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Riding the Peacock: Sara Baldwin and New Ravenna

On 10, Feb 2011 | 6 Comments | In Uncategorized | By man-admin

Peacocks have long been a recurring theme in the creative life of Sara Baldwin and her extraordinary, award-winning, mosaic-making enterprises, New Ravenna Mosaics and Sara Baldwin Design.

New Ravenna’s logo inspiration  The Navigation of Venus,  Bardo Museum

For Baldwin, peacocks are almost a totem.  “Peacocks are an important part of our culture here at New Ravenna.  When I decided I needed a logo, the designers brought a dozen options; Tunisian mosaics, mosaics of Roman Africa.  I wanted an element of fantasy in my logo.  Something that would immediately say, ‘Anything is possible! Why not ride the peacock?!'”

Why not, indeed?

Why not fall in love with mosaics while walking through the Met as a graduate painting student?  Why not start making mosaics on the floor of your family’s living room and then pitch your parents on the idea that you could make a living making these things?  Why not tote your baby on your hip while sourcing materials from industrial tile stores? Why not jump into your car with a cardboard box full of samples, plant yourself at the concessions area at Coverings and start taking orders?  Why not grow those samples into a multi-million dollar mosaic business, collaborate with some of the world’s top designers, employ almost 100 employees and have tons of fun doing it?

One of Baldwin’s first mosaics, a reproduction of a Roman mosaic.

Baldwin and her company have been featured in every major design magazine and several business magazines as well.  Her work is exquisite in both design and execution – often employing labor intensive methods to create works of art that are highly sought after by interior designers and home owners.  While interviewing Baldwin last week, we were struck by what a fascinating human being she is.  In this post, we’ll let images of her mosaics speak for themselves and spend our words telling the story of this most amazing woman.

Peacock Feathers  Stained glass panel 30 x 84″

Baldwin learned about possibilities from her father.  “My father made us do crazy things when we were kids.  He’d say, ‘Why can’t we make bayberry candles?  I’ll tell you, you have to pick a lot of bayberries to make a candle and the first time we tried it, it didn’t work at all.  Then we found out you had to add beeswax; we did it all over again and it worked!  Then it was on to ‘Why can’t we make maple syrup?'”

Raj   Honed and polished marble.

While the peacock stands for possibilities, it is that every day magic called synergy that Baldwin believes propels her life forward.   Synergy is often defined as:  “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects”*  When Baldwin isn’t looking for synergy, she’s creating it.

“When I think about mosaics the concept of synergy immediately comes to mind.  You start out with small, individual pieces and create something much bigger and more wonderful by putting them together. 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 10!”  We asked for examples.

Eddies Marble
Sara’s Synergy Example #1:  Remember that industrial tile store mentioned earlier?  It was an American Olean (now owned by DalTile) shop in South Philadelphia in 1990.   Young son on her hip, Baldwin asks the nice men behind the counter for two feet of this and two feet of that and oh, what should she use to cut them?
Rubrik  Stained glass
It was odd enough that the two countermen were kind enough to climb up ladders to break open cases of tile (the usual sales unit) to get what Baldwin needed.  Odder still is that one of the men behind that counter was Renato Odorico – of the famed French mosaic-making family who created some of that country’s most iconic art deco mosaics. (MAN July 2009).  In a time when there was virtually no literature available on making mosaics, Baldwin walks into a neighborhood tile store and finds a world-class mosaic mentor.  (Odorico is now a high level executive with DalTile)

Natasha  Stained glass

Sara’s Synergy Example #2: “One night, at a small backyard evening party in the coastal town of Cape Charles, a friend of mine announced that she’d always wanted to be in an all-girl band and perform before she turned 40.  Despite the fact that nobody knew how to play even one instrument, four of us laughingly volunteered to help her achieve her goal.  I’d always wanted to play bass guitar so this was the perfect excuse–and over the course of the next few months we learned seven songs which we played at a party for Sheri’s 40th birthday!

Two weeks later we played at a harbor party in Cape Charles and over 300 people showed up.”

Jacqueline Vine  Waterjet cut and tumbled Thassos.
Sara’s Synergy Example #3:  “At New Ravenna, we function as a synergistic organization.  The people I work with are my hands and my brain.  We all work together, using each other’s strengths.  I have three women, Danielle LaBreck, Cean Irminger and Marcie McComb, who work with me in a design capacity.  They do the research and development for our line designs and when we get a custom order, they’ll do the renderings and samples for clients to consider.  Every single person who works here brings something vitally important to our success.  Miss shipping an order?  You lose a client.  Our business is built on relationships.”
 Simone sample.  Based on a rug design by James Duncan.  Waterjet cut stained glass.
As we said before, when Baldwin isn’t discovering synergy, she’s creating it.  Take the case of the incredible photo you see below featuring Twitter the Fawn.  Twitter came to work one day with Kathy Cummings, “our mounting and grouting goddess”, who fosters wild animals in her home.  The beautiful creature was uncharacteristically peaceful lying on New Ravenna samples (could it be that pattern soothes the savage beast?) and Baldwin had just become far more handy with a camera so . . . Voila!  Mosaic magic is made.
Baldwin has even created a line of mosaic art panels called Synergy.  She describes it as ” . . . a collection of signature mosaics inspired by enduring friendships, shared visions, and collaborative relationships with renowned designers hailing from Manhattan to Mustique.”  You can see the gorgeous catalog here.
Recently, Baldwin got up close and personal with a camel in the UAE.  How did that happen?  This time it’s synchronicity, but we’ll let her tell you that story on her blog.
Enjoy –  Nancie

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  1. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    Sadly, Zoe, I'll miss it. Have a wonderful time!

  2. Zoe

    Great article! Thank you for pointing me to it.
    Will you attend Coverings, Nancie? I'd love to meet you!

  3. Sara Baldwin

    Words cannot express how grateful we all are at New Ravenna for support like this! Thanks so much Nancie for the amazing work you do that benefits all of us crazy mosaic artists.

  4. Maureen

    I've visited New Ravenna's site in the past and just filled up on the beauty it offers. Stunning work indeed.

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