This week's blog post was written by fiber artist Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
I have always loved color! I began sewing at age 9 and can vividly remember the excitement of roaming through the fabric department in the big department store in my hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The colors! The textures! So exciting! My mother was very stylish and could carry off the most dramatic colors. I was always fascinated with the unusual color combinations she put together.
As a textiles major and college freshman at Iowa State University in 1970, I still recall the excitement of my first weaving class. The thrill of creating fabrics from my own yarn and color choices is still a vivid memory. My obsession with textiles, color, and texture began with that one class and has continued to this day, 40 years later.
My hand-dyed yarns and fibers are a signature of my textile business, and I never tire of playing with my dyes to create new colors. I prefer procion dyes that mix like paints and use the same basic color theory. Endless color possibilities!
The history of textile dyeing is fascinating. Imagine a world without color! The ancient world was much more colorful than we might imagine. Fabric dyeing was first recorded as far back as 2600 BC. Dyes were originally made with natural pigments mixed with water and oil used to decorate skin, jewelry, and clothing. These are the same dyes used for painting prehistoric caves in places like El Castillo, Spain, some 40,000 years ago.
The history of the color purple is my favorite. When Alexander the Great conquered Persia in 331 BC, he first laid eyes on robes dyes with purple. Because of its rarity and intensive dye process, purple was only available for the robes of kings and princes then and continues to represent royalty even to this day.
It’s easy to take our seemingly unlimited access to colorful clothing today for granted. Open your closet and just imagine how boring it would be without all those fabulous colors! Enjoy!
This week's blog post is written by Marianne Wilson Stein of Gifts from the Earth.
German artist Gustav Klimt is one of my favorites. He was born on July 14,1862 and lived in Baumgarten, Vienna, Austria. He was an Austrian symbolist painter and one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement. Klimt is noted for his paintings, murals, sketches, and other objets d'art.
What inspires me about Klimt’s work is his use of repeating patterns and designs. His paintings were organic in design and filled with symbolic shapes. He was also a master of use of color, not afraid to create bold color combinations. Bildnis der Adele Bloch-Bauer
He painted various subject matter. I think I love his paintings of women the most. Klimt was not afraid to paint a woman’s body in all stages of life, like that of The Three Stages of Woman and Death and Life Completed. He loved the erotic and painted his subjects with a very feminine touch.
His work is sometimes ethereal leaving me with a haunting feeling. His body of work is bold and timeless. Irrlichter (Will-O’-The-Wisp)
One of my favorite periods of his work is his Golden Phase:
I have studied his body of work and I bet he was a man who loved and appreciated beauty in the world. What are your thoughts about his work?
This week's blog post is written by June Martin of Moth & Twig.
Micro mosaic is a special type of mosaic work that uses small mosaic pieces (tesserae) of varying materials. Micro mosaics actually date back to the 3rd century BC, though the height of their popularity was during mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. Micro mosaic jewelry became popular between the 17th and 19th century. The art often depicted famous Italian landmarks. Around 1860, artisans of Murano developed their own style of micro mosaic jewelry using tiny bits of colored glass and glass rods. Alessio Mattioli, 18th century Roman glass kiln owner, experimented on colored glass paste and developed what are called, “small filati.” This technique made it possible for artisans to create small fashion pieces. With the dawn of the Industrial age and expensive hand labor, larger tesserae came into vogue.
The mosaic jewelry I create (Moth & Twig Mosaic Art Jewelry) incorporates techniques and materials found in micro mosaic work. Though I do not consider my jewelry to be true micro mosaic art as I use larger tesserae than what is used in classic micro mosaic, I do consider my work to be miniature mosaic. I love working on such a small scale and have found that my passion lies in miniature mosaics.
I use a number of different materials for my work, including hand glazed earthenware tiles, various types of glass, filati, millefiori, beads, metals, gemstones, and found objects, to name a few. I’m constantly experimenting with new materials so my list of materials continues to expand. I’ve recently begun to work with a material called mosaic gold. The material consists of 24kt gold leaf that is mounted on glass and covered by a very thin hand-blown piece of crystal, and then fused into one solid, durable piece of glass. The result is spectacular as the gold appears on the surface of the tesserae, reflecting the purity of the gold when the light hits it just so. The material is expensive and difficult to work with so I use it sparingly, incorporating it into ceramic and glass pieces. Mosaic gold is offered in an array of colors; my favorite at the moment is acid green.
If you are intrigued by the art of mosaic jewelry, I am thrilled to announce that I will be teaching a mosaic jewelry class at Artistic Portland this April! The theme for the class is “I Heart Mom,” just in time for Mother’s Day, or perhaps you would like to create a beautiful mosaic piece for yourself! In this four-hour workshop, you will learn how to create beautiful mosaic art jewelry using basic mosaic techniques, methods and applications. Students can choose to make a mosaic heart pendant or choose from a variety of other pendant shapes and/or drop earrings. You will leave the class with one or two finished pieces, depending on the types and sizes of bases chosen. Students will also receive a comprehensive handout and resource list. See the Artistic Portland class page for more details.
This week's blog post is written by Sherry Bingaman of Nueva Vida.
I suggest reading a fun book called the Secret Lives of Great Artists by Elizabeth Lunday. Of course not all artists led crazy lives, but many of the most famous staggered from one drama to another. For this book, the author collected the most outrageous tales about major artists—“all the good stuff your art history professors left out.” This little book changes the way you will view these artists, knowing many details of their lives you never read about before. Your new perspective on Michelangelo’s nudes, Monet’s water lilies, and Warhol’s Marilyns will help you add a witty quote or a scandalous anecdote to a conversation.
Here are some interesting bits from this fun book:
These details are amusing, but a person can paint like a master and still be a jerk. Knowing the drama that many artists endured can enhance your understanding of their ultimate success. In the end, we can be happy most artists died of something other than boredom. Many of the most interesting lives were lived on the edge of chaos, where great art is born.
Our blog post this week is written by Mosaicist and Co-op member June Martin of Moth and Twig.
Clearly I did not ever have a love affair with Antoni Gaudi since he died in 1926 and I’m not THAT old, but I am deeply in love with his works. Gaudi has been a great inspiration for my work in mosaic arts. I had the great pleasure of spending nearly a month, solo, in Barcelona, Spain. It was 2004 and I was going through some transitions so off to Europe I went, mainly because as an emerging mosaic artist, I knew had to experience Gaudi’s works first hand and I knew that a week or two was not going to be adequate in order to savor his works and the magnificent city of Barcelona.
Gaudi experienced various influential periods in his life including, but not limited to, his Orientalist period, Neo-Gothic period, and Naturalist Period. I seem to be drawn to his Naturalist Period the most, though arguably, all of his periods can be seen in his works. I remember how I felt when I first entered Casa Mila (more commonly known as La Pedrera). With its sinuous curves, interior courtyards, and rooftop with chimneys covered in ceramics and shapes that suggest medieval helmets, I remember feeling as though I had stepped into an organic being. I was filled with joy, wonder, and incredible excitement. I would soon learn that I would experience these emotions every time I viewed or stepped inside one of Gaudi’s creations. I can only envy the handful of families who have the distinct pleasure of residing in Casa Mila.
Wandering through the various areas of Casa Mila was truly an amazing experience. From the structure to the beautiful furnishings, truly a magical experience.
Could such a place exist? Again, it was like stepping inside a living, breathing, beautiful being. I was overcome by beauty, form, color, and the feeling of happiness, playfulness, and pure joy.
During my month long adventure, I continued to meander throughout the city, visiting other Gaudi wonders as well as reveling in other artists’ works including that of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. I was inspired by the fluidity and beauty of Art Nouveau, seemingly at every turn, and the Modernista buildings throughout Barcelona including Casa Lleo Morera, Casa Calvet, and Casa Vicens.
Towards the end of my stay, I finally made it to the Sagrada Familia, and to Parc Guell. I had seen and experienced so much by the time I made it to these places, that I felt it only fitting to pay homage to Gaudi one sunny afternoon at Parc Guell. After meandering around the park and soaking in the amazing structures, the mosaics, and of course the iconic Parc Guell lizard, I climbed to the highest point in the park and made sure I had a clear view of The Sagrada Familia. It is there that I enjoyed a picnic consisting of Cava (Spanish wine), cheeses, biscuits, and a few tapas from my adventures the night before.
I toasted Gaudi and his brilliance, and I toasted the other artists and architects who created such beauty in fabulous Barcelona. I felt lucky to be alive and humbled by the brilliance all around me. I took all that I saw back with me to the states and knew that I would never quite be the same. I felt newly inspired and excited to continue on my path as a burgeoning mosaic artist
Stop by Artistic Portland any day of the week 10 am - 6 pm (noon-5 pm on Sundays) to see and purchase June's work in person!
A few weeks ago local artist Colleen Patricia Williams educated us about the rich history of her artistic medium--mosaics. This week she dives back in with with more about the history of smalti tiles.
Glass tile has a long history in art; it is believed that the ancient Egyptians were the first to create glass and to use that glass as decorative art. Art historians believe that the use of glass tiles, that lead to smalti, came to Italy from the ancient Egyptians, from the conquests of the Roman Empire. In time, these glass tiles came to be made famous by Byzantium.
In the Byzantine era, mosaics that had traditionally been done with ceramic tiles, came to be done with a new type of tile, called “smalti”. Smalti tiles were, and still are, made of glass with various minerals added to create different “recipes”, that create different types of glass tile. In the Byzantine style, the smalti tiles were carefully set at the best angle to catch the light; to this end, smalti tiles were not grouted, to allow for proper light refraction.
Smalti typically includes air bubbles, as well as often infusions of gold and silver, to create the distinctive look of smalti. Smalti recipes are jealously guarded by the manufacturers of these tiles; this has always been the case with smalti production, because of the fierce competition amongst mosaic artists. Sadly, the peak of historical mosaic work was in the Byzantine Empire and the empire’s fortunes declined in the march of history, so did the art of mosaics and smalti production.
In the 19th century, the art of mosaics experienced a revival that has continued to this day. In the 19th century, the art and designs of Byzantium became popular again, as seen by the mosaic decoration of Westminster Cathedral, in London and in the Sacre Couer in Paris.
With the advent of the 20th century and the Art Nouveau movement, mosaics moved from just decoration into large, sculptural pieces, like those of Antoni Gaudi and Josep Maria Jujol. These pioneers saw the use of waste tile as well as tiles made especially for the purpose of large scale work. Guadi is justly famous for his architecture which often incorporated mosaics. Smalti tiles became an important part of the art world again, experiencing a great resurgence that has continued to this day.
In the 21st century, mosaics have resurged as a fine art form, both in representational works and in the abstract. Mosaics are now sculptural, they are composed of found objects as well as purpose made tiles, like modern smalti. Mosaics are created from small decorative wall pieces, to the large, sculptural pieces on forms created out of substrates from concrete, to plexiglass to shoes, have become fine art with the help of smalti.
At one time, an artist had to go through an apprenticeship process to create a master artist; there are now plenty of classes to teach the budding mosaic artist how to use these tiles, which are now sold to a global market. Mosaic art has come a long way since 4000 BC with the use of rocks and shells to create loose designs, to the magic and beauty of smalti and art glass tiles.
Smalti tiles are still manufactured with the infusions of gold and silver, with secret recipes and with the famous air bubbles. In the manufacture of smalti tiles, molten glass is poured out onto a flat surface into a large pancake then broken by hand into the glass tiles that make up smalti. The breaking process involves not just a glass cutter, but also tile cutters that are able to nip the tiles into the small squares that are used to paint with glass and light.
Stop by Artistic Portland to view and purchase Colleen's own beautifully handcrafted illuminated mosaics.
This week, local artist Colleen Patricia Williams educates us about the rich history of her artistic medium--mosaics.
Mosaic is an art form that is at least 4000 years old and originated in Mesopotamia, with bits of colored stones, glass and other materials. Mosaic also had a version that used terracotta cones, with the points pushed into clay to create a decorative surface. The Greeks used pebbles to create decorations.
Mosaic developed even further with the Greeks, who took the stones and pebbles and turned them into even more intricate designs, but mosaics really reached their ancient glory with the Romans, in Africa and Syria, the wealthiest Roman provinces. Beautiful floors have been found in Herculaneum and Pompeii. The mosaics in the Roman Empire featured domestic scenes, geometric designs and depictions of the gods in their pantheon. The lowest quality mosaics in the Roman Empire were to be found in Britain since not many mosaic artists were to be found at the farthest reaches of the empire.
The first glazed mosaic tiles were found in Susa, in what is modern day Iran, around 1500 BCE. Mosaics spread into Macedonia, into Carthage, then Rome.
The development of tesserae, a manufactured tile that was capable of great variation in color, size and shape that made great detail as well as subtle color changes possible. Sometimes these tesserae were very tiny pieces, allowing the artist to paint with tile.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, mosaics in the Byzantine era went from mainly floor decorations to beautiful and intricate wall pieces that depicted religious subjects. This is also where we see the development of a new type of tile called “smalti”. Smalti tiles are made of glass, with the inclusions of air bubbles and they are often backed with silver foil or gold leaf. This gives the tiles a depth and beauty that just glows.
There are many interesting things about the Byzantine mosaics; that they were mostly ungrouted, in order to allow light to reflect off of edges. Also, the smalti tiles were set at a slight angle in order to catch the light reflections from different angles. This resulted in sparkling mosaics no matter what view they were seen by viewers.
In the 5th century, the city of Ravenna became known as the city of mosaics. The best known building in the city is the mausoleum of Theodoric, a king of Byzantium. The best known mosaic is the mosaic in the cathedral built for this same king, but now renamed Sant’Apollinaire Nuovo. The scenes in this cathedral featured images of Christ as well as images of Theodoric and his household. Many of those have been replaced by later rulers; interestingly, there is a scene of the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora. This is interesting because the images of Theodoric were removed because the principle of having no images of a ruler in a cathedral.
At the same time, in the Islamic world, mosaics were also developing, with stone and depictions of geometric figures and mathematical principals. The Islamic mosaics often were made according to a technique called “zillij”. Zillij involves creating tiles specifically for the particular project, and then further handworking on each tile to ensure a custom fit that covers the entire surface in a seamless piece. Examples of this can be seen in the Great Mosque in Cordova and the Alhambra.
Mosaics have come a long way, with a venerable history. Today we use art glass, stones, found objects, whatever makes a piece work. With the new products that are out there today, mosaics have a great future ahead of them!
Stop by Artistic Portland to view and purchase Colleen's own beautifully handcrafted illuminated mosaics.