Byzantine Museum

The mosaic of St Dimitrios of Thessaloniki…

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…and a curious coincidence

Coincidences are fun. Their unlikeliness – the meeting of an old school friend on a hiking trail in Papua New Guinea or realising your fiancé also took the 7.13 to Paddington from Brighton every day in 1982 – is so delightfully impossible that it seems charged with an extra meaning which remains stubbornly indefinable.

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So it is with the book my father made me for my first birthday in Glasgow more than 50 years ago. It is a spiral bound picture book made on hard card with photographs that he must have painstakingly cut out of magazines and arranged in improbable juxtapositions to amuse me.

DSCN6603Among the pages is this one – a spoon, an egg, a bunch of grapes and – what’s that? – a mosaic head of St Dimitrios of Thessaloniki. Continue reading

Mosaics in Greece: the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki

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Bird and flowers, 6th century basilica, Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki.

We all have our favourite museums. If not a favourite museum, then a favourite wing of a museum, or a display case, or even a single object that makes our heart stop with its beauty or intricacy or fragile, impossible antiquity.

The Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki, Greece (or Museum of Byzantine Culture as it is properly called) has many of the hall marks of the museums I love: a good coffee shop, some wonderful icons, charming signage: Continue reading

Mosaic solutions: fixing, finishing and an idea

 Mosaic solutions: fixing and finishing

Byzantine Museum, Thessaloniki, Greece. Mosaic fixing, finishing and ideas.

Lovely, eh? A row of hearts from the Byzantine Museum, Thessaloniki, Greece: – in case you are one of my subscribers, then these are for you!

Today was a day full of busyness with very little achieved. You must have those days. I had quite a collection of irksome little mosaic fixing and finishing jobs which needed to be done and so mosaic making itself had to take a bit of a back seat.

First of all there’s this critter:

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Not a great work, by any means, but I made it because I am experimenting with all sorts of things: edgings, grouts and finishings and I had an extra bit of marine plywood lying around, so why not? It’s a direct method mosaic using tile adhesive so that the tesserae are pushed into a bed of the mixture and they ‘self grout’ – in other words the adhesive squidges up around the pieces.

I wanted to experiment because of this:

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Which looks like a disaster, but it’s not. It was another experimental piece made in the early days of trying out this new (for me) technique – some tesserae fell off the corners which are always sensitive spots. I just scraped back the dried adhesive where the tesserae were missing (as seen in the photo), made some new mixture and replaced the missing pieces. What it did do, however, was set me a-thinking about new ways to edge mosaics.

First of all, when I made the critter above I added glue to the tile adhesive mixture when I was setting the edging pieces which worked like a dream with the result that the tesserae along the sides feel as firmly embedded as its possible to be.

Another option is to have frames made for your backing boards. I did this for two marine plywood boards that I am currently preparing. The frames are made to the depth of the tesserae so that there is no danger of pieces accidently being knocked out. I have also decided to gesso the wooden frames instead of painting them directly with emulsion as I normally do. These now have three coats of gesso:

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And the idea

The point of this is that I am thinking about whether to paint the frames in a more interesting way than just plain old emulsion. I have all the paints and brushes from icon painting so it seems like something worth trying.  In which case, I will do the decorative painting after mosaicking (as opposed to before as I usually recommend) and will protect the finished work by covering it with masking tape and paper. What about doing something along the lines of this from an 18th century moghul miniature?

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I had  previously tried putting larger square tesserae along the edges of the board, gluing them in the normal way and then grouting the whole piece which works if you are intending to grout the mosaic at the end, and is also extremely durable and solid. I must say I’m rather pleased with this idea:

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Finally, I bought some lead edging strips from The Mosaic Workshop with self adhesive backing which is meant to be strong enough for outdoor use, so I will let you know how I get on with that.

Meanwhile in Greece, I am off to see the National Theatre’s Othello tonight on one of those video link thingys.