I was recently asked if my work is really mosaic. What is mosaic? At least the questioner asked in a gentle, respectful way rather than some of the snarkier questions that have been raised. Because of the gentle approach I was compelled to craft a thoughtful answer.
If one takes the dictionary definition of mosaic as: “a picture or decoration made of small, usually colored, pieces of stone, glass, tile, etc.,” then my work qualifies as a mosaic. That’s the definition I keep in the back of my head as I work. The rest, as far as I’m concerned, is open to interpretation. Vast, emphatic, adventurous interpretation!
The definition doesn’t specify the size of “small”, for instance. My pieces are small compared to say a car or the Empire State building. My pieces may be considered big next to a nickel or a pearl. . .
In my work the use of alcohol inks allows me to have saturated color field under clear glass tesserae (for the most part). In a nutshell, most of my current work is built on a mirror substrate attached to a backer board of various types. On top of the mirror I lay color fields of alcohol inks and lay pieces of clear glass tesserae over the color. The clear glass may be textured, plain, tempered, or stained glass. This can be repeated many times, in many layers, depending on what is called for by the design.
By having the mirror as a substrate, the light bounces through and around the finished pieces, rather than just across the surface. The reflection and refraction of the light within the piece becomes a vital contributing participant in the work rather than a passive effect skimming over the top of the tesserae.
The dictionary definition of mosaic says nothing about how the tesserae must be laid (flat, stacked on their sides, or layered over other things), whether there can only be one layer of tesserae or multiple layers, whether the substrate must remain unseen, or whether it can be celebrated and encouraged to glow, or indeed, what I can actually use as tesserae. I use clear glass primarily, but am not adverse to adding beads, guitar strings, porcelain, gems, rocks . . just about anything I can get my hands on that interests me on an artistic level. The dictionary definition of mosaic is necessarily broad, and loosely defined, to allow and encourage innovation and experimentation.
I began my alcohol ink journey several years ago out of frustration with the lack of the “right” color of tesserae available to me, and the resulting flatness inherent in my more traditional mosaics. I am a recycler at heart and knew I had lots of clear window glass available to me, along with mirror and alcohol inks. My journey from there has been well documented here if you’d like to take a further stroll through my recent work.