Do Swallows Eat Olives?

This commission for a private customer was a delight to make. My clients wanted a mosaic for their wall outside their house. After initial discussions by email and a site visit I made three drawings and they chose this one.

As my clients didn’t want very strong or bright colours I chose to use stained glass as I could choose colours that were not as bold as smalti but fresher than vitreous glass.

I was also able to use a fair amount of gold smalti. As the gold smalti was thicker than the stained glass I decided to make it indirect on plastic. It would need a fairly deep bed of cement adhesive to make a flat surface. The flat surface would make it easier to clean off any algae that might collect on it over the years.

Once the leaves and birds were complete I received my luscious order of gold!

There is always so much satisfaction when placing the last piece!

I used sand to stop the gaps so I could grout from the other side. Here you can also see the electrical cable flex I used as a temporary edge while I filled the mosaic with cement adhesive. (There’s always a use for broken things one day)


Thick bed of adhesive and levelling before pushing boards firmly on the top. (And piling on the weight to ensure a good hold)

I made a sandwich of light weight cement boards with adhesive in the middle (my partner called it a custard cream) not only for strength but also because the boards were in two halfs; the first layed horizontally and the second vertically.

However it was still very heavy!

After a few days drying it was turned over and the plastic pulled off.

The trunk was made as a separate piece.

Thought I’d learnt my lesson from the last one I made on plastic and I used a weaker pva glue than then, but it was still a devil to get clean.

Brushed out the sand and grouted.

And gazed at the gold…

I had some help with installing it on the wall.

Final touches glueing olives over the screws.

My two boys doing a few hours work for a change!!!

The Olive Tree (2.12m height x 1.20m wide) (stained glass, ceramic tile. marble, gold leaf smalti glass)



One happy customer


One happy me









A Union of Family Arms

For the last couple of months I have been working on a commission in the other hours between making new pieces of jewellery, Christmas craft markets, packaging sales online and celebrating.

I was asked to make a mosaic for an outdoor wall based on my customer’s family and wife’s families coat of arms. He sent me photos of the arms by the Herald of old Graubuenden, Marco Foppoli. His arms being on the left and his wife’s on the right.


My customer also sent me a picture of a Christmas card designed for them by Marco that was inspired by old sgraffito decorations of the Rhaetia mountains.


Copyright: Marco Foppoli 2015

I was allowed to have a certain amount of artistic licence without changing the images so much that they were no longer¬† their family coat of arms. So my proposed design was very close to the Christmas card but simplified. I chose to make a winter and summer alpine willow tree and to let the leaves from the summer tree blow across the hare’s feet as well as merge the backgrounds of both families to symbolise their union.


I made it in sections on mesh and indirect and worked the backgrounds and border direct.





The finished mosaic

The finished mosaic

Coat of Arms Mosaic for outdoor wall approx 1metre x 85cm made with stained glass, iridescent stained glass, glass tile and vintage tiles from Marble Mosaic Company once based in Weston-Super-Mare!









The Day I Blew Up My Hard-Drive!

As I was in such a rush to release the news about my book, “Passage to the Sun“, I forgot to tell you a bit about it. I’ve been working on it on and off for a couple of years. I wanted to show my journey, not just how my work has developed since 2005, but the evolving story within. I had the sketches and scrawls for many of the recent pieces hidden in the recesses of my old sketchbooks, so I knew exactly how the story would end. In fact I started the final mosaic in 2009! I often refer to the book as a ‚ÄúConcept album‚ÄĚ as it reminds me of those fantastic progressive rock albums of the 1970’s, when we were transported into an incredible story or an idea that had a beginning and an end. My work is inspired by the energy, colour and strength of nature found especially in the sky, in the flight of birds, in the sun, trees and leaves.¬†¬†I like using concepts of light and dark, containment and release and metamorphosis to tell my stories.

The book is set out in 13 chapters which are also the series names of the mosaics. There are also stills from my animations, drawings, and snippets of prose to accompany the mosaics. Each mosaic tells a story, together they tell a bigger story.

But then came a day when I was putting the final pictures in the book. They were stored on my external hard-drive I used as my main (and only storage). I plugged in the wrong lead and “pttt! ssss!” – green flashing light telling me something was wrong, and –¬†“oh, I can’t get any data!”¬† (How many times do I hear those words “back up, back up and back up again”!) ¬†Yes but this is me, totally trusting as usual!

So partner, Ian, takes out the disc and tries it on his computer “pttt, ssss” again! After lots of searching on the internet and asking various computer geek friends and family, Ian (my Hero) found a company in Canada called PCB Solution who was able to deal with it. You have to send them the circuit board from the disc and they clone the software onto a new board and send it back all for ¬£30! ¬†A nice man called Kevin emails to tell you it has been received and they will update you on progress (the transfer isn’t always possible), then emails again to say the transfer was completed (Superman) and it is in the post winging it’s way back. It was worth it I can tell you, not just to get the book finished but to recover all the other data too!

So, back to the book. You can view some pages and order it here. If you want it for Christmas as a gift to your self or for someone else make sure you order by 12th December!

Come and fly with me on a Passage to the Sun.

Space invaders, cake and mosaic

Yesterday it was my son’s 13th birthday. I bought him¬†this “space invaders”¬†wallett. (He is¬†almost too young to remember space invaders, and for anyone reading this who is also too young – it was designed and programmed by Toshira Nishikado for Taito, Japan in 1978 as an arcade game)

It seemed pretty cool to find this wallett and I decided to make some marzipan cake decorations based on  space invaders for his cake.

(This is why I will never be a cake designer – although it was the first time I have got the cake to rise properly – by using 3 times the amount of ingredients I should have done!)

But what I found more interesting is that if you turn it round the space invaders become cats or characters a bit like pikachu (a mouse like pokemon character)

So what has this got to do with mosaic, you may well ask (what makes this a mosaic?) well nothing, and it isn’t a mosaic , but there are some tenuous connections such as the 12th century ¬†Islamic tradition¬† of making tiles (“zellige or zelij” ).¬†¬†Geometric shapes are cut from¬†¬†terracotta clay tiles and placed together to form a tile such as a star then¬†glazed¬†often in blues, whites and browns.¬†The tiles are then used to clad the facades of buildings. This kind of architecture is especially common in Morrocco.

Zelij is a kind of opus sectile, that was often used in the time of the ancient Greeks and then early Roman times, whereupon a piece of glass, ceramic ,  stone, marble or even precious stones were cut into whole shapes for the mosaic instead of  cut into tessarae. Going back in time even more we will see that this method was used even earlier:

If you visit the British Museum in London ¬†you will see “The Standard of Ur”.¬†¬† It is a Sumerian box found in the Royal cemetery in Iraq about 50cm long. The cut pieces of shell, red limestone and lapis lazuli that decorate the box depict the Sumerian army in war and in peace.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Believed to date from about 2500 BC it is one of the earliest mosaics found in the world.  When Leonard Woolley, the archeologist who excavated this box, found it, it was damaged and decayed, so they had to use some guesswork to restore it to its original condition.

© Trustees of the British Museum

At around the same time , near to the remains of the city of Ur, archeologist H.R Hall excavated this (now restored)column, and Wooley went on to find more. It dates around the same time and is believed to be a part of a temple dedicated to the goddess Ninhursag. Cut pieces of mother of pearl, pink limestone and black shale were attached to a palm log using bitumen. What is interesting too is that there were attachments of copper wire found on the back of the stones twisted into a ring to push into the bitumen to hold the pieces even more securely.

And back to the not so distant past¬†……. There is also a french mosaic artist called “Invader” who makes pixilated mosaics including space invader street mosaics. See his video here: