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Installation Stories: A 96-Foot High Mosaic By Artist, Delaine Hackney

The final installation at the San Leandro Kaiser Permanente Hospital

Working as a professional mosaic artists since 2003, Delaine Hackney has done everything from creating whimsical pet portraits to teaching mosaic classes (even at Fireclay!).  Delaine has also worked on a variety of public art projects and architectural mosaic applications, leading her to her most recent project titled "Flutterybys", a ceramic mosaic gracing the 96 foot high exterior wall of the new Kaiser Permanente Hospital in San Leandro, California.  The six-month-long project features mosaic butterflies that span up to 16 feet wide and are handcrafted with at least 90% Fireclay Tile.  We were so happy to see the final installation and couldn't wait to share this amazing project with all of you!

So how did this project come to life?  Well...

Delaine was first approached by public art consultant, Beth Jones, contracted by Kaiser Permanente to procure the artwork for the new hospital.  In competition with two other mosaic artists who had experience working on scaffolding, Delaine was to develop an original design for the hospital wall and submit her proposal along with a presentation to a group of stakeholders. And in the end, "They chose me!" she exclaims.

Hackney on scaffolding during the installation

Hackney shares with us an excerpt from her initial proposal:

"Flying thousands of miles at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and a mile high in the sky, Monarch butterflies return annually to the same eucalyptus trees at the Monarch Bay Golf Course and Marina in San Leandro and hunker down to spend the winter.  The concept of butterflies created in mosaic tells this timeless story. The artwork suggests that the butterflies stop for a visit, here at Kaiser, along the way.  Butterfly symbolism is tied to the idea of spirits and souls. It has been used in many religions and cultures. In the western world, the symbol of the butterfly stands for freedom and ease. A nature-based theme is soothing and fosters commonality. The butterflies here are flying up, getting larger and gaining strength as they leave the hospital and resume their magnificent adventures. They convey a sense of freshness and positivity. Each butterfly is unique in its shape, size and colors.  All the butterflies will have the same purple outer wings with golden inner wings but the spots, abdomens and antennae will vary with each butterfly. These varying colors will correspond with the colors of the adjacent floor of the building. In particular, the colors of the main public corridors will be represented in butterflies at each corresponding level.”

Individual mosaic pieces

So how did she get these mosaics all the way up there?...

To make the large project a little more manageable, Delaine first drew out the butterflies on large pieces of paper, and then cut the illustrations up into individual sections. "Each section is like a piece of the larger puzzle," she says. The separation of the individual pieces, which are about four square feet each, made them easier to be handled, stored and transported to their new home.

Delaine then did all of the detailed mosaic setting work in her studio on fiberglass mesh backing, as shown above.  Then when all the sections were complete they were transported to the job site where Delaine (with some help, of course!) got up on the scaffolding and started the final installation process, consisting of adhering the pieces with mortar to the final substrate, and then applying the grout and sealer.  Can you imagine installing tile that high up?  We thought it was a pretty amazing accomplishment.

Thanks for sharing your story with us, Delaine!

Having fun during the installation

Want to learn more about Delaine Hackney, or take a mosaic class?  Check out her website, Delaine Mosaics.

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Welcome to Fireclay Tile’s Design Blog, dedicated to sustainable and beautiful design for people + the planet. We have invited several of our staff + friends to share their stories and inspirations with us. Do you have a Fireclay Story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.

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