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Recent projects and musings. Thanks for reading!

The Risen Christ Mosaic Restoration - St. Jude Chapel, Dallas, Texas

We are halfway through the cleaning and restoration projects at St. Jude Chapel on Main Street. In December, a new mosaic background niche was created for the Infant of Prague statue. In February, our team ascended to the top of the Risen Christ mosaic to clean, stabilize and repair the mosaic. A small fracture was creating loose tiles in the center of the mosaic. Earlier repairs had been insufficient, as they didn't match the original material or colors. Missing tiles were sourced from our studio and filled to match the surroundings. All mosaics in the chapel received a careful cleaning, including the Virgin of Guadelupe, the Blessed Mother, St. Jude, St. Anthony and St. Theresa.

Callie, a conservator with Art Restorations, Inc. of Dallas, injects a stabilizer behind the loose tesserae on the Risen Christ mosaic.

Callie, a conservator with Art Restorations, Inc. of Dallas, injects a stabilizer behind the loose tesserae on the Risen Christ mosaic.

Removing paint from the St. Jude niche. Callie is enjoying the process of conserving the mosaics and has a special connection to the place. She remembers attending Mass at St. Jude's as a child with her mother. Photo by Danny Fulgencio.                                                          

Removing paint from the St. Jude niche. Callie is enjoying the process of conserving the mosaics and has a special connection to the place. She remembers attending Mass at St. Jude's as a child with her mother. Photo by Danny Fulgencio.                                                        

 

 Simple cleaning tools and a ph-neutral soap removed 50 years of haze from the glass surface. Photo by Danny Fulgencio. 

 Simple cleaning tools and a ph-neutral soap removed 50 years of haze from the glass surface. Photo by Danny Fulgencio. 

  Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

  Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

Infant of Prague mosaic background by Julie Richey Mosaics.

Infant of Prague mosaic background by Julie Richey Mosaics.

The 1968 Genesis mosaic designed by Prof.Gyorgy Kepes of MIT. Fabricated by Venetian Mosaic Arts studio in NY. Cleaning and fracture repair will take place in April.

The 1968 Genesis mosaic designed by Prof.Gyorgy Kepes of MIT. Fabricated by Venetian Mosaic Arts studio in NY. Cleaning and fracture repair will take place in April.

Piece 24: Make My Hands Respect the Things You Have Made

The Piece 24 Project is a two-part collaborative, monumental public art project produced by 29 Pieces and Craig Schenkel Real Estate and aims to spread the message of a “viral influence” that inspires people to choose to be contagions of respect and compassion for all living things.  The inspiration for the Piece 24 sculpture is the American Indian quote, “Make my hands respect the things you have made,” from the passage, Let me Walk in Beauty.

Piece 24: Make My Hands Respect the Things You Have Made

Piece 24: Make My Hands Respect the Things You Have Made

    Grinding mortar to make space for the next mosaic section.  Photo by Danny Fulgencio 

    Grinding mortar to make space for the next mosaic section.  Photo by Danny Fulgencio 

In January, 2015 I was asked to assist Karen Blessen and the 29 Pieces team of student interns, artist mentors and volunteers as they translated their four-foot maquette into an 18-foot-tall outdoor public sculpture. Over the course of the next ten months, we created 4x scale series of patterns to enlarge the design and create the mosaic puzzle. Using 1x1 inch glass squares, the mosaics were built over clear contact paper and held together using a strong mosaic tape. Laticrete International donated the mortar and grout so that mosaic could be applied to the form using the One Step Method of mixing an adhesive/grout system. Albert T. Scherbarth designed and welded the steel, lathe and concrete structure and powder-coated balls, with twisted, sprouting steel attachments. Baldwin Metals created special attachments for the very particular, twisted steel on top of the hand. 

Joe Stokes, lead art instructor, Julie Richey, lead mosaic artist, Maria Patino, student intern, Daniel Diaz, Laticrete rep, and Kelly Nash, 29 Pieces staff artist pose with the completed hand.

Joe Stokes, lead art instructor, Julie Richey, lead mosaic artist, Maria Patino, student intern, Daniel Diaz, Laticrete rep, and Kelly Nash, 29 Pieces staff artist pose with the completed hand.

Bolting the tower together.

Bolting the tower together.

A terribly windy day didn't stop intern Hope Treviño from cleaning up the mortar.

A terribly windy day didn't stop intern Hope Treviño from cleaning up the mortar.

Some very intense work days followed the structure's installation, as the bolt access areas had to be covered and smoothed by Scherbarth, and new mosaic sections were then added, piece by piece. The sculpture's public dedication took place on December 17th, 2017.

Our student intern Hope Treviño took this photo of Advocate Magazine photographer Danny Fulgencio getting the bird's eye view of Piece 24 and the Texas Theater.

Our student intern Hope Treviño took this photo of Advocate Magazine photographer Danny Fulgencio getting the bird's eye view of Piece 24 and the Texas Theater.

Piecing in the last bits. 

Piecing in the last bits. 

Meet Caramella

Caramella weighs in at 37.5 pounds, a pretty hefty little number for her size: 18 x 10 x 9 inches.

Caramella weighs in at 37.5 pounds, a pretty hefty little number for her size: 18 x 10 x 9 inches.

Sometimes you get an idea in your head and it won't get out until you make something of it. This is the case with Caramella, a "chocolate truffle pig." Ever since I started making mosaic "chocolate" sculptures, I've wanted to create a truffle pig.

Caramella is an homage to the celebrated French and Italian truffle hunting pigs, now being replaced in favor of dogs, which have more stamina and greater agility. Dogs also are much easier to transport, and --- shhh --- when you have a pig on a leash, everyone knows you're headed towards your secret truffle cache. With a dog, they just think you're out for a stroll in the woods. 

According to Charles Lefevre, president and founder of New World Truffieres, there are multiple reasons why dogs have surpassed pigs.  "Dogs are much less likely to try to eat the truffle once they find it. You don’t want to wrestle with a 300-pound hog when it’s interested in chowing down on a truffle." “The lore,” says Lefevre, “is that truffle hunters that use pigs don’t tend to have all their fingers.” ~ Modern Farmer

She doesn't bite. Retired to the sculpture park at a tender young age, Caramella is suitable for outdoor display. $1800  

Tower of Unmelting, Chocolatey Truffled Goodness

One of my first "up cycling" projects is finished. For years, I was required to save a percentage of the Bisazza Opus Romano glass I used to create the Terminal D mosaic medallion for the DFW International Airport Gate 38. Now that the deadline has passed, I can use the bright oranges, yellows, reds, purples and caramels in whatever way suits me. 

Add to that several cases of the brown and tan "chocolate blend" that my friend Rafa gave to me after cladding his restaurant bar in the material. This color blend has long been my inspiration for a series of "chocolate mosaics," including a large, heavy garden rabbit who finds his home at Dallas' Dude, Sweet Chocolate.

Substrates for this sculpture are wine and food shipping containers that arrived at my home of the past few years. They're too strong and useful to throw away (plus, styrofoam in the landfill - yuck!). They've now been "up cycled" into a colorful, tactile tower.

Tower of Unmelting, Chocolatey Truffled Goodness, 2016   60 inches tall.  Enameled glass, styrofoam, plastic, steel and cement-based adhesive. Suitable for outdoors. Inquire for purchase and display information. julierichey@mac.com.

Tower of Unmelting, Chocolatey Truffled Goodness, 2016   60 inches tall. 

Enameled glass, styrofoam, plastic, steel and cement-based adhesive. Suitable for outdoors. Inquire for purchase and display information. julierichey@mac.com.

The Upcycle Mosaic Project

Mosaic artists are well known for their tendency to be magpies: we are attracted to lush, shiny, colorful tesserae that can be incorporated into our work. We tend to purchase "inventory" because we love the color, the texture or shape of it; someday, eventually, when the stars and the muses align, we will use it to create an inspired work of mosaic art. Our studios (and garages and closets and sometimes cars) are filled with bags and boxes and Ziplock containers overflowing with baubles, glass bits, and hunks of rich marble colors waiting to be cut, chopped and shaped.

Mexican and Italian smalti stored in every kind of recycled plastic containers. 

Mexican and Italian smalti stored in every kind of recycled plastic containers. 

And then there are the leftovers. During the planning and budgeting process, we're reminded to order 5 - 10% more material than we need, due to cutting waste, revisions, and innate flaws in the materials. This stuff is expensive. We try to calculate close to the exact quantities needed, but there will always be leftovers. These precious bits and shards get stored for later, because they can't be returned and are too good to throw out. Sometimes "later" comes after more than a decade of storage. Which, in my case, also entails a good deal of "schlepping." To the garage, where I gave up my parking space to add shelving for all of my extra materials. Then to a public storage cubicle. Then to another, larger cubicle in a cheaper zip code. Then back to the garage. And in between, one or two rented studio spaces. My back hurts just thinking about the process of moving all that heavy stone and glass, along with the Gorilla Racks that hold my loot.  

Each time I start a new project, I have to order more materials because the existing ones are just not quite right...

Each time I start a new project, I have to order more materials because the existing ones are just not quite right...

I've been claiming for awhile now that I could work for a five years creating mosaics in my studio without having to buy any new materials. And that's what my new Upcycle Mosaic Project is about. Trying to recycle, reuse, re-implement materials I've been hoarding for years, and putting them to work in new ways. I'll show you the original project - the "provenance," to use an art historical term - of the materials. 

One of my favorite materials, Opus Romano by Bisazza, is an Italian-made enameled glass. 

One of my favorite materials, Opus Romano by Bisazza, is an Italian-made enameled glass. 

Going with a chocolate theme here - can you tell? Stay tuned for the final blog post on this sculpture, with the "First Use" and "Upcycle Use" photos. 

Going with a chocolate theme here - can you tell? Stay tuned for the final blog post on this sculpture, with the "First Use" and "Upcycle Use" photos. 

Once the project is finished, you'll see the first and end use. My ultimate goal, besides producing some fun mosaic art to show and sell, is to empty my garage storage of these materials before it's time to move again. Wish me luck! ~ Julie