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!










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.


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…





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 !













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