fish mosaics

Eight easy steps to making larger mosaics on mesh

larger mosaics on mesh, fish mosaic, Helen Miles Mosaics
Detail of fish mosaic splashback. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Larger mosaics on mesh.

Part II of a two-part post on making mosaics on mesh.

Let me cast your minds back to February, 2014 when I wrote a step-by-step tutorial post on how to make a mosaic on mesh. Back then I was full of the joys of mesh and two years later I am still bursting with enthusiasm about the method. I love its versatility, and lightness and the way it solves the problem of making mosaics for faraway destinations, hard to reach places or awkward surfaces. It has all the advantages of the reverse paper method without the disadvantages of working in reverse.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics,
Installing the Unswept Floor Mosaic. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics.

The original blog post laid out the method for making a small mosaic and now its time to think about larger mosaics on mesh. Over the months a few people (to whom I am eternally grateful) have written comments in response to the post and it’s clear that people are interested in the method but that the first post doesn’t go far enough –  so this post about larger mosaics on mesh is for all those mosaic makers out there who are ready to take off and tackle bigger, more ambitious projects. Continue reading

The early Christian mosaics of Delphi, Greece.

Delphi, Greece.
Cat enjoying the sun on the ruins of Delphi, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Sometimes I feel blessed. Not just blessed, but blessed-blessed. In addition to the blessed of daily life which is more than blessed enough, I have the extra blessing of being able to walk out of the house, hop in the car and go see ancient mosaics almost on my door step including the early Christian mosaics of Dephi. Now, really, how blessed is that?

mosaics of Delphi
Pattern detail. Dephi, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Here in Athens there are Byzantine churches with gloomy interiors and glittering mosaics within easy access, Corinth is a mere hour a way, it’s hard to enter a museum without encountering mosaics and even long boring journeys can yield unexpected delights of the mosaic variety. I don’t like to gloat but sometimes it’s hard not to feel that when the Gods were distributing their gifts they dropped an extra mosaic-shaped sackful just for me.

mosaics of Delphi
Dedication plaque, Dephi, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

That’s exactly how I felt the day I went to see the mosaics of Delphi with my friend Angie. She was keen to revisit the ruins and I wanted to see the extensive mosaic floor which originally came from a late 5th, early 6th century church in the village of Delphi nearby but is now to be found outside the site’s archeological museum. I had seen it before on a family trip when small children, an elderly mother in law and a fierce sun had deterred us from lingering and this time I was intent on savouring it.

mosaics of Delphi
Fish detail, Delphi, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Continue reading

Mosaics in Greece: black and white mosaics at Isthmia.

Floor view, Isthmia
Black and white floor, Isthmia, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Mosaics at Isthmia, Greece

Another example of little known, or at least little written about, mosaics in Greece. These black and white mosaics at Isthmia, near Corinth, can be about an hour’s drive from Athens.

mosaics at isthmia
Octopos, Isthmia. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

The site isn’t on the main tourist trail and was virtually deserted the day we visited so I had them all to myself. They are unfenced and you can walk on them which seemed disconcertingly decadent as well as marvellously thrilling that more than a millenium after completion they are sturdy enough to do the job they are made for.

mosaics at Isthmia.
Mosaic floor, Isthmia, Greece. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Aquatic motifs

Aquatic motifs keep coming up in Roman mosaics – what better symbol of trade, wealth, food, the fickleness of the nature, the unpredictability of the Gods and the extraordinary beauty of the seas?

mosaics at Isthmia
Mythical creature at Isthmia, Greece – part God Oceanus, part fish, part horse. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics.

Countless people must have sat waiting for months and years for their loved ones to return from long sea voyages and when such a wild and monstrous force dominated your life, it was inevitable that it would turn up in other forms suitably contained, controlled and domesticated.

mosaics at Isthmia
Dolphin detail, Isthmia. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

I am struck by how extraordinarily similar in execution these mosaics are from others on the same theme – of course one would expect creatures from common myths to crop up all over the Roman empire, but why, in some cases, are the same themes actually made in almost the same way? Pattern books? A few specialist mosaic designers who travelled though out the region?

Take this mosaic at the Palazzo Massimo Museum in Rome:

Black and white aquatic scene, Palazzo Massimo Museum, Rome.

This in Pompeii:

Mosaic floor in situ, Pompeii bath house.

Or this floor mosaic at the House of Italica, Western Andalusia, near Seville:

Black and white aquatic mosaic, Italica house, Western Andalusia, near Seville

Terrifying and mysterious as it was, the sea, pristine, crystal clear and teaming with fish must have been more lovely by far than even the loveliest of Mediterranean seas of today. Here’s an example of one in Pelion, Greece, not far from where Jason set off on the Argo:

Labinou beach, Pelion, Greece.

 

One fish, two fish, red fish…

DSCN3402DSCN3403

 

Here we go again – me and my new method. Its not new in any real sense of the word as everyone has been doing it for goodness knows how long, but it’s new to me and I like to flatter myself that it is just a teensiest bit new new as my mosaic books only have a version of it, rather than the method I use.

There’s not much to it really – take an MDF board, sand it, score it, seal it, draw your design on it and get mosaicking – the trick, as far as I am concerned,  is to use cement based tile adhesive with flex. I have tried my hand at mixing a quantity of your common or garden tile adhesive which the books recommend -the stuff that you use to apply tiles to walls-  and I find it crumbly and unpredictable when dry. I once got really excited and spent a fortune on smalti, quite convinced that I had found my true calling, and spent hours making a Byzantine-style plant, only to find that after a while (I cant remember how long) it all started falling off. The good thing was that the smalti just needed a quick brush and it was instantly reusable. The other good thing was that I just trying it out for my own satisfaction, but it would have been a horribly embarrassing disaster if I’d been making it for a commission.

Well, that little experience put me off using the direct method with cement adhesive for a while, and I reverted to tried and trusted tile glue, buttering the tesserae piece by piece and grouting the finished result on completion. All well and good except that I felt that the end product lacked a certain something. It didn’t seem to have the spontaneity or immediacy of Roman mosaics. It all looked just a little too neat and clean. And then, earlier this year, I was in the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki staring down at favourite mosaic of a duck which is taken from some long vanished church, and I had a sudden spark of inspiration. The point, or so it seemed to me, was that the early mosaicists pressed their tesserae into a wet surface giving the surface of their work a slight, but very pleasing, unevenness. This is what I set out to do.

This is the result. I thought about grouting it for a while but I worried that the brightness of the colours and unevenness that I was deliberately trying to achieve, would be lost. So I’ve left it ‘self grouted’ and I am pleased to say that it seems (after giving it a thorough scrub) as firmly set as its possible to be. Hurray! Success?