When we first encountered these small, flat black stones, Alma immediately considered them a possible ingredient for mosaics. And so we began to collect them whenever we came upon them. They were not there every day and no specific event occurred to cause the stones to show up on any given day. Furthermore, they would show up in patches. Some days, we could walk 500 paces without seeing a single stone but plenty of the globules of tar. Then suddenly, the black globules of tar would be gone and instead it would appear as if the beach was checkerboarded for another 500 paces with these flat, black stones.
Alma could not use every stone. She could not use most stones. The ones she could use had to meet two basic criteria: flat and black. Many of the stones were black but round like your garden-variety rock. Many of the stones were flat but were slightly off black or even other colors like red or brown. I would estimate that we selected one out of every 100 stones for use in her mosaics.
And here is how an artist works with raw materials. Each day that we found these stones on the beach, we would bring home a few handfuls that we had winnowed. Once home, Alma would take them out on our balcony so they could thoroughly dry out. She then would sit with a 12 x 12 canvass and endlessly arrange and re-arrange the stones on the canvass, seeking the best fit and further winnowing the harvest. As it happened, not every stone could find a place on the canvasses and often there would be holes in the fill that had to wait for another 2 or 3 trips before we found exactly the right stone to fill them.
Once Alma had the right set of stones for a given canvass, my role was pretty much done. Alma first applied a substance called CellUClay to the entire surface of the canvass. CellUClay, a greyish-white fibrous substance somewhat akin to papier mache, was essential to stiffen the canvass so that it could support the weight of the stones. Next, Alma took a hot glue gun and glued the stones to the canvass. After the glue had dried and the stones set, Alma used a black Sharpie pen to draw the outlines of two figures embracing on the stones and painted one of the two figures blue and the other silver. The final step, once the paint had dried, was to apply CellUClay to the gaps between the stones, so that the CellUClay between the stones appeared pristine white.
I did not have the presence of mind to take pictures of Alma while she was at work, so the only pictures I have are ones taken after she completed the works just last week. However, I observed her closely while she was working and am always amazed when I think of the attention to detail required to get every aspect of these pieces exactly right. I would not have the patience for it myself and, in fact, I get a bit impatient even watching Alma's endless tinkering and meticulous detailing. It would be fair to say that she is happiest while she is creating, but I am happiest when the creations are complete and ready for my eyes to feast.
And here is the final result:
Stone Cold Embrace I
Stone Cold Embrace 2
If these pieces do not sell, they are destined to hang on either side of the head of our bed. As you might imagine, each one weighs about 10 pounds with all the stones, so we will have to exercise a little additional care in how we hang them, given Southern California's proclivity for earthquakes. It would be tragic were one to come crashing down onto Alma's or my heads.
They really are spectacular. If anyone reading this has any interest in purchasing one or both pieces (Stone Cold Embrace 1 and Stone Cold Embrace 2), please let me know via posting a Comment on this post or becoming a Follower. I will be in touch.