Nearly every day of my life involves mosaics in one form or another. Between collaborating and planning installations, working with students and friends or simply gluing stuff to other stuff, I am immersed. Welcome to shiny pieces...
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alive and well

Hi there...

Yes, I know its been a couple of weeks since my last update. Sorry! I've been having such a good time living life and working hard that I haven't had much chance (or the energy) to post.

As it is late, and I am tired, full of food, and have to get up in a few hours, this is just a sneak peek at or progress here at OIS. 

I promise that I will post more words soon.

peacock wing

elephant bling

my rule.

And, of course, trying to take a moment here and there for myself. Yum!

more soon. Love, Kirstin


saturdays are awesome...


I am sitting on the balcony of my 21st floor apartment, enjoying the breeze and loving my fun, crazy, exhausting life here in Mumbai. Sometimes I lament the fact that I work six days a week, and that at the end of the day I am so insanely tired that I just go home, chill, and sleep. My one day off, Sunday, is spent sleeping, eating and regaining my energy for the next week of whirlwind mosaic work. Of course, I do my best to get out and experience the city, but most nights are spent recuperating from my busy day.

I am having some fun lately, and the only price I've had to pay has been a lack of sleep. My friend Andrea is in town, and we have been bopping around Mumbai after work, shopping, eating and visiting with new friends. She has also been helping with the mosaic and not only is she having a lot of fun, but she is really good at it! She is welcome here any time.

It has been wonderful but I am having trouble seeing straight right now. Thankfully, tomorrow is Sunday and after I sleep as late as I want to, we will be having our first big fun day in Old Bombay! On the list: Elephanta Island, Colaba causeway market, and hopefully anything else we can get ourselves into...

Here's to friends, new and old. Meet Priti.

The school I am working in is a high quality private international school. The student body is comprised of kids whose parents can afford to send them there. The facilities are stunning, with a gorgeous swimming pool on the fourth floor, a gym on the seventh, and my mosaic "classroom" occupying a large outdoor space on the fifth. The kids, however privileged, are wonderful, respectful, and sweet. Smart, cute, funny kids, ranging in age from 12 to 19, traipse in and out of the mosaic space throughout the school day, contributing a class time or an hour after school. Although we do plug along, on weekdays, work can go slow and can be difficult. Overall, many of my students lack one crucial mosaicking trait: patience. They are eager to get the thing done, and pay little attention to the finer details such as interstices (grout spaces), andamento (how you set your tesserae (pieces)), and most importantly, glue messes. Plus, they are young, and previously untrained. Even so, they are all improving greatly with each week.

The UK flag's first attempt had to be scrapped...
I frequently find myself at the end of each class fixing the most glaring errors, cursing under my breath..."if they would just do it right the first time!" while scraping up globs of silicone from the surfaces of someone's work, or prying out pieces of glass tile that are definitely too big for the spaces they have been crammed into.

note the ripped up tiles in the orange. ready for round 2!
So, this week, I began a campaign of personally working with each group that stepped into my space on the concepts of patience, quality control, and "ripping up".

these both had to be fixed...
My strategy goes as such: show the kids a section of mosaic done wrong. Ask why it is not up to our (new and current) standards. They always know what is not good. Usually it is because of too many gaps, no gaps at all, wrong shaped pieces (triangle instead of rectangle), unclean edges, or too much/too little glue. I then equip them with a pair of safety glasses and the proper tools for removing all errant tesserae and dried glue. And then I ask them to fix it. And you know what? Round two is always so much nicer. It is great to watch the empowerment that allowing students to rip up bad work and fix it does. It is part of the process, however annoying or delaying it can be.

Another surprising empowering tool is the initiation rite of the band-aid worthy cut. These kids, like my students in Ghana and the US, take the inevitable cuts like they are badges into the cult of the true mosaic artist. I think it makes them feel tough. And it's not like it gets better as you gain experience. Not a day goes by when I don't get some kind of cut on one of my appendages. Today I kicked a piece of glass and don't think I'll be able to wear closed toe shoes for a while. Last week I came home one night with band-aids on 4 different fingers.

The gals. (note the big white bandage on my toe)
In addition to taking our standard of control to next level, we are making great progress. Teachers and other staff are beginning to come regularly to contribute. The more they come, the more the advanced projects come their way. People are really getting into it, and I practically have to kick them out at the end of the work day.

And the best days are Saturdays. These are the days that only the truly interested and devoted ones come (for the most part). These people are my core crew and we get the most, best work done on Saturdays.

Until next time...


tora tora

Every day, tiles get glued down, and things get done!

In Ghana, they say "small-small" or "kakra-kakra" quite a bit. It can refer how much money one makes to the amount of English they speak. It is an extremely useful phrase that everyone uses multiple times a day. In the States, I suppose we say "bit by bit", or "little by little" but it doesn't mean exactly the same thing.

How's this for an international school? American girl and Indian girl doing the flags of Germany and China....

Here in India, I am proud to report, they have a phrase that aligns itself to both the American and the Ghanaian version and I use it frequently, usually to describe both the amount of Hindi I know or the pace at which our mosaic progresses. Here you say, "tora-tora". We are getting this mosaic done bit by bit, and it is progressing small-small. But progress it does.

Indian girl done by Shalaka in her own likeness...
Blond girl done by Kirstin in her own likeness.


introducing the little ones to the world of mosaic.

watching Gayatri work
We are even farther along than these pictures indicate, as today a bunch got done but I forgot to snap pics. Enjoy this round and I'll be sure to send the rest along soon!

And I'll be sure to tell you all about the trashy book launch I am planning to attend tomorrow night...


ganpati & other news

immersion of the ganesh idols
Last Thursday was the final day for Ganpati. I went down to the temple across the street to witness the immersion of the Ganesh idols. There is a large pool (like a big swimming pool) connected to the temple designed specifically for this ceremony, in which people come with their idols (from very small to very large) to sink them into the water, thus sending Ganesh back to his home after a brief visit in the homes of those who participate in the ritual. One great thing about India is that everyone WANTS me to take their picture, unlike some places, where I practically have to pay people to allow me to do so. Enjoy some fun shots of the evening's festivities...

love this shot

In other news, I've been so insanely busy (or exhausted) that I haven't had the energy to blog. So it's been over a week. Admittedly, I'm the worst blogger in the world but I'll try to do better as I do love to keep a record of the goings on here.

Fellow art teacher Shalaka and I

Work has been steadily going on. We are moving slower than I want but as fast as we possibly can without comprimising on quality and integrity. The kids get better each week with practice and patience. We are waiting on the last of our colors and I'll be grateful when they finally show up. Enjoy the pics...

elephant plugging along slowly but surely
Shalaka looking glamorous
stairway (to heaven?)
ois = oberoi international school
Other thoughts: Traffic lights are merely a suggestion. Rickshaw drivers can be the biggest assholes in the universe or they can be the nicest people ever. Middle school kids can do great things if you know how to work with them. Conversely, they can be the most frustrating beings in the world. It is difficult for me to reconcile the my work force with the quality expected of me, middle school kids (my main labor pool) are simply not ready for a professional quality large scale mosaic project. I love my apartment but would be just as happy in something much less fancy-pants. Really enjoying the new friends I have made here and looking forward to visiting old ones. I miss my peeps and my critters, but try to relish each day and be present. I love the fact that I can have anything I want (from yogurt to vegetables to wine to dinner) delivered to my doorstep.

taking myself shopping (rickshaw ride self portrait)

More soon. Time to crash!