Monday, October 4, 2010

Results of the Contemporary Mosaic Association Competition



When I set this topic I knew that it would be more difficult than usual. I wasn’t surprised therefore to see that the number of entries were fewer than in previous competitions.

I have no regrets and make no apologies however - because as the word ‘challenge’ suggests - I want to keep ‘upping the ante’ in order to stretch CMA members.

My hope is that you may produce work that you may not otherwise have considered and to go down avenues that are off your usual chosen path.

I feel that whilst the QUANTITY of mosaics produced this time was down - the QUALITY certainly WASN’T and that the body of work that you see below contains some of the best mosaics that have ever been produced for these challenges.

I am therefore proud to announce the winners below and look forward with eager anticipation in the hope that more of you will rise to the NEXT challenge!

For this competition, I have asked Jane Denison to co-judge some of the works. Jane is currently studying art history at University of Queensland.

Martin Cheek October 2010

Dana Teturova
Title: Flowers
Size; 31x44 cm
Material: Smalti
Completed: August, 8, 2010


MC: This mosaic perfectly answers the brief. Dana’s work is always so romantic and poetic and this piece is no exception.
This is also SO clever and well constructed -the fact that the ENTIRE face is made up of the flowers and butterfly is inspired and worthy of the great showman Dali himself!
I know I keep saying this - but look how impossible it is to see BOTH at once - even when you have familiarised yourself with both identities.
This face has a beautiful luminosity and radiance to it. The lips / flower are so delicately handled and the nose / butterfly is skilfully understated.
Congratulations Dana!

JD: Although Martin observes the impossibility for us to see both images simultaneously, I love the ease with which we go from seeing the work as either a lady’s face or blooming spring flowers. This “easiness” results from the harmony within the colours that encourages our eyes to circulate around the image rather than settling on any particular part. Another factor attributing to the ease in reading both images is that if we follow the lady’s down-turned gaze towards the bottom right-hand flower, we automatically begin to see the entire image as a field of flowers.
Congratulations Dana.

Mel Miller
The Lord's Army
materials used: Venetian Smalti, Gold and copper smalti, cut Moretti glass rods, coloured mirror glass, millefiore, and marble tesserae
Size: 32 X 45 cm. (13 X 18 inches)
Completion Date: July 2010
From my brother's photograph. Rebel soldier from 'The Lord's Army'. Camouflage within Camouflage. The delicate child bracelet in tender sensitive colors, juxtaposed on the dark arm, cradling metallic weaponry, surrounded by harsh jungle camouflage fatigues, may be the only expression or hint of this soldier's humanity.

MC: When I set this challenge, I thought it would be a lot of fun for those taking part and was expecting to see lots of wacky cartoony chameleons frolicking about catching unsuspected flies. I was forgetting though that camouflage can also be used in a more serious context - that of war. How appropriate then, that Mel should remind us of that fact with this powerful yet tender mosaic?!

JD: Sometimes an image speaks more than words. In this mosaic, a camouflaged soldier lies in forest foliage almost invisible to the world. The strong diagonal lines running through the work lead our eye to the work’s focal point - the colourful, yet poignant, child’s bracelet.

Initially, I thought this was an ambitious subject to tackle in the mosaic medium and I wondered how this mosaic differs from the original photograph. Undoubtedly, a photograph would objectively document the pathosof the scene. However, as a mosaic, the scene becomes incredibly intimate and we can almost smell the damp foliage in the forest. I also like how the different textures of the tesserae allude to the unresolved and disjointed nature of war. The result is a wonderfully executed work demonstrating the unique qualities mosaic art brings to the contemporary art scene.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's been some time since my last blog entry. But I'm back. To announce a couple of things.
Firstly, my website went live today. And tho it's not yet complete, as there's lots to do still in the Gallery, it's live at last.

So take a look......
Let me know what you think.

Secondly, Luc just built a most amazing frame for the Horse Head Nebula mosaic that you all watched growing in Italy. It's a stunning wood black frame which lies flush with the mosaic. Just like they use at Orsoni. I know they won't mind me stealing the idea, because it really really suits the work. So I posted a pic at an angle so you can get the gist.

Thirdly, there's a new little baby mosaic to see. She's an Autumn Leaf Fairy, and the title is, 'I feel sad when Summer ends.'

I'll be back more often, as my website is now linked to this blog, and I'm working furiously for an exhibition for later this year.

Till later........

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Fat Lady is Singing

Anyway, the Fat Lady is Singing folks.

And we all know what that means.

It's all over.

A sweet and quiet weekend spent working on the endings.
Three of us were left in the Guest House and studio. We worked lots, but I also went out for a couple of delightful walks.

In the end, Nancy and Gerard left mid-afternoon. I cleverly went walking at the same time. All the way to Rialto bridge. Venice has an atmosphere which is intoxicating. What is it??

I loved being out in the streets. In the throngs of people. Looking at the shops. If you want an admission, here it is.... I love shopping. Okay, it's out.

Only reason I didn't buy shoes is because I just don't have any space or weight allocation for shoes. (some of you know my new relationship with shoes ) Too much glass crammed into my bag. But I found lots and lots of tiny little wonderful things to buy. I bought myself a warm purple hat, with flowers on. Crazy. But it will always remind me of Venice. And lots of other things, which I can't reveal in case it blows the surprise for the people who're getting presents. Lucky things.
I love surprises.

Okay, that's it for now.
The studio is empty. See the pic.
Venice said arrivederci to me in the most beautiful way this evening. The light was gorgeous. Thank you Venice.
Thank you Orsoni and all the wonderful people here.
Thank you to myself for being so brilliant and getting myself here.
Thank you to all those who support my brilliant ideas in all the ways they do.

My 2nd mosaic is not yet complete as you can see. I've taken all the materials I need to complete it and will work on it in Holland over the next 2 weeks. Will post some pics when it's done.

Thanks for following me.



Friday, January 29, 2010

Orsoni Day 12

1. The Maestro, Mel and Antonelle
2. Dominique and her Picasso
3. Nancy and Tibetan prayer flags
4. Gerard with his stunning gold Christ piece. G aspires to working in the Vatican Mosaic studio
5. The street where I live.

A chaotic strange day.

The Maestro came for the presentation of certificates. See pics.
I'm surprised to say, I felt a bit emotional holding the paper that says I have a Master in Mosaic from Orsoni's Bottega (no English word for that, it's like the 'House of the Artist/Craftsman).
I'll probably frame it..... (blush)

I didn't get much work done. People coming in and out of the studio. Ordering bits and pieces to take home. Discussing some future planned mosaic work with Antonelle and how to go about them. Invaluable help in particular with a piece I've started several times and discarded as many.

A lunch, solo in the little restaurant down the canal. A bit like being in my very own version of a Fellini movie. Seated at a table with 5 workmen all rattling at high volume in Italian while eating wonderful food and consuming copious quantities of on-tap red wine. Love it!

Then the rushed farewells in the afternoon. Dominique left for Belguim. The teachers left.

Nancy, Gerard (Swiss) and myself are left for the weekend. All working to finish off the pieces we've been working on.

I've not yet quite understood this next little phase. Nor quite processed the completion of the course So I'm just saying to myself, "Hey, I'm in Venice for a whole weekend. Brilliant!!"
Except of course for the not so little Venetian belly which I've grown thanks to all the Italian bread and pastries I've consumed the past 2 weeks. I need the gym.

Till later.........

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Orsoni Day 11

1. My mosaic, tonight.
2. Fur coats. Outside the train station.
3. I succumbed. Dark chocolate. Uff! Italian icecream
4. You see! Fur coat.
5. Do you believe me?
6. The exit from our little lane onto the canal. Love it.
7. Antonelle's studio. I want one just like this. She showed us how to cook glue.

I think everyone is starting to experience separation anxiety.
A strange sadness and distance is creeping in.
Tomorrow is our last day in class. Although 3 of us are staying on for the weekend, and will be working in the studio, the course is actually ending tomorrow.
I don't want it to end.
It's been one of those experiences that one never wants to end.
Like falling in love.

I don't care about the certificate ceremony tomorrow. I want to be Italian. I want to live in the glass factory. I want to marry all the colours. And have babies with Gold. I want to meditate in front of the furnace and watch the birth of Galaxies in the molten glass. I want to be one of the powerful people who lean their weight into the giant metal bars and stir the fiery liquid in the crucibles.
And I want to spend every day cutting glass into fragments and building new worlds out of the broken pieces.

I've loved being a student. (And I've loved the luxurious parts of being a student here). I relish my own room, the space, my shiny white bathroom and the haphazard way I've run my meal times. Adrenaline has been my companion throughout, the early mornings, the late nights, the even later nights spent blogging and watching movies on my Apple in bed. All Wonderful.

My fantasy of wandering down the street in the chilly weather, wrapped up warmly, finding a tiny tratorria and reading my book while I eat delicious Italian fare has been lived out, and proven to be utterly divine.

It's been a great privilege to have Antonelle and Mirta around all day. Both in their own way contributing to this being an outstandingly successful learning experience.

I don't want to go home.
So I salute myself for booking my return flight to Holland on Monday rather than flying out straight after the course ends.
I need these extra days to wind down and prepare for moving back into the world.

Enjoy the fun pics from the day.
I'll be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Orsoni Day 10

1. Placing the last piece.
2. There she is. On the easel.
3. That's the fab restaurant. 2 people sitting outside.
4. Here we go again.
5. Same same, but different.

I've packed 3 quarters of my clothes into a box which I bought at the Post Office today. Most of them are dirty, and I have to say that I think this plan is a stroke of genius. I'm posting them to Holland where I'll be for 2 weeks when I leave Venice. I brought far too many clothes, and while I've enjoyed dressing up every morning, I spend most of the day in a dirty apron, so it's a bit of a waste. I think the box is weighing in at around 10kilograms (that's approx 22pounds in Americanese)

Does anyone guess where this is going yet?

Of course!
I'm freeing up space and weight in my suitcase so I can carry glass home. That was pretty obvious huh. And while I can live without my clothes for a week or two, I'm not sure that I can live without my glass. And this from a woman who's sporting a band-aid on every finger except for the pinky. Committed is what I am.

So, the wonderful moment arrived. I placed the last piece of smalti into my mosaic around 11am this morning. Mirta took the lovely shot of me doing it. Infact, I knew that later I'd have to correct a small section at the top of the piece, but it was wonderful to feel that finishing moment. So HorseHead Nebula spent most of the day displayed on the easel. Happy.

A huge sense of relief for me.

I decided to treat myself to a special lunch at the little local restaurant which the teachers took us to the first day of the course.

And what a gorgeous day in Venice today. Just stunning. Sunshine, not too cold, everything shining and just beautiful. Off I toddled to the post office to buy my box and then to the restaurant who's name I don't remember. It looks like nothing from the outside. Inside every table bar one was taken. It's small, very crowded with locals and extremely noisy. I took the free table. I thought Nancy might join me so I felt okay about taking a 4 seater alone.

After 5 minutes the waitress seated and elderly couple at my table. No problem.
They didn't speak English, we smiled at each other. I tried to restrain myself from stroking her fur. It's getting harder for me. I ordered the grilled chicken. It's time for some protein folks. I've been living on bread and pastry for a week and with no gym, dancing or mountain walks, well, you can just imagine what my waist line is looking like.

Anyway, I was half way through my chicken and vegetable ( brusselsprouts and peas which were cooked to destruction and then smothered in olive oil and tasted fantastic), when the last seat at my table was filled by a man.

He greeted me in English. Great! It's nice to be able to talk to the people you're eating with. So we chatted, and he asked me how I'd discovered the restaurant. He explained that it's really just for locals. Since it's on the 2nd biggest canal in Venice, many of the boat drivers and other work people come to eat here. It's like the 'Trucker's Diner', of Venice. But the food is delicious. And the man was too. An Italian mathematics lecturer at the university. In fact, he wasn't very good looking at all, (one of his eyes was, well..., not in the conversation at all). But what is it about that Italian accent. Sigh!

Lovely meeting. Great meal. Excellent conversation. Beautiful weather. Good to be out and about in Venice.

I've started on my second mosaic now. This is the terrestial part. You can see from the pic above. Earthy colours. It was taken by my darling friend Diana from Vancouver. She took it when we were in Egypt in 2008. Luxor to be precise. It's the most beautiful thing I saw in Egypt. And Diana captured it exquisitely. I loved this pic when I first saw it and asked her then if I could make a mosaic of it one day. Here goes Diana!

I went down to the gold cutting room where the colour samples are kept. I had to select the colours I need for this project. It's truly an amazing place this. The materials are superb. Choices, choices choices. Libran agony. I don't know how I'll live without all this glorious booty around me.

The new project is a big undertaking, but I'll be in Venice till Monday, and I'll be able to work on it all weekend. Although, since I finished the first one, I don't feel pressured anymore, and I know I can take materials home and finish it there.
And besides, I'm feeling a little seduced by Venice now. (About time!)

I went out this evening for a little walk, and to purchase a couple things I needed. All fell down in the nutrition department, and I supped on two Frettelles (yummy pastry thingys ) and a cup of tea. My 5 Roses are running low. Any chance someone can post me some? Just kidding. Everything's so perfect here, even the tea is good.

Enjoy the pics.
Thanks for all your wonderful comments and encouragement. I really appreciate it.
Don't stop.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Orsoni Day 9

Got to bed way too late and way too tired to write anything. But here's a latest pic of the Horse Head at midnight Tuesday night. I just couldn't see clearly enough to finish the last little bit. It will be finished today and a couple things changed before I start on my next work.
From Celestial, I'm going Terrestial.
Wait for it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Orsoni Days 7 & 8

Note to all: NEVER think that you'll be able to lose ANY weight when you're in Italy. Even if you are living like a student. A diet of high carbs and sugar just doesn't do it in the weigh-less world. (Micky will understand this)
Note to self: Do NOT go for a cholesterol test for at least 6 weeks after getting home. (be quiet Vic, if you reading this.)

There's a reason why the 'Eat' part of Elizibeth Gilbert's book 'Eat, Pray, Love.' took part in Italy.

I swear I only entered the baker this evening to buy a little bread for my lunch tomorrow so I don't have to go out. But! Big mistake!

I managed to avoid the unbelievably scrumptious fretelles with cream and zablione (an almost unbearably rich creamy/custardy kind of stuff which I believe is also full of some exotic liquour). But unfortunately I fell over at the small crumbly biscuit looking things whose name I didn''t catch, but were comsumed by me, in their entirety tonight. The entire bag tonight! Along with the two small vegetable pies. I thought I should at least take something with vegetables tonight. Pity about the rich buttery pastry around them. Ah well. At least I do have a bit of bread over for my lunch tomorrow.

Sunday was really just work work work.

We managed to find an excellent radio station on the hi-fi in the studio. So we have non stop rock, ranging from the 60's till present time. Radio Captitol. (please say that with an Italian accent when you read it) Brilliant. Even the adverts sound sexy. And of course I've no idea what they're about which also helps. Hopefully I'll pick up a bit of the language this way. I've already worked out that voo voo voo, must stand for, www when a url is given out. And cinqo cinqo kwacinqo (sp) means hundreds and hundreds and hundreds.
Other than that I'm really all about hello, goodbye and thank you. That's about it.

So we all sit and work for hours on our pieces, with very little talk, but lots of good good music. I'm amazed at how many songs I recognise, and can name the artists. If I'm annoying anyone by blurting out this information everytime a song comes on, well, they're all too polite to mention it. I on the other hand, must come across as something of a savage. Coming from Africa and all. I tend to speak my mind, ask for what I need, and state what I don't need. Nancy, I think, finds me a little 'out there'. She seemed particularly perturbed when I reached out and petted one of the fur coats on the water taxi the other day. In my mind, I can't imagine that someone would wear a coat like that and not expect to be stroked.
It was nice and soft, by the way.

The Maestro visited us this morning.
I must say again, he has the most splendid presence. I love him. His suit. His stature. His stance
He holds himself like an aristocrat. And his voice! He's spoken English to us before, but today as he purveyed our work in the studio, he spoke only Italian.Mirta translated. I found it even more fantastic than when he spoke English.

If all the arts have Celestial Beings that look after them, then the Guardian Angel of Mosaic Art, when it speaks to us mere mortals here on earth, sounds just like our Maestro. Deep, knowledgable, honest, profound, inspiring, astute, uplifting, and Italian.

I watched him carefully as he looked. My mosaic was on the easel and he stood in front of it for about 4 or 5 minutes just looking. I watched his eyes. His gaze first went deeply inside himself, and then he slowly shifted his focus and gazed. Eyes only slightly open, I had no doubt his perceptive field was wider than I could even imagine. It really was extraordinary.

I know he took in everything. Information about what he was looking at that went way beyond just looking.

And then he spoke. He drew my attention to a particular place in my mosaic and spoke about the blue moving downward too heavily. He said to take out just 2 or 3 pieces to break that downward pressure. Unbelievable. As soon as he'd told me, I knew Exactly exactly what he meant. And it's so true. And I didn't see it before. But now it's so obvious.

This is why I'm here.

Antonelle's direction is also fantastic. She's able to see into the detail and understand what's not working, and to advise how to change it.

It was a slow day for me today. I had a headache, and though I knew it was a critical day in terms of getting to a certain point with the Horse Head Nebula, I just couldn't do more than go slowly.

After the ladies left at 5.30 I had a second wind, and from then until 11.30 tonight, I got more done than I'd even planned.
I'll hopefully finish off tomorrow, and be able to make some head way on my next piece.

Hold thumbs. Not mine though please. They're tired and full of little cuts. Must rest them.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Orsoni Days 5 & 6

It was kind of obvious that at some stage I'd fall over and have to sleep instead of sitting in bed writing blogs after working for 12 or 14 hours a day.
Just in case anyone was wondering, that's what happened on Friday night. I just fell over.

So, Friday went like this. Up at 07h00. Ignore alarm clock and headache for as long as possible. Crawl out of bed, open the bottle of headache pills that Nancy gave me yesterday, peer into the foreign bottle (American), cringe at the synthetic green colour of the pills, decide to wing it alone without the drugs, so breathe deeply and get on with abluting.

Breakfast at 8. Something I rarely so early in the morning. Muesli, tea (brought my own, 5 Roses ) and a crispy fresh pastry. Wrap up two slices of bread in a serviette for later. Wrap up the pastry too, as I can't face it so early. Headache abates. Must be the 5 Roses tea and the deep breathing.

I'm in the studio just before 9 and off I go. Cutting. Cutting, Cutting. Applying the morter. Standing back, looking. Discussing colour transitions with Antonella. Searching for new colours. Cutting cutting cutting. I get lost in the process. And I'm in a certain style of Happiness that I imagine Buddhist monks attain after many many years of deep meditation. This is my bliss. I hope I never have to sit for hours and hours in silent meditation with minimum food rations trying to get this merry. This mosaic stuff really works for me. Even the slow parts. The parts that don't feel sure. And the bits that have to be pulled out and reworked.

I'm not totally fond of the parts which hold me back from progressing. That state of fear and anxiety experienced by most artists just before they have to plunge into the creative pool. But I am gaining more trust with that familiar process, and moving through it quicker. Nancy and I have discussed this too.

I had my bread for lunch with a cup of tea. Then back to work.
In fact I wanted to continue working even after Antonelle and Mirta went home for the day at 5.30. But I'd kind of agreed to attend the Sabbath meal at the kosher restaurant down the road, and just a tiny part of me was curious as to how that would be. So I stayed at my work till around 6.30, hoping to miss all the evening prayers and chaos when the 'crowd' arrived from synagogue, and just rather arrive in time to go straight for the food.. (I know.., I'm mercenary. What can I say? )

What an experience!!
So there I was, in Venice. In a kosher restaurant. A Lubavich affair. That's seriously ultra-orthodox, for those who don't know. A fact I myself hardly know...
The place was packed. I really really could have been somewhere in Israel. Singing and shouting. More singing. A warm welcome from the rabbi host, squeezed into a little place at a long crowded table. Not sure what century I was in. The clothes made it look like hundreds of years ago, the hair do's and the male facial hair too. The singing and the noise made me think I was back at school.

Now listen to this....
I'm sitting at a crowded table, in the middle of Venice, attending a religious celebratory meal. The woman sitting next to me who is there with her husband and children, comes from Israel. Chit chat...,"where do you come from?"
Turns out we both attended the same school in Johannesburg!
What are the chances of such meetings?
Not that we turned out to have much more in common. And she was several years younger than me, so we didn't even have many shared memories. But still. What are the chances?

I survived the meal. Survived the food. Survived the 'kosher moffie' from Canada at my table. Survived all the prayers, singing, sermons and benching. I took my cue from the Israeli family and left straight after the meal. Shew! What a diverse and interesting experience to have had here.

I could not wait to get back to the studio. Worked till about 11 and then fell into bed.

Now, as I mentioned. Antonelle and Mirta and all the rest of the Orsoni staff have gone home. It's the weekend after all. We have no teaching or supervision over the weekend, but this is one driven little fivesome, and we're all planning to work the whole weekend.
Well, except for Saturday morning that is.

Nancy and myself got up at the usual time, breakfasted, and headed out to get the water taxi to go to the island of Murano. It's famous. And if you've been to Venice, everyone always asks if you've been to Murano. It's famous for glass of course. Blown glass, hot glass, fused glass, glass sculpture, glass beads, glass jewelry, every thing you could ever imagine in glass.

'Twas a lovely day to be sure. The water ride, the sunshine, walking about the island, meeting the brilliant designer and glass artist Davide Penso whose work I've seen before in one of my books. His necklaces are outstanding. I almost bought one or three, but managed to slap my hand and leave before I did. Umm..... not sure why? Oh yes! The price. Uff! Lots of money.

We visited the museum, in a stunning old building. Glass, glass and more glass. Old glass, ancient glass, modern glass and not so modern glass. History of glass, history of glass making and all that stuff that museums are made of. Good.

Bought some sandwiches, caught the water taxi home, and could not wait to get back to our mosaic work.

I did take a little siesta in the afternoon, and then worked until after midnight tonight. The pressure's on. All self inflicted of course. We're half way through the Master Class, and some of us want to go onto a second piece of work next week. So logically speaking, we should be finishing off with the first one by tomorrow.
I'm still convinced I'm going to do it. What do you think?

I'm going to stop this missive now and get to sleep so I can get up as early as possible and get back to work.

I'm having so much fun. Really!!

1. Murano today.
2. Our street entrance, go through the tunnel, turn left, then right, there's Orsoni.
3. My hammer and hardi tonight.
4. Horse Head Nebula, tonight.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Orsoni Day 4.

Have you ever wondered what happened to all the fur coats in the world? Remember Bridget Bardot's animal anti-cruelty campaigns in the 60's? Calling for the banning of animal pelts for fashion indulgence purposes. Clubbing of baby seals and blood covered fur etc etc.? Suddenly all those unbelievably expensive warm coats disappeared from womens wardrobes. Even my Bobba was not allowed to wear hers anymore. (poor little minks, or whatever those soft brown things were that had to suffer and die to help her feel glamorous.) Whatever happened to all those fur coats?

Well I've found them. The fur coats. They're all here in Venice. And women are wearing them. And they don't even look guilty or the least little bit shy about that fact. Granted, most of the women wearing these things are as old as my Bobba, but dressed in fur they are. And most of them (the coats that is) are the genuine skins of little animals. Foxes, minks, squirrels... what other poor creatures were bred for their fur?

It's just one of those things about Italy. And perhaps particularly about Venice. Style, class, pizazz, fashion statements, good good quality. Hats, handbags and boots folks. Boots like you cannot imagine. And shoes! Shoes and gloves. Leather gloves. Fur gloves. Fur hats. And I kid you not. Fur coats. I'm even pretty sure I saw someone wearing my Bobba's old fur coat on the water taxi today.

If you come to Venice. Be prepared to dress well. It's classy here.
It's Italy after all.

We spent the morning in the studio working away like drones on our pieces. And of course, as if I didn't see it coming, it was my turn to undo a section of my mosaic and rework it. But I learned well from the experience, and I'm much happier with the outcome. I wonder how many times in my life I'm going to have to learn this particular lesson. "Trust yourself Mel. You've got first class intuition." Believe me, this was not the first time. But well, I always enjoy the outcome of the lesson, so I'm not complaining.

I took a quick trip down to the 'gold' room and the place in which they keep all the sample colours. I went with Antonella to select some special pieces for the next section of my work. Antonella is a wonderful teacher. She takes time to look into the minutest detail of ones work, has amazing direction, and absolutely nothing is too much trouble for her. She'll run out countless times to go find a particular colour or piece that will help one in the work.

Guess what!! The magnificent plates of red smalti that brought me to tears on Day 1? You guessed. I've got some prime chunks of that. AND... I'm using them plate side UP! So I get all the effect of the mixing and swirling of heat and glass. Perfecto! Molto perfecto.

At 1pm we trooped down to the canal, popped into the bakery to buy a sandwich, and then with Mirta leading us like Mother Goose followed by her sandwich munching, pastry crunching goslings, we boarded the water taxi heading for St Marco Square.

Mirta gave us an excellent tour of the Basillica of St Marco. Humungous magnificent building. Fortunately not too many people so we could spend quality time with the mosaic work. Really really impressive. I'm so happy I finally got to see it all. The information we received was just perfect. Enough. Not too much.

The water taxi back went down the Grand Canal. Beautiful journey. Glorious buildings lining the canal all the way back. Sometimes in Venice, what looks like an old disused building turns out to house a fancy home or business behind the seemingly seedy exterior. But on the Grand Canal, everything looks palatial and in good condition.

Stopping only for my third bag of hot roasted chestnut and some clementines on the street, we arrived back at Orsoni around 5pm. Naturally we all headed straight for the studio again and began pounding away.
I stopped for a short time around 8. Scoffed down my slice of left-over pizza from last night and a bite size bar-one I found in my bag, thanks to KLM. Not the most healthy dinner, but hell, I'm a student. And isn't this the way students eat? And they survive. So?

I'm starting to work with the red glass. I've still got some fiddly bits to finish in blues and greens, but the red is calling me.
And....... you guessed it again. My bed is calling me too.


PS. Pic above are, L to R, Dominique (Belguim), Mel (South Africa - YaY), Nancy (USA) and Mirta. At St Marco
Mel and the 4 famous horses.
My work station tonight. 22h30.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Orsoni Day 3. Highlights

It's very late night. Just finished working, and I'm going to try not to ramble in this blog. I really need some long hours of sleep.
So here are some highlights from the day.

Antonella made the rounds to see what we'd been up to the night before. I got a "Perfecto!" which of course felt grand. Not every one was so lucky. Some people had to undo their hours of work, and rework it. Hard stuff.

Visiting Antonella's studio, which is down the stairs from our studio, across the walkway, and up the other stairs. Perfect space. Mosaic floor, two huge long work tables, excellent lights, shelves and shelves of materials, wash sink in the corner, and gorgeous mosaics on the walls. Some of them are very early pieces of The Maestro. I'll photograph it later and show it.

The Maestro visited us again. I must say, he's a really impressive character. I have'nt felt this in awe of anyone since I was about 14 and met our Headmaster, 'The Boss' at school. No, just kidding, but it's ever so reminiscent of the feeling I had when I saw the Dali Lama. Really impressive. He spent quite some time with us, was quite positive and helpful with my piece. He wears the shiniest shoes I've ever seen, and his voice is commanding. Do I sound impressed?

We went back to the foundry and watched the gold making process. We'd already seen the huge bubbles of glass being blown and cut the other day. Now we saw how the gold leaf is attached to the glass, then put through a heating process, has molten glass ladled on it, pressed flat, cooled, then annealed in the ovens, and later cut into squares by the highly experience workers. I still get a feeling of medieval times, in front of the furnace, and watching the women doing their tasks.

Am I rambling?
I must hurry to bed. Big day tomorrow. A walking tour of St Marco's and of course more work.
This afternoon I plugged myself into the i-pod, this after looking through the music collection in the studio and feeling completely icky. (Sorry Mirta. For your birthday, I'm buying you a new cd)

Then after a quick pizza in a little tavern in the ghetto area, (Italians really do make good pizza), it was back to work this time with the music of Ismael Lo, Melissa Ethridge, Mendelssohn and Bruch.

After all that it seems I'm only approaching the quarter way mark of my piece. I'm sure I did lots today, but when I look at my piece it seems I only did about 4 cm. How is it possible? Oh Yeah, it must be the damn size I'm working at. If I cut the glass any smaller I'll be shaving my finger nails. Why Mel?? Why!?

Got to sleep.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kissing the Gold Goodnight. Orsoni, Day 2

Sadly I dropped the piece of gold back into the bag, and left it on my work station.

When Mirta handed me a 1kilo bag of rough-cut number 10 (the best!) gold smalti today, well....... I felt damn fine! HUGE chunks of gold on glass. Then she waved goodbye, and shouting 'Ciao' from the door, left for the day. Yummy!

Not that I didn't already have gold on my desk. I've got 5 boxes of different coloured gold which I'm working with. Two white golds, one blue, one turquoise and a violet gold.
And now I have Gold gold.
So late this evening, when I was contemplating calling it a day on the work front, I pressed my face into the bag of gold, and considered bringing it to bed with me so we could sleep together. Sigh.
Instead, I dropped the left over piece I'd cut from back into the bag, and like the adult I'm not, left the bag on the table for the night.
I may just slip back in the wee hours to look at it a little.
Flashes of Golum? Umm.. yessssss, my preciousssssss. Indeed.

Above are pics of my work station day 1, just before starting.
And then this evening after day 2.

Everyone by now is deep in the projects they're working on. There isn't even much talk in the class. There is some kind of music, but it's way too soft and nauseatingly shmaltzy for me. So I've had my i-pod for some of the time.

The range of glass and colours at our disposal is just incredible. The supervision too. I mostly get on with things myself, but I did have some excellent direction from Antonella late in the day. Very technical on interpretation and expression of my design. I won't go into it here, but having guidance on such a level is phenomenal for me. Just brilliant.

I left for lunch on my own. Orsoni is perfectly situated. Just a couple of blocks from a very busy area, so no shortage of restaurants etc. I took my book and returned to the same place I ate at on Sunday. I must be the reincarnation of Sally from the Harry met Sally movie. This is how the order went.
"Can I have the pasta prima vera please. But not with penne. With Spagetti. And not so much oil as on Sunday please. And no cream, rather use tomatoes. And no mushrooms please. And please tell the chef it was delicious on Sunday and can it be the same only with more vegetable. No thank you, no wine. Or bread. Grazie mille."
It was delicious.

The atmosphere in the studio in the afternoon is intense. Some of us are realising that the goal of finishing 2 whole pieces is pretty steep. It's slow going and at the end of the official day I'm no where close to quarter way with my piece. Of course I know that it's all fine, and it will move more fluidly on other days. Nancy, the Chinese/American woman who's seated in front of me, and fires tiny pieces of glass off her cutting post all day, is a little stressed about it.

I stopped at 6pm, returned to my room to check my mail and have a cup of tea. Umm, yes, I also had a hidden piece of bread which I munched happily (thank you Bobba for such skills you imparted!).
I set myself the challenge of working this evening until I was close to what I thought would be the quarter mark, but by 10pm my eyes were just too tired to carry on. I am working with extremely small pieces of glass. I always do. It's my style. It's very time consuming as well as stressful on the eyes, so I do need to take regular breaks. Also, need to stand and look at the work from different perspectives.

I took my computer into the studio tonight. Just four of us there. I played DJ, and have to admit, the music was superb. Dulce Pontes (Fado), Idan Reichel and Annie Lennox. I love working with music on. Now all I need is a little space so I can dance some. All this sitting on bums and working you know.

By the way. For those who can't work it out. My design is based on the Horse-Head Nebula of Orion. That's the pic that's on the wall above my work station.
Can't wait to see how it's going to turn out.
And for now, I'm gonna turn in.
Extremely happy and tired.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 1
Orsoni Master Class. January 2010

For a creative Romantic, arriving in Italy is like basking in a warm friendly ocean. For a lover of visions and history, arriving in Venice is like reconnecting with a part of yourself that you’d almost forgotten.
For a Mosaic artist, arriving at Orsoni is like reconnecting with the Mother-ship. Like dying and feeling no pain or fear, and being instantly transported to the most heavenly Heaven imaginable.
Really, it is.

The entrance hall to the Domus Orsoni, which is a luxury B&B adjoining the glass foundry and factory of the Legendary Orsoni family, is like a gallery. A mosaic gallery containing some of the most wonderful pieces of mosaic, many of which are familiar to me from the many mosaic books and web sites that I’ve read. Unbelievable. Most of the pieces here are made by Maestro Lucio Orsoni, hereafter referred to as The Maestro. Also present is the infamous 3-D Night Shirt, by Julie Richie. It’s even much more amazing to see real than in photographs. Much like most mosaic work. Mosaic comes alive in the light.

The rooms at Domus Orsoni are also like works of art. Each individually designed, and decorated with..... mosaic of course. My room is divine, huge bed, turquoise and green mosaic on the walls, made with real gold smalti. And the bathroom....... white and gold, great shower. Huge bed, windows that open, quiet, luxurious, and all mine. For the next two weeks.
Yes! This is Heaven.

Five people are attending the course. Two from USA, 1 Swiss, 1 Belguim and me, the proud Saffer.

I walked the streets of Venice after I arrived yesterday. Bought roasted chestnuts, ate them as I walked, had a delicious plate of spagetti and vegetables in a little restaurant, bought some milk and then wandered back ‘home’. One block from home, I was amazed to find a restaurant called Gum Gum, a kosher eaterie. Insane I thought! What are the chances?

Well the chances are high when you find yourself living in the area of one of the oldest and most famous Jewish Ghettos in the world. Gheto Veccio. Oops. I forgot to do my history homework before I arrived.

Wandering through the area, I saw many galleries and shops selling Venetian Judaica, art, and books of course. While staring into the window of one of the bookshops I was seen by a young couple inside. Next thing, he comes outside, greets me with “Shalom”, and I return the greeting. Homeopathic principle I guess, like attracts like.

“You Jewish?” he asks. (please read with correct Brooklyn/Lubavich accent).
“Of course.” I reply. (I mean, just look at my features and colouring man!! Obvious Semite.)

Anyway, to cut a long story shorter, I came away with a gift of shabbat candles and the prayer (in Hebrew, which I can’t read, but don’t worry, my mother drummed that one into me), and an invitation for this Friday night shabbat celebration.
Got to love traveling.

Back to Orsoni.
This morning we started our classes at 9am. The class room is actually in the same building we’re staying in. Everyone’s designs were reviewed by Antonella, the main teacher, assisted by Iliana the translator and Mirta.

We spent about 1 hour touring the factory and watched the men blowing glass. Enormous elongated glass bubbles which are then cut into small pieces and used to cover the gold foils. The place has a medieval feeling about it all.

Next we viewed the stores and stores of coloured glass. Orsoni produces over 2,000 colours of smalti glass, and some 25 different colours of real gold smalti.

I’m revealing this now.
I’m so unbelievably moved and honoured to be in such a place, having this most privileged experience. I cried.
Standing there, among all those colours. In the heart of this Art Form which I am so passionate about, I cried.
Especially in front of the red glass. I can’t explain that entirely. I think it’s just because I find it so exquisitely beautiful. I cried.
I feel tearful again, even just thinking about it.

I must also admit here, that I felt incredibly anxious showing my design ideas, as well as starting the project I’m working on. But Antonella gave me the ‘thumbs up’ for my ideas, and when we got back to the studio/class room, the wood had been cut for us, and it was time to start working.
It was then that ‘The Maestro’ entered. What a presence he has. He’s in his 70’s, a serious, intense, strong man. He also approved my design, and advised me on how to begin and get the design lines onto the board.

He appeared later in the day again, encouraged me to carry on with a part that I was unsure of, and then in his finest Maestro voice, bent over me and said, “I think-a you must-a put-a a leetle more-a silver-a over here-a.”

I’m in heaven.
I stayed and worked all evening after the teachers had gone home. Made a cup of tea and ate a stale piece of bread that I’d taken off the breakfast table this morning and stashed in my room. I definitely learned a couple of things from my old Bobba.
I’m happy with the couple centimeters I’ve worked on my mosaic so far.
I’m in Mosaic Mecca.
Melly Heaven.