In an age where technology is continually advancing and state-of-the-art machinery is being used to create innovative tile products, it is refreshing to see that Jane Rohrschneider -- known to many as "Key West Jane" -- is keeping the true craftsmanship of mosaic design alive.  The artist recently completed a large hand-made mural, which decorates an exterior wall of Poinciana Royale -- a commercial building in Key West, FL.  All of the mosaic tile pieces were cut by hand, pre-assembled and glued onto mesh backing, and then cut into 2- x 2-foot sections for transport at Rohrschneider's home studio.

"They had a contest, so I sent in my 'Call to Artist,' " said Rohrschneider.  "I was very honored to be chosen.  It was really exciting."

At the heart of the brightly colored mosaic design is a Poinciana tree planted on the shore with two turtles swimming in the sea.  The design is bordered by a geometric pattern.

"Key West has many beautiful Poinciana trees, and since the building is called Poinciana Royale, I have made the Poinciana tree the main subject," explained Rohrschneider.  "Turtles appear in the mural because the long-lived turtle is often thought to be the wisest of souls and brings a 'sure and steady' message to our lives.

"I integrated the 'palm frond' design that is in the railings of the building into the border of the mural and created an art deco look to the total project to match the building and its lettering," Rohrschneider went on to say.  "The art deco border can be used in as a tile motif in other common areas of the building to tie it together if more art work is desired at a later date."

Designing the mural

The ceramic tile utilized for the project was manufactured by Daltile of Dallas, TX, and supplied through Key West Deco, Inc. of Key West FL.  "I wanted to use the same company [for all of the tile] so you have the same texture," said the artist.  "Daltile also has quite a variety of colors."

  According to Rohrschneider, the panel of judges had requested the color orange for the Poinciana tree.  "I thought that might be a problem because it is an unusual color, but I was happy to find out that it wasn't," she said.  "In the past, I would have had to make the color in a kiln and try to do up a glaze."

The orange was paired with lime green for the tree.  Both colors had to be custom ordered," said Rohrschneider, adding that she did a computer mock-up of the mural design in Photoshop before beginning the project.

Cutting the tile

"I use my house as a studio," explained the artist.  "Luckily, my living room floor is exactly 10 x 12 feet, which is the inside portion size of the piece.  I completely covered the floor with paper and did the mosaic on the floor in the living room."

In total, it took about a month to bring the mural design to fruition.  "The flowers in the trees are all hand cut with a Gemini Taurus ring saw," said Rohrschneider.  "It is the best saw ever.  You can do anything [with it].  It is incredible.  The only thing is that the blade goes dull quickly.  I probably used seven to eight blades."

Rohrschneider explained that she started cutting the flowers inside her home studio, but then thought better of it.  "The saw sprays water," she said.  "I decided it was a bad idea to work inside, so I moved outside.  I also bought a big tile saw from a pawn shop, which I used to cut the other pieces."

Transporting the finished work

The mural was gridded off into sections.  "Once I was all done, I put adhesive on the top and then separated it into 2- x 2-foot sections -- following the broken tile," she said.  "I then flipped it over and glued it to the mesh backing.  I labeled all the tile and labeled the diagrams, and packaged them up in rows.  It was an unbelievably smooth process.  I was so happy."

According to Rohrschneider, she never saw how the border fit around the mosaics prior to installation because there wasn't space.  "I did the border downstairs in 2- x 3-foot sections," she said.  "I put adhesive on the top, flipped it over and glued mesh on the back -- just like the other sections.  I hired a 13-year-old boy, Damian Jones, to help me package them up.  He was so thrilled.  It was his first summer job."

It took three days for Oscar Cifuentes and Ernesto Fernandez to install the 14- x 18-foot mosaic mural.  A Seafoam Green-colored sealer grout was used in the installation process.