Decorating With Mosaics
Find out the real story behind the mosaic artform -- and how today's trendsetters use them at home.
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A Designer's Dream
How are designers using mosaics in homes today? Let us count the ways, says Mark McCauley, ASID. "Mosaics can have a significant effect on interior design," says the Chicago designer, who is the author of Interior Design for Idiots. For starters, they can be the jumping-off point for the whole design and color scheme of a space. "Design your mosaic first — say it’s of palm trees — then pull the greens from the fronds and the neutrals from the trunk of the tree into the decor," he says.
But, best of all, he says, mosaics offer you an opportunity to let your creativity soar. "You can insert yourself, your likes and dislikes, into the art form, as opposed to buying a work of art that is already painted," he says. "Tell your own story with mosaics and they will repay you with many years of fond memories or fantastic pattern."
Artist Gerry Lavery of Aquilo Mosaics (www.AquiloMosaics.com) has had the opportunity to help his clients’ tell such stories in tessarae (the little pieces of stone, glass, mirror, ceramic used in mosaic work). One couple, world travelers, commissioned a map of the world in their kitchen. "These people have been everywhere and when they have little dinner parties they use this mosaic map as a sort of prompt for discussions," he says. "They’ll point at New Zealand and recall when they climbed a mountain there." Another passionate pair of clients hired Lavery to create a "permanent" aquarium in their home. "They wanted a mosaic that told a life story about their interests — their passion for tropical fish." He spent 200 hours creating that masterpiece.
An Artist's Inspiration
Artists love creating mosaics as much as designers love using them. As Gerry Lavery says, "I love the ability to create soft corners and round curves and make volume out of not only a flat medium, but a very hard medium." Inspired by the mosaics of ancient Greece and Rome, Lavery creates custom tables, house numbers and other pieces, in addition to his in-home work for clients. Every piece requires a different touch, a different look, he says, which is what art is all about — and why each of the artists I mention here has a little different take on this mosaic madness.
They say an artist can see beauty in the most unusual of places. That is certainly true of Diana Krause-Oliver, who painstakingly re-created several of the mosaic tile subway signs in New York City, from Wall Street to Penn Station, block by block with crayon and paper in 1990. "I was fascinated with the use of colored tiles that square by square create pictures," she says on her site, dianakoliver.com. "These pictures held stories of traditions and history." See her re-creations, from the art nouveau Christopher Street to the humble Wall Street, in posters and on T-shirts at www.CafePress.com.
Want a mosaic of your cat — or your kid sister? Indianapolis mosaic artist Courtney Seghetti is cashing in on the custom trend with her Tuscan Mosaics Inc. (www.TuscanMosaics.com). She works with clients on pieces that make a small personal statement all the way up to massive custom-built in-home projects. Inspired by a trip to visit family in Italy, the artist (who has been featured on HGTV’s That’s Clever!) loves mosaics for their sense of permanence and timelessness.
"When I create a mosaic, I feel it embraces my family’s heritage and transports me to a different time," she says. We love her re-creations of vintage posters and her funky takes on Tuscan saints.
Mosaic artist Laurel True really left her heart in San Francisco when she created a sculptural mosaic heart for a citywide project that benefited the San Francisco General Hospital. True’s heart, sponsored by congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and her husband, was made from cut mirror strips and tessarae made from cut glass mosaics. See more of True’s work at turemosaics.com. And to see the 129 other hearts in the San Francisco project, visit www.HeartsinSF.com.