Image Image Image Image Image

* = required field

BOM: get the Best of Mosaic Art NOW

Keep up with what’s happening in the world of  contemporary mosaics on your own time by subscribing to The BOM.

The BOM is a weekly digest showcasing three MAN articles and the top five tweets of the week. Sign up below and  The BOM will show up in your email inbox every Sunday at noon Pacific Standard Time.

We hate spam, too, so we won’t share your information with anyone else and guarantee that The BOM will be the only time you’ll hear from us – unless, of course, something really great comes up.

Scroll to Top

To Top



This Article appears in:


Read the comments:


River of Life: Gary Drostle, Part 1

On 24, Apr 2010 | 6 Comments | In Artists | By man-admin

While we were at the SAMA conference in March, we spent (not enough) time with award-winning MAN artist Gary Drostle. He told us about a massive project he was working on which was, lamentably, a tad behind schedule. Would anyone be willing to come to London to help out? Texans Julie Richey and Sarah Zirkel immediately raised their hands.

“The River of Life” is a commission from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. When we learned that Ms. Richey would be assisting in the installation here in the US as well, we saw a great opportunity to chronicle the creation of a large, architectural mosaic in this space. We asked Mr. Drostle if he would be a bloggee and Ms. Richey if she would be our blogger. Lucky for us, they both said yes.

But wait! There’s more! Family of MAN member Henry Rothberg of LATICRETE raised his hand, too! Mr. Rothberg has kindly offered to provide all of the products Mr. Drostle will need for the installation in Iowa. We love it when the mosaic world is this small and this giving.

Here is Ms. Richey’s first “postcard”, postmarked last Thursday.

Enjoy — Nancie

* * * * *

Greetings from sunny London, where the planes are now flying again. I’ve overstayed my original visit by four days with hopes of getting a flight on Saturday barring any new ash clouds drifting our way.

I’ve come to London for a mini-workshop, of sorts. Gary Drostle is working on a large architectural commission called “The River of Life” for the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The main mosaic, a 48 foot by 12 foot “river” of unglazed Winckelman French porcelain tile, is almost complete. Gary has five assistants working off an on with him. The two mosaics in this commission include a medallion for the entryway of the campus wellness center featuring athletes engaging in the sports featured at the center, and a flowing river pattern of half- and quarter-tiles, interspersed with Bisazza glass highlights.

To get an idea of the scale, Gary is holding his concept drawing. Note the intricacy of both the tapestry pattern and its continual curve; we’re now at the bottom section where it’s so large, the curve is almost imperceptible…except when you’re trying to line up tiles very neatly and a widening gap appears. Then you’re reminded that this is not a rectangle in the true sense.

Gary’s studio is in an artists’ building on the Thames, directly across from the Tate & Lyle sugar factor with a vieew of the Thames Barrier. Here I am with Tamara, working away. One of the biggest challenges is DJing the whole affair.

The Method

Gary uses a lined brown paper purchased locally. He draws the pattern on the reverse side in marker, taping sheets together at regular intervals. The pattern bleeds through to the back of the paper, eliminating the need to transfer or recopy the design. We’re following his basic outline and he makes additional design decisions as we come across questions. Pasta amido, the traditional mosaic flour and water paste, is our glue. It’s cooked right in the studio and refrigerated overnight to keep it fresh as long as possible.

Sectioning the Mosaic

As large sections are completed, they are measured to the size of the shipping boxes (approximately 18 inches square), marked on the back with indelible markers and cut off the main pattern. Each section is labeled and stored.

Here Gary is shaking the crumbs out of a finished section. Any loose pieces are glued back on at this point.

When making the transitions from darkest to lightest parts of the river, it helps to have a finished section for reference:

At first I thought I liked the river best; now seeing the whole pattern laid out, I am liking the textile patterns even more. Gary brilliantly uses the Native American artists’ designs and those of area Amish quilters. The patterns’ transitions from light to dark and the endless variations are what give this mosaic its sense of place and a grounding to the local community. The nearby Iowa River is the grounding image from which the “River of Life” takes its meaning.

The gray areas are “life out of balance,” and the River of Life flows over the pattern and out across the perimeter. Each line of tile represents one life. Some go off the edges prematurely; others take a meandering path.

And here is a photo of one third of the finished mosaic, laid out in the lounge next door. Gary does this occasionally to check the continuity of the design. I’d love to see the whole thing laid out, but there isn’t room anywhere in the building!

Gary is going it alone on the 12-foot diameter athletes medallion. I’d love to show you a better picture, but alas – he’s still working on it. Here’s a sneak peek:

Off to work before the boss notices I’m late!

Cheers from London,

Share this article


  1. DoreenA

    Following the flow of the water of life is quite a humbling experience. I can't imagine taking on a project like this one even if I did have the skill and knowledge to do it… I am truly inspired and in awe of your talent and patience to untertake a piece of this magnitude… are indeed a master of your craft. Cheers, Doreen

  2. Despina Georgiadi

    Such a huge project! I'd love and being amazed by the tremendous adamento Gary has used. I hope to work hard and reach his wonderful technique. Great work. Congratulations!
    Despina Georgiadi

  3. Anonymous

    What a plan for such an incredible image, can't wait to see the fully installed image, the planning alone is awesome!

  4. .

    Just Love! Just Awesome! Just Beautiful!

  5. Concetta

    Just awesome. Well done all of you on such a huge and intricate project ;)

  6. Maureen

    Astonishing skill. Beautiful!

Adams.jpgAndrea Sala & Giulia Alecci "Co-musivo" 2013  VideoHouston.jpgJim_Bachor_This_is_not_a_craft_2010_11inx14insara.jpgWebb_Bryant Patio RaysMohamed Banawy  "City 1" 2011  49 x 49 cm  Clay, glass, cement.Luca Barberini Bone Flowersandres_basurto_large08.jpgBeauchamps-SeasonofSunandwind-2AprilBegayhungry-for-gold-320x312Jolino_Bessera_DontCutYourTongueOnTheRhinestonesMarie-laure-BessonFragmentsIVBiggsTide6272969822_38f84a7e5f_z.jpgMeredith Live Oak bark, recycled tempered glass, paint, metallic powders39.jpgMangere+Mosaic.jpgGerardBrandGerstheim2014JesusJo BraunMarco_Bravura_Recuperi_d'_OroSunflowers+smalti+unglazed+ceramic+63+x+48+cm.jpgLilian_Broca_Queen_Esther_Revealing_Her_True_IdentityCarl&SandraBryantCaco3+movimento+n7full.jpgPixel_Context_Pixel_TributeToNicanorParra_2014_150x200cm (3)Photo:  APLaura Carraro "Breath" 2013  123 x 40 cm.  Stones, marble, tile, silicone tubing, PVC, inverted mirror.  Photo courtesy MARRaffaella Ceccarossi "Emerging" 2013 37 x 140 x 12 cm  Smalti and marble.mail-2.jpgCharny Birds in Hair 1000LChinn ArabesqueRamblings_for_sending_copy12.jpgSergio Cicognani Untitled 82 x 90cm  Marble, smalti, fresco paintingSelf-Portrait, 2004-2005 102 x 86Clough.jpgBiggs_and_CollingsRebecca_Collins_StrengthToStrength_2011Luca_Carlo_Colomba_4552.jpgKeKe Cribbs "Casa PapaDoble"  Photo from the artist's Facebook page.DSCN0270.JPGCzapracki.jpgJeanAnn Dabb "Assay 1: Delamar" 2012  20 in. diameter  Bone ash cupels, ceramic crucibles, glass, porcelain.  In the background:  "Core:  Tintic District"  2012  Triptych 70 x 13 in panels.  Stone core samples, ceramic, smalti, woodAndrea Deszö  "Community Garden"  2006Julie_Dilling_Keep_Me_WarmDimit.jpgKatrina Doran  Noli Me TangereGary Drostle, 2010 "Movement and Vitality" DetailDrouin.jpgErcolani.jpgFaileSizeVisionMosaic.jpgneda-600x400.jpgRosanna FattoriniCynthia Fisher  "To Everything There Is A Season, Summer"  2011  25 x 33 in.  vitreous glass, stained glass, smalti, stone, unglazed porcelain, broken pottery, marble, mirror glass, groutSara Frost "Querty" Detail  Photo: via Colossal.comBenedetta Galli "We Are The 99" 2013 140 x 200 cm  Photos and silicone on canvas.Giovanna Galli (France)5pods.jpgRed+Pods.jpgLarry_M_Levine.jpgGoode.jpgElaine M Goodwin Touching ParadiseRoberta Grasso "Memory of a Dream" 2012  460 x 230 cm  Silicon, smalti, ceramic glass, organza, tulle.Jhgreen_wall.jpgfull.jpgErika+full.jpgYakov Hanansen "Brain" 36 x 36 in. Hand-made ceramic tesserae, porcelain, smalti.Hanansen_GRS_framed_2000Hisao Matsuo "Don't Tell What Was Seen In The Woods" 24 x 35"Kim Jae Hee "Corea del Sud" (Uncomfortable House) 2010 40 x 40 cm Nails & felt  Photo courtesy MARProgressonIII Rhonda HeislerIMG_1199.jpgLaura Hiserote "No Time To Be Koi"  DetailSamantha Holmes "Absensce (Moscow)" 2012  260 x 150 cm  Marble, smalti, ceramic glass, gold.hubbell-intro.jpgTessa_Hunkin_Varieties_PeakingDog_PhotoTHHutchinson_Tango_Corto1Iliya Iliev  "Sesif"  2010  70x120cm diptych.  Stones, glassMombasa.jpgPamela Irving "Mr. Logomania" 2013 (Australia)Iskander+Impromptu-in-Blue+2000.jpgKate Jessup "Tense Twinships" 2012  36x52 in.  Glass, wood, thinset, stone, found objectsjones-time-for-lunch-1000Francien Jongsma Simonemichaelferris.jpgZhanna Kadyrova "Diamonds" 2006  Variable. Cement, tile.Kaitis.jpgVadzim Kamisarau "The Main News 3"  2012  50 x 95 cm  Cement, smaltikenawy-memories-full1Keren.jpgKate_KerriganWalkingInRainMatko_KezleInki-400-bimg-kii-blue-grids-in-blue-big.jpgPermafrost+King.jpgAndrej-Koruza-Structured-1-2011-Detailkozachek+Three+Intruding+Fanatics.jpgMichael_Kruzich_SylvesterKazumi Kurihara "Il Libro Legge" (The book reads) 2011 (Japan)Melaine_Lenoelevy-a-man-in-a-waiting-room-300dpi-1000Bett Ann Libby "China Leaf Tea" 2006  13 x 13 x 10 in.  Photo:  David CarasMarco De Luca "La Morte di Ofelia" 2003 123 x 183 x 3 cmLucas.jpgSager.jpgdragonflycompleteMonica_Machado_The_Clothes_Line_2000_260cmCorde-à-linge-Monica-Machado-détailstone-circle-dugald-macinnesMohamad Banawy "Abstract 3" 2010 80 x 80 cm  Clay, glass.MAN2009-Marzi-foto.jpgEaster_Egg_Mosaic_02.jpgAnadoMcLaughlinru paul2.pngHildreth_MeiereCathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, Drinking deer mosaic on northJeroenMeijerMaterNostra2008"More American Gifts:  Grenades"  2005  5.5 x 3.9 x 3.5 in  Ceramic, porcelain, plaster, wire, metal, cement adhesive, grout.the rainJason Middlebrook "Brooklyn SeedsFlaking paint on wooden door, Perthshire, Scotland. Photo: Helen Miles MosaicsAndrea Deszö  "Community Garden"  2006Julian_Modica_zappa.jpgMosaic RhinocerosLynnMoorPipgtailGirlBOMIMG_6541.jpgJinette+Mosaique.jpgMosaïzm "Gallaxiam" 2013 Detail  Photo courtesy MARCleo Mussi "Mind"  2012Silvia_Naddeo-Transition-2012Megumi-Naitoh-4192010-detail-Michael-WelchFamiliarGroundNewton Serenity 2FelicesBalls_4546.jpg8419_1251766378980_1374130919_703135_1818425_n.jpg"Cerulean Rendesvous" Carole Choucair-Oueijan 53.5 x 45 in.    Smalti, 24 karat gold smalti, cristallino, marble, granite111_0424.jpgFamiliarGroundNiki_de_Saint_Phalle_Tarot_Garden114Picasso.TeteFauveSergio-Policicchio-Corpi-celesti-2011"Dama-Dama" (2014) 1385 x 1165 cm.Elena Prosperi "Wakan-Tanka" 2013  60 x 198 cm  Tiffany glass, glass metal leaf, stones, feathers.Allan Punton "The Three Doges" 2014 Inspired by a ghost story by Alberto Toso FeiRebecca+detail.jpgAndjelka Radojevic  My Little ChickadeeGila+Rayberg+Morning+After.jpgSonya Louro do Rego "Fall" 2011 150 x 50 x 25 cm Shells and marble on wood and polystyrene  Photo: NTMP3312140193_3f2f0905ec.jpgNightshirt-Richey.jpegMo-Ringey-Stools-2004Faith Ringgold "Flying Home:  Harlem Heroes and Heroines (Downtown and Uptown)" 1996  Photo via MTA Arts for Transitdiego_rivera1-320x160Anna Rommel "Green Fish"clug romaniaAndrea Sala & Giulia Alecci "Co-musivo" 2013  VideoRuth_Minola_Scheibler_nightflight_024"x4"Peter Rabbit & fence Beatrix Pottermedium_Reminiscence.jpgWINDSTILL+1.jpgGino-Severini-Church-of-St-Mark-Cortona-Mosaic-wiki-cropIlana Shafir WhirlBeneath+1.jpgmail.JPGVox+Sizemore.JPG100_5652.jpgJasna SokolovicSollinger+Old+Growth+2000.jpgCarol Stirton-Broad "From My Sister's Garden #3" 2013 3.5 x 10.5 inPam Stratton "Twin Lights"Hisao Matsuo "Don't Tell What Was Seen In The Woods" 24 x 35"Carol Talkov "What's Inside" 2012  14 x 17 x 4tavonatti+4+close+up.jpgKathy Thaden  The VisitCynthia Toops "Wolf and Dog" 2012 2.75 x 2.75 x .25 in. Plymer clay, sterling silver metalwork by Chuck Domitrovich  Photo:  Michael WelchBrooks Tower "No Pants"  2004  24 x 14 in.Matylda Tracewska "Untitled" 60 x 48 cm. Marble and paint.Matylda Tracewska "Black Square III"  2011  80 x 80 x 4 cm.  Marble, smalti.Crack+true.jpgTunick_07_1Federico UribeVital CU 02vortex+close+up.jpgennisHouse_1428291c.jpgIsaiah Zagar    Photo WikipediaAleksey Zhuchov "Still Life With Bottles" 2012  50.5 x 47 cm  Natural and artificial stone, smalti.