"Doing" Mosaic - DuPage Children's Museum

“Doing” Mosaic

August 20, 2019

“Doing” Mosaic

By: Gina Lee Robbins, Artist-in-Residence

This month in The Studio, we’ve been getting our hands–and in some cases our feet–dirty.

We’re beginning the process of building a tactile mosaic that will eventually be installed somewhere in the Museum. As a sculptor who works in clay and found materials, combining textured and disparate elements is the way I tell stories, express my innermost feelings and make sense of the world around me. I’m delighted to be doing this together with the DuPage Children’s Museum community for the next several weeks.

We’ve begun by creating texture and pattern in clay tiles using materials that you might find around your home…things like kitchen utensils, bath faucet handles, LEGO® brick pieces, and costume jewelry.  

Although the steps are simple–we start with a smooth slab of clay and choose from a basket of tools to press or roll into it–each artist’s process and result is slightly different. 

In some cases, we’re building purposeful narrative and design. Others are systematically working through each of the tools, experimenting with various patterns and textures, building random abstractions. Some have chosen to cover their tile by rolling a single tool–say, a pine cone–over every inch of it.  We even spent an afternoon stomping on large slabs of clay with our shoes, layering our prints to create a complex collaborative texture. 

I’ve also witnessed the creation of the most fantastical free-form sculptures, using Mad Matter™, homemade play dough (recipe below), and both modeling and traditional fire clay. We’ve had Velociraptors and T-Rex from Jurassic World, Harry Potter, the Little Mermaid, a zoological collection of snails, penguins, dolphins and giraffes, a menu of pizza, chapathi, and ice cream cones, a book, a manhole cover, every flower imaginable, and even the Indian god Ganesh.

In a sense we’ve spent these first few sessions “doing” mosaic. We each bring our separate visions and experiences into The Studio.  We approach the clay, or other materials, in our own way. But looking in, one sees a busy harmony of artists of all ages working side-by-side. It’s a rhythmic tessellation of deep focus broken by occasional bursts of delight.

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Super Fun, No Cook, No Special Ingredients Dough Recipe  

Try and make some at home. It takes some trial and error, play around with it. Your child will learn all kinds of math and science while having so much fun!  

  • 3 cups flour       
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring/liquid watercolor (more = brighter colors)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, wet ingredients in a measuring cup. Mix them all together, kneading on a floured surface and incrementally add more flour until it stops sticking and feels just right.

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About Gina:  Gina Lee Robbins has been creating sculptures out of clay and found materials for over 25 years. She has been leading arts integration and enrichment programs in preschool, elementary and middle school classrooms, as well as adult cancer and wellness support centers in Chicago and throughout the Western Suburbs since 2010. Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and is included in private and corporate collections worldwide.  Learn more about Gina at her website.