AA Clay Joins The Ages by Making a Ceramic Mosaic

Ancient Greek mosaics are believed to be the earliest form of the mosaic technique. Greek methods began with the use of pebbles to form designs, binding the pebbles with compacted earth or a mixture of sand and lime. Artifacts, where pebbles were used to make patterned floors and pavements, have been found from the 8th century BCE.

Ancient-Mosaic
Mosaic-Octopus

Pebble mosaics persisted until approximately the 3rd century BCE, when they began to be replaced with mosaics of cut stone, glass, and ceramic cubes, or tesserae, which were adhered with mortar.

Tessera, (Latin: “cube,” or “die”) plural Tesserae, in mosaic work, a small piece of stone, glass, ceramic, or other hard material cut in a cubical or some other regular shape. (Britannica, 2018)

Ancient-Greek-Mosaic
Ancient Greek mosaic showing tessera pattern.

Mosaic art became the leading form of pictorial art, culminating in the extraordinary Byzantine period. The Renaissance movement, c. 1400, initiated the painted fresco technique through which artists were able to produce more realistic representations.

Hagia-Sophia
Mosaic dome of the Hagia Sophia 450 BCE

Use of the tesserae technique has ebbed and flowed over the centuries and has led to a wider skill set of varying techniques used by contemporary artists.

 

Enter AA Clay Studio and Gallery.

The Process:

Begin-breaking-tiles

Step One: Collect ceramic pieces.

 

Mosic-2

Step Two: Layout design on cement board.

 

Mosaic-7

Step Three: Apply pieces with mastic adhesive.

 

 

Step Four: Apply colored grout to each panel.

 

Mosaic-Installed

Step Five: Installed Ceramic Mosaic.

 

Still interested in mosaics?
Check out contemporary mosaic street art below.

The city of Prague, Checkoslovakia funds artists to enliven outdoor culture through ceramic mosaics.

Face-Mosaic

Space Invader, influenced by popular arcade videos of the 70’s and 80’s, creates “invasion waves” in cities where he and his crew install 30-40 mosaics in various street locations. His goal is to bring art outside museum walls.

Space-Mosaic

Space-Invader

Jim Bachor uses contemporary subjects of pop imagery, like Starbucks and Twinkies, to fill potholes. He mixes cut glass tesserae with the gritty asphalt of Chicago streets. His art strangely refers back to ancient street pavements. Who would have thought?

Pothole

AA Clay members are proud to be a part of the long history of mosaic art making. We offer our outdoor mosaic wall art to all who are a part of our ceramic and neighborhood communities.

Mosaic-Postcard-float
The completed AAClay members Ceramic Mosaic, August, 2018

Suggested reading can be found at the Ceramic Arts Network site under free downloads, bottom of page two: https://ceramicartsnetwork.org/freebies/free-guides/page/2/

Robbie Merrick, Pottery Collector

 –  by Suzanne Adams, Clay Elements

Collecting is a process of selecting items which tell a story. Robbie Merrick, is fascinated by the beauty and functionality of ceramic art made at the turn of the 20th century and beyond. When asked: What motivates you more; the object or the search, he pauses to think and replies: “The search; it’s like peeling an onion. You learn about a potter’s life and culture which leads to the potters that influenced him or her. You learn people’s stories, their histories and their connections.”

Robbie kindly invited Alex Adams and me to see his ceramics collection where he lives with his wife Margaret on Kenwood Hill.

Robby-and-Wife
Robbie Merrick and Margaret Merrick, August, 2018

Robbie’s interest in ceramics began when he took a ceramics class in college. What followed was a career in education, along with a 40 year passion for motorcycles. At Margaret’s suggestion to “find a new hobby”, he began collecting turn of the century pottery and eventually relearning the art of ‘throwing’ a pot at AA Clay.

As our tour of the collection began, Robbie enthusiastically presented the book which began his collecting career; Clear as Mud, Early 20th Century Kentucky Art Pottery edited by Warren Payne.

Time spent with Kentucky pottery led Robbie to an interest in the Arts and Crafts movement in England and the U.S. (1880 – 1920). If you are a ceramic artist today, your roots are in the Arts and Crafts movement which espoused the artful, handmade creation of crafts as a needed cultural reaction to industrial production.

Arts-and-Craft
Arts and Crafts, Pottery and Ceramics, by Joanna Wissinger

Using the many reference books which give detailed histories of potters, pottery factories and the developing art pottery market of the turn of the century, he began collecting pieces of Clewel, Weller, Roseville, Paul Revere, Fulper, Marblehead, TECO, Clifton, Owen, Hampshire and many others. He made his finds at auctions, on ebay, and antique stores throughout his and Margaret’s travels.

Robbie had realized early on that women were influential in ceramic artistic development throughout the turn of the 20th century. Some women established or managed pottery businesses, while many others were employed as producers of greenware, glaze painters, and designers. For example, the four Overbeck sisters began Overbeck Pottery in 1911 in Cambridge City, IN. They were known for imaginative figurines, matte glazes, and painted plants and animals. Their pottery business operated until 1955 when the last of the sisters passed away.

Other female potters of note in Robbie’s collection are Clarice Cliff, Charlotte Rhead, Beatrice Wood, the founders of Rookwood, Mary Chase Stratton of Pewabic Pottery, the women trained at Newcomb Pottery and Polia Pillin.

NC
North Carolina pottery

As a finale to our visit, Robbie led us to his North Carolina collection of traditional folk potters who focused on practical shapes and function. His finds include Jugtown, BB Craig, Pisgah Forrest, pottery of the Owens and Coles and a pot turned by Oscar Louis Bachelder at his Omar Khayyam Pottery in the early 1900’s.

Charles-Counts
Charles Counts  (1952 – 2000)   Rising Fawn, Georgia

And then our conversation turned to a pot by Charles Counts at Berea College. Charles Counts was one of those names only ‘mentioned’ in the Clear as Mud book. His books Common Clay and Pottery Workshop  became constant reminders of what it meant to become a ‘craftsman.’  We had come ‘full circle.’

Robbie’s philosophy of collecting: “I try to collect one piece from each artist who fascinates me”. For example, work made at the Grueby Pottery (1897-1920 Boston, MA) is difficult to afford; however, I was happy to buy a small piece of tile that represents everything wonderful about Grueby Pottery.

More-Collection
Grueby Faience / Grueby Pottery  1897-1920  Boston, MA

To sum up, the best thing about Robbie Merrick is that he spends many working hours in the studio at AA Clay throwing pots on the wheel and applying glazes.

Robby-at-wheel
Robbie Merrick at AA Clay Studio

Why does Robbie devote time to learning the craft? He wisely states that he studies pottery so that: “I can engage in knowledgeable conversations with collectors and potters who know more than I do”. This is a devoted collector.

 

Husband and Wife Invent Raku Pottery

Chojiro and his wife developed the raku technique

It all began in Japan. Here’s how it went down:

After 450 years of feudal conflicts, constant warring came to an end in the late 1500’s.

Zen philosophy, the belief that beauty resides in the simple, the quiet, and the imperfect, spread throughout the land. The tea ceremony embodied Zen philosophy.

The great tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu

A great tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu, officially promoted the clay works of Chojiro and his wife, who had developed the raku technique of making simple hand-made bowls.

The raku technique of respecting natural processes has continued to influence ceramic art worldwide.