Classic and Contemporary Mosaic Workshop in Greece
Six day mosaic workshop in Pelion, Greece. October 16 – 23, 2021.
For details, prices and bookings please go to the Lagou Raxi Hotel website: https://lagouraxi.com/classic-and-contemporary-mosaics-workshop/
Group shot by the pool at the end of the six-day Mosaic Workshop, 2019. @helenmilesmosaics
The Classic and Contemporary Mosaic Course takes place at the lovely Lagou Raxi Hotel set high up on a mountain overlooking the Pagasitic Gulf in central Greece. The course is suitable for beginners as well as more confident mosaic artists and we work purely in 5mm thick Greek-sourced stone and marble. During the week we explore the classical ‘rules’ of mosaic making as well as looking at alternative techniques and approaches suitable for all kinds of mosaic projects.
For a detailed itinerary of what the week entails as well as prices please click on the ‘courses-activities’ tab at the top of the Lagou Raxi home page and then scroll down until you find the mosaic workshop. Essentially the week consists of four full days of mosaic teaching and two half days. The year 2020 will be my fourth consecutive year of running the course in Greece and every year I have written an account of how the week went. Each year feels quite different from the one before. Different people (or in some cases the same people a year on), different mosaics, a different rhythm and energy. Here is my attempt to capture that rhythm of this year’s mosaic workshop in the form of a diary.
MOSAIC WORKSHOP, Pre-coursE:
Before the mosaic workshop begins I contact each of the participants to find out what they want from the course and to discuss design ideas. Once we have all arrived in Pelion and dusted ourselves down we are ready to hit the ground running.
- Day Minus One, Saturday 29 June. Three of the participants, Rosie, Lorraine and Debbie, had been on last year’s course so we meet up the afternoon before teaching officially begins and dive straight in, choosing colours, fine tuning designs, preparing base boards and transferring the designs onto the boards.
Rosie is doing a partridge recently spotted on a trip to South Africa; Lorraine, who made an oyster catcher on last year’s course, has chosen an octopus this time and Debbie has plumped for an elegant greyhound.
Evening: a Power Point about ‘The World of Mosaics’ covering everything from the history of mosaics, to design, materials, approaches and uses. There’s a lot to pack into half an hour but this gives me a perfect opportunity to talk about some of my favourite mosaics.
- Day One, Sunday, 30 June. Lorraine, Rosie and Debbie start work on their mosaics while the rest of us talk through the principles of mosaic making. I prefer not to call them ‘rules’ – this is an overview of the classical approach to mosaic making and covers useful principles to know even if you intend to focus on contemporary mosaics. We talk through basic cutting and laying techniques and students try out the principles on a coaster-sized practice piece.
Lunch: Walk down to the village square in Lafkos – ten minutes from the hotel, but usually 15 because no matter how many times we do it, we always seem to take a wrong turning down the labyrinthine paths. Try to order sensibly but we’re in Greece and the food is too good to skimp on. End up with courgette balls, local ‘greens’, beetroot, Greek salad, hot cheese dip, meat balls, souvlaki and a jug of wine. The courgette balls return to the hotel with us and reappear as handy snacks.
Afternoon: Serious work begins on the main projects. Christine is doing a copy of an ancient hedgehog in honour of the hedgehog in her Edinburgh garden; Jo’s mosaic catfish is inspired by her mother’s pastel drawing of a family pet which went down in folklore for terrorising the other fish tank residents; Steve, who lives on the remote Scottish island of Shetland is making a mosaic puffin; Millie, who has made large scale mosaics for her house in California, has chosen a Byzantine head as a way of giving herself the chance to concentrate on the classical approach, Shirley (Steve’s wife) is making a gecko, as I’d imagine they don’t have many on Shetland and Cynthia, who has a house on the Greek island of Lesvos with an extensive retaining concrete wall in urgent need of decorating, starts with a bee mosaic.
Supper: The course fee includes five dinners which we eat on the terrace overlooking the Pagasistic Gulf. I didn’t keep a record of all the delicious things we ate but the first night we feasted on salad, baked feta and tomato, stuffed cabbage leaves, walnut cake and ice cream. Millie demonstrates her party trick which involves a cherry stalk and lots of tongue manipulation. We’re in awe.
- Day 2. Monday, July 1. Wake up early and have a swim in the pool. It’s cool and perfectly calm and I have it to myself. Everyone else must be exhausted after yesterday’s exertions.
Morning and afternoon mosaic sessions: Everyone carries on working on their mosaics. Cynthia finishes her bee, Steve is making huge strides with his puffin, Christine decides to switch from a hedgehog to a pomegranate tree.
- Day 3. Tuesday, July 2. Morning: Cynthia starts on a turtle or is it a tortoise? Steve’s finishes his puffin and moves swiftly onto a Lerwick sail boat using the direct method on mesh. Several students have finished their main design and are starting work on their backgrounds. I give a Power Point on Andamento – the ‘flow’ of mosaic lines within a piece.
Lunch and afternoon off: We go down to the seaside village of Kati Georgi for a swim and a slap up lunch of caper stalks, bulgar wheat salad, roast pepper mezze, white bait, prawns, squid, spinach pie, potato salad and stuffed peppers. It just keeps coming and each course is more delicious than the last. The course fee also includes two lunches and this feast is on the house.
Party splits into two – some stay to swim in the little bay on the Aegean side of the peninsula, just across from the island of Skiathos. Others head off in the car to see the ruins of Theotokos which includes the remnants of a mosaic floor. There’s not much left to see but a former student, Jonathan Rivlin, and I spent a year digitally reconstructing the floor and its good to see it again including a little section of a wave border which wasn’t revealed before:
Back at the studio, we do a mini critique session, each looking at the work of others and suggesting ideas for borders, background colours and different laying options.
- Day 4. Wednesday, July 3. The pressure is mounting. Everyone works at different paces and there is no rush but we decide to move the second half day of classes from Thursday to Friday so that we have a whole day ahead of us to finish pieces ready for sealing, grouting and waxing on Friday. There’s a tendency to feel that once the main design is finished, the rest is plain sailing but there’s still a lot of work to do. I give a presentation on Contemporary Mosaics. Cynthia starts a pebble mosaic using the tile adhesive method.
- Day 5. Thursday, July 4. Some students are finishing their main mosaics and we have a general grouting session for those who are ready. Steve is onto his third piece – an otter. He’s a mosaic machine.
- Day 6. Friday, July 5. By now, everyone is at different stages and doing different things. Here’s a taster: Cynthia is making a swallow for her concrete wall; Jo is starting a white on white design based on the pattern of an antique bed spread; Lorraine finishes her second mosaic, a wedding initals plaque; Debbie and Rosie have their heads down, focusing on the final stages of their main mosaics.
After breakfast, those who have finished their main pieces have a number of choices: start on a second mosaic on mesh and take the work (and materials) away to finish at home; make some smaller mosaic coasters and/or do the Helen Miles 15 Minute Challenge. Everyone has been working hard and methodically – now’s the time to free ourselves up and just experiment and play with the stone. It’s amazing what you can achieve in a short space of time!
- Afternoon: we drive down to the beach again, this time on the Pagasitic side and eat (another) lavish lunch. Back at the hotel, we clear up and display the work for other hotel guests to see before taking our end of week group photo.
To read about previous courses please go to: