Over the summer of 2022, I had the pleasure of working with master mosaicist, Michael Kruzich, mkmosaics.com, from San Francisco and Tom Hassett, mosaicist based in Hawaii. We created two Italian Glass Mosaics using the Ravenna Method.
Generally, mosaic in America means something you see at the bottom of the pool or the backsplash in a kitchen. What we did here is more akin to the mosaics you see in St. Mark’s in Venice, the Vatican, or any other wealthy European church from the Renaissance. And it’s what you see largely in corporate, museum, or government settings because of its expense and the time it takes to create.
Tom and I have both trained with Michael in the Ravenna Method, as well as studying with Orsoni in Venice learning the direct method of mosaic creation. We’re looking forward to studying with Michael’s teacher, Lucianna Notturni in Ravenna this fall.
For these projects, I was the designer and Michael was the lead mosaicist.
The construction of the pieces is quite complicated. The painting is completed and photographed. A full-size black and white print is created and then the values are isolated. It looks like a large black and white puzzle. Those lines are transferred to a clay bed, that’s the temporary substrate used to assemble the mosaic.
The smalti (Italian glass from Venice) arrives in either patties or cut pieces and is then cut into much smaller pieces to ‘paint’ with. The pieces are quite close together. And because we’re using smalti, the range of values is large. This translates into the appearance of volume and the look of a painting. There’s a subtlety of colors that’s not available in any other glass medium. The mermaid and octopus will have approximately 200 colors in the piece. The whale over one hundred colors.
When the mosaic is assembled, cheesecloth is laid across the glass and adhered with bone glue which is water soluble. The piece is flipped and the clay is cut off and then cleaned off the pieces. The permanent substrate, in the case of the whale mosaic is an aluminum honeycomb panel coated in epoxy with sand, the Mermaid & octopus is a type of wediboard. Colored thinset is laid out and the mosaic transferred to the surface. Then the bone glue is dissolved with water and the cloth and glue are carefully scrubbed off. There is no grout. The pieces are too close together and grout would spoil the faceted surface of each piece of glass which gives the surface its sparkle and depth.
These mosaics will last many hundreds of years. They are truly legacy pieces of art.