Review

Learning from the experts: Rachel Davies

I'd been looking forward to taking a workshop with Rachel Davies for a long time. And I finally got to take her Slate Flowers online workshop last month. I love using slate in my work, but usually it's the substrate. So it was great to turn things on their head and use slate as the teressae instead.

I love learning new things and taking classes to develop my artwork, business skills and myself – I know I’ll forever be a student at heart!

I studied for a masters alongside my work in 2020, which took up a lot of my lockdown/2020 time, so I’m really happy to be able to devote more of my learning and development time this year to mosaics.

I’d been looking forward to taking a workshop with Rachel Davies for a long time. And I finally got to take her Slate Flowers online workshop last month. I love using slate in my work, but usually it’s the substrate. So it was great to turn things on their head and use slate as the teressae instead.

Rachel provided a kit in advance with everything we’d need. It contained a prepared cement foam board base, hanging attachments, cement adhesive, differently-sized pieces of slate and some glass gems, millefiori and glass tiles.

The workshop had a real international feel about it with other students from different parts of the world joining too. Rachel started by providing an overview of the materials, demonstrated how to cut them, and discussed how to approach your designs. She’s a great teacher and explained everything really well, and she answered any questions the students had as the workshop went on.

I decided to make a flower using pieces of slate as the petals. I used some of my own smalti to create the centre of the flower. After placing the flower, I started to do a background of slate lines, but I wasn’t 100% happy with how it was looking. With hindsight, if I make a mosaic like this again then I’ll make sure the petals are raised to be at least the same height – or even higher – than the background. In the end, I decided to use adhesive to cover the background.

My first slate flower

Rachel checked in with all of us regularly to see how we were getting on. On one such occasion, it was a very timely moment, when I was contemplating the background, that she checked in with me. I told her that I wasn’t fully happy with the background of my design, and that I might try something else because we still had plenty of time left in the session. So Rachel helpfully showed me some other pieces she’d been preparing for another course, and I loved one where smaller slate pieces were built up as petals around a small gem.

It was the perfect inspiration! I started with a flower in the corner of another piece of cement foam board (which I had to hand as I also use it in my mosaics). And I got totally into the flow! I decided to use slate pieces for the background too, and some little pieces of china flowers that I’d spotted on my workbench, which fit in perfectly with the colour scheme.

My second slate flower piece

I left Rachel’s workshop feeling very inspired and particularly happy with the second piece that I’d created. I’m currently pondering some ideas about how to work this new slate technique into my own mosaic designs, so watch this space!

I highly recommend her workshops to anyone who’s considering one.

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