sonia king

Inside mosaic studios

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Before the Big Clean Up. My mosaic space. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Until a few days ago I was a mosaic maker with a dark secret. My mosaic workspace was a horrendous mess: tesserae jumbled together in yoghurt pots, bags of marble rods dumped on the floor, books shoved unceremoniously onto shelves, sketches tucked into nooks never to be seen again, and pencils and tools scattered randomly in miscellaneous containers. All this might be shocking enough for you tidy tesserae folk out there, but I don’t want you to think kindly of me as a disorganised, flighty type with higher things on my mind than colour coordination. No, the awful truth is that I was not only perfectly aware of my shambolic way of working, but I positively revelled in it. No longer. You will be relieved to learn that I am now an entirely new person and it’s all thanks to you.

emma biggs workshop
Emma Bigg’s workshop. Photo: Emma Biggs

The transformation happened as I sat down to write about mosaic studios. When I came up with the idea, I thought it would be a straight forward matter of asking mosaicists from the online community for their help with supplying photographs and then it would all flow smoothly from there. But I quickly discovered what should have been obvious from the beginning – mosaic studios are more than just spaces where we work. They are private places, refuges, hideouts, sanctuaries, inner sanctums, and spaces generally of much greater importance than what goes on within them (although that’s pretty bloody important too). Continue reading

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Why do we make mosaics? Let me count the reasons…

 

Gary Drostle pond
Gary Drostle’s pond. Image from the www.thecraftmaker.co.uk

Not so long ago I wrote a post about why I started making mosaics and called on everyone out there – fellow mosaic obsessives – to tell me what attracted you to the medium and what keeps you here, painstakingly cutting and placing, when you could be making big bold statements with fantastically coloured acrylics or stroking clay into marvellous shapes. Mosaics are limited. The palette is what it is – you cant stretch it out by adding a dot of this and a dab or that and mistakes once made are in many cases hopelessly irredeemable. The materials are often expensive, the time taken to produce even a modest work is ludicrous and the horror of being required to dump dollops of gloopy grout over your completed masterpiece is enough to deter all but the most committed. So why do we make mosaics? I told you why I do (a mixture of mosaic making being a compulsion which I cant control and the necessity of finding occupation in a new country with no language to express myself) and now it’s over to you….

Julie Sperling sea ice.
Julie Sperling. Sea Ice (detail). Photo: Julie Sperling Mosaics

 Why do we make mosaics? The reasons.

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Making a mosaic trivet: Part II. Mosaic designs and materials.

Making a mosaic trivet: choosing materials.

This is Part II  of my four part series on making a mosaic trivet – Part I explained how to prepare your base, the marine plywood board, and so now’s the time to choose your materials and mosaic designs. This is where the fun starts.

Materials will influence your design and visa versa so you need to be thinking about both at the same time. In this instance, however,  you are going to be making a direct method mosaic trivet which needs to be flat to put pots on, so there are only three choices of materials (pictured above):

  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Stone

Within these three choices, however, the range of colours is enormous and the effects they create are entirely different so limited choices doesn’t mean limited results. Take a look at the work of mosaicists who are established in the field and tend to prefer certain materials. Martin Cheek, for example, does amazing things in glass:

Martin Cheek fish

Tessa Hunkin has just completed the wonderful Hackney mosaic using ceramic (this is just a detail):

Tessa Hunkin, Hackney mosaic

And of course there’s me and Lawrence Payne of Roman Mosaic Workshops who are partial to stone.

Choosing mosaic designs: basic principles.

When you start thinking about choosing mosaic designs, you need to bear in mind that the process of mosaic making comes with certain constraints. Given that the piece will, by its very nature, have a fractured effect, designs work best which are:

  • Bold
  • Simple
  • Clear

Different components of the design need to be clearly delineated from each other if you want the image to be instantly ‘readable’, although there are also abstract options too – look at this work by Sonia King:

Sonia King Spaces II

And don’t forget that patterns make wonderful mosaic designs:

Squid and patterns: Basilica of Aquliea, Italy,
Squid and patterns: Basilica of Aquliea, Italy,

 Inspiration: Get a Pinterest account

The best thing I can recommend at this stage, is to allow yourself a free-internet rein and surf about looking at different mosaics using different materials until you get a feel for what you would like to do. Here I am going to stop everything and hold up a huge placard saying ‘OPEN A PINTEREST ACCOUNT NOW!’ It’s incredibly useful for getting ideas and keeping hold of them for a later day and also for general dabbling about.

Basically, its like using Google images except that you have an account so when you find something you like and want to keep, then you pin it on one of your boards which can be organised into any subject/theme you like. Other people can then ‘follow’ your boards or you can follow them so that if they are busy pinning images of all the sorts of things that you are interested in, then you wont miss their pins. To make things even better, you can create secret boards so the whole world doesn’t have to know about your particular weird obsessions. I have a secret board called Kitchens because one day, when I’m grown up, I am going to have a real kitchen but its sort of sad that I am sitting here fantasizing about work surfaces and cupboard space so I keep it to myself on my secret board.

My Pinterest account has boards entitled things like: Ancient Mosaics, Byzantine Mosaics, Pebble Mosaics, Mosaic Inspiration and so on but obviously you can choose to categorise your boards however you like.

More inspiration: look around you

If you feel like you want to do your own thing, then look around you – the natural world is full of inspiration:

Making a mosaic trivet, Part II. Material and design.

And there are plenty of designs which can be taken from other contexts and adapted to mosaic – take this Korean wrapping cloth from the British Museum:

Making a mosaic trivet. Part II. Materials and design.

Coming soon: Making a mosaic trivet – get sticking!

 

 

 

 

 

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