Four great reasons to join a mosaic course in Pelion, Greece

mosaic course in Pelion
After a storm, Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

WHAT: Five Day Classic and Contemporary Mosaics Workshop 

WHO: With Helen Miles 

WHERE: Lagou Raxi Hotel, Lafkos, South Pelion, Greece. 

WHEN: September 15 to September 22, 2017 

If I had my way everyone would join me on this mosaic course in Pelion, Greece. All those people I have ‘met’ on the internet, have followed and liked and exchanged messages with. We’d spend our days making mosaics and then sit on the terrace in the evening with a glass of wine (or two) and look out over the Pagasitic Gulf and talk about them. I’d show you how to make the things I love and tell you why they are marvelous and beautiful and full of possibilities. We’d immerse ourselves in mosaics through the ages – the mosaics from Greece that first inspired me, the Roman mosaics which I’ve visited and admired, all the way through to contemporary mosaics: their uses, their makers, their materials and their seemingly endless varieties.

mosaic course in Pelion
Olive grove, Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

But sadly I know you can’t all come so I am writing this to those of you who might. Just might. I want to tell you why you should travel to Greece to take a mosaic course in Pelion when you could just as well join a local group or a weekend workshop or choose to go to Italy, the world’s epicentre of mosaic art. I’ll keep it simple and I’ll keep it plain because I am so in love with Pelion (it’s where we bought a house more than a decade ago) that there’s a real danger that once I start I wont stop so I’ve condensed it to the four key reasons. Here they are:

mosaic course in Pelion
Daisies in the spring, Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics


  1. PELION. Well, start by looking at that photo at the top of this page. It’s not Photo-shopped or edited. No filter has been added. That’s Pelion. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and as close to being unspoiled as it’s possible for a place in the Mediterranean to be. It’s beaches are often listed as among the best in the world. It has sandy ones and pebbly ones and clear, turquoise water. It has traditional stone villages built around car-free central squares where you can sit for hours (after your mosaic day) in the cool shade of the ancient plane trees eating unutterably delicious local food. All of this is within easy access to the newly built hotel where the mosaic course is being held and if you just want to sit and relax then the Lagou Raxi Country Hotel has sweeping views, its own pool, and great food without having to set foot outside.
    mosaic course in Pelion
    Eating in the square, Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
  2. MARBLE. Now look at the photograph below of blocks of marble lying along an unpaved path somewhere up on the mountain of Pelion. The sort of path used by farmers going to check their olive trees who ride their donkeys sideways on wooden saddles that probably haven’t changed for hundreds of years. Those slabs of marble are nothing unusual. There is marble everywhere in this country and the mosaic course in Pelion will be run using marble and only marble. In most parts of the world, marble is too precious and expensive a commodity to be readily used by people learning to make mosaics so it’s a rare treat to be able to use it, revel in its colours and varieties and explore its possibilities as an artistic medium.
    mosaic course in Pelion
    Marble blocks, Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
  3. ME. It feels a bit strange to write myself as a good reason to come but I have spent well over the past decade immersed in mosaics. I started off by learning how to make mosaics in Greece with master craftsmen who specialised in Byzantine-style mosaics using tiny tesserae with no interstices and then went to the UK to take short courses with acknowledged experts in the field. Meanwhile, I made mosaics. Morning, noon and night. I experimented and pushed my borders and eventually set up my own studio and began making them professionally. While I have a huge respect for and interest in contemporary mosaics, my work is inspired by the many hundreds of Roman mosaics I have traveled to see and thousands that I have studied and drawn lessons from. I tend to concentrate on making site specific mosaics for private clients so this is a rare opportunity to come and learn mosaics in Pelion with me. Please go to my gallery of work, to my Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram to see what I have been working on recently. I now live and work in Edinburgh but we still have our house in Pelion and I travel back there frequently.
    mosaic course in Pelion
    Me at work in Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics
  4. LONG COURSE. The opportunity to give yourself five full days to learn the art of mosaics is a rare one. It means that you can really get stuck in. There is a lot you can pick up in shorter courses but if you are starting out on the mosaic path nothing quite beats throwing yourself in and making the most of the chance to really get immersed in mosaics: to get familiar with the tools, to find out what really interests you, to explore different techniques and learn about the world of mosaics from someone who is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The course will cover the principles of making direct method mosaics both on board and on mesh either using a copy of a Roman mosaic, a mosaic ‘pattern’ or your own design. At the end of the week you will have all the skills you need to make your own mosaics at home.
    mosaic course in Pelion
    Pebble beach of Kalamaki, Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

    For more information, please go to and click on ‘Courses’ in the top tab or send an email to Sue at I am looking forward to seeing you there!

mosaic course in Pelion
Kalderini – traditional stone path linking the villages in Pelion, Greece. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

One fish, two fish, red fish…



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?