For Peter Kooreman ©2023.
For Peter Kooreman ©2023.
This mandala (or is it a ship’s wheel and a compass?) is still in transit to the other side of the world. It’s for my eldest niece, who recently moved into her own new house. I obviously wanted to make something beautiful for her, but while we get along really well, her style and taste are different from mine, so to make sure I’d create something she’d appreciate and enjoy, I enquired what colours and shapes she might like. But she was very busy with moving house and working and didn’t reply fast enough to my liking. So I joked with her I would just make something not too big, post it off, and if she didn’t like it, she could just throw it in the rubbish.
I don’t think she’d ever do such a thing, but I was serious! I have thrown away mosaics that I made (after letting them ‘grow on me’ for a while – or at least attempted to. Don’t want to add to landfill sites too much). Then my brother (her dad) told me he’d been helping her put up sections of “feature wallpaper” over the weekend. I asked him to send me a photo or two, and that’s when the incubation of the project took off.
I ended up naming this mosaic Oost, west, thuis best. That’s Dutch and literally translates to “East, west, at home is best”, or, in other words: “Home, Sweet Home”.
The working title had been Premonition Mandala, as I made it between the time I suspected Andrew was the cyclist on the radio news at 7:30 am on the 19th of April and the time police showed up at my door with the terrible confirmation, around 1 pm.
In those in-between hours, when my premonition was strong that Andrew might be dead but I had no way of finding out (from 8am onwards, the news reported the cyclist had died ‘on the scene’), I was so restless that the only thing I knew to do was work on a mosaic — amidst hopping online and googling how far Andrew would have been able to cycle from the ferry, arriving in Picton at around 5:45 am that morning — could it be him, how big were the chances it really was him, had the police posted any updates, etcetera. And of course by trying his phone, although I thought it would be logical that – had he still been alive – he’d be saving his battery and have his phone safely stored away to concentrate on riding his bicycle. He would surely phone me when finding his first cafe for a coffee, maybe in Blenheim.
Andrew and I were normally in constant contact throughout our days, via phone and WhatsApp. So I had also sent him a WhatsApp phone message – just 2 days before his death, sharing this budding project with him after I knew what I would make, and the materials had started more or less magically coming together (or so it seems when an idea is developing in my head).
He liked seeing what I was up to and was always encouraging me in my mosaic endeavors. I wrote: “A photo of this little cake plate that I found at the opp-shop after thinking about making the mosaic for Clara for her new house, inspired on her “feature wallpaper”. It’s always so cool to see the materials coming together. The little bowl was already in my stash, it’s a little broken praline bowl.” Later that day, while on the phone with each other, he remarked he liked the idea and the colours. He was curious to see the end result.
Two days later, the mosaic would come together with those pieces of ceramic, plus added gold accents (gold mirror, glass beads and coloured glass marbles). I also included little twigs from my forest*) and a few pre-made, miniature tile circles and glass marbles, loosely imitating the design and colours of the wallpaper. As I was working, I also associated it with a ship’s wheel shape (Andrew was a fine sailor and had been riding the waves since he joined Sea Scouts aged 10) and with a compass and it’s wind directions.
I finished it just before the police knocked on my door at 1pm.
So, Andrew never got to see the finished piece. But I like to think he watched and helped me make it. The piece is therefore extra special to me and I’m so happy it will be hanging on my niece’s wall in The Netherlands, exuding beautiful energy.
*) No problem getting those through customs in Europe. The other way around would be a different matter: impossible!
The above mini-mosaics are the partial result of my participation in the 100 Day Project (2021). I decided to use it to make a small (10x10cm) square mosaic every single day. It started on the 31st of January and I completed nearly seventy mosaics, some of which you can see above. So, you can see I deviated from the shape but all of that is part of the creative process.
A number of these mini-mosaics are for sale, here on this website in my online gallery , ready to hang on a wall or gift as a gift. A selection is exhibited at the lovely local Bush Fairy Dairy just up the road from where I live. If you enjoy viewing my mosaics but don’t necessarily want to own one, you can always make a small donation to help keep an artist afloat, or… buy me a coffee!
Happy making, whatever you’re making! And don’t forget to Give Yourself A Break!
“This situation is an opportunity. You have to turn the negative into a positive,” says Josie Martin. Martin is the creator and owner/operator of The Giants House in Akaroa, in Aotearoa/New Zealand. It’s a historic villa with terraced gardens full of sculptures, mosaics and ceramics by the artist. We’re talking on the phone in March 2020, while New Zealand is in complete lockdown, due to the global pandemic.
There are currently no cruise ships anchoring in Akaroa’s tiny harbour, near Christchurch on the South Island. Nobody else is allowed to visit either. “Luckily, we had a very busy summer season, but I don’t think I’ll be travelling any time soon,” Josie says. The artist, sculptor, painter and horticulturist (“I like moving between mediums”), had plans to travel to China. One of her ceramic creations is being enlarged there. It will be forged in mirror polished stainless steel at a Beijing foundry. A trusted craftsman she’s worked with before is looking after the prototype, sending her emails with photos to keep her informed of the progress.
Josie’s positive takeaway during lockdown is having a lot of time to make art. “Time is really precious”, she says. Today, she spent outside all day, working on a new mosaic at the front entrance of her sculpture garden. It’s a luxury, reminiscent of the beginning when there were fewer visitors. Now she can no longer work during garden opening hours in normal circumstances. “People are curious and want to chat and that is too distracting,” Josie explains. “Receiving people’s enthusiastic encouragement is wonderful, but spending time with them takes a lot of energy. I need to conserve my energy. If you really want to do something, you’ve got to prioritise.”
Josie Martin creates all mosaic work in situ. “Starting is the hardest part, but I start by making hundreds of drawings, and once there is a foundation, you have something to kick against. First, I work on the form, using steel and concrete. I have been working with the same tradesman for many years. We’ve developed techniques of our own, for working with steel and concrete, because it is a bit of a grey area. We work with a solid foundation. I use much more steel than necessary, I like to use it for shaping the form and expression. You can’t fix it afterwards.”
Inside, Josie will smash tiles and organise them by colour in ice cream containers. “As much as I can prepare, I will prepare. I will walk around the form, see how I need to cut the tiles and get everything ready to go.” This way, Josie can start work outside as soon as the last visitor has left, with still enough daylight for making art outdoors. During this lockdown-period, Josie’s also had time again to get her hands in the clay: “I made some pots in my studio. It’s good to feel the clay, get the feel of things.” Josie handcrafts her own tiles to include in her mosaics too. Twenty stretched canvasses in her studio are ready to use.
What’s more, Josie is waiting for the green light from the council to proceed with plans to extend both the garden and the cafe, as well as to create a new entrance, on a newly acquired neighbouring property. Because even though the creation of The Giant’s House sculptures and garden began only 23 years ago, Josie has already run out of space. “It’s not so much that I’m fast. I was definitely slow to begin with, because I had never worked with concrete. But my painting background is a great asset and I don’t muck around. I’m good at making decisions.”
What was once a wilderness, is now a world-class tourist attraction. The Giant’s House received a “Garden of International Significance” award, as well as a 6-star rating from the New Zealand Gardens Trust. On the Trip Advisor website and in Google ratings, Josie Martin’s Sculpture and Mosaic Garden has received innumerable glowing reviews and ranks 4.5 stars out of 5.
Josie Martin never compromised: “This place wouldn’t be what it is today if I had.” Martin had to sacrifice parts of her social life, but has some close friends she often makes time for. “Instead of going out for a coffee, I rather make something,” she explains.
“It’s always a balancing act. You can’t just walk into the studio, it takes time to warm up. Creating something I love, I’m completely fulfilled. I’m happy when I’m making, when I do all these drawings and suddenly something comes to life. And I’m able to live off my artwork, which is usually hard to do for artists.”
© Sitara Morgenster
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My currently very irregular newsletter has a new issue out, with the latest mosaic classes (in Peria), mosaic tips and mosaic news for mosaic enthusiasts and wannabe mosaic makers! Receive it directly in your inbox by clicking on the link, then on “Subscribe” in the top lefthand corner. Click here to read it online now! : : Here’s a little preview about the near perfect cut, from the “How to” tips & tricks section:
How to – achieve near perfect breaks
Intentional “handmade” breaks are seldom 100% perfect, but it’s absolutely possible to control the direction of the break when cutting a plate or tile with tile nippers or wheeled nippers. How? You do this by placing your thumb and index finger of the hand holding the item to apply pressure on the spot where you want your cut line to ‘run to’, while you ‘nip’ with your other hand. Try it now. It’s almost like magic, but I’m sure there’s a physic law that explains it all. The only exception is, when the tile or plate has a prior, invisible crack already from falling or other damage, in which case the cut is likely to follow the hairline of the earlier impact. Read on : :
I received “Highly Commended” at New Zealand’s bi-annual national exhibition of mosaic art 2018, held at the Estuary Art Centre in Orewa near Auckland in September, organised by the NZMA, the New Zealand Mosaic Association. It’s a great boost, especially given the fact that I’ve felt my style of working is rather “out there”, as it is inspired by the abstract, impromptu way of working exampled by the late Ilana Shafir, one of my greatest mosaic idols. My commended artwork “Consider Mother Earth”, is a large mosaic triptych spanning nearly three meters, depicting the beauty of nature’s landscapes combined with the impact of human activity, built out of thousands of tiny pieces of broken plates, glass tesserae, stained glass, mirror, pebbles and smalti.
It took nearly 120 hours to complete. And that’s excluding collecting and selecting the materials! Off late I’ve been feeling increasingly concerned and nauseous about the unstoppable, suicidal damage humans are doing to our precious home on the one hand, and on the other hand I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for Papatūānuku’s immense beauty, natural justice, abundant gifts and patience. I’ve tried to include all those qualities in this piece.
What’s the Margaret Coupe Award?
The Margaret Coupe Award was named after Kaikhohe based mosaic artist Margaret Coupe (16 March 1922 – 11 October 2006). Judges were the Lebanese-American mosaic artist Carole Choucair Oueijan and New Zealand’s own Liz Hood from Puhoi, who together searched out the ‘Wows’ among the mosaics on display in each exhibition category.
Sitara Morgenster 8 September 2018
Julee Latimer’s book Sculptural Secrets for Mosaics (2017) is a very personal exploration of 3-D mosaic-land. Latimer outlines step-by-step how to start a mosaic sculpture from scratch, be it a massive piece such as her Rosaic, the armchair from foam blocks covered in stained glass roses, or some wildly intricate sculpture, like Equinox, an organic plant form with tesserae snaking and deeply penetrating the custom-made substrate’s curves.
The hours and hours of dedication and piles of greatly varied, often vibrantly coloured tesserae that have gone into these works are not to be underestimated, but Latimer demonstrates a foolproof approach to creating 3-D bases for mosaic application.
The hours and hours of dedication and piles of greatly varied, often vibrantly coloured tesserae that have gone into these works are not to be underestimated, but Latimer demonstrates a foolproof approach to creating 3-D bases for mosaic application. It’s refreshing to hear Latimer confess she often has “no real idea as to what to create” before she starts. She simply starts.
This courageous and liberating way of working can be confounding, with many a tricky, technical problem to solve, but Latimer reveals how to navigate these creative adventures, while sharing her thought processes.
This courageous and liberating way of working can be confounding, with many a tricky, technical problem to solve, but Latimer reveals how to navigate these creative adventures, while sharing her thought processes. For instance: “I have been thinking a lot lately about my grandmother, and she is in my thoughts as I begin by cutting and assembling the foam blocks. I decide to make an armchair that she would have liked to sit in, something feminine and curvy, like her.” Or further on in the book, after finishing an undulating, carpet-like sculpture: “I begin immediately making some fabulously elaborate stars, suitable for a goddess.”
Latimer doesn’t offer any brand names, shop addresses or precise recipes, sometimes leaving you to do some homework regarding the glues or sculpting mixtures to use. The Australian based professional studio artist prefers to give pointers, like: “I use a sculpting compound that is very similar to papier-mâché.” Despite this, this is an inspiring and much needed book.
Sitara Morgenster 15 July 2018
Sculptural Secrets for Mosaics, 2017
Schiffer Publishing Ltd
This blog was also published as an article in the May 2018 issue of “Opus Oracle”, the members-only magazine of MAANZ (Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand)
There is a delightful mosaic scene in the biopic “Pollock” (2000), starring Ed Harris as the painter, and Marcia Gay Harnden (who received an Oscar for this role) playing his wife Lee Krasner. At just over an hour and 4 minutes, Krasner is seen creating a mosaic table. Four minutes later it resurfaces, only just visible if you watch carefully, in a poker scene, holding beer bottles at Jackson and Lee’s house one evening. Again at 1.21 minutes, with some coffee table books and coffee cups while Jackson’s family is visiting following his success being featured in Life Magazine.
It’s inconsequential to the movie and you’ll miss it if you’re not into mosaics, as I did the first time, watching it two years prior to starting out in mosaic art. I retraced and re-watched it only years later, when I became curious about the source of the mosaic in the photo by this article, which I had enlarged and printed on real photo paper and stuck on my computer screen, to inspire myself to “one day be a real mosaicist” (a goal I’m still working towards!). I had found it on the internet and did not know who it was from.
The reason I had picked this mosaic to be my inspiration was the deceptively randomness and simplicity of the design, the use of a wide variety of materials, the playful rhythm and vibrant colours. But most of all: how looking at it made me feel happy, carefree and alive. I knew one day I wanted to make mosaics like this.
I had no idea I was punching above my weight. Lee Krasner is the sole woman artist mentioned as part of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, who exhibited alongside Picasso, Matisse, de Kooning and Pollock himself. But once I found out it was her who created my mosaic muse, it gave me a wonderful inner validation of the mosaic style I aspired to.
It turns out this table was one of two low, round mosaic tables Lee Krasner (who was predominantly a painter) made around 1947 or 1948, using pieces of her own jewellery, everyday objects such as keys and coins, as well as tiles and bottle glass. According to other sources, Jackson Pollock gave Lee all his leftover material and encouraged her to do her own mosaic after he created his only mosaic for the Work Progress Association (which was rejected).
The story goes that Jackson Pollock helped her pour the concrete and attach the wagon wheel rim to the legs. But she laid the mosaic pattern.
“It’s a landmark work in terms of decorative arts and has been reproduced in many contexts and published widely,” says Hallie Harrisburg of Michael Rosenfield Gallery, interviewed by “Mosaic of Art”.
According to Harrisburg, the mosaic table was a foreshadowing of Krasner using the abstract form as her own language in her paintings later on.
One of the tables was sold, but my favourite stayed in Lee Krasner’s possession her entire life.
Sitara Morgenster 17 February 2018
– Mosaic of Art, retrieved from https://archive.org/details/GeorgeFishmanHALLIEHARRISBURG_onLeeKrasnerMosaic in December 2017)
– Artfortune, retrieved from http://www.artfortune.com/lee-lenore-krasner/artistbiographies-116718 in February 2018
This blog was also published as an article in the February 2018 issue of “Opus Oracle”, the members-only magazine of MAANZ (Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand)
Update: picture gallery after finishing the second attempt to “By the pool”, as the first version shown as WIP below was way to heavy to transport!
On my Mosaics.Gallery blog this month a mosaic art-vlog instead of writing, taking you up-close and personal to a commission I’m working on: “By the Pool” (destined for a poolside in Auckland, New Zealand), showing off this work-in-progress in (so far) two super short films. The first video shows base and pillar still relatively naked. You can see the plant pots (plastic and terracotta) and plumbers pipe forming the skeleton of this mosaic garden sculpture. In part two, the base is covered (later to be grouted) and the leaves and tulips applied to the pillar-part of the installation. A sphere will be topping off this creation (the original sketch on which the design was based is the thumbnail of the first video). I will post detailed info about how the structure was built after completion of the piece. The glue I’m using is roof-and-gutter silicon.