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…