August 26, 2013

Zen Tiles and Flint Mosaic

When making small mosaics such as the one illustrated above, I follow the advice I used to give my students by placing the center objects along with a border design then waiting for just the right material to be found or purchased for the background. It may take a while to find just the right pieces to form the environment for the central objects to bask in. That is often why I do several mosaics at the same time - hunting up or waiting for the right pieces.

Although I am a painter by training I don’t take a painterly approach to mosaic making. That is I no longer create a picture or cartoon to color in with various hues of glass and stone. My mosaics are built up as assemblages with fully formed objects resting in a mosaic background. I choose one or two objects for small mosaics then build out from there. I play with the central objects, moving them sideways, closer, further apart. Finally I paste them down when the right compositional relationship is met.

I played with the two miniature tiles for some time until they were in just the right asymmetrical balance. The tiles are red earthenware with stamped designs filled in with white slip then scraped away. The design on the large tile flows like a fish met in water, the round forms echoed by the inlaid pearl cabochon. The smaller tile is stamped with Chinese Zhuan Characters and reads, “Believe in the Zen Way.” Both of these tiles were originally intended to be used in jewelry but I stole them out of my jewelry box for my mosaics. So I’ve come full circle here. I used to make small tiles for use in my mosaics, then got the idea to put holes in these tiles and use them for jewelry focal beads or buttons instead, thinking I could more easily market them that way. I did sell a number of them but find it more interesting to place the tiles on wall hung art - at least for now.

The background for this piece is constructed of fragments of ungrouted flint that has just the right milky white color with subtle ribbons of golden red that relate both thematically and visually to the thin lines in the tiles. A simple zen-like mosaic, I can live with this for a while.

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