Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Mosaic Feather Sculpture Installation - Part 2 of 5

This 10ft tall by 40ft wide installation consists of 6 double sided glass and ceramic mosaic feather sculptures. After completing the first side of each feather, I recreated the designs, mostly the same besides it being a mirror image of the first one. I must admit that doing this type of repetition for each sculpture was a bit tough on my mind. Having extreme morning (all day) sickness while being pregnant probably didn't help lol But I liked the idea of the double sided sculptures enough to push through, working on these feathers till the very end of my second pregnancy. 

Looking back on the above photo of me and Ethan, just a couple weeks before I gave birth to Wesley, brings back memories of just how hard I worked to push this project through. For some reason, I imagined this would go much faster. I was so exhausted. I hoped to have it all done before the arrival of the baby but that goal was not really achievable, still I tried. I pushed along, trying to make any little progress I could each day, making some sacrifices on craftsmanship compared to my usual obsessive perfectionism. Letting go of that was actually a really good exercise for me.

As always, my little studio assistant was always eager to come down to the studio and help <3

Here is an example of the two mirrored mosaics next to each other. Pretty cool, right? Worth the extra effort and some frustration lol

Ethan was a bit over 2 years old here. He really loved trying to cut glass. At times this was a bit scary ... Now about a year and half since having taken these photos of him, it is so heartwarming to see his enthusiasm for the project. I love that he was able to have a hand in mommy's biggest project.

Ofcourse, besides having a tiny assistant, I also had tremendous help from my life and creative partner, Kyle. He went above and beyond to help me try to meet my goals with a project. I wouldn't have been able to tackle this on my own during this pregnancy. Kyle created all the feather sculptures. Usually, I would be participating in many aspects of this process but there just wasn't enough time. I am forever grateful to have someone who so freely dedicates his time to help me make my dreams come to life!

Here you can get a glimpse of the 6 feathers in progress. All the bases for my mosaic work are completed and scattered around the studio, reminding me of just how much more work was ahead. Additionally, at the same time, we were slowly packing up this 1000sq ft art studio and our house for a big move over a mountain pass. All of this was very epic and hectic! Another reason why I didn't document this incredible process, literally every second was pretty invaluable to the completion of the artwork.

Progress on one of the sides of the feathers. This is one of the mixed media ones, part stained glass, part handmade ceramic tiles.

Here you can see both sides of the feather, side by side. One is glued onto the sculpture. The other mirrored mosaic is still on the workbench, almost ready for gluing. This mosaic is created with all handmade ceramic tiles, plus some flat marbles.

Here is another of the two feathers fully mosaiced with handmade ceramic tiles with the addition of flat marbles as accents. Ethan was very eager to help peel the tape of the face of the mosaic. FYI, if you are wondering, his hair did not grow that much throughout the duration of the project lol. This was taken early on, before he got his first haircut =)

I will try to post another part of my Mosaic Feather Installation Process soon! Thanks for tuning in =)

If you would like to see this installation in person while staying at our private Mystic Valley Sculpture Park while you visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado, we welcome occasional guests
https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/409508044


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Sparks Lake - Acrylic Painting

In 2015, I embarked on the most incredible journey - a nearly full year of cross-country travel while living in a converted cargo van and teaching mosaic workshops all over the United States. 

Looking back at all the places I got to visit, its not possible to choose a favorite. The more I traveled, the more I realized how beautiful every corner of the US is. But Sparks Lake in Deschuetes National Forest in Oregon is one of those places where its possible to forget that the rest of the world exists. 


Sunset at Sparks Lake, acrylic painting on board, 18"x18", 2021 ~SOLD
See Other Available Art Here: https://www.kasiapolkowskashop.com/

I enjoy looking back at the photos from past trips because so often I feel like in an instance, I am right back in a beautiful memory. I'm sitting on a large rock with my partner Kyle and the sun is going down. We are both shivering a bit because evening temperatures dropped quickly. Still we are savoring the last light and the evening stillness and its quiet beauty. I take a few photos here and there but nothing truly captures the moment. Still, the photos are now small tokens of a special time and are part of what has inspired me to begin painting again. 


The above photo is just a very small nook in the greater panoramic landscape that engulfed us. To the left, there was a beautiful sunset over the mountains. It was so mesmerizing that it was understandable just to stare straight ahead, until it would all become vailed in darkness. But I turned my head slightly and was pulled toward a little beach right in front of me. It was so lovely. 

In my painting I aimed to show that beauty that is present all around us. I loved the reflection of the smaller rocks and the trees in the nearby beach right next to the million dollar mountain view. I thought that it could be just as captivating if examined closely and fully appreciated for it own unique beauty. After all, it is those same rocks and trees that make up the near by mountains. This is just a micro view of sorts. The painting is a glimpse into how I saw my world that evening. 

In those quiet moments during a sunset or a sunrise, I love observing everything around me, how the light changes on all the surrounding environmental features, including people. The morning of the sunset that inspired this painting, the sunrise was equally captivating at this spot. I kept turning 360 degrees because it was such a stunning display of what mother nature prepared for us. And on one of those turns, I fell in love with how my partner Kyle's silhouette looked against the foggy reflected landscape. Every moment at Sparks Lake was pure magic for us and that is what I tried to capture in my painting.

Sunset at Sparks Lake is no longer available but every-once-in-a-while I do add new paintings to my Online Art Shop https://www.kasiapolkowskashop.com/

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Mosaic Feather Sculpture Installstion - Part 1 of 5

I first conceived the notion for this sculpture installation in the Fall of 2017, right after giving birth to my first son, Ethan. I did a variety of pencil sketches, followed by creating color concepts in photoshop and following up with this scale mock up.

Fast forward to late 2019, just months before I gave birth to my second son, Wesley, in early 2020 and I finally began began to realize this momentous concept. I decided that this large project would be installed at the Mystic Valley Sculpture Park which is a collaborative art project between me and my creative and life partner Kyle.

In the above photo, Kyle is standing in a line of culverts which he eventually dug into the ground and filled with concrete, creating bases for the sculptures. Here they are just set up as markers to help me better envision the future installation as it would relate to the surrounding landscape. I repeatedly walked the property trails we built, evaluating how the feathers would read from various vantage points. There were many great instalation options but I eventually decided that I wanted the feathers set against the14,000+ft Blanca Massif seen in the background. 

Above is a preview of the installation - I will share more finished photos in future posts. Including the pedestal, the tallest feather measures 10ft tall and the shortest 8ft tall. Each of the 6 pieces is a completely handmade sculpture, covered on both sides with a custom mosaic of hand cut stained glass as well as handmade ceramic tiles. 

It has been almost a year since we began the installation process but it is just now that I am finding a moment to look back on the project and to blog about it here. The fabrication of the sculptures and the mosaics began in the third trimester of my second pregnancy and continued into the first months of postpartum. If that wasn't enough to juggle, we also had to scramble to move across the mountains in the midst of it all. Needless to say, I was not able to document this intense, colorful journey in as much detail as I would have otherwise done, but still, I have a few process photos to share.

My initial plan was for all the 12 sides of the sculptures to be covered by the ceramic tiles I would create. But following the creation of the first 2 sides of the first feather, I realized that I'd never be able to complete the project before our move date. So the compromise began quickly - any warped or imperfect tiles were all acceptable - this was a bit hard to swallow at first considering my compulsive, perfectionist personality but it turned out to be an amazing lesson for me as well. Next, I came up with the idea, that the two smallest feathers will still be 100% ceramic, the 2 middle sized feathers would be 100% handmade stained glass mosaic and the 2 biggest ones would be a mix of ceramic and stained glass mosaic. This is a great example of how an impossible deadline forced me to be more flexible and in the end resulted in a more interesting effect.

It can often be nearly impossible to realize the scope of work that some handmade objects require and the seemingly infinite steps necessary. For instance, for the feathers that were fully made of ceramic tiles, I first created a map for each side of each feather. Then I hand kneaded the clay, rolled it out with a rolling pin and then cut out each unique shape - repeat a few hundred times. Then I hand carved patterns in some groups of tiles and used pattern pins to roll out designs into others. Once the clay began drying, each tile had to be trimmed and cleaned up.  To minimize warping, the tiles needed to be dried carefully before the bisque firing. Once dried, I marked each tile with letters and numbers and created a corresponding map for the front and back of each feather as seen above. 

I did take a risky shortcut in the above tile making phase though. This project really required me to create special stencils for all the individual shapes in each feather. These stencils would have needed to be scaled up to account for the shrinkage of clay after the glaze firing ... but I decided to eye ball the whole thing and to size up a bit. I just didn't have time for this meticulous but important step - I had to save time somehow. Still, there was more shrinkage than ideal but I made it work in the end with a couple other tricks.

After each kiln unload, I had the awesome mission of matching up my tiles with my map. This was a bit more mind numbing than I expected. But I was so glad that I decided to map out the whole thing even though it was time consuming. Once I had all the tiles laid out, I examined my color sketches and the sample glazed tiles I created for this project. Being new to creating handmade ceramic tiles for my mosaic sculptures, these were so fun to create.

Seeing a freshly fired color sample is super exciting. I wish I had more time to explore this part before committing to my choices, but again, I think the choices I made under pressure worked out really well. I have a tendency to overthink some aspects of my projects, well I used to ... Now having two small children that require 110% of my time, I've entered a whole new chapter of my creative journey. I am learning how to make the most out of the little bit of time that I am sometimes able to carve out for my creative work so making faster choices is a skill I am working on perfecting =) 

Once my color palette choices were solidified, I hand brushed 3 coats of glaze onto each tile. This was another part of the process that seemed never ending but would have normally been a relaxing, meditative exercise if it wasn't for the time constraint. 

Above are a few snapshots of a few of the many, many exciting kiln loads/unloads for the glazing of the tiles. I wish I had the time to have documented this part of the process more because it was so magical. I was so tired exhausted though, racing through every step but these reveals of the freshly fired tiles gave me a much needed dose of adrenaline to keep pushing along!

You might be wondering, whats the big deal, why not finish after the move. Well, this past studio was only under 30 minutes from the sculpture park that I am working on building. And we could not find another house with an art studio in the town we lived in or in the vicinity. So we ended up moving 2 hours away over a mountain pass. I did not think that moving this project to the new house while also having a newborn would be a good idea. It probably would have gotten damaged and now seeing how much recovery I needed after the move and how I needed time to just relax and enjoy motherhood, I'm not sure how much time it would have taken to complete this, probably a full year with my current schedule.

With mosaic feathers scattered all over the studio, my work spaces were a bit cramped but my 8ft by 4ft work benches really proved invaluable. Here I was squeezing in the work of 2 feather sides, glazing new tiles while also organizing the already glazed ones, sizing up the shrinkage rate and any final warping. I hurried a bit with the drying of some of the larger tiles and didn't have time for redos but in a strange way, I find the warpy curves fun. I can imagine, actually planning for these type of curves in future projects but for them to be more calculated perhaps. This was another lesson in flexibility which is key when you are not able to do everything as planned.

To account for the added shrinkage, I added flat marbles in a few selected places where I thought they would look good and not take away from the design. I actually thought it added a fun element to the design. Another win, while trying to let go of my regular perfectionist approach. I can imagine in the past, this would have really bothered me and I would have gone to recut the already cut foam feather shapes for each feather to match the slightly small tiled design. But there was not time to do that and I was too pregnant and sleepy to be messing with the jigsaw anyway 

I'll try to share another post about more of this process in the not so far away future. Its interesting to look back at a project that seems to be a blur in my mind but is actually the biggest, most involved art installation I've ever designed and worked on. 

These feathers have now been installed for nearly a year at the Mystic Valley Sculpture Park in Mosca, Colorado near the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The private park is a collaborative art project with my creative/life partner Kyle. We have a 40 acre property with trails we've been building and slowing adding onto as well as 20+ sculptures installed and more coming each year. 

If you would like to see this installation in person while staying at our private Mystic Valley Sculpture Park while you visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado, we welcome occasional guests https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/409508044


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Lower Grinnell Lake Painting

Lower Grinnell Lake ~ SOLD
 acrylic painting on board finished in gloss varnish
 18″x18″x2″ 
2021 
See Other Available Work Here:  

This painting is of one of my favorite views along the trail up to Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park in Montana. 

Above is a photo I took of the view is looking down toward Lower Grinnell Lake, and the surrounding, layered mountains that seemed to go on to infinity. This is one of my favorite hikes in the park which I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times but always daydream of going back to.


When I saw this particular view, I felt like I arrived at my destination, even though it was a lookout from a trail which surpassed my expectations. Above is a photo of my partner Kyle and I at the end point of the hike with Grinell Glacier behind us.

Kyle had the most magnificent beard back then. I feel like if you flip our photo upside down, the outline of the beard would match the surrounding outline of the beautiful landscape behind us - maybe sometimes I see too many patterns around me lol

In Glacier National Park, you can look in most directions and think to yourself ‘This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and seen’. When I saw the particular vista that I painted here , that’s what I thought. Everything else faded away and I felt like I just won the jack pot. If I wouldn’t have gone another step forward, that would have been just fine with me. This is one of those views that pulls you and won’t let go.

  Lower Grinnell Lake  ~SOLD
 acrylic painting on board finished in gloss varnish
18″x18″x2″ 2021
See Other Available Work Here: 

Detail 1

Detail2

Detail3

Detail4

Friday, March 5, 2021

Painting the Night Sky

Having recently began painting after a 15 year break (minus a couple other recent paintings) I was pretty anxious to start. It took me about two years to build up the courage. I was afraid that maybe I wouldn't be able to make anything look like what I imagined. After the initial dipping of the toes though, I got the painting fever!

All of these paintings have sold

See Currently Available Work Here: 

https://www.kasiapolkowskashop.com/

Now with a baby boy under 1 years old and another 3 year old boy, I only have a few hours a day tops to work in the studio. So in February I came up with the idea to explore one theme by creating a mini landscape per week, then to release it via Social Media as an Affordable Art Project. I love all the paintings that I created and each one sold shortly after I announced it. This was a wonderful confidence booster for me.

 
 Yosemite Valley Nightscape, acrylic painting on board finished in gloss varnish, 4"x6", 2021

The first of the minies was inspired by the jaw-dropping Yosemite Valley in California which I enjoyed visiting back in 2015 - can you feel the excitement!  

 
The view of this valley from above was one of those epic moments that really stayed with me. I loved exploring the valley on foot and then thinking back on this view that I saw from above and thinking to myself, how cool to see the different perspectives. 
 
 
And then just when you think it can’t get more magical, night comes and the landscape takes on a whole new life. This is why I decided to revisit by creating an imaginary version of a night scene. I've never tried to really capture the nighttime landscape in photos before so working of my daytime photos was a fun challenge.

 Enchanted Teton Night, acrylic painting on board finished in gloss varnish, 4″x6″, 2021

Next week I followed up by traveling to the majestic Teton Mountains in Wyoming. The first time I visited was in 2012. 
 
 
If you've been to this part of the United States, you know that these are beautiful beyond what any photo can capture. I've done an incredible backpacking trip here and have camped and explored other day hike trails. Each part of the trip out there is better than the last. It never gets old to feast your eyes on these monumental peaks.
 


Indigo Night at Maroon Bells, acrylic painting on board finished in gloss varnish, 4″x6″, 2021
 
Maroon Bells at Maroon Lake near Aspen Colorado are one of the most photographed mountains in Colorado, maybe the United States in general. 
 

There is an obvious reason - they are magical! I've backpacked here as well as have done some lovely day explorations. Any time you feast your eyes on this view - it feels very special. The mountains are framed perfectly. (I am not sure if you are no longer allowed to dip your feet in Maroon Lake but when this photo was taken, there were no restrictions).



Mystic Night Over Blanca Peak, acrylic painting on board finished in gloss varnish, 4″x6″x3/4″ 2021

For the last painting in this mini series, I chose to paint the night sky over Blanca Massif. It hovers over the property in the San Luis Valley where my partner Kyle and I are building a sculpture park. It is one of the tallest mountains in the state and rests under what is designated as a dark sky region. If you want to see the milky way - this is the place.

In this photo I am holding a mosaic I created a couple years back also inspired by Mt Blanca. This region not only has incredible night skies but some of the prettiest sunsets I've seen. I've taken a lot of inspiration from here.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Summer at Slate River Mosaic

Summer at Slate River,framed stained glass mosaic, 24″ x 24″, 2020 ~SOLD

This is the view from one of my most frequented and favorite dispersed campsites in Crested Butte along the beautiful Slate River Road. Below is one of the photos I took while camping out there in July of one of the recent years. Crested Butte is regarded as Colorado's wildflower capital and it does not disappoint. Each year's super bloom happens in early/mid this time and I'm usually there to take in some of the magic.

This spot is in the Gunnison National Forest and has the prettiest view of the mountains, framed in green hills covered in lush vegetation. You can walk down one of the gentle slopes straight down to the chilly, perfectly clear river where the views are even more stunning.

This is my original, hand made stained glass mosaic inspired by one of my favorite views. It is opaque in nature and created to hang on a wall just like a painting. 

I've hand picked all the glass in this mosaic. Some of the glass has been in my little collection for years, until the right inspiration came. For example, look below, the blue sheet of glass was so fantastic as a whole. In some ways, you think to yourself, why cut it? So when you do decide to start cutting, you want to feel confident.


For me part of the fun is to use the beauty and unique quality of the glass in my work but also to combine that with something unique that I bring to the table as an artist. I meditated on this for a long time. Which orientation is best? Which side has the most attractive pattern and colors but also what will work best with the rest of my glass and design. Also what would be the most interesting way to cut and arrange the glass for it to be reborn as something new.

 
Here I am looking down on my arrangement and cut patterns. Because none of my glass mosaic is glued until the entire composition feels whole, I usually will have to climb a ladder to get a proper look at the feel of it in its entirety prior to the gluing process. Because this mosaic is medium in size, I was able to move it down onto the floor while I meditated on it. 
 
 
This type of gluing and mosaic technique is covered in my Online Mosaic Art Classes: https://www.kasiamosaicsclasses.com/ Visit the Kasia Mosaics Classes website if you are interested in learning my stained glass mosaic technique that can be applied to a vast theme of mosaic works beyond the class curriculum.
 
Here is my older son Ethan helping mommy display her work. I could not ask for a better model.
 
 
Here is Ethan again, at a younger age, exploring the incredible flaura and fauna of this lush landscape on his way down to the river.  

 
I thought it would be fun to add a photo of me when I was pregnant with Ethan here at the banks of Slate River. It is a wild place. Its beauty may look peaceful and tamed in my mosaic and the few photos that I've included here. But it is a very cold, snowy place with harsh, unpredictable mountain weather. That is also where its beauty comes from. The summers are short here but more beautiful than many places I've been.
 
 
 
And this is that incredible campsite I mentioned. I look forward to camping there again this summer, this time with boy my little boys. I hope that we can visit every summer till they are all grown up!

 
Summer at Slate River,framed stained glass mosaic, 24″ x 24″, 2020 ~SOLD
 
As you can see, there is a lot of work and a lot of stories behind this mosaic landscape. The inspiration behind it was strong and I worked to convey my love and admiration for this incredibly beautiful and special scenery.