Behind the scenes – creating ‘Stardust’ a mosaic rocket for Leicester
Early last year I was commissioned by LOROS | Leicester Hospice Charity | LOROS to create one of the ‘hero’ sculptures for Rocket Round Leicester, a 10 week public art trail which will take to the streets of Leicester later this Summer – 19th July – 26th September 2021.
The rocket shape was an exciting blank canvas to work on. Just shy of 8ft in height, I was lucky it fit through the door of my Nottingham studio where I worked secretly on the design throughout the first coronavirus lockdown. The rocket took around 3 months to complete, laying each tile piece by piece!
My design ‘Stardust’ was inspired by Leicester’s heritage of space expertise. It is made entirely out of glass which is hand cut and individually laid to create a sense of movement of particles and cosmic dust floating through space. I like to work in an abstract style and chose a reflective colour palette of silver and white to create the magical shimmer and sparkle of stars. Although I sketch out an initial design I enjoy working freehand, building the design as I go along and seeing where the natural flow takes me.
Where to begin?
I’m often asked where do I start on a sculpture this size? Admittedly, I’m always nervous about laying the first tile and have a tendency to deliberate and put it off. However as soon as the first piece is down, I soon get into the rhythm and work for around 4-5 hours a day. I start with what I consider to be the easiest section where I don’t have to think too much about design but rather it’s about getting some tiles stuck down and seeing some early progress. In this instance I started with the mirror ball portholes, working from the outer area of the circle inwards. After this it made sense to continue with the silver colour palette and I switched to the bottom of the sculpture to complete the legs. Whilst I’m working on these sections, I’m continually mapping out the rest of the design in my mind, getting a clear vision about how to tackle the main body.
Working on a sculpture is physically demanding and I find the most challenging time is when I’m coming close to finishing the design and need to get to those hard-to-reach places that you don’t necessarily see but still need to be covered in tiles. When it came to working on the lower end of the sculpture, running the design under the tip I had to squeeze around the legs and lie underneath to fix the tiles in place. Working upside down was tricky!Almost there – figuring out if I can squeeze underneath!
Grouting is the final stage of mosaic and brings the design alive. All the gaps are filled with a cement- based material which accentuates the pattern and movement of the design whilst making the sculpture more robust. This took two solid days up and down ladders – mixing, spreading, polishing and more polishing! But so worth the effort to bring out the shimmer and sparkle of the design.
Grouting Stardust Rocket – YouTube
It’s been a great privilege to work on this project! Having the opportunity to get my work out into the public domain whilst supporting a valuable local charity makes me feel immensely proud. I really can’t wait to get out in the open and see all the other fantastic artist designs that have been created. Keep an eye out on social media to see the locations of the sculptures leading up to the event.
Julie Vernon Mosaics | Facebook
Rocket Round Leicester | Facebook