity after he installed it into a post under the lean to. This was a birdhouse my friend's mother-in-law won in a raffle through his jazz club.
I put the pictures away and put the box once more under my bed. But ... this photo never left my thoughts. It was dark and sort of out-of-focus, but I felt I had to make a mosaic using it as inspiration. Her birthday was coming up and I thought it would make an awesome gift.
I stalled out a bit with it; I needed a frame, I needed the board to work on. I needed to figure out what to use to create the mosaic: dishes or stained glass? While I played with ideas and design thoughts, she had her birthday. I hadn't even begun! Yikes!!
Shortly after that, I ordered a frame and put the photo in front of me and took a few photos of the photo, printed out an enlargement, glued it onto the board and set to work. I prefer to do a free-flowing design when I make mosaics. I seem to start off with good intentions of keeping it all within the lines but almost always the abstract portion of my brain says use color, put a swirl here, use what you have as a starting point and just go! And that's what I did.
Joe was the first thing I did on this mosaic and it was very labor intensive. I pulled tiles off, put them back, pulled them off, tried different ones until I found myself not liking anything I did. I wanted him to look exactly like the Joe in the photo which isn't how I make mosaics. Once I remembered what the muse was telling me: "flow freely", I added his shirt and it started to coming together in my head as a fairly nice looking gentleman, but perhaps not exactly like Joe.
I made the birdhouse next and had to add lots of colors and a fun star toward the top. Next came the tree which quickly turned into a cactus when I decided to paint the background to help me decide on colors to use. I could see no matter what I wanted to do to keep it "exactly" like the photo, it wasn't meant to be. I gave into the muse and went with it.
The bright colors in this mosaic reminded me of the Arizona desert, New Mexico, California. I kept thinking as I was putting down dish tiles, that it was reminiscent of a colorful blanket.
Malachi (my 10 year old grandson), thought the cactus would look cool if it had some "prickers" on it. He picked up small pieces of glass I had laying next to the mosaic, and placed them here and there on the cactus with ease. I thought it looked great but would need to be added after the mosaic was grouted. He's very proud of his contribution and I'm proud that he has an artistic flair.
After grouting, Joe came to life. I called him "Cactus Joe" because it seemed to fit. The cactus that is supposed to be a cypress tree, seemed to fit in with Joe and his birdhouse. Scrabble letters were added to make sure everyone knew who he was. I'm fairly sure if she had looked at it without an explanation, she'd have had no idea what I was trying to create for her!
I included the original photo for her to keep as a reminder and because I felt she should have it. I've kept it safe for 12 years, now she'd have a mosaic inspired by this photo and the original photo as well.
I hope she enjoys this mosaic for many years to come.