Friday, January 15, 2010

A little case of idol worship

Emma Biggs is the goddess of mosaic. An artist from the UK, she has been working in mosaic forever and is so articulate, she’s a fantastic teacher. Sonia King is the queen (how ironic!), but Emma Biggs is the goddess.

She writes a lovely blog which is often about process, but often about the bits of everyday life that bleed over into your art and influence it in subtle ways. Sometimes it’s an amazing history lesson. I always get something out of every post she writes. Recently she started a 5 post series about her piece Made in England, a beautiful work made from ceramic tableware. I found that by reading about her thoughts on tableware in mosaics before beginning this project, I was able to better understand my sometime prejudice against such works. I have seen so many things on Etsy or Ebay that are made from gorgeous dinner plates, but they are jarring and unpleasant when reassembled. I never really put my finger on why, although I have to admit I never gave it a lot of thought. Emma explains it much better than I could:

“I decided to make something with ceramic tableware. I’d been lukewarm about the use of pottery in mosaic. Maybe I even had the odd outburst of anti-pottery evangelism. Mosaic made from tableware so often looks confusing, excessive and frighteningly sharp. There are varied patterns, colours, surfaces, textures and qualities of reflectivity – so many differences that the work becomes hard to read. Chaos threatens to overwhelm expression. And when mosaics made with pottery are easy to read, it is often because they conform to a well-known model – breaking up a plate and sticking it together again, for example. I can see the fun in doing it, but I’m not entirely convinced of the appeal of the finished product for anyone other than the maker. Of course you might argue – some do – that chaos is at the vanguard of delight. Exposure to the hitherto jarring allows us gradually to enter a new enlightened state of pleasurable coherence. The incomprehensible becomes beautiful – like Schoenberg and twelve-tone technique. I don’t know how many Schoenbergs there are amongst us pottery-smashers, but if you are one, I apologise for my prejudice.

So a dislike of tableware in mosaic was the starting point for my experiments. I issued myself with a challenge – show people how to create something that used ceramic tableware and retained visual coherence. I wasn’t really certain it could be done.”

Well, she has done it, and beautifully! Take a look at her blog to see the pictures of it. And while you’re there sign up to be a regular subscriber – she won’t disappoint!

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