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Prix Picassiette 2014 Winners Announced

1st Prize, Professional Category:  Karen Ami (USA) "Dialogues"

1st Prize Professional   Karen Ami (USA) “Dialogues”

Chartres les 3Rs, the organization which produces the biennial Les Recontres des Internationales de Mosaïque de Chartres (International Mosaic Encounters in Chartres), has announced the winners of the 2014 Prix Picassiette Prizes. With its self-selecting categories of Professional, Amateur Initiés (Advanced), Amateur and Youth & Groups, the event is a marvelous mash-up that places accomplished masters next to enthusiastic newcomers in the sublimely beautiful Chapelle du Lycée Fulbert.

Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo: Stefan Wolters

This year, the Prix was supplemented by two satellite exhibits: Selected works by members of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) and a tribute to the incomparable Ines Morigi Berti of Ravenna at Chapelle Saint-Éman which runs through January 18.  Sadly, Morigi Berti, who was a revered teacher and famed mosaicist, passed away at the age of 100 on October 26th.

Ines Morigi Berti

Ines Morigi Berti (1914 – 2014)

The Association is an extraordinarily unique organization whose 3Rs stand for Rénovar,Restaurer,Réhabiliter (Renovate, Restore, Rehabilitate). Founder Patrick Macquaire and the 3R staff are dedicated to carrying on the mosaic tradition of “The Father” of picassiette, Raymond Isidore (1900-1964) and creating an economic revival for the Chartres area. Earlier this month, Macquire spoke at BAMM’s annual Forum about the exhibition and his organization – you can see a video of his presentation here.

We thank Marquaire for providing us with the professional images of the winners seen here and send a special shout-out to the talented Stefan Wolters for his “atmospheric” photographic contributions.


  • 1st Prize:  Karen Ami (USA)  Dialogues (above)
  • 2nd Prize:  Ariane Blanquet (France)  Moon
  • 3rd Prize:  Delphine Legal Quemener (France)  Pierre and Patience
  • Special Mention:  Dugald MacInnes (UK)  Fragile Earth
2nd Place Professional Category:  Ariane Blanquet (France) "Moon"

Ariane Blanquet (France) “Moon”

3rd Prize Professional Cateogry:  Delphine Legal Quemener (France) "Pierre and Patience"

Delphine Legal Quemener (France) “Pierre and Patience”

Special Distinction Professional Category: Dugald MacInnes  (UK) "Fragile Earth"

Dugald MacInnes (UK) “Fragile Earth”

Amateurs Initiés (Advanced)

Elisabeth Foucher (France) “Le Poinconneur des Lilas”

  • 1st Prize:  Elisabeth Foucher (France)  Le Poinçonneur de Lilas 
  • 2nd Prize:  Annie Dunlop (France)  Contraste 
  • 3rd Prize:  Angela Sanders (UK)   Ice 
  • Special Mention:  Monique Duteil (France)   Ko 
  • Special Mention: Marie-Odile Laurent (France)   La Poule Aux Ouefs D’Or Musifs 

Annie Dunlop (France) “Contrast”

2nd Prize Amateurs Initiés: Angela Sanders "Ice"

Angela Sanders (UK) “Ice”

Special Mention Amateurs Initiés:  Monique Duteil "Ko"

Monique Duteil (France)  “Ko”

Special Mention Amateur Initiés: Marie-Odile Laurent "La Poule Aux Oeufs D'Or Musifs"

Marie-Odile Laurent (France) “La Poule Aux Oeufs D’Or Musifs”


1st Place Amateur Category - Dina Angistriotu (Belgium) "Mur Non Entrevant"

Dina Angistriotu (Belgium) “Mur Non Entrevant”

  •  1st Prize:  Dina Angistriotu (Belgium)  Mur Non Entravant
  • 2nd Prize:  Joelle Laudy (France)  Le Migrateur
  • 3rd Prize:  Rosa Coupe (France)  Clin d’Oeil a La Belle Dame Ancestrale Dominant La Beauce 
  • Special Mention:  Marianne Fiette (France)  Zebres Urbains 
2nd Prize  Amateur Category:  Joelle Laudy (France) "Le Migrateur"

Joelle Laudy (France) “Le Migrateur”

3rd Prize, Amateur Category:  Rosa Coupe (France) "Clin d'Oeil a La Belle Dame Ancestrale Dominant La Beauce"

Rosa Coupe (France) “Clin d’Oeil a La Belle Dame Ancestrale Dominant La Beauce”

Special Distinction Amateur Category:  Marianne Fiette (France)  "Zebres Urbains"

Marianne Fiette (France) “Zebres Urbains”

Public Vote

1st Prize Public Vote:  Christine Dalibert (France) "Vague"

Christine Dalibert (France) “Vague”

  • 1st Prize:  Christine Dalibert (France) “Vague”
  • 2nd Prize:  Gary Drostle (UK) “Shrapnel 1914 – War Is A Gun With A Worker At Each End”
  • 3rd Prize:  François Thibault (France)  “Autoportrait D’Apres Van Gogh”
  • Special Mention: Nathalie Vin (UK) “Multiverse”

Gary Drostle (UK) “Shrapnel 1914 – War Is A Gun With A Worker At Each End”

Francois Thibault (France) "Autoportrait d'Apres Van Gogh (Self Portrait After Van Gogh)"

Francois Thibault (France) “Autoportrait d’Apres Van Gogh (Self Portrait After Van Gogh)”

Nathalie Vin (UK) "Multiverse"

Nathalie Vin (UK) “Multiverse”

Youth and Groups

Centre Accuel de Jour Dyzeure "La Femme A La Fleur, Homage A Pablo Picasso"

Centre Accuel de Jour Dyzeure (France) “La Femme A La Fleur, Homage A Pablo Picasso”

  • 1st Prize:   Centre d’Accueil De Jour D’Yzeure Envol   La Femme A La Fleur, Hommage A Pablo Picasso
  • 2nd Prize:  Le colectif “Projet Theodora” D’Albi-Mosaïque Projet Theodora
  • 3rd Prize (tie):  A.I.P.E.I. Empro Edelweiss  Empreinte
  • 3rd Prize (tie):  Espace de Proximite Cite Marcel Cochin RomainVille  L’Asteromainville
The Collective Projet Theodora D'Albi-Mosaïque  "Projet Theodora"

The Collective Projet Theodora D’Albi-Mosaïque (France) “Projet Theodora”

A.I.P.E.I. Empro Edelweiss "Empreinte"

A.I.P.E.I. Empro Edelweiss (France)  “Empreinte”

G-Espace de Proximité cité Marcel Cochin

Espace de Proximité Cité Marcel Cochin Romainville (France)  “L’Asteromainville”

Fulbert Prizes

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Association 3R and the 18th anniversary of Les Recontres des Internationales de Mosaïque de Chartres, the jurors gave prizes to two ground-breaking mosaic artists, Giovanna Galli and Gerard Brand, for their noteworthy bodies of work and personal contributions to the development of mosaic.

Giovanna Galli (France)

Giovanna Galli (France)

Gerard Brand (France)

Gerard Brand (France)

Photo: Stefan Wolters

Visitors in the exhibit   Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo:  Stefan Wolters

Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo:  Stefan Wolters

BAMM Exhibit presentations     Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo:  Stefan Wolters

Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo:   Stefan Wolters

Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo:  Stefan Wolters

Photo: Stefan Wolters

Photo Stefan Wolters

Photo:   Stefan Wolters

Photo Stefan Wolters

Photo:  Stefan Wolters



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BiblioMosaico: The Book as a Muse for Mosaic

Verdiano Marzi “Pinnochi” 2011 (Italy)

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”                                                                                                                –  Jorge Luis Borges

Surely, Book Paradise will look something like this . . .


National Library of Latvia at Riga   Photo: Rosetta Berardi

Photo Rosetta Berardi

. . .  the stunning National Library of Latvia in Riga designed by Gunnar Birkerts, current home of BiblioMosaico, a collection of mosaics devoted to The Book created by some of the medium’s modern masters.

Photo Rosetta Berardi

Bibliomosaico is the brainchild of Rosetta Berardi, editor at Edizioni del Girasole, a specialty publisher of art books based in Ravenna, Italy.  Berardi conceived the exhibit in 2009 in conjunction with the first RavennaMosaico, the International Festival of Contemporary Mosaics.  That year, Berardi invited nine artists to “reflect on the form of books, on the representation of a book as an object that wants to be looked at but not read, a book that is ‘not a book’, a book which may have lots its words but gained a specific conceptional meaning as an open work of art.”

Toyoharu Kii "Crime Report - Testimony" 2013 (Japan)

Toyoharu Kii “Crime Report – Testimony” 2013 (Japan)

Since then, over 50 artists have participated in Bibliomosaico and now 34 of their works are scattered throughout the Riga Library where visitors will discover them hidden in the stacks, reclining on book trolleys and displayed on shelves.

Nikos Tolis "Volume arte mosaico" (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece)

Nikos Tolis “Volume Arte Mosaico” (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece)

Sophie Drouin "Censure" 2013 (Canada)

Sophie Drouin “Censure” 2013 (Canada)

Some of the mosaics are quite literal, like Verdiano Marzi’s Pinocchi or Sophie Drouin’s Censure.  Others, like Gerard Brand’s Six Pages in Lace and Samantha Holmes’ Absence  pay homage to Ravenna’s Byzantine mosaic heritage in new and intriguing ways.

Gérard Brand "Sei Pagine in Pizzo" (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France)

Gérard Brand “Sei Pagine in Pizzo” (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France)

Samantha Holmes "Absence (Mobile)" 2013 (USA)

Samantha Holmes “Absence (Mobile)” 2013 (USA)

This current showing of Bibliomosaico is part of a larger mosaic-centered exchange between Riga, the current Cultural Capital for the European Union and Ravenna, which is vying for the title in 2019.  Also on display in the Library are large-scale reproductions of some of Ravenna’s most iconic Byzantine treasures.

Andris Vilks, Director of the Library, Ouidad Bakkali, Minister of Culture-Ravenna,  Giovanni Polizzi, Italian Ambassador

Director of the Latvian National Library Andris Vilks, Minister of Culture for Ravenna Ouidad Bakkali, Italian Ambassador Giovanni Polizzi

We were first charmed and delighted by Bibliomosaico during RavennaMosaico in 2011 and found it to be one of our top three favorite exhibitions for RavennaMosaico 2013.

Kazumi Kurihara "Il Libro Legge" (The book reads) 2011 (Japan)

Kazumi Kurihara “Il Libro Legge” (The Book Reads) 2011 (Japan)

One of our favorites from 2011 was Raniero Bittante’s Bubble Gum Italia. Three copies of the Italian constitution encrusted with red, white and green smalti adhered with used wads of bubblegum were accompanied by a video of Italians blowing bubbles. This work turned out to be far more literal than we thought at first glance.  Bittante is reflecting on the 150 years of Italy’s political unity in a classical mosaic sense – each individual, regardless of race or ethnicity, is part of the whole – like the tesserae of a mosaic.  Bubble gum as the “mortar” or glue that holds it together?  Of course.  Just think of the DNA contained in a wad of used bubble gum.  Brilliant.

Raniero Bittante "Bubble Gum Italia" 2011 (Italy)

Raniero Bittante “Bubble Gum Italia” 2011 (Italy)

We think BiblioMosaico is an absolutely splendid representation of how the medium can be used to convey powerful themes and individual expression.  We are going to leave you here with images from all three editions of BiblioMosaico and commentary by curator Berardi.  The exhibit runs through August 30th.  All photos unless noted were taken by Berardi who is also a professional photographer.  Enjoy – Nancie (And don’t forget to click to enlarge)

Felice Nittolo 2011 (Italy)

Felice Nittolo “EVOCARE” (EVOKE) 2011 (Italy)

Rosetta Berardi:

The artist’s book denies itself nothing, it can even dare to be unreadable. Every artist gives a personal interpretation of the book using the force of substance, the plasticity of structure, the diversity of materials and bringing into play his or her own sensitivity. The results are poetical objects that challenge the writing and concentrate on technique, form and harmony.

Mélanie Lanoe "Impronte" (Fingerprint) 2011  (France)

Mélanie Lanoe “Impronte” (Fingerprint) 2011 (France)

Viewers are encouraged to watch the artwork and read it on the basis of a visual grammar. The meaning of the book is expressed without words. The book, depository of the written word, changes its function: it is no longer meant to be read, but rather looked at to.

Silvia Naddeo, 2011 (Italy)

Silvia Naddeo “Storia di una Zucchina” (The Story of a Zucchini) 2009 (Italy) Photo: George Fishman

A creative exercise that involves both young and experienced artists, who engage in the production of artworks conceived for being displayed among paper books, like jewels set in a ring.

Julie Richey "Vademecum" 2014  (USA)

Julie Richey “Vade Mecum” 2014 (USA)

The exhibition was originally designed to give a look of precious elegance to a space that communicates and interacts with the works in an exemplary way.  

Atsuo Suzumura, 2011

Atsuo Suzumura “9 Libri” (9 Books), 2011 (Japan)

Mosaics fascinate us, and the subject of the book makes them even more enchanting. – Rosetta Berardi

Pamela Irving "Mr. Logomania" 2013 (Australia)

Pamela Irving “Mr. Logomania” 2013 (Australia)

Rosanna Fattorini  2009 (Italy)

Rosanna Fattorini 2009 (Italy)

Sonia King "Tabula Rasa" 2013 (USA)

Sonia King “Tabula Rasa” 2013 (USA)

Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)

Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)


National Library of Latvia at Riga Photo: Rosetta Berardi


Verdiano Marzi "Pinnochi" 2011 (Italy) Photo Rosetta Berardi

Works on shelves

Photo Rosetta Berardi

Library exterior 1

Photo Rosetta Berardi


Sophie Drouin "Censure" 2013 (Canada)

Gérard Brand Six pages en dentelleFRANCIA2013photoRosettaBerardi

Gérard Brand "Sei Pagine in Pizzo" (Six Pages in Lace) 2013 (France)

Samantha Holmes

Samantha Holmes "Absence (Mobile)" 2013 (USA)


Toyoharu Kii "Crime Report - Testimony" 2013 (Japan)


Rosanna Fattorini 2009 (Italy)




Felice Nittolo 2011 (Italy)

Nikos_ Tolis_Volume arte mosaico_2013_Photo_RosettaBerardi copy

Nikos Tolis "Volume arte mosaico" (Mosaic Art Volume) 2013 (Greece)


Andris Vilks, Director of the Library, Ouidad Bakkali, Minister of Culture-Ravenna, Giovanni Polizzi, Italian Ambassador


Kazumi Kurihara "Il Libro Legge" (The book reads) 2011 (Japan)

Julie Richey_Vademecum_2014 - USA_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Julie Richey "Vademecum" 2014 (USA)

Mélanie Lanoe_Impronte_2011 - Francia_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Mélanie Lanoe "Impronte" (Fingerprint) 2011 (France)


Silvia Naddeo, 2011 (Italy)

Atsuo Suzumura_2011_PhotoRosettaBerardi

Atsuo Suzumura, 2011

Pamela Irving

Pamela Irving "Mr. Logomania" 2013 (Australia)


Sonia King "Tabula Rasa" 2013 (USA)

Raniero Bittante

Raniero Bittante "Bubble Gum Italia" 2011 (Italy)

Roberta Grasso

Roberta Grasso, 2011 (Italy)

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Modern Mosaic in Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens: “Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014”

Photo by Anabella Wewer

Photo:  Anabella Wewer

When we were first approached by the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens to jury a regional exhibit, we asked the organizers – Carol Shelkin, President of MSoP, and Ellen Owens, PMG’s Executive Director – what they wanted the show to accomplish. The title of the exhibit, Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 is a direct reflection of their goal to shine a light on makers who use the medium to create art that is timely, relevant and engaging and, in doing so, break through some old assumptions about mosaic.

Photo Gabe Kirchheimer©
Isaiah Zagar “The Magic Gardens”    Photo:   Gabe Kirchheimer©

Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 would place fine art mosaics within the belly of Isaiah Zagar’s massive visionary mosaic environment, The Magic Gardens of South Philadelphia. Zagar has mosaicked the interior and exterior walls, ceilings, and floors of nearly half a block of real estate to create what is, at its core, a 40 year personal diary that began as a response to a nervous breakdown. We found it a no less an all-encompassing experience than the cathedral of San Vitale in Ravenna; it is every bit as overwhelming, inspiring, transporting and, in its own way, sacred.

Isaiah Zagar "The Magic Gardens"       Photo Gabe Kirchheimer©
Photo:  Gabe Kirchheimer©



Isaiah Zagar      Photo:  Wikipedia


Photo  Gabe Kirchheimer©

Photo Gabe Kirchheimer©

For the exhibiting artists to “hold their own” in the gallery space within Zagar’s Gardens, they would have to have very strong voices of their own. And they do.  We selected Invited Artists Karen Kettering Dimit, Samantha Holmes and Brooks Tower and Juried Artists Yakov Hanansen, Yulia Hanansen, Rachel Sager, Carol Talkov, and Carol Stirton-Broad because their concepts and visions are as strong as their mastery of mosaic techniques. This is a group of highly-accomplished artists, most of whom have multiple award-winning works in their portfolios.

Climate change, technology, feminism, self-discovery, science, history, popular culture, beauty and the nature of mosaic itself are all explored within Shattering Expectations. With multiple works from each artist and the extremely thoughtful staging by Owens the exhibit works beautifully.

Photo Anabella Wewer

Photo Anabella Wewer

During the opening attended by 400 people – the largest opening of any PMG exhibition to date – we were delighted to watch visitors become strongly engaged with the art on the walls. It was just plain noisy in there! People pointed, got nose-close and selfied next to favorite works. The tech-savvy scanned the QR codes provided on the info panels to listen to prerecorded interviews with the artists.

Photo Anabella Wewer

Photo Anabella Wewer

Visitor looking at work by Carol Talkov

Visitor looking at work by Carol Talkov

Photo Karen Kettering Dimit

Visitors learning more about Karen Kettering Dimit via QR code interview.  Photo by the artist.

Visitor looking at work by Rachel Sager  Photo Anabella Wewer

Visitor looking at work by Rachel Sager Photo Anabella Wewer

Brooks Tower and visitor.

Brooks Tower and visitor.

For the artists, all of whom were there, it was a rare and personally rewarding opportunity to interact one-on-one with viewers.  Marvelous moments of serendipity ensued  – “That’s Jupiter!” exclaimed a gentleman upon spying Yulia Hanansen’s Great Red Spot. A subsequent conversation with the artist revealed that the man was connected with the Physics Department at the University of Pennsylvania. Much to Hanansen’s delight, he extended an invitation for a private tour of the school’s Rittenhouse Observatory.

Yulia Hanansen and "Great Red Spot"  Photo Anabella Wewer

Yulia Hanansen and “Great Red Spot” Photo Anabella Wewer

Glorious spring weather the opening weekend brought over 1,100 visitors to the Gardens, some of whom participated in a workshop held beneath work by Yakov Hanansen.


Equally important, on Saturday March 8, there was a private showing of the exhibit for a group of 47 art collectors from the James Renwick Alliance (JRA) of Washington DC.  JRA supports the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery  with education programs on American craft and also makes acquisitions for the museum’s collection. A presentation on the mosaic renaissance occuring in the US and a walkthrough of the exhibit with the artists was the beginning of what we hope will be an ongoing conversation about modern mosaic with this important art institution.

With those 400 people at the opening, another 1,100 the first weekend and 6 sales since Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 opened on March 7th  we would have to say that Philadelphia is definitely a mosaic kind of town. The exhibit runs through April 20th, so there is still time to experience some great modern mosaics within one of the world’s most extraordinary mosaic environments. What follows is a brief look at work from each of the 8 artists in the exhibit.

Karen Kettering Dimit, Invited Artist

We have long appreciated Dimit’s in-depth mosaic exploration of themes that have great meaning for her.  She is marvelous at exploiting the natural attributes and cultural associations of her materials to create imagery that can be haunting, thought provoking and delightful.

Karen Kettering Dimit "Miss Willendorf 2008"  2008  36 x 22 x 22 in.

Karen Kettering Dimit “Miss Willendorf 2008” 2008 36 x 22 x 22 in.

In her Subway Goddesses series, Dimit juxtaposes ancient female archetypes with the “goddesses” of today to examine how cultural stereotypes have impacted her own sense of self esteem. In Miss Willendorf 2008, we see the “Venus of Willendorf “ c. 28,000 B.C.E. – 25,000 B.C.E.  recast in designer jeans, Spandex t-shirt and lovelorn tattoos.

Karen Kettering Dimit "NYC Watertowers XI" 12 x 12 in.

Karen Kettering Dimit “NYC Watertowers XI” 12 x 12 in.

A second series is devoted to the silent sentinels of New York City – its iconic water towers. Using natural stone and minerals, Dimit paints an apocalyptic sky in NYC Watertower XII; another example of her masterly use of materials. A similar work exhibited, NYC Watertower IX, has recently been sold to a mother with an autistic child who “became strongly engaged” with the work. No higher praise . . .

Yakov Hanansen, Juried Artist

If there were ever an example of how a photograph does not do a mosaic justice, it would be any image taken of Yakov Hanansen’s stunning work Brain.

Yakov Hanansen “Brain” 36 x 36 in. Hand-made ceramic tesserae, porcelain, smalti.

We loved this in a jpeg, but in person it was just a knock out. There were worlds within worlds composed of smalti, the rims of ceramic plates, and exquisitely hand-sculpted tesserae in this mosaic. Light is manipulated through relief, reflection, texture and shape.  Shadows are everything.  “White is the compilation of all colors,” Hanansen told us. “The brain is a universe that we are still exploring.”  We could easily have spent hours exploring this work which proved to be magnetic for everyone who came within three feet of it. Something about the intricacy and symmetry in Brain is enormously compelling. Hanansen is very much a mosaic philosopher and his work stands at the intersection of science, cosmology and art.


Yakov Hanansen "Inflection Point" 2006  30 x 108 in. Triptych  White and off-white porcelain.

Yakov Hanansen “Inflection Point” 2006 30 x 108 in. Triptych White and off-white porcelain.

Hanansen was classically trained as a mosaic muralist in Russia but now maintains a studio and school with his wife, Angele, in New York City.  While his commission work for architectural installations is often very vivid, since the 1980s his personal work has all been in white. Hanansen is also the father of stained glass mosaic artist Yulia Hanansen, whose work is noteworthy for her marvelous, painterly use of color. An article by Philadelphia writer Paul Anater about this father daughter mosaic duo appeared in the 2010 edition of Mosaic Art NOW.

Yulia Hanansen, Juried Artist

Even as she is the daughter of a mosaicist trained in the classical European tradition, Yulia Hanansen is a thoroughly American mosaic artist blazing artistic trails in a material generally eschewed by the Europeans – stained glass. Her “layered mosaic” technique is an innovation she created to add the mosaic element of “relief” to a material that traditionalists find too flat. When she points this technique and her artistic training on the astronomical and ecological themes that are her inspiration, the result, as we noted above with Great Red Spot, draws the viewer in instantly.

Yulia Hanansen "Jupiter: Great Red Spot " 2010  36 x 56 in.  Layered stained glass.

Yulia Hanansen “Jupiter: Great Red Spot ” 2010 36 x 56 in. Layered stained glass.

It can take Hanansen as long as three years to accumulate the materials for a mosaic she has planned.  This patience and care is often rewarded; Great Red Spot was selected as Best in Show in the Society of Mosaic Artist’s Mosaic Arts International 2011.

"Jupiter: Great Red Spot" detail

“Jupiter: Great Red Spot” detail

Displaced Hurricane is part of a series Hanansen is doing on global warming and potential disruptions to water supplies across the planet. In this work, we have a satellite’s view of a hurricane system devastating crop circles.

Yulia Hanansen "Displaced Hurricane" 2013 24 x 30 in.

Yulia Hanansen “Displaced Hurricane” 2013 24 x 30 in.

Samantha Holmes, Invited Artist

Samantha Holmes "Aperiodic Asymmetry" 2014  112 x 38 in.  Aluminum, wood.

Samantha Holmes “Aperiodic Asymmetry” 2014 112 x 38 in. Aluminum, wood.

Samantha Holmes academic credentials provide clues to what drives her as artist working in mosaic; she holds a BA from Harvard and was recently awarded an MFA in Experimental Mosaic from the Academia di Belli Arti in Ravenna. She is passionate about bringing intelligence and relevancy to modern mosaic and has put that passion into action with great success; the American artist has already represented Italy in an exhibit in Paris and won several prestigious European mosaic prizes including the Innovation Award for the Young Artists & Mosaic Competition in Ravenna. Holmes’ work combines the most essential elements of the mosaic language – foundational attributes such as individual tesserae, andamento, interstice, permanence, etc. – with the exploration of the ambiguities of modern life such as the true meaning of “home”, thwarted communications and the nature of faith.

Samantha_Holmes_Aperiodic Assymetry_detail_Photo SH

In Aperiodic Asymmetry, the site-specific work she created for Shattering Expectations, Holmes riffs off the traditional Islamic tile patterns designed to express Divine order in houses of worship. “Aperiodic Asymmetry deals with the disparity between this notion of Divine order and the chaos of the human experience, the perfection of the underlying geometry and the inaccuracy of the individual hand” explains Holmes. Indeed, if you look closely at this mosaic, you will see how one small bit of imperfection, if allowed to grow, quickly breaks down any opportunity for unity. Aperiodioc Asymmetry looked absolutely marvelous in its Garden setting.

Rachel Sager, Juried Artist

Pennsylvania-based artist Rachel Sager is well-known for digging into the earth to source materials for her mosaics. In the four works shown in Shattering Expectations, Sager looks at the earth – and the world as she knows it – through the lens of cartography to explore personal and societal conundrums.

In Here Be Dragons, Sager compares the unknown lands depicted as danger zones filled with beastly perils by 17th century cartographers with the newly-minted cyber-lands of Facebook and Twitter. While we all flock to these new lands with their promises of connectivity and opportunity are we making ourselves vulnerable to perils yet to be discovered?

Rachel Sager "Here Be Dragons"  2012 17.5 x 23.5 in.

Rachel Sager “Here Be Dragons” 2012 17.5 x 23.5 in.

A crowd favorite at the exhibition was Printlandia, a work that was the product of a feud between Sager and her long malfunctioning printer which culminated in her demolishing the machine and having a final revenge by repurposing its carcass into a mosaic map.

Rachel Sager "Printlandia" 2012  19 x 24 in.

Rachel Sager “Printlandia” 2012 19 x 24 in.

Beyond what we admire about Sager’s personal art, we also have a great appreciation for the incredible work she is doing to promote the mosaic medium; organizing exhibitions, teaching classes, speaking at geological conferences and, most recently, assisting the Touchstone Center for Craft in creating a mosaic curriculum for its 2014 season. Brava.

Carol Stirton-Broad, Juried Artist

Carol Stirton-Broad is a Philadelphia artist and teacher who has explored a number of mediums from photography to fiber. Mosaic has become a major focus for her and she has studied with some of the medium’s most rigorous instructors in Italy and the US.  That training enabled her to transform the mundane into the sublime in two of the works selected for Shattering Expectations, From My Sister’s Garden #1 and From My Sister’s Garden #3.

Carol Stirton-Broad "From My Sister's Garden #1" 2013  6.25 x 7 in.

Carol Stirton-Broad “From My Sister’s Garden #1” 2013 6.25 x 7 in.

Carol Stirton-Broad "From My Sister's Garden #3" 2013 3.5 x 10.5 in

Carol Stirton-Broad “From My Sister’s Garden #3” 2013 3.5 x 10.5 in

Using classical mosaic techniques and materials, Stirton-Broad has given elegance and grace to cow and deer teeth that were unearthed in her sister’s rural garden. These two works are just plain beautiful. We can’t wait to see more from Stirton-Broad in the future.

Carol Talkov, Juried Artist

Carol Talkov was a successful costume and interior furnishings fabricator before turning her life to mosaic. One can easily see how the love of the materials she works with continues in this new medium. In fact, she believes that the glass, stone, minerals and gems she works with have stories within them that can be seen when when they are placed in the right relationship with one another.

Carol Talkov "Moth" 2012  20 x 20 in.

Carol Talkov “Moth” 2012 20 x 20 in.

Plume agate, petrified wood, agate, geode, chalcedony, mica, travertine, smalti and sea urchin spines are just a few of the materials Talkov sourced and carefully selected to use in these dynamic works. Visitors found these works enormously appealing, often getting extraordinarily close to investigate each individual tesserae. They are delicious.

Carol Talkov "What's Inside" 2012  14 x 17 x 4

Carol Talkov “What’s Inside” 2012 14 x 17 x 4

Brooks Tower, Invited Artist

We have come to think of award-winning artist Brooks Tower as a mosaic poet. Instead of using a pen or keyboard, Tower employs the heavy duty industrial tools called wet saws and band saws in his modern interpretation of an ancient mosaic technique known as opus sectile.  Sometimes, his mosaics can be a limerick, as in I Told Your Sister, where a split second of street life and tension is caught in stone and tile.

Brooks Tower "I Told Your Sister" 2013  9 x 12 in.

Brooks Tower “I Told Your Sister” 2013 9 x 12 in.

Other times, Tower’s work can be likened to psyche-disturbing doggerel as in his cartoon-like No Pants, a poem with a punch line that is any performer’s greatest nightmare.

Brooks Tower "No Pants"  2004  24 x 14 in.

Brooks Tower “No Pants” 2004 24 x 14 in.

Often, though, Tower’s work are heart-tugging sonnets to the beauty of every day life, as in Quaking Oats, inspired by a simple scene at his breakfast table.

Brooks Tower "Quaking Oats" 2013  16 x 12 in.

Brooks Tower “Quaking Oats” 2013 16 x 12 in.

We think that Tower is one of America’s finest mosaic artists and were very pleased to have his work in this exhibit. In addition to Shattering Expectations, he is also showing work in Tulsa Oklahoma’s beautiful new Hardesty Center in a show entitled Art in Mosaic.

Shattering Expectations: Mosaic 2014 continues through April 20, 2014 at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. Again, we want to thank Carol Shelkin and the Mosaic Society of Philadelphia for giving us the opportunity to play in the Gardens, Ellen Owens and the staff at the Gardens for mounting a beautiful exhibit, and Isaiah Zagar and his wife Julia for their phenomenal hospitality. Can we do this again, please?

Nancie Mills Pipgras, Isaiah Zagar, Julia Zagar and Carol Stirton-Broad  Photo:  Sharon Ritz

Nancie Mills Pipgras, Isaiah Zagar, Julia Zagar and Carol Stirton-Broad Photo: Sharon Ritz


  • Karen Kettering Dimit website; see more of her work on MAN
  • Yakov Hanansen website; see more of his work on MAN
  • Yulia Hanansen website; see more of her work on MAN
  • Samantha Holmes website; see more of her work on MAN
  • Rachel Sager website: see more of her work on MAN
  • Carol Stirton-Broad website
  • Carol Talkov website
  • Brooks Tower website; see more of his work on on MAN
  • Photos of Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens, murals throughout South Philadelphia and home in an extensive gallery by Gabe Kirchheimer here
  • More photos of Shattering Expectations Opening by Anabella Wewer here

Photos are provided by the artists and the author unless otherwise noted.

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Japan’s 2013 Mosaic Biennale: A Report from Toyoharu Kii

Hisao Matsuo "Don't Tell What Was Seen In The Woods" 24 x 35"

Hisao Matsuo “Don’t Tell What Was Seen In The Woods” 24 x 35 in.

While we were at the SAMA conference this past spring, we had the opportunity to sit down for a long chat with the well known Japanese mosaic artist Toyoharu Kii who is also a leader in his country’s mosaic community. We both agreed that it was high time for better, stronger, more timely communications between the Eastern and Western mosaic worlds. We are excited, therefore, to publish this article by Toyoharu featuring award-winners from this year’s biennale mounted by the Mosaic Art Association in Japan. Here’s hoping for a continued lively exchange of ideas and innovation here on MAN. Enjoy – Nancie

We are happy to share these mosaic works shown at Mosaic Biennale 2013 hosted by the Mosaic Art Association in Japan (MAAJ) this past September 9th through 15th at the Yokohama Civic Gallery in Azamino, Japan. Founded in 1995, MAAJ has been hosting the Biennale since 2007 and it has become an important and valuable place for mosaic lovers to present their work to the public. Both members and non-members are encouraged to submit works. This year’s exhibition was juried by five people including Motohiro Hashimura, a veteran mosaicist, and myself.

In the prize-winning works presented here, you may notice some aspects that are common to all of them. First, marble is highly used. Second, many of the tesserae are square. Third, the grout lines are uniform. Finally, the surfaces are flat. These points indicate that Japanese mosaic artists are not yet free from their longing for Roman mosaics. This is because the information on mosaic trends and innovations from overseas is still not easy for us to obtain.

Since Japan is not physically close to Europe, we do not have the chance to see modern, energetic mosaics in person. Moreover, mosaic news is usually conveyed in English, French or Italian and so there is a language barrier which makes the situation worse. Even with these obstacles, we expect to see more vital works at MAAJ’s future exhibitions which we hope to mount on an annual basis beginning next year.

Grand Prize: Junkichi Miyauchi, Quattro Stagioni

Junkichi Miyauchi "Quattro Stagoni" 4 20 x 20" panels

Junkichi Miyauchi “Quattro Stagoni” 20 x 20 in. polyptych

This artist started making mosaics in the 1960s and is one of the pioneers in Japan’s mosaic community. He has departed from the Roman classic mosaic aesthetic but has continued to use basically square tesserae. Miyauchi’s unique characteristic exists in how he carefully shapes his tesserae to have small, rough expressions as if the tesserae had broken up naturally even though they have been cut very purposefully. We very much appreciated the lyrical expression throughout these works.

Second Prize: Nobue Ozaki Flower Goat & Osmunda Bird

Nobue Ozaki  "Flower Goat & Osmunda Bird" 39 x 24" diptych

Nobue Ozaki “Flower Goat & Osmundu Bird” 39 x 24 in. diptych

Nobue Ozaki uses tesserae in the traditional way but we found a great sense of fun in the forms of her panels and the motifs she used. Most of the works in this year’s exhibition were serious and only a few came from playful minds. In that context, we chose her work.

Third Prize: Hisao Matsuo Don’t Tell What Was Seen in Woods

Hisao Matsuo "Don't Tell What Was Seen In The Woods" 24 x 35"

Hisao Matsuo “Don’t Tell What Was Seen In The Woods” 24 x 35 in.

0.1 inch square marble tesserae are placed densely. We considered that the cumulation of the tesserae in this work is more than that of the mere stone materials that were used to make it and it is like it has been transformed into the image itself. The artist has achieved a highly elaborate expression and so he was awarded a prize.

Honorable Mention: Toshimi Mori AMBIVALENCE 1309

Toshimi Mori "AMBIVALENCE 1309"  71 x 71"

Toshimi Mori “AMBIVALENCE 1309” 71 x 71 in.

We valued the artist’s experimental attitude using also untraditional materials such as metal plates, woods and etc. not only the traditional ones. We hope other artists also will go beyond their existing standards, trying various ways of expression.

Encouraging Prize: Yoshimi Aizawa Following My Memories of Mt. ASO

Yoshimi Aizawa "Following My Memories of Mt. ASO"  32 x 40 in.

Yoshimi Aizawa “Following My Memories of Mt. ASO” 32 x 40 in.

This artist has ongoing poor sight and has difficulties in seeing the weak light. She built an image of a mountain scenery with her friend giving her the description of it on the mountain. We can feel her desire by any means to embody and express the things she can see. Also the materials are elaborately selected and made.

Encouraging Work: Kayoko Nakai The Bird Remembers His Life, 44″ H x 44″ W.


We see that this artist is still acquiring skills in working with tile, but appreciate her obvious will to devise new ways to work with this material as well as her sense of freedom and fun.

Encouraging Prize: Yumi Yamada Ring of Flowers

She has just graduated from university. She experienced mosaic at a workshop in the school and was fascinated began to make by herself. We wanted support her.

Juror’s Work: Motohiro Hashimura The Wind in the Sky

Motohiro Hashimura "The Wind In The Sky" 51 x 47 in.

Motohiro Hashimura “The Wind In The Sky” 51 x 47 in.

This the maquette of a much larger public work. It has “spreadingness”and is refreshing.

Juror’s Work: Toyoharu Kii, On the Way of Walking

Toyohaur Kii "On The Way Of Walking" 20 x 28 in.

Toyoharu Kii “On The Way Of Walking” 20 x 28 in.

This is my work. Italian marble called Perlino is used. I fear that it was made somewhat too compact and modest. I need more vigorous and wild tesserae.

We beg to differ with Toyoharu about the quality of this work which we see as another wonderful example of his mastery of positive and negative space, rhythm, texture and pattern. Many thanks to the artist for this article, his photographs, and the continued inspiration he provides to artists worldwide.

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