Dancing with Sea Lions

Dancing with Sea Lions

Dancing with Sea Lions


Dancing With Sea Lions Moonburst By Jane Connelley

By Jane Connelley

Location: Sea Lion Caves

Moonburst was created by artist Jane Connelley. She is a creation of beautiful blue mosiac tiles and painted design. She can be found dancing inside the Sea Lion Caves on U.S. Highway 101, about 8 miles North of Florence.  Sponsored by and now owned by Sea Lion Caves.


Jane Connelley

Project Name:   Moonburst
Sponsor and owner:  Sea Lion Caves

Artist Jane Connelley raised her children in Seattle, near the Ballard Locks, when Herschel the Sea Lion was making headlines. The Locks became a family destination and Herschel became a family friend.  Jane and her children would visit him almost every week, weather permitting.  So, it was only natural that she gravitated toward the Sea Lions on the Oregon coast when she landed in Florence. “They were like old friends.”

Jane said she painted pictures of a few of sea lions onto small beach rocks, which were displayed at an art fair last winter.  A lady admired her little paintings, and told Jane about the Dancing with Sea Lions project.  She said she knew immediately that she needed to submit a design.  Having married into a tile family some years ago (commercial & residential tile) she decided to use glass tiles, with iridescent paint, to create an image of joyful splashing in the moonlight.          

In both her art and in her life, Jane said she spent time on negative spaces before a positive image popped into view.  But pop it did.  One particular “backwards” drawing became symbolic:  While drawing around the objects – only the background – the objects began to take shape, and they were beautiful.  She said it occurred to her that this was an allegory of her life.  She’d been dealing with negatives, while beauty gradually emerged.

Connelly says now she’s arrived at a place in her creative journey where she loves to share.  It’s spontaneous, serendipitous, and satisfying, though she says it hasn’t always been.  She says she still begins each piece with observation and planning, but then goes to work with a more flexible attitude that allows for spontaneity and visual surprises.  Her work has been described as “realism with unrealistic departures.”  It’s a definition that fits. Her early experience with realism has been enhanced by a new receptiveness to the unpredictable.  The results are sometimes unexpected and frequently fun.

She says she lives and works near the ocean, with pure light and constant inspiration. She likes to think that her recent work is infused with the serenity.

The Dancing With Sea Lions project has presented Jane with some new and exciting challenges, beginning with the adhesion of the tiles. She told us she had to suspend all of her preexisting tile-setting knowledge and learn something new. The experimentation phase was erratic: occasionally frustrating; frequently hilarious; and in the end – pretty successful.

A Sea Lion / Tile Retrospect by Jane Connelley:

Typically, tiles are laid in thinset mortar – but thinset isn’t recommended for fiberglass (the material used for the sea lion forms). Over time, when exposed to moisture, the tile sections will begin peeling off in large chunks. So, the experts recommend polyurethane based waterproof glue. This glue is very visous. In fact, it’s downright slimy… and it sticks to everything (lesson number one: wear disposable gloves). The bonding surfaces need to be clamped, as well, because this glue expands while drying.

So how do we fix tiles to a vertical surface with a slippery substance? And how to we clamp these small, flat, tiles to a large, curved, object? 

Well, first we laid the sea lion down, to create a horizontal surface. Then, I spent about a week learning what not to do with the glue: plastic wrap gets stuck; tile spacers do, too; direct pressure takes way too long; masking tape isn’t strong enough; duct tape leaves a sticky residue; and adhesive mesh is too heavy. What finally worked was a combination of surgical tape and elastic bandages!

The next challenge was a design modification. I had a very symmetrical design – and an asymmetrical sea lion. I did a few test layouts on a design board and came up with an adjustment that worked well without sacrificing the original concept.

Some of the grout was then tinted with varying levels of opalescent pigment, to coordinate with the iridescent tiles. The rest was colored with the same ultramarine blue used to paint Moonburst’s body.

The painted section was done with the blue base and highlighted with interference colors. They’re made with a special type of pigment that looks different from different angles. The blue even looks a little pink, in the right light.

The last challenge was protecting the glass tiles from the final clear coat… easily achieved by wrapping and taping the tiled section, before sending our girl off to the shop. So in the end, Moonburst has become shiny, sparkly, and beautiful – and getting her there has been so much fun!

Connelley used hand cut glass mosaic tiles, in a framework created with industrial backsplash tiles (replacement tiles available online at Mosaic Tile Mania), Gorilla Glue, Grout primer. Sanded Grout, tinted with dry pigments.  Grey Gesso and professional artist acrylics, Duochrome Oceanic and finally Varnish & Clear Coat.

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