Mindful Mosaics: a guest blog by Maureen Alexander
- July 7, 2016
- Posted by: Eureka Springs School of Art
- Category: News
While preparing to teach an upcoming Mosaics class here at ESSA I started to do some digging on the history therein. Of course, I have my own style and ideas of what I enjoy doing, but it’s always fun to pull things up by the roots and explore their beginnings.
Mosaics date back some 4000 years. Some of the articles phrase that as “the beginning of time…the Mesopotamian era” aka: a really long time ago. Terracotta cones pushed into backgrounds to establish patterns evolved into uncut pebbles of uniform size. The Greeks stepped up the game by cutting the pebbles and turning it into an art of great refinement.
By 200 BC specially manufactured pieces, tesserae, were being used to add extra detail and color to the work. Tesserae could be the size of a fingernail or as small a few millimeters in size. This meant mosaics could imitate paintings. Paints were not always readily available but who didn’t have a pebble or two stuck in their sandals on any given occasion? Ahhh, the very dawn in the concept of found objects creating a work of art. Bringing me to the subject of “pique assiette”.
Pique assiette began its popularity in the Victorian Era, when “waste not, want not” was practically a household prayer. Old pottery and broken china could be reused to create a variety of mosaics. Memory jugs were particularly popular with women, who created these as sentimental mementos of loved ones. These jugs were essentially vessels covered with a layer of adhesive such as rubber putty or wallpaper paste. They embedded the coated jars with miscellaneous and sentimental items such as seashells, beads, buttons, coins, mirrors, watches, toys, pipes, and glass shards. Some folks placed these on the graves of the deceased. This could possibly be a belief in transitional objects with energies attached to them. I have no evidence of this and if I begin researching that whole concept, this blog will never get finished.
La Maison Picassiette in Chartres, France is an extraordinary result of one man’s work. Done between 1938 and 1964, this mosaic monument was left behind by Raymonde Isidore. His nickname, “Picassiette” comes from a French expression meaning “scavenger”. The website is well worth the visit and of course, if you have the means to actually go there, more power to you! http://spacesarchives.org/explore/collection/environment/la-maison-de-picassiette/
I have not engaged in such a project and I don’t do this type of mosaics but I do have a great appreciation for the form. And I had great fun unearthing some of the history of mosaics. Me? I LOVE colored glass. Whether transparent, opaque, swirled, or mirrored. I love the way light transforms glass from an inanimate piece of matter to something that practically comes alive. It shimmers like water on a lake or sparkles like sunshine on a field of flowers. Glass work is my happy place where I get lost in the colors and textures. Making a mosaic piece is my favorite form of meditation. Transforming a clear vase into a vibrant work of art, is heaven. It is a place where I become mindful in the placement of color and shape and mindless of the absurdity of the world outside.
Come join me in my Mindful Mosaics class 9/5-9/9/16 and hopefully I can plant a little seed of serenity in your life ☺ Register here: http://essa-art.org/workshops/glass/glass-mosaic-tabletops/