If you happen to be an Easter sort then I want to wish you a very Happy Mosaic Easter and if, like me, you are in the Orthodox world, then my Happy Easter extends to next Sunday when we celebrate Easter a week later.
We always spend Easter on Pelion, a mountain penninsula in central Greece, where mosaics wont be far from my mind and where I will be enjoying the spring flowers:
Just a word or two (and a special Christmas mosaic) to say how much I appreciate you. With the exception of a few dear names, I don’t know who you are but I’m really glad that you read this, even if you only do so sporadically or you just skim through for a moment or two, you’re still here, and that’s the main thing. It feels often feels rather strange writing about mosaics and not even knowing if anyone reads what I write so I am especially grateful to those of you who have put your names on my subscription list. You deserve a whole mosaic of your own so this is your happy Christmas mosaicfrom me to you for 2014. (One of my all time favourites)
It should be obvious by now that I am rather partial to stone. More than partial. For the love of stone, I make mosaics. For the love of its beauty and aloofness. It allows itself to be cut and chipped and worn down but whatever is done to it, it remains itself. Whether its piled into pyramids, hauled across plains and raised into henges, built into fortress walls or honest field divides, whether carved, sculpted or picked up as pebbles on the beach, we all have a use for it. We are drawn to it to counter balance our own useless, watery transience. We know that it will stay when we are gone. Continue reading →
There is a blogger out there in Canada who suggests that we should choose a theme wordto represent the year ahead. I love the idea. A word, rather than a list of resolutions, seems like a much better way of doing things. Concentrates the mind, easy to remember, makes you distil everything down to the essentials. My theme word for 2014 is going to be FOCUS (with Freedom, that handy little internet tool which allows you to disable the internet, being a little, subsidiary extra word without which ‘focus’ would be a good deal trickier.)
So, on Day One (that is, Day One of the boys being back at school) of my year of Focus, I managed a few hours of mosaicking, and here is the result:
A hoopoe bird commission for a client who runs a supper club here in Athens, called Lucy.
Looking at the floors of St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice.
I sometimes come across fierce debates on the internet about whether mosaic making is an art or a craft. Think of Andy Goldsworthy’s works in stone versus Maggy Howarth‘s pebble mosaics. But does it really matter? Drifting around St. Mark’s in Venice recently, captivated by the stone floors while the great Byzantine mosaicked ceilings soared away above my head, too far away and too gloomily lit to be appreciated, I really felt that it didn’t. The floors are just pieces of coloured marble, purely decorative and entirely functional – isn’t that what craft is all about? – and yet heart-stoppingly intricate and beautiful. These pavements were made in the 12th century and, eight hundred years later, we are still walking on them. The guidebooks don’t dwell on them so that’s all people were doing – walking and looking up and taking photographs and the floors were just there, doing what they were meant to do and few people pay them much heed but, it seemed to me, if we were just told to look down rather than up, these floors would inspire as much wonder and awe, as much astonishment at the ingenuity and sheer brilliance of the workmanship as the ceiling mosaics do. We don’t know the names of the craftsmen who made these floors or those who executed the glass mosaics overhead and indeed few mosaicists in antiquity or later times were ever identified, but the point is that their work endures and that it is still admired. Isn’t that the point of all creative endeavour, be it art or craft? To make the beholder pause, to instil that fleeting moment of delight or curiosity or puzzlement, before being swept up again in daily affairs?
Woodwork, textiles, ceramics and knitting – all crafts, of course (we say) but often visually appealing and deeply satisfying, so, again, I wonder does it matter if something is called an art or a craft and does being a decorative art somehow elevate it to a different, more admirable order, as if, moving into a grand mansion, we become instantly better than we were? Here are some examples of modern crafts, for no particular reason, except that I like them and they have a lot in common with mosaics:
And a few more St. Mark’s floor mosaics to finish off:
(Excuse the quality of the photographs – those determined hordes of tourists would persist in tramping over the floors!)
(formerly Athens, Greece)
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Helen Miles Mosaics
I learnt how to make mosaics with Greek masters of the craft in Thessaloniki and Athens who taught using traditional methods with a focus on Byzantine iconography. Later, I become fixated with Roman designs and now my aim is to preserve the simplicity and directness of early mosaics while creating pieces which suit our modern lives.