By Ingrid Sapona
I’ve always been fascinated by mosaics – from stone floor
pictures that decorate all sorts of ancient ruins, to ceilings and walls in
famous buildings (like the Tiffany mosaic at the Chicago Cultural Center). I
even love the metaphor of a mosaic – the idea of different bits and pieces
coming together to form a whole. I often wonder whether the expression “the
whole is greater than the sum of its parts” was inspired by a mosaic.
Last winter I took a six-week mosaic class. We used small
square glass tiles (1 cm x 1 cm) for our project. The tiles, manufactured in
Mexico, come in a wide variety of colours and hues – each perfect and beautiful
in its own right. The base for the project was a 12" x 12" fibreboard.
After browsing some books I chose a scene with rolling hills and a river that
was traversed by a lovely stone bridge with a road leading to a rustic-looking
house. I chose the picture, in part, because I thought there were enough
different shades of tiles to make the hills, the pastures, the water, and even
the sky look realistic and natural.
Once the picture was sketched on the board, the instructor
brought over some tiles and a pair of tile nippers, which she showed me how to
use. After suggesting what area to start with, she handed me the glue and, with
no further instruction, I started. At first I had a hard time cutting the tiles
into the sizes and shapes I wanted. But eventually I realized that even the
broken bits that don’t come out the way I wanted might fit some other place
later, so no effort was wasted.
Because you work on it literally one centimetre at a time,
it can be very hard to envision how a section will look. I learned that, at
times, the best thing to do is stop and literally take a step back to see how
it looks from a distance. (And, when you do step back, you get an even better
idea of how the colours blend if you kind of squint!)
One of the big surprises was how time consuming it was. It
seemed that every time I sat down to do just one little hill, or a section of
the river, before I knew it, three hours had passed. (When I signed up for the
course I wondered why the classes were so long – I soon understood.) And, I
found that if I didn’t complete a section in one sitting, I rarely managed to
get the shading quite right when I resumed – so, best to keep at it once you
start. Another interesting revelation was the fact that you can use the grout to
add depth and texture – it isn’t just functional.
Though I completed my glass mosaic project a while ago, the
idea of writing a column about mosaic as metaphor has been on my mind for months
and it seemed especially appropriate for today’s column because it’s my 250th
On being… (I know, I can’t believe it either!) You see, each column is like a separate
mosaic tile: I strive to make each something that can stand on its own, yet it
really only represents a fragment of the thoughts and events that happen over
the two weeks between columns.
In many respects, writing the column involves my talking
about the bits and pieces that make up the mosaic that is my life, in hopes
that it inspires you to reflect on bits and pieces of the mosaic that is your
life. Though I can’t say that when I started the column I had a vision of the
picture I’d be filling in piece-by-piece, the fact is life is a picture we craft
by our choices, our action and reactions, and our efforts every day – and I try
to make that fact come through in each column.
Sometimes I get discouraged because I don’t think the idea
for a particular column is too exciting, or I worry that I’m writing about
something no one else will be able to relate to. That frustration is very much like
trying to shape an individual tile – sometimes I get just the piece I wanted
and sometimes I don’t. But, like all the tile bits that weren’t exactly what I
wanted when I cut them, with every column I learn something about myself and I
do think no effort goes to waste (though I do hope there aren’t too many
columns along the way that waste my readers’ time). And, even the seemingly insignificant
things I often write about – the stuff that fills in the time between events
that we later look back on as marking a day or a week – is like grout: it adds
texture and richness to life.
So, at this point, I’ve filled in 250 tiles in the mosaic.
When I step back and squint, I can see the rough outline of the picture I’m
crafting. But, like everyone, I have no idea how many tiles I have yet to fill
in. I don’t think I’ll be writing On being… for the rest of my life, but I plan
to continue sharing the bits of my mosaic as I work on it for at least awhile.
I’m honoured that twice a month for the past 10+ years you’ve
taken time out from crafting your own mosaic to see how mine is shaping up. Thank
you – and happy crafting to you all…
© 2012 Ingrid Sapona