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My Art Is A Burning Fire In My Heart: John Botica’s Pebble Mosaics (Part Two)

On 16, Mar 2011 | 3 Comments | In Artists | By man-admin

Compass Rose, 2006 2.4 meters in diameter
Private commission for residence in Remuera, Auckland.

Today we’re posting Part Two of our look at the extraordinary pebble mosaics of New Zealand artist, John Botica.  In Part One, we focused on Botica’s talents as an artist.  Today, we’ll look at how he came to the art form, how he makes his large-scale installations, and see more of his passion for pebbles at work.  Again, we’ll be quoting fellow mosaicist and New Zealander Con Kiernan who conducted extensive interviews with Botica in preparation for these posts.  (click to enlarge)

Given the unique voice and technical excellence of Botica’s pebble mosaics, it is hard to believe that he has only been making them since 2004.  He comes from a family of noted stone masons, but it wasn’t until his uncle noticed that Botica and his wife were doing tile mosaics that pebble mosaics came into his life.  “My uncle put a book on the table and said, ‘John, you should be doing this stuff.’”

The book was “The Complete Pebble Mosaic Handbook” by the English grand dame of pebble mosaics, Maggy Howarth.  “John never looked back,” says Kiernan “and now Maggy has included John’s work in the latest (2009) edition of her book.”

What is it about pebbles?
Frangipani, 2010  2.4 meters diameter
Botanic Gardens, Manurewa, Auckland

Con Kiernan:

John is obsessive about the beauty of pebbles.  Maggy Howarth says of John, “He gets excited about pebbles!  Perhaps, this is the reason why his style is so remarkable for the sheer perfection of his pebblework, almost to the point of obsession.”

Tree of Life, 2007 4.2 meters diameter
Commissioned by the North Shore City Council,
Children’s Playground Wainoni Park, Greenhith on North Shore Auckland

The range of pebble colors found in New Zealand’s alpine country and on its beaches are matchless.

They are colourful, very hard, quartz and, in some instances will not crack if placed in a heavily trafficked area.  He is blessed with one of the best possible colour palettes in the world.

Botica also sources pebbles from Indonesia and China, but he is extremely selective about his tesserae. Says the artist, “Every single pebble that is laid is ingrained with the love and passion that I cherish towards this irresistible art.”

Restricted palette?

John says he has to had to turn down jobs because the client’s wishes exceed the palette that is available.  However, John has a keen skill in being able to make full use of the available colours; especially when he details native images of New Zealand’s birds, trees and flora.

Tane Mahuta and Kereru, 2009  3 meters diameter
 Wilson School, Takapuna, Aukland

The Flat of the Pebble or the Edge?

John uses the edge of the pebble pointing upwards in his mosaic.  While it means that he uses a lot more pebbles in each piece, he gets the benefit of flow and strength.
 Pebble Carpet (pre-installation) 2010
Commission for private residence in St Heliers, Auckland
When stones are placed on the flat side, they lose their flow and the mosaic is robbed of its dynamic.  They can also loosen and pop off.

Pebble Carpet, 2010  in situ

When they are inset on their edges, there is more concrete to hold them in place and the resulting work is able to withstand the rigors of traffic as seen in the Porte Cochere example seen above.

Pre-cast Slabs Require Great Physical Strength
John Botica rests on a section of Tuis in Kohai, 2010 a work in progress

From Botica’s website:

This mosaic in progress of 3200mm X 2200mm depicts the Tui, the most fascinating bird of New Zealand that feeds in the spring time on nectar of Kowhai flowers that are depicted in this mosaic.  Kowhai flower is the national flower of New Zealand and in Maori language it means yellow.

Con Kiernan:

John works from home, out of the end of a shed, half exposed to the elements while constructing these precast slabs of concrete and pebble masterpieces.  Each piece may weigh as much as 75kgs.  His wife, Karin, assists when slabs must be shifted.  John loves the masculinity of it; he is a strongly physical person and delights in using his strengths in a creative way.

Again, we are struck by the embroidery-like quality of Botica’s work.  We cannot imagine what it takes to cull and select pebbles of the same color, let alone the same dimensions, so this effect is achieved.

Worldwide Possibilities
While John’s work to date has primarily been in New Zealand, because of his pre-cast techniques, his work would be easily shipped and installed anywhere in the world.
Mamaku Koru, 2008 8 meters approx.
Commissioned by the Waitakere City Council.
Mamaku Koru sits in front of the Global Cafe at the Youth Arts Center in Henderson.  The theme is an evolving frond of the native black fern or Koru.  Used in carvings, sculptures, jewelry and tattoos for centuries, the koru mimics the shape of an opening fern frond and suggests new life, peace, tranquility, personal growth, positive change and harmony.
Here one can see the individual pieces of the mosaic pre-installation (along with several other works as well in the background).
Because each piece is made off-site and is designed to be structurally strong enough to withstand both transportation and tough in situ usage, Botica’s work is easily packaged and shipped.  This means that his work can be truly global.
We sincerely hope that the world welcomes this artist’s genius.  All it will take is a homeowner, architect or planner with the same passion for excellence and heart for design that is at the core of John Botica.
Again, our sincere appreciation to both John Botica and Con Kiernan.
Enjoy ––  Nancie
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  1. Ksenia Milicevic

    John Botica's work is of great rigor, excellent and very creative in terms of composition.

  2. Nancie Mills Pipgras

    I have seldom worked with an artist who is as passionate about their work as John is, Maureen. I love what he dos with a limited color palette.

  3. Maureen

    Just blows me away…. he's fabulous!

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