Friday, October 26, 2012

Learning Something New Yet Familiar

The Nizza Mosaic Studio in Houston, TX

The Houston Paper Paintings Workshop is being held at the Nizza Mosaic Studio & Gallery. Today at the studio I had the pleasure of observing Darby and his crew working on what will eventually be a 10x15 FOOT mosaic tile mural. This project is expected to take 12-14 months. Darby took a few minutes to describe the project to my students, who were all very curious about this Byzantine glass mosaic tile technique.

Smalti tile are typically opaque glass tiles that were originally developed for use in mosaics created during the time of the Byzantine empire. Smalti is made by mixing molten glass with metal oxides for color; the result is a cloudy mixture that is poured into flat slabs that are cooled and broken into individual pieces. The molten mixture can also be topped with gold leaf, followed by a thin glass film to protect it against tarnishing. (courtesy Wikipedia)

The artist rendering, portraying a scene similar to tapestry

Darby explained that in the Smalti process, the tiles are not grouted, but rather fit perfectly and tightly together as they are glued to a sub surface that has the artist sketch projected and enlarged on it. Since this project is so large, it's been divided into smaller panels that will fit together upon installation.

A face created from Smalti tile

What Darby and his crew are creating with tile is very similar to what we are doing with paper across the hall. He spoke to my students of andemento  which is the direction or flow of the tile pieces within the mosaic. This is what I refer to in my work as directional ripping. It was really interesting to learn about the Smalti tile process and see the very similar way that the mosaic artists create volume!

A good example of andemento in the way the tile follows the form of the tree trunk and roots

Another great example of defining the rabbit form with andemento

Darby told us that this is a project that is for a private home, someone who has commissioned the studio to do several pieces for her home already. The client really likes the gold leaf tiles. Being a Gustav Klimt girl, I like the gold too!

Great gold on the saddle

The "nippers" are the only cutting tool

For a 15-foot mural, these are some very small pieces!

Darby overseeing the process

We all very much appreciated being able to view this project in the works at the studio. I thought about how much easier it is to tear paper than nip glass bits. I'd rather be covered in glue than bleeding, that's for sure! 

I really enjoyed learning about the Smalti process and how the andemento or directional ripping are close cousins!

If you are interested in seeing some amazing mosaic work, or possibly commissioning your own 15-foot mural, stop by Nizza Mosaic Studio & Gallery or visit their website for samples of the amazing work they do!

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