Marble Mosaic Company and Ansar Mosaic

If you read my post The Enchanter, you will remember I used some beautiful vintage tiles in the work that were given to me by mosaicist, Elaine M Goodwin. They are lovely strong coloured thick glass tiles very similar to Italian piastrina smalti. Elaine told me she had purchased them from the Marble Mosaic Company in Weston Super Mare in the 1980’s and believed they were made by them. 

As far as I know we don’t have any companies in the UK that make glass mosaic tiles today so I was eager to find out more and I contacted the Marble Mosaic company.

The company director, Stephen Maddalena sent me some fascinating information and photos of his family’s company and it was a pleasure to meet him when he came to one of my workshops and made his first mosaic!

So I would like to share with you this lovely bit of history…

Stephen’s grandfather Romano Maddalena founded The Marble Mosaic Co in 1905. He came from Fanna, which is a small town in the Friuli region of Italy, about 75 miles north of Venice and 10 miles from Spilimbergo, where the mosaic school is based (scuolamosaicistifriuli.it).

The company initially focussed on laying marble mosaic and tarrazzo floors, which then developed in the 1950’s to include the fixing of glass mosaic tiles (bought in from Italy) as the external wall cladding of new buildings.

Romano’s sons of his first marriage then joined the business.

MMC-Cork

Stephen’s uncle Peter on the right by the floor polishing machine.

 Uncle Peter went on to become the manager of Marble Mosaic Company’s factory by Temple Meads station in Bristol, during which time it’s activities progressively developed from insitu mosaic and terrazzo work to the manufacture of precast terrazzo tiles and then on to the production of precast concrete cladding panels (the latter of which they still produce today)

In the 1920’s their work included the supply of precast terrazzo and cast stone for the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane.

During the 1970’s they produced  precast concrete panels for the external cladding of Clifton Cathedral  by a method that is similar to the “face-up” way in which an insitu terrazzo floor is traditionally laid, except that the coarse aggregate in the concrete mix was exposed by washing away the cement matrix in order to produce a rough-textured face, instead of grinding and polishing its surface.

The last vitreous mosaic project undertaken by MMC was probably Fairfax House in the early 1960’s. Long since demolished, the site is now the Galleries shopping centre in Broadmead.

Here are some early examples of the company’s marble mosaic work believed to have dated from 1905…

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MMC-Archive-Mosaic08

MMC-Archive-Mosaic12

MMC-Archive-Mosaic14

Terrazzo Lion

Terrazzo Lion

However, it was Stephen’s uncle Joseph (“Beppi” – 1st son of Stephen’s grandfather’s 2nd marriage) who separately set up and operated Ansar Mosaic in the 1960’s. Ansar Mosaic initially produced the glass mosaic tiles at Weston, but it became more cost effective for the business to purchase loose tiles from Italy and then set them into paper-backed sheets here. This change was about the time of the move from imperial to decimal dimensions, so may have been necessary to avoid the costs of converting their machinery. Ansar Mosaic occupied what had been the Arena Works of the Royal Potteries off Winterstoke Road in Weston-super-Mare. Stephen recollects a furnace in the building when he was young and stacks of mesh frames used to arrange the loose mosaic tiles before being backed with brown paper. When Ansar closed, it coincided with Marble Mosaic Company’s need to expand. Marble Mosaic’s therefore bought Ansar’s property and an adjacent plot of land in order to built a larger factory to produce its precast cladding panels. It then transferred the business from Bristol to Weston Super Mare.

So there you have it, a fascinating history! And here are some of my Ansar vintage tiles, although I am still not sure if they were made in Weston Super Mare or Italy! Whichever though they are really beautiful and lovely to use.

Ansar glass tiles

Ansar glass tiles

Thank you Stephen Maddalena from Marble Mosaic Company for the information and photos and thank you Elaine M Goodwin !

:-)

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The Four Winds

This was my third piece for the Mosaic Odysseys festival.

I love the story of the four winds in Homer’s Odyssey.

Aeolus, keeper of the winds gave Odysseus a bag of wind bound up with silver thread to help him on his journey. He stored it safely on the ship and at first it was only the fair west wind that blew. However Odysseus’ men believed it to be full of gold and silver so they opened the bag and let out the four winds  … “They loosed the sack whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own country” (The Odyssey – book X by Homer)

The Four Winds or “Anemoi” were the wind gods. Boreas was the north wind god bringing cold winter winds, Zephyrus was the west wind god bringing spring and summer breezes, Notos was the south wind god who brought later summer and autumn storms and Eurus was the east wind god bringing warm winds and rain.

After a few rough sketches I came up with another rough one …

drawing

Uh oh! Did you notice my mistake? I got east and west the wrong way around which might explain why I get lost so easily in big cities (or anywhere really!) My map reading is hopeless and if I drive or walk somewhere new I have real trouble reversing the directions to get back. I think it is a kind of map dyslexia!

Luckily I noticed before I started the mosaic so was able to flip the design!

beginning

I started with  Eurus , the east wind. To hide the cut edges of the deep foil backed glass I cut the rain drops from, I built up the cement adhesive in between to lay the hand gilded silver metal leaf glass and mirror. Then stained glass was laid on edge either side of the rain drops.

For Notos, the south wind, I used a mixture of marble, stone, ceramic and gold lipped oyster and a little silver leaf glass to depict storm clouds.

progress2

progress

I used warm colours of Italian smalti glass and milliefiori flowers for Zephyrus, the spring west wind, the gentle curves in the design imitating the gentle breezes.

I imagined the Boreas wind would look like cold silver and white snakes, and I used smalti, hand gilded silver leaf glass, Italian silver leaf glass, vitreous glass tile, and gold lipped oyster shell.

Just like the other two mosaics the bird is made of Italian gold leaf glass.

You might notice I laid some mirror tile below the tail of the bird. This was because I was going to use transparent rods to illustrate the Notos wind coming from the storm clouds but I changed my mind, it didn’t work and I ended up using slate and smalti laid on edge with silver leaf glass as the bolt of lightning.

detail 6

I grouted the work in different shades of grey, Zephyrus was a paler grey than the rest in dark charcoal and I left the slate and marble sections ungrouted.

detail 4

detail 3

detail 2

 

detail 1

 

the four winds

The Four Winds (smalti, milliefiori, marble, slate, stone, gold lipped oyster shell, vitreous glass tile, iridescent glass tile, stained glass, metal foil glass, hand gilded metal leaf glass, silver leaf glass, gold leaf glass)

 

The Mosaic Odysseys Festival

The first exhibition is now over at the Hellenic Centre in London.

I was delighted to sell all three works I made.

three sold mosaics

My work sold at the Hellenic Centre. From left to right: The Four Winds, The Enchanter, The Whirlwind That Takes Me There

I will be making some new work for the next two exhibitions of this wonderful mosaic odyssey!

The festival will move onto Athens at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation from September 9th to September 18th.

The final exhibition will be at the Muncipal Art Gallery of Mykonos, starting 23rd September and finishing 3rd October.

Exhibiting artists –

Greek artists :

Ioannis Touliatos, Artemis Klitsi, Eftychia Finou, Vasso Spanou, Lydia Papadopoulos, Alexandros Bassadis,

UK artists:

Dugald MacInnes, Nathalie Vin, Aliyahgator, Arianna Puntin, and myself.

Have a look at our website here

Thank you to Artfinder for publicity and for sponsoring our printing costs!

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The Enchanter

This is the second piece I made for the Mosaic Odysseys festival.

I don’t think it needs much explanation except that I see the sun as an enchanter…always luring me towards him. And how enchanting he always is, how beautiful he colours the sky when he rises and sets. I want to bask in his light and feel his warmth on my skin.

drawing enchanter

I made the sun with transparent coloured glass rounds, gold leaf glass and hand gilded metal leaf glass. I also gilded the board beforehand to emphasise the gold colour and add texture to the transparent rounds.

gilding the board

 

Detail before grout

Detail before grout

As well as using Italian piastrina smalti (the red and orange glass) I have also used a strong coloured glass tile very similar to piastrina smalti that was given to me by Elaine M Goodwin. She told me she had bought it from a tile company called Marble Mosaic Company based in Weston Super Mare in the 1980’s. She said they were an Italian family. I wanted to find out more so I got in touch with the company.

It is a fascinating story of the company’s mosaic history passed onto me by the Marble Mosaic Company director Stephen Maddalena. Stephen even came to do his first mosaic workshop with me where he told me more snippets of information and then sent me photos of the some of the company’s mosaic panels from the early 1900’s.

However I can’t do the story justice here so I will write another post about it soon with all the photos he sent me to show you!

So here is my finished piece.

The Enchanter (glass tile, gold leaf glass, millefiori, hand gilded metal leaf glass, glass rounds, metal leaf on board)

The Enchanter
(glass tile, gold leaf glass, millefiori, hand gilded metal leaf glass, glass rounds, metal leaf on board)

 

The Mosaic Odysseys Festival

The first exhibition will run for a week at the Hellenic Centre in London starting on Tuesday July 19th and finishing on Saturday July 23rd.

Meet the artists: Tuesday 19 July, 6.30pm-8.30pm.

Exhibiting artists –

Greek artists :

Ioannis Touliatos, Artemis Klitsi, Eftychia Finou, Vasso Spanou, Lydia Papadopoulos, Alexandros Bassadis,

UK artists:

Dugald MacInnes, Nathalie Vin, Aliyahgator, Arianna Puntin, and myself.

The festival will then move to Athens with an exhibition at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation from September 9th to September 18th.

The final exhibition will be at the Muncipal Art Gallery of Mykonos, starting 23rd September and finishing 3rd October.

Have a look at our website here

Thank you to Artfinder for publicity and for sponsoring our printing costs!

Come back soon to read about the history of those vintage glass tiles

😉

Anglo – Greek Mosaic Odysseys Festival

The Whirlwind That Takes Me There

I’ve been making some new work in the last few months for a festival of mosaic art involving 6 Greek and 4 other UK mosaic artists.

We aim to promote a cultural exchange between Greek and British mosaic artists in order to develop friendships and a professional network between us and an opportunity to showcase our works together.

Each artist will be exhibiting new mosaic work inspired by their own personal interpretation of the theme Mosaic Odysseys.

There were many ways to interpret a mosaic Odyssey and like some of the other Greek artists I chose Homer’s Odyssey for inspiration. The Odyssey is a wonderful story about the journey of Odysseus and his men returning home after the Trojan war.

At the same time I was considering making a series about the long journey’s of birds and perhaps as a metaphor for the journey’s of refugees. As I sifted through the Odyssey for inspiration, it became clear that it was the weather Odysseus encountered on his journey that connected all three ideas.

The weather is something we all understand (in a manner of speaking), yet when it’s written about in a mythological story it is deeply symbolic.

So through the challenges of my own artistic journey I made my first piece …

Whirlwind drawing

Whirlwind drawing

 

Whirlwind in progress

Whirlwind in progress

 

Detail before the grout

Detail before the grout

 

Grouting

Grouting

Grouting this piece was particularly harrowing, I wasn’t sure if I should do it but there were some areas that really needed it.

The finished piece …

The Whirlwind That Takes Me There

The Whirlwind That Takes Me There

(smalti, glass tile, gold and copper leaf glass tile, Jurassic Coast fossil, gold lipped oyster shell/mother of pearl, glass tile, glass gems, glass rod, glass marbles, marble, slate, quartz, hand gilded metal leaf glass, foil backed glass tile, ceramic tile, milliefiori, paint)

In this piece I used quite a variety of materials. The gold lipped oyster shell was particularly exciting to use as it was given to me by mosaic artist Elaine M Goodwin, who told me it came from Boris Anrep’s  workshop supplies. Anrep created mosaics in the National Gallery, Westminster Cathedral and the Bank of England amongst other monumental mosaics.

 The shell(s) must have been very large and they are cut into good sized chunks with a saw but I didn’t want the straight lines so I had to break the pieces. It’s really tough shell and was very difficult to cut. I had to slice it first with a hammer and hardy before breaking it into pieces.

 

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Detail – The Whirlwind That Takes Me There

 

Detail

Detail

 

detail

Detail

Exhibiting artists in the Mosaic Odysseys exhibition:

Greek artists :

Ioannis Touliatos, Artemis Klitsi, Eftychia Finou, Vasso Spanou, Lydia Papadopoulos, Alexandros Bassadis,

UK artists:

Dugald MacInnes, Nathalie Vin, Aliyahgator, Arianna Puntin, and myself.

The first exhibition will run for a week at the Hellenic Centre in London starting on Tuesday July 19th and finishing on Saturday July 23rd.

Meet the artists: Tuesday 19 July, 6.30pm-8.30pm.

The festival will then move to Athens with an exhibition at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation from September 9th to September 18th.

The final exhibition will be at the Muncipal Art Gallery of Mykonos, starting 23rd September and finishing 3rd October.

Have a look at our website here

Thank you to Artfinder  for publicity and for sponsoring our printing costs!

Come back soon to see my second piece for the festival that includes some vintage glass tiles with an interesting history

😉

 

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Mary Mary Quite Contrary Bird Baths

The last few weeks I have been making bird baths for the Bishops Palace English Country Garden Festival in Wells this weekend. Today was the first day but you still have a chance to come along tomorrow or Sunday!

I thought how nice it would be to make some work based on a garden theme and remembered that old traditional English nursery rhyme …

“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells,
And Pretty Maids all in a row”

I have read that there are different views about the meaning of the rhyme, some say it was about the reign of  Mary Queen of Scots, while others believe it was about Mary Tudor. The rhyme might suggest religious metaphors of Catholicism (silver bells) and maybe the pretty maids all in a row symbolise the rows of Protestants that were executed by Mary Tudor.
However if the rhyme was written not long before it was first published in 1744 then this would be unlikely as both queens reigned in the sixteenth century. But then it could have been written earlier …

I find it interesting that many traditional nursery rhymes appear to be all sweet and innocent but turn out to reveal a much more sinister meaning.

However I made these bird baths in all sweetness and light, taking the nursery rhyme only as it reads!

They are all hand formed shapes (some using a mould and some without) using cement mortar mixtures.

Here is a collection of the baths at the garden festival.

Silver bells, cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row, displayed in different ways, on cobbles, terracotta drainpipes, slates and balustrade plinths to help customers imagine ways they could place them in their gardens …

Silver Bells, Cockle Shells and Pretty Maids All in a Row at the Bishops Palace

 

Silver Bells

 

Silver bells

 

Cockle Shells

 

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And Pretty Maids All in a Row

 

And a flower bowl

 

At the Bishops Palace

At the Bishops Palace

 

Click here if you would like to know more about the English Country Garden Festival and visit.

:-)

 

 

Ten Years – Mosaic Exhibition

TEN YEARS

An exhibition of mosaic art by Kate Rattray

at Somerset Guild of Craftsmen, 23a Broad Street, Wells BA5 2DJ

9th May – 13th June 2016

PRIVATE VIEW – Friday 20th May 4-6pm

I am delighted to announce that I am presenting 10 years of my work at the new back room gallery at Somerset Guild of Craftsmen in  Wells.

Having worked in the art of mosaic for over 20 years now, the last 10 years has been the most productive for me. I have chosen works that explored my interest in folklore, weather, and the apocalypse, featuring birds, moths and butterflies.

Here are three from that apocalyptic year of 2012!

The Storm

The Storm

 

"Chorus at the Wake of the Sun" in sunlight

“Chorus at the Wake of the Sun”

 

Unfinished Symphony

Unfinished Symphony

And two of my latest pieces.

Black Swan

Black Swan

 

White Swan

White Swan

But much better to see them in the flesh amongst a total of 29 mosaics. And if you are interested I am running a mosaic workshop on 21st May in the gallery. See details and book here

Come and see!

:-)