Mosaic “rockstar” Toyoharu Kii, master of marble and monochromatics

My attempt at the “Toyoharu Kii”-style of mosaics during a 3-hour workshop at the MAANZ conference 2017

Marble becomes butter under Toyoharu Kii’s hammer and hardie, as he demonstrated during his workshops at the MAANZ Conference 2017 in Hobart (MAANZ: Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand). I had the fortunate experience to spend some time in his company, to learn from him – and be challenged.

Kii initiated his workshop participants into his very own, unique style of mosaic making: monochromatic, abstract, highly textured and full of interesting andamento, with marble the only source of his tesserae.

“Make interesting patterns!” he kept urging his would-be apprentices, as he walked around the room looking over our shoulders, smiling, moving tesserae around on our substrate, generously cutting some stone for those with blisters and, sometimes, shaking his head.

I’m not sure this was because our fledgling attempts at copying him impressed him or filled him with despair or pity. Every time he looked over my shoulder, I felt it was the latter, yet the challenge gave me some clear new insights and clues about how to approach my future pieces.

Kii was also one of the keynote speakers, introduced by incoming MAANZ-president Noula Diamantopolous as “the rockstar of mosaics”.

Kii delighted his audience by affectionately talking about “the character and charm of each tessera” and his love of a particular type of marble: perlino – especially the (off-) white variety. Kii Toyoharu praised its density, shade and light qualities.

The mosaic master admires the material of his choice for being compact, “not too hard and not too soft”. It can easily be cut into interesting shapes using hammer and hardie.

Using a slide show of many of his remarkable works, he shared some secrets with his mosaic-obsessed audience: to make a monochromatic work interesting he uses paradox by combining a number of contrasting phenomena such as even and uneven, light and shadow, different sized grout lines or no grout, and both the direct and indirect method within the same mosaic.

My attempt at beginning to learn the monochrome “Kii style” and method of mosaic making, in a 3-hour workshop by the mosaic master himself, Toyoharu Kii, at the MAANZ symposium this weekend was a brain twister. Working only in patterns and cutting marble with a hammer & hardie were both completely new to me. It was definitely an experience that corresponded with the theme of the conference: Think beyond the Square.

Sitara Morgenster 22 October 2017

Click here for images of some of Toyoharu Kii’s work on the internet

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