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

  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 …

Selling mosaics: a summer bazaar in Athens.

Selling mosaics: on the front line Athens in June. Imagine it. Streets clogged with traffic and choked with exhaust fumes; endless blocks of high rise concrete apartments, shabby and peeling; the fierce summer sun bouncing off car bonnets; valiant geraniums in feta-tin pots providing brief glimpses of colour on balconies above shuttered …

The Summer: looking at ancient mosaic art

birds and leaves, Aquilea

The summer is coming

Something in me shrinks when the summer comes. It sort of withers, gets smaller, and constricts. Not because it’s summer but because it’s bags and packing and being away and trying to remember everybody’s things and being polite in other people’s houses and talking and talking and most of all, not making mosaics. It is just so very discombobulating and very, very long. Two and half months to be precise, not counting the run up when one tries to jam all the things that one wont be able to do in the next two months into a few weeks and it never works.

The thing that is particularly irksome about the summer is that I want to do all these things – at least the being in other people’s houses and talking bit. I like nothing more. What I don’t like is that there is no pause, no moment to relish or regroup. It’s relentless. This summer my break is six hours in Paddington Station between one visit and before another. I will be entirely alone and I will have a book and nothing to look at and nothing to do. Bliss. Even more blissful to be at home making mosaics, but its second tier bliss. I will have the dumpling soup in Eat and read my book without stopping.

If I was in the UK, would it still be like this? The school terms are longer and there seems to be a network of available and dependable visits and camps and plans for the children. Not like here, where if plans are made at all, they are made at the last minute. Parents in the UK don’t (as a rule) up sticks and move around for ten weeks a year. It’s just not practical. It just doesn’t work. But its the way things are for expat mothers (mostly) all over the world and for a lot of Greek families who go back to their islands or country houses. I know my sister in law, Cathy, who lives in Beijing and writes novels, feels the same.

Time to go

So off we go. I have done a pretty good job this year of making sure that the itinerary includes plenty of mosaic visiting. I am driving back to Scotland with the boys from Athens in July – sprinting across Europe, not stopping at all, except for a day in Bologna. A day to look forward to but the site-seeing son says that there are at least 120 things to see in Bologna so I suspect the regime will be fairly punishing. It’s the homewards journey which will be the fun part, when David will be with us and we will drive in a slightly more leisurely fashion, through Germany and northern Italy, and stop (yes! oh yes!) in Aquileia.

face, aquileahare, aquilea

To think that I didn’t even know that Aquileia existed until a few years ago. I saw some photographs of the mosaics there and was completely smitten and then I realised that, without knowing it, the photos I have chosen for my work room wall are largely from the Aquileia site. Short of going to Jordan or Libya, these are the mosaics that I most want to see.

snails, aquilea

We are also going to Ravenna. My heart should be pounding at the very idea and I greatly want to go, but while I know that the mosaics will be magnificent and breath taking and all that they should be, the sheer scale and remoteness of them (up on walls and domes in imposing ecclesiastical spaces) will mean they wont have the immediacy and intimacy of the Roman mosaics.

ravenna mosaic2ravenna mosaic1

I can bet you anything, for example, that this wonderful stork and frog mosaic will be entirely invisible (unless you have a long and powerful lens) in some soaring nave. I’ll let you know if I find it.