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The Stone Age is Back! Masterminding Stones in Mosaic Art

This blog is not about going back in time to the Paleolithic era; the 21st century is an era offering an extensive array of materials.

Did you know that an amazing Materials Library ( was implemented at the Holon Design Museum? This is one of the few places internationally that have been updated with the latest innovations of materials.

There is great excitement in looking for mosaic stones. The act of searching by scheduling a visit, exploring, strolling around flea markets and shops, catching sight of natural findings or objects, and selecting them – this is all part of the artist’s first task.

This is a learning process: While wandering, I become aware of the infinity of materials that exist, and I am able to train my eyes in picking things up. This may be an innate skill for some, but it is mainly a question of practice. Besides, my selection might be affected by my mood, an idée fixe, or because of the characteristics of the stone: its glowing or glittering quality, opacity, textures, brightness or shine, color depth and beauty.

Sophie's blouse

Part of Martin's face under way

What we think we know about stones is that they are not malleable. They are “as is.” But with the artist’s intervention, the artist’s cutting, chiseling and breaking of the stones, their size and shape can be modified. Additionally, stones “interact” with each other. Their juxtaposition to other stones affects their density, light spectrum influence, reflection and transparency. To quote Charles M. Herbert, “Tesserae are juxtapositioned so that the viewer can discern them as a single unit, often at a distance further than one would normally view or inspect a painting. Mosaics require both space and light to be viewed successfully.”

Mosaic stones are both passive and active. They are not only what I do with them, but also what they do to me. A stone can even be the leader and can have “appeal,” attracting another stone. It is never exclusively a question of the will of the artist. Stones can actually cause you to change your mind. This passive/active dance with stones is another of the mosaicist’s skills and attractions.

During the creative process, I feel compassionate towards the stones, even if I break them. The action of breaking is very special, actually, as I redefine shape, minimize the surface, change the angles and give each stone a new body.

When I say that mosaic art is a deconstructive process, I imply that the word “construction” is incorporated into “deconstruction.” In response to thinking deeply about the reconstruction, I break and dismantle a stone.

With regards to color perception, the arrangement of a limited set of colors and the need to optically mix those colors is one of the unique characteristics of mosaics. The materials used are not necessarily uniform in color (within individual stones). “Mosaicists use fixed colors and therefore think more about the color mixing that occurs in the eye rather than on the palette.” (Charles M. Herbert, Why Mosaicists and Painters Fail to Mix: In Search of a Mosaic Color Theory, Andamento Journal, UK, 2006.)

Solar system

Harajuku heart

The mosaicist creates each piece of a big puzzle − in contrast to a puzzle game, where pieces are ready-made. The mosaicist is the composer of the fragment itself, and of the assemblage of those fragments.

The mosaicist is aware that stones have their own amazing powers and that, at the same time, they are at the mercy of the mosaicist’s optical and sensorial plans.

In conclusion:

Ceramic takes new risks, beads find new beats, Smalti has intensity, stones grab alternated tones, and this whole assemblage transforms itself into a new entourage.

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