500 days to wait for her 1st day of school

Almost two years ago, Beth’s friend, Nan, highly recommended a mosaics class she had recently taken in Ravenna, Italy.  Beth started to dream about how wonderful it would be to take the class, too.  She wrote to the Mosaic Art School and registered; and then devoted the next 500 days to thinking about what kind of piece she would make, the colors, and the materials.  Every time we visited a site with mosaics, she took photos.  She even saw a beautiful blue piece of ceramic tile in a construction site dumpster while traveling though Cordoba, Spain that she scooped out and carried with her so she could use it in her own mosaic piece.

We took a train from Florence to Ravenna.  The first day of school finally arrived.  This was the moment Beth had been waiting for – creating her own mosaic artwork.

There were 6 students in the class and almost as many instructors throughout the week.

After some instruction and lots of practice using tools, Beth cut marble into little cubes. The first project was to create a mosaic using the Ravenna (double reverse) method using lime as a temporary binder.  Each student selected an ancient work to copy.  Beth chose a geometric design but slightly altered the colors. Students traced their design showing placement for each tessera (tile) onto glassine paper.  Papers in hand, the students gathered around Minna for the next step.

Minna spread a layer of lime on a board for each student.

The glassine paper was placed ink-side down on the wet lime and after a minute slowly peeled back to reveal the ink had transferred the design on to the moist surface of the lime.  Magic!

Now the real fun began. Beth cut her chunks of marble and carefully placed each tessera in the lime.  She discovered she did improve her cutting accuracy over time but also discovered that not all marbles are equal and some are harder to cut than others.

The wonderful instructors came around with constructive suggestions – all greatly helped the look of the finished work.

After Beth put in her last tessera, Luciana covered the finished piece with cheesecloth and then dabbed the cloth with glue.

The work was placed in the sun to dry.

Minna took the board with the mosaic work on it and, with a cake spatula, gently started to separate the bottom layer of lime from the board without disturbing the tesserae (tiles). After the mosaic was freed from the board, she gently placed the piece on a clean board, cheesecloth–side down.

All she needed to remove the soft lime mixture still sticking to the back of the tesserae was a putty knife using gentle, dabbing motions.

Students used dental tools to clear away any larger pieces still remaining.

Minna mixed a nice batch of cement with marble dust or sand, and spread a thin layer in the bottom of the wooden frame and a thicker layer on the backside of the mosaic piece.

The frame was placed on top of the mosaic, the boards were flipped over, and the two cement surfaces adhered to each other. The mosaic work was left to dry.

The next morning water removed the cheesecloth and a scrub brush removed all the remaining glue.

The process using the Ravenna method was much more complicated than Beth expected.  Still, with help, all the students had created their own mosaic.  How did Beth’s finished piece look?

To be continued with …. “It looked so easy”


May 2018

About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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18 Responses to 500 days to wait for her 1st day of school

  1. sallywalters says:

    When I search mosaic art school I see that most states have at least one. Here in AZ there is one in Tucson

  2. Such a great opportunity to learn!! Great post!

  3. Annette Davey says:

    Fantastic story. As a mosaicer I can feel your excitement. x

  4. We’ve always been awed by the beautiful mosaics we see here in Europe and elsewhere when traveling and it’s amazing how many of these art treasures are intact after countless centuries. Your last sentence, “it looked so easy,” echoes exactly what I thought when reading your post. I now have an even greater appreciation for the artists who created these beautiful pieces, most especially their patience! Anita

    • What surprised me was the math and planning when a large mosaic installation is prepared as it will be made in many irregular shaped pieces that then have to carefully fit together. For someone who is good at both planning and math – it still seems like an onerous task.

  5. Talk about a cliff hanger! I hope this story has a happy ending.

  6. plaidcamper says:

    To be continued…?! Patience it is then, and it looks as though care and patience was a large part of the process. Looking forward to the conclusion!

  7. sallywalters says:

    ARRRGHH! I can’t believe you’re making us wait! I feel like I have been waiting for 500 months to take a mosaic class…You have inspired me to search around my area and find one… Hopefully we can get together in a few months and we can show each other our master works…

  8. Beth – I hate waiting! This type of class – hopefully more local than Italy – is something I am looking forward to doing. Is this a new pursuit? Will we find out if you loved/hated it? When will I get to see the result of your efforts? Arghhhh. I really hate waiting!

    • In 5 days you’ll have the answer, Susan, and of course – photos. I really love arts and crafts and this was an opportunity too good to pass on. It does seem like if you’re in Italy, this is the thing to do. I don’t think there are a lot of places in the US, but some of the other students in Italy mentioned previous classes in Chicago. For anyone interested, it would be worth finding a school in your area to get yourself started.

  9. It is beautiful. Reminds me of Sister Augustine and Craft class after school!

    • Weren’t you lucky to have a craft class like that. In my dreams…!

      • sallywalters says:

        How true … what were we doing instead? Declining latin nouns? Conjugating Latin verbs? Do I even remember what those verbs mean?
        Remember sister Monica said if you had three years of Latin you would be able to learn Spanish in three weeks? I hope you are fluent now Beth…not to mention Italian which must have taken only three days…tessara, tessarae …easy, peasy (British English)

      • Latin is certainly a help but where she pulled that number is beyond me. As for Spanish studies – we spend 1 yr studying in the US and then studied in Ecuador along with 7 mo trying to speak in S America. Beth knew that with very little aptitude and progress, it was time for her to quit. Joe has continued on studying every day no matter where we have been in the world.

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