Introduction: Mosaic: the Folly and the Fool
I made this wall installation for my SFAI MFA graduate show. The whole process from conceptualizing to installing took about a year. This mosaic is made from custom resin casted pieces of chewing gum. The frame is made using architectural molds. The frame is built in parts and therefore some assembly required during the installation process.
Step 1: Sketch
Make a real size sketch of your design. First of all, this will help you to transfer the design onto the panel. Second, it helps to calculate the approximate amount of pieces that you need to cast. Third, it helps to define colors of casted pieces.
Step 2: Build a Panel
The size of each panel i needed was 6x3 feet. Because the size was so large, i had to think about the weight. I used two pieces of thin 1/4" plywood and built the skeleton inside. First, i built a box with planks of wood running every foot inside. Second, i nailed second piece of plywood on top. I was still concerned about warping of the panel so i decided to cover it with Marin Grade Epoxy 314 Resin. This will prevent any moisture to enter the wood.
Step 3: Transfer the Design
I put two pieces of paper underneath the sketch and used a large needle to poke holes through, outlining the figure. One piece of paper with the transferred design is used for the guide to assemble casted pieces. I cut the shape out of the second transferred design and outlined it on the panel.
Step 4: Making Molds and Casting Mosaic Pieces.
For the background i needed about 2000 casted pieces of wrigley chewing gum. I used the actual wrigley chewing gum sticks to make molds. I arranged gum sticks on the backing pan and pored Dragon skin FX Pro Silicon over them. After 6 hours, i took the gum out of silicon and cleaned the mold. I used Insta Cast Polyurethane Resin to pour into this mold because this type of resin captures more detail. The only problem with polyurethane resin is that it yellows really quickly and so i decided to paint pieces after i grouted the mosaic. Since i used grout for the background in my mosaic, i had to cover every casted piece with 2 layers of latex to protect pieces from grout clogging.
For figures i needed various shapes and colors. I used all the gum shapes i could find. I also crushed pieces, chewed them, let them out on the sun to melt, etc. After i collected all the needed shapes i made molds with silicon. The same process as with the background pieces. I used Polyester Resin and added resin dyes and acrylic paint to resin before i pored it into molds. There are some jewelry polyester resins that are non yellowing. Those resins are significantly more expensive. The regular polyester casting resin yellows at slow rate. I used non yellowing resin only for white and clear pieces and the rest was made with regular polyester resin.
Step 5: Background Assembly
For assembly of the background i needed: contact cement, spacers ( i used pieces of construction foam), scissors or side cutter to cut pieced around the figure, corner ruler, grout, acrylic. First i calculated how many rows and columns will fit on the panel to determine consistent space between pieces. Then i cut multiple spacers to match the space between pieces. I glued only 5 rows at a time to avoid the grid to be out of alignment. I used corner ruler constantly to make sure rows are leveled. Grout time! I used acrylic to color the grout. I used grout according to the package instructions. Next day, after the grout was dry, i peeled the latex from gum tiles. I used dental tools to scrape in places where grout was hard on top of latex. After everything was peeled and swept i used 3 layers of acrylic wash to color tiles. Acrylic wash did not alter any texture details.
Step 6: Figure Assembly
First, i assembled pieced laying them onto the figure transferred from the sketch. Then, i protected the existing mosaic on the panel with plastic. I taped plastic around the figure to make sure acrylic that i use to embed pieces will not seep through. Then i transferred pieced onto the panel to make sure the design fits in the figure shape. I prepared a batch of acrylic color mixed with acrylic gel medium and transferred it into a plastic ziplock back. The final step is embedding pieces into the prepared acrylic gel. I worked on a small section at a time. I removed small section out of the shape assembling it very similar to the way it was inside the shape. Then i squeezed prepared acrylic gel out of the bag, smoother it with pallet knife and very carefully placed mosaic pieces back into the shape. After everything was in place, i could press pieces deeper into acrylic.
Step 7: Frame
My friend had some architectural molds that were very appropriate for this frame. I had to think about the structure of the frame since it was so large. I decided to make it in sections: top, bottom, and three section on each side. Also, i wanted the frame to be light but durable. I brushed 2 to 3 layers of hydrocal into molds and then pored rigid foam inside. This technique made frame pieces light and durable. I sanded the back of all casted pieced. Now i had to build the frame design out of castings that i had. For the bottom, I used reciprocal saw to cut out shapes out of castings and assembled them into desired design. I used plaster bondages to 'tape' pieces together and filled the gaps on the back with acrylic caulk. For sides, i 'taped' two castings to form the corner and reinforced with acrylic caulk on the inside. The top miraculously was the exact size i needed, so i just had to cut out the corner to make sure the frame 'sits' on the panel. After the frame was built, i primed and painted all sections.
Step 8: Installation Assembly
All sections of the frame have metal corners attached to them and are screwed onto the panel. Since sections of the frame is filled with foam, it is impossible to screw anything in it. I used gorilla glue to attach pieces of plywood in places where the metal corner should be and then screwed one side of corners in. Before hanging the panel, all sections of sides are installed. I screwed the corners right into the panel. I used french cleat hardware to hang panels. The bottom and top are installed after the panel is on the wall.