et Messieurs, behold, La Nature Girl. A pique assiette lorry-stopper.
She wowed them at the 2nd International Mosaic Symposium at Chartres
in 1998; one petit garçon chatted her up for 30 minutes. She had
only just returned in triumph to Leigh-on-Sea when I arrived for
my visit to her creators, Pauls Siggins and Cooper, who made her
out of sixties and seventies tile applied to a retired mannequin.
is in fact a tradition of "mosaiced furniture" in France, which reached
its apotheosis in Raymond Isidore's Chartres house, covered within and
without in broken china mosaic. The effect is, it seems, very Victorian
claustrophobic; it is anti-minimalist with a vengeance. But the Isidore
house is a rare example of the whole body of an artist's output assembled
in one place. (See Leslie Dierks's Making Mosaics, p.15, and MM15, p.4)
invitation to attend the show and give a lecture came as direct result
of the success in France of Mosaic Studio's book for beginners, The
Mosaic Sourcebook (30,000 sold world-wide to date). Among the many intriguing
aspects of the exhibits by 150 mosaicists was that the amateur work
was often more inspiring and inventive than that of many of the professionals,
which should please quite a few of our subscribers.
two Pauls spoke on the practice of mosaic in Britain today, making the
point that one encouraging development is that joe public is now meeting
true mosaic not just in churches and museums, but in everyday places
like shopping malls and subways. One artist they met was actually worried
that the current wave of enthusiasm for mosaic, "the nineties' renaissance",
might militate against the production of great art in the medium. But
masterpieces would always surface, surely, even if the entire population
took up mosaic?
made Paul Siggins take up mosaic was his dad. He was a tile fixer, and
took his son on as an apprentice (with O Level Maths, Art, and Technical
Drawing, very useful this last) from the age of 15 to 20. On top of
that Uncle Barry made and sold stained glass, and Paul worked for him
as well, before setting up on his own.
A 'marine influence'
mosaic for Selfridges - ceramic, objets trouvés
of Paul's first mosaic jobs was making a cut tile floor for Manoly's
in Leigh-on-Sea, now a Thai restaurant. He used pretty large pieces
for that, and since then has gradually dwindled into doing mosaic proper.
Other jobs followed, and he found that he enjoyed using natural materials
like marble, slate and other stones.
significant break-through came when the fashion chain Wallis asked him
to do a mosaic for one of their window displays. The great thing about
this kind of work is that more often than not the clients positively
demand unconventional, eye-catching, in-your-face pieces. One thing
led to another, and Paul went on to make panels, vases, urns, mirrors,
etc., for various Wallis displays.
from other shops quickly followed: Selfridges, Harvey Nicholls, Simpsons,
Dickens and Jones, Liberty.
Cooper, an old friend, joined the firm halfway through the series, in
late 1992. He was supposed to be in charge of the marketing: mail shots,
hunting up new clients, all that. In fact the above ball was already
rolling to such an extent that he was asked to lend a hand making mosaics,
not selling them. He felt able to do so, because although he had a background
in the not frightfully artistic business of accounts, quantity surveying,
banking and advertising agencies, he did have A Level Art and History
of Art, and had always painted and made collages in his spare time.
And as we all know, the basic techniques for making mosaics can be picked
up very quickly.
is now Fiona, Paul Siggins' wife, who does the marketing and the accounts.
Detail of the
Dickins & Jones Argyle Street Panel
was particularly interested in a 6 x 1.2 metre mosaic they did for the
Argyll Street entrance to the Dickens and Jones store, opposite the
Palladium. This was a case where the clients initially gave them a free
hand, but the design changed quite dramatically as the clients realised
what they didn't want. The first draft incorporated various elements
of the store as a whole, and was in bold colours. Then it was decided
to concentrate on one element only, the perfumes on sale. So now you
had Lalique bottles, in long shot. Then the clients thought they preferred
subtle colours to bold, as they didn't want the customers to be so lost
in admiration of the mosaic as to be distracted from purchasing perfume
and other products. Next, close-ups of bottles were included, as well
as long shots. Finally, ribbons of colour, to bind the whole scene together.
20 drawings, 10 finished paintings - the full story of
evolution of this mosaic would be a study in itself. It was made from
Cinca ceramic, plus gold and silver, direct onto ply. The grout was
one the Pauls often use: ivory Bal Wide Joint, which has an attractively
- ceramic, gold and silver
are well aware of the distinction between mosaic as decorative art and
mosaic as fine art, and the lure of the latter is strong. Happily, they
are sometimes able to satisfy the urge, most recently in a mosaic for
a wealthy client who wanted a floor for the circular hall of his new
home. A few colour desiderata, but apart from that, carte blanche.
was a glass dome above the spiral staircase, and so the mosaic was designed
not only as an abstract version of the structure surrounding it, but
also as the embodiment of light, constantly changing light, cast shadows
and moving vessels. A major bonus was that for once you could look down
on the mosaic from a fair height, and appreciate it as a whole. Cinca
again, with thick-glass gold and silver.
up of Curved Light
got another chance to spread their wings when a customer requested mosaics
for his indoor pool and jacuzzi. He regularly visits South Africa, and
so Mosaic Studio came up with abstract images of earth and sun and water.
The deep, rich reds were tesserae cut from glazed Harmonie tiles, which
have a wide range of tone within a given tile colour.
Mosaic Studio work not only with ceramics and old tiles (of which they
have a mouth-watering collection) but with stone, vitreous, smalti,
and with mirror tesserae that were new to me. These are called Mirror-Flex,
and come in one-inch squares. They are available in clear mirror, but
also in mottled, peach and grey shades. (They can be ordered through
do the Pauls work together? Siggins does the initial measuring-up, but
developing the design is usually a joint effort, bouncing ideas off
each other. When they come to making the mosaic itself they do their
best to make sure their different "hands" are concealed. One will do
the outermost border of a circular pattern, for example, the other the
next ring in, and so forth. I was able to check this out by inspecting
their most recent job, which involved using the indirect method to replicate
a damaged circular floor mosaic, 6½ metres in diameter, for a shopping
mall. This had been a major challenge, as the original "opus" style
was most unusual: the tesserae consisted of units about an inch square,
plus ½-units, plus ¼-units. The challenge was to make the mosaic with
as little extraneous tesserae-nipping as possible, no matter how curvaceous
or detailed the design might be. Tricky. Opus horribilis.
& Water jacuzzi in Ceramic
for this mosaic they first made up their own template, and sent an identical
copy of it to the builders in the shopping mall, to ensure that the
finished mosaic would fit snugly into its bed. Clever.
six months of reproducing someone else's work left them hungry to get
back to creating their own. Cooper wants to do some small Pop Art panels
as a change from large scale mosaics, and Siggins - a Gaudi fan - would
like to do a big, maybe very big, exterior wall, perhaps as a community
project. The two Pauls are not clones.
Mosaic Studio, 54 Darlington Grove,
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex SS9 3LG,
tel/fax:01702 712111 - courses available