There’s a special occasion coming up, so what do you do? Buy your dearest friend a set of cut glass goblets to celebrate his wedding? Wrap up a bottle of perfume to give to your mother on her 70th birthday? Select a stuffed toy when your sibling has her first child? How special does that feel? The goblets will end up at the back of a cupboard, the perfume will be saved for other special occasions (but how many will there be?) and I can guarantee the stuffed toy will be added to the great pile of cute animals already arranged on a high shelf in the child’s room.
Mosaics for special occasions
But a mosaic…well, mosaics are ideal for special occasions. They are hard to forget or neglect or even to squirrel away in the back of cupboard. They say that the recipient matters in just about the clearest, plainest, most eloquent language there is. You could hire a plane and write a message in the sky or build a neon sign to flash out your words but the letters will evaporate and the sign will grow rusty and malfunction, whereas as the years roll by a mosaic will quietly carry on saying it’s thing.
I cant believe that I fell for it again. It happens every time. I should know by now, but somehow I never learn. I thought I could rattle something off. I’d seen plenty of photos of Antoni Gaudi’s Parc Guell in Barcelona and thought it was all so easy. Just a few broken pots gaily slapped on and that I could rustle up a 3d mosaic over a morning or two. Helen, learn your lesson: mosaics AREN’T like that. You don’t rattle or slap or rustle with mosaics. They absorb and consume you and they also take far, far longer than you think. 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.
Forty six hours, umpteen cups of tea and non-stop Radio Four later. Ask me anything about international affairs or Scottish independence or the weather in the home counties, the price of coal, how cancer cells behave, Esther Rantzen’s singing voice, Francois Metterrand’s thoughts on Thatcher, the latest survey about British women’s sex lives…Go on. Anything!
Even about how to make a floor mosaic. Here is how it happened:
Making a floor mosaic – the planning.
The idea was to make a 90cm by 90cm mosaic insert for a floor in a traditional stone house in the Peloponnese, Greece, which would be reminiscent of this mosaic from Crete. The direct method on mesh would be used:
There are lots of lovely mosaics out there of birds and peacocks:
So I sat down and looked at all sorts of photographs of ancient peacock-y type designs and thought about the floor and its size and the colours and started coming up with ideas:
The future floor owner liked this one but there was still some tweaking to do – he wanted stripy wings and the tail design to be like the original:
Making a floor mosaic – the process
And here is the long suffering dog who was dragged out for cold, dark walks at 6am when he should have been curled up in bed so that I’d have the days free for mosaicking. As you can see, he isn’t very impressed:
(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.
New blog post on contemporary mosaic innovators. 1. Samantha Holmes ‘Unspoken’ 2. CaCO3, Movement No 12 3. Detail from Rachel Sager’s Ruins Project 4. Dugald MacInnes, Xenolith. http://helenmilesmosaics.org/contemporary-mosaics/mosaic-innovators/
Mosaics by Felice Nittolo, Raffaella Ceccsarossi and Pascale Beauchamp feature in my latest blog post about contemporary mosaics: http://helenmilesmosaics.org/contemporary-mosaics/contemporary-mosaics/