Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Head of Dionysus from Corinth

Hello all and welcome to this blog post!

Today I will be looking at this mosaic of the head of Dionysus, from ancient Corinth.

I picked it because I liked the pattern around the head, so I decided to do some research into it. Unfortunately, there are many pictures of this mosaic, but not very much information about it! I was able to find out that it is dated to around 150-225 AD, and that it was the floor in a Roman villa. I also found out that it is currently housed in the Ancient Corinth Museum, that opening times are 8-3 every day except holy days, and tickets are 6 euros unless you are over 65, under 18 or a student in the European Union, which sadly I am not!

What is interesting about this mosaic is that is recognised as being Dionysus rather than Bacchus, the Roman equivalent. When Greece was incorporated into the Roman Empire, many of their gods became closely linked with the Roman ones, for example Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno, and Dionysus became Bacchus. The fact that this is Dionysus instead of Bacchus could be an indication that the Greek gods lingered during the Roman empire. Alternatively, it could just be that because it was found in Greece, archaeologists dubbed him Dionysus and so Dionysus he stayed!

Anyways, super short today because I chose my subject matter poorly, so sorry for that. Tis still a very pretty mosaic and I would love to go see it one day!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Madaba Map

Hello and welcome to this blog post!

Today I will be looking at the Madaba Map, an intricate and interesting mosaic found during the construction of a Greek Orthodox in 1884, following the destruction of the city of Madaba by earthquake in 746 AD. It originally was part of the Nea Church, which was dedicated in 542 AD.

Now I say this is an intricate and interesting mosaic, and it is probably the most intricate and interesting mosaic in the world being as it is a map of the Jerusalem! We don't know who it was made by, but we do know that it was made between 542 and 570 AD, as no buildings build after 570 are on it. This means it it almost 1,500 years old. Unfortunately, after it's rediscovery in 1884 it was badly damaged by activities in the church, fires and moisture, reducing its size from the original 21 by 7 metes to 16 by 5 meters. Luckily, in 1964 90,000 DM (roughly £40,000 or $52,000) was given for the restoration, which was undertaken by archaeologists Heinz Cuppers and Herbert Donner. When complete, it would have had 2 million tesserae!

Reproduction of the mosaic, with credit to Bernard Gagnon

One of the many things that is interesting about this map is that it does not face north, as modern maps do, but instead faces towards the altar at the east. This means that the places the map depicts are in line with with the compass directions. The map depicts a large number of important biblical sites that were previously undiscovered, such as Askalon, the Nea Church and the Cardo Maximus, the latter two of which were found in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. It also showed a road running through the middle of Jerusalem which was later discovered 4m below the surface of a modern road!

All of the places on the map are labelled in Greek, including around 150 towns and villages. There are also descriptions of several cities including Gaza and the previously mentioned Askalon that are so detailed that they could almost be used as street maps. 

Location of John the Baptist's baptism.

This map is incredibly helpful for locating sites of biblical significance, which makes it incredibly significant for Jewish and Christian people alike. It is also the oldest geographic floor mosaic in art history which makes it significant from an archaeological and historical perspective as well! I personally am amazed by how accurate it has proven and the sheer scale - it must have been incredibly impressive when it was complete and I am glad work is going into restoring it.

Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed!  

Friday, 19 August 2016

The Basilica of San Vitale - Byzantine Mosaics


Today, I will not be covering just one mosaic, but a series of them in one of the most beautifully mosaiced places in the world - the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. As a basilica it is a deeply Christian building and that is reflected in the wonderful artwork on the walls, which is some of the best early Byzantine art in the world. Work was started on the church in 525 AD and took 21 years to complete, and cost up to 26,000 gold pieces, which shows the magnificence and scale of this building!

The basilica has something known as a triforium, which is an shallow gallery with arches that is embedded within an inner wall. Mosaics within the arches depict the sacrifices from the Old Testament, such as the sacrifice of Isaac. They also show Abraham and Melchizedek, Moses and the Burning Bush, the story of Abel and Cain, Jeremiah and Isaiah and representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel.

This one shows Abraham giving offerings to three angels on the right, and on the left God stopping him from sacrificing Isaac since he showed obedience to his will. 

This mosaic shows Moses, Isaiah, Abel and Melchizedek, as well as two angels holding a cross which decorated the top of each arc.

Moving into the presbytery becomes even more colourful and detailed. Hellenistic-Roman tradition involves bright colours and natural imagery such as flowers, birds (including peacocks), animals and stars, and all of these can be found in the vault of the presbytery. The leaves, fruits and flowers surround a crown encircling the Lamb of God.

As you can see in the above picture there is an arch above the windows on each side of the presbytery. Above that arch, two angels are holding a disk and to either side of those are representations of Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Bear in mind this is all mosaic, it is incredibly detailed and the amount of work that must have gone into it is awe inspiring!

Moving on around the basilica then we come to the triumphal arch, which is decorated with images of Jesus and his twelve apostles.

 It is also decorated with two disks showing the sons of Saint Vitale: Saints Gervasius and Protasius.

As you can see, the artists ran out of space on poor Protasius' name, and had to drop an S to the line below! Very unprofessional indeed!

Now, there are a fair few other mosaics in this basilica, but I want to do a separate blog post for those as they are even more spectacular historically than these, if that seems possible! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Earliest Mosaic - Ninhursag Temple

Hello all!

Today I thought I would take us back into the deepest depths of time to discover the first mosaic made out of recognizable tesserae, as opposed to pebbles. Now I know this means this isn't the earliest mosaic, but it did make a catchier title!

A little bit of background; this mosaic was found at the Ninhursag Temple (as you may have guessed from the title) in Tell al'Ubaid, Iraq. Tell al'Ubaid west of Ur, pictured on the map below.

The temple itself is dated to 2,500 BC, which is also the age of the mosaic, which is the Early Dynastic period in Mesopotamia, of which Iraq was once part. So this mosaic is over 4,500 years old!

The mosaic in question is rather unusual as it does not depict anything in particular. Nonetheless, it uses tesserae for decoration, so I think it counts! It is also unusual as it is a column, whereas most mosaics tend to be on square or rectangular surfaces. So without further ado, the Ninhursag Temple mosaic!

What is very interesting about this mosaic was how it was made. The inner core was a palm log which was then coated in bitumen.The tesserae itself is mother of pearl, pink limestone and black shale, a rather exotic and beautiful combination. Each piece of tesserae had a loop on the back which copper wire was passed through, and then the ends of each wire were twisted into a ring and pressed into the bitumen to attach the tesserae. This seems time consuming and complicated, and I can only assume it was to prevent the fronts of the tesserae from getting spots of bitumen on them! 

This particular mosaic was one of two columns that may have been either side of the entrance to the temple, although they were found out of place. It is 59 cm high and 31 cm in diameter, and was excavated by Dr Harry Reginald Holland Hall in 1919. That is a name and a half, right?

I hope you have found this blog post informative - I know I definitely enjoyed reading about it! 

If there are any periods in history you want me to look at mosaics before, please let me know in the comments!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Week ending 08/08/16 - Finished Work

Hello all! 

This is just a quick post to show you all the things we have managed to get finished this week in some detail. Once we have prices sorted out and better photos they will also be going up on Etsy, but if anything really takes your fancy get in touch and we will sort it out for you!

So, first of all, we shall start with the nicely summery bugs. 

This is Birdie, named after the cat from the Bones series by Kathy Reichs, and also because he is a ladybird and we love bad puns here! When we last saw him he still needed his face and one half of his body beaded, and to be edged, varnished and backed. He is now all finished! As we've had it asked, the windchimes are not double sided as this would make them rather heavy. 

Continuing on, then, we have Beetrix!

She did not need as much work doing, but she has now been edged, varnished and backed and is ready for a new outdoor home!

You know I was asking for names for the caterpillar keyrings? Well, we named a couple, and here they are: 

Introducing Candy and Coleman! Candy so called because she looks like candied flowers, and Coleman because that is the name of the grounds for Norwich football club, whose colours are green and yellow! These have gone from basically nothing to completed in a week, and it has been lovely to see them progress!

Moving on the from bugs, we have yet more summery things: flowers! Our two flowery tealight holders that I showed progress shots of during the week are now finished:

and are shown here with the electric tealights that they will be sold with. This is because varnish can be flammable and although we doubt that the amount of varnish used would cause an issue, it is always better to be safe than sorry!

Moving on from summer then and into our winter stock, as it is never too early to be prepared. These will most likely be going onto Etsy in September, but again, if anything takes your fancy let us know!

First of all we have "While Shepherds Watch", a windchime depicting the story of the angels telling the shepherds to travel to Bethlehem to honor the baby Jesus. 

Creating the sheep was an interesting challenge, but we are all incredibly pleased with how it turned out. 

We also have our owl tree decorations, William of Orange (named for his royal purple vest and bright orange spots) and Rastafowlian (because of his scarf!)

As you can see, William of Orange still needs to be threaded as we decided silver thread would work better with his fashion sense than gold, but apart from that he is all finished and ready to go to a new home! 

Finally then we have a more traditional Christmas decoration: this blue, red and gold bauble. 

Having been mostly beaded prior to this week, it has now been varnished and backed and is ready to go!

So there you go! Everything finished this week and ready to be listed. Tomorrow we will be showing off our new works in progresses on both here and Facebook, so stay tuned!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Zeugma - The City of Mosaics

In 2014, news articles ran about 3 new mosaics found in the ancient city of Zeugma, however these mosaics were not all Zeugma had to offer. In fact, it has the largest mosaic museum in the world, with 170^2 feet of mosaics! It is an incredibly interesting archaeological site, especially if you are interested in mosaics as we are here, so I thought I'd do some research on it and share my findings with you guys here!

First of all, Zeugma is located in the Gaziantep province of Turkey, as shown on the map below:

It was part of both the Greek and Roman empires at different points during it's life span, being founded by one of the generals of Alexander the Great in 300 BC. In 64 BC the city was conquered by the Roman empire, when it likely gained the name Zeugma, meaning "bridge of boats", due to it having a pontoon of boats across the river Euphrates. It was during this time that it became wealthy, and that the mosaics we are interested in first started appearing, as it was along the Silk Road connecting Antioch to China. 

However, what goes up must come down and in 256 it was invaded by the Sassanid king Shapur I. This was then followed by an earthquake which basically leveled those bits of the city still standing. Due to these twin calamities, the city never recovered it's previous status - which would later turn out to be a good thing! 

After the Roman empire split in two, Zeugma remained part of the Early Byzantium/Eastern Roman Empire, however due to ongoing Arab raids it was soon abandoned. It was resettled in the 10th and 12th centuries by a small Abbasid group. Finally, a small village named Belkis was settled in the 17th century, which remained standing until the 1990s, which is where the story really gets interesting.

Although Western scholars have known about Belkis for a good two centuries, and the Turkish locals even longer, it has received very little attention except from tomb raiders and looters, who carted off priceless mosaics and artefacts from the ruins. Below is a brief timeline of events that really plunged Zeugma into the limelight:

  • 1987  - Gaziantep Museum excavate two tombs that have been broken into by looters, revealing statues and frescos. 
  • 1992 - The watchman of the site reported renewed illegal activity, and a trench dug by antiquity hunters was found in the center of the city. This trench was continued by the Gaziantep Museum, uncovering a Roman villa with beautiful mosaic pavements such as the one below depicting the wedding of Dionysus and Ariadne.
  • 1996 - Construction of the Birecek Dam begins, revealing mosaic fragments. The museum was lucky enough to get the work halted while they rescued the mosaics, revealing a Roman Bathhouse, gymnasium and 36 mosaic panels. However work inevitable continued and threatened to flood the entire city. As such, frantic rescue excavations were carried out on the city before it was completely submerged. The site is divided into 3 zones: Zone A, to be submerged July 2000, Zone B, submerged October 2000, and Zone C, which luckily escapes being submerged and so work can continue indefinitely. 
  • 1997 - A Bronze Age cemetery is found in the clay quarry area in front of the dam. There were 320 graves dating back to the early Bronze Age.
  • Winter 1998-99 - Museum staff work throughout the winter, a bad time for archaeology as I'm sure you can imagine, in order to rescue the archaeology both from the impending threat of drowning and the constant threat of looting. They recovered the now famous "Gypsy girl" mosaic fragment as well as the Akratos Mosaic:

  • 1999 - Two more mosaics are discovered, one showing Neptune, Oceanus and Thethys and one showing the Minos bull. The museum director decided to once again work through the winter, and uncovered a fountain with a statue of Apollo and another mosaic depicting Odysseus taking Achilles to Troy. 

  • July 2000 - Zone A is submerged, and a larger focus is put on Zone B.
  • October 2000- Zone B is submerged, and work moves to Zone C, where it continues to this day. 
The construction of the dam was done with the best of intentions  - to provide hydro electricity for the population and irrigation for the parched landscape. However, it ended up costing far more than the Turkish government initially realized in priceless archaeology damaged and possibly lost forever. It also submerged the local village of Belkis, which was rebuilt but still caused a lot of outrage. While we are lucky these priceless mosaics were able to be recovered, other sites are not so lucky, which paints a bleak picture for the future of the past.

Zeugma, submerged. 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Minecraft for Mosaicers.

Hey there and how are you all doing today?

I am here with a bit of an update today as per usual!

So I expect you are wondering about the title Minecraft for Mosaicers right?

Well I am a gamer chick as they call it although I haven't felt young enough to be classified as a chick for many years. Nonetheless I spend my spare time playing computer games and my favourites are World of Warcraft, Minecraft and The Sims 3, although I haven't played the last one in a while because my PC is playing up some.

I justify the time I spend playing (because you know, I can't just take time off right?) World of Warcraft and Minecraft by using them to help the business one way or another.

A few years ago I published my first World of Warcraft book called A Beginners Guide to World of Warcraft and although it is no best seller, it usually brings me a couple of pounds of royalties every month. Now I know I need to update that book and sort out the front covers, but while I am playing World of Warcraft in my off time, I am also taking copious notes for the several other books I have planned for the future.

This series of books is sold very cheaply and is mostly about my experiences on the game. They are not official gaming guides, because they are just my opinions rather than official truth. I wanted to make some books that were very cheap but just showed all the tips and techniques I have learned myself, playing this game for the last 7 years. Its a players perspective and I try to include all the things I teach new players such as my boys in order to make the game as enjoyable as possible.

So onto Minecraft. Now we have a few official gaming guides for Minecraft and to be honest there is only so much you can say about the game. It's not like World of Warcraft in that there is much less story to go on with. Now lots of people make YouTube videos of their game play and I guess profut that way, but I still haven't learned how to do that yet.

Instead I created a world called Station after the very creative and hairy guys from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey - a favourite film of mine. I am using this world to make picture of things that I am interested in but in a strange way. Basically what I have been doing is finding cross stitch or perler (hama) bead patterns. I have then been copying them, flat at the moment (although there are plans to do 3d designs in the future as well) onto this world. I have this great idea of a kind of art gallery that can only be viewed from above (via glass walkways eventually) that is also a kind of theme park.

Its a super flat world which is great because it means endless opportunities to make these exhibits and there will be parts of the world made especially for different categories of art.

So how does this relate to mosaicing? Well basically, by doing these creations on Minecraft I have instant access to the patterns for the purpose of mosaicing at a later date. At the moment I am working on the Pokemon section as I get used to doing this work but other plans are for a Disney sections, a flowers and butterfly garden, animal world and so many other ideas that I can't keep up with them.

Now my eventual aim is to create my own designs and then use the designs I make on this world as patterns for mosaic pictures of one form or another.

I will hopefully be able to make videos of tours around the theme park, villages that spawn on the map will be used as visitor centres, food places and suchlike and since there are two double villages in short distance from my spawn point I think there is going to be plenty of scope for attractions. I am doing this world on Creative mode and I do my best to set the day and weather so that I am uninterrupted as little as often.

It isn't easy work but it is very satisfying. If you think about standard mosaic tiles (as opposed to micro mosaicing materials) they are usually 1 cm squares which is more or less what the blocks look like on Minecraft. So these pictures are eventually going to become patterns that I can really easily see and read (as my body does it's standard lets see how much we can ruin for you today stuff).

So an artist is never finished working no matter what she tries to play, but at least it keeps the work interesting and I have so much variety in what I do.

I am going to get my IT guru Jess to show me how to screen shot the designs so that I can show you them one by one, so watch this space for the pictures.

In the meantime if you are interested in seeing some of the patterns I have planned, why not check out my Pinterest board Minecraft Patterns?

Hope you are having fun in whatever you are doing,

Bright Blessings, Nici xxx

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

Or not as the case may be.

People approach Christmas in different ways, some people get all their Christmas shopping done in the January sales each years, some people do it all on Christmas Eve. Many start shopping from about September and gradually build it up over the ensuing months. How do you approach your Christmas shopping? Pop an answer in the comments box below if you like.

For people in the crafting business it can be a year long process. Last November, once Halloween was over I started making things for Christmas but in my previous truly useless fashion I didn't get many done and certainly none listed.

Well 2016 is a new year and I am transforming myself into a new me. You can probably tell by the way I am posting on here that things are getting much more serious although I did have the same problems with Valentine's Day and Mother's day.

I have reached the conclusion though that I just need to make what I can and list what I make and people will see it build up over the year. So all the recent Heart Art I have been doing such as Light Hearted (below) will be on and ready for next Valentine's day.

What I am doing now is splitting my work time between things that are non seasonal and things that will be better sold at a particular time of year.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Focus for 2016

Hello and welcome to today's update on the Mostly My Mosaics blog!

It has, as predicted been a long time since I last wrote on here, something that really needs to change. But today I hope to be able to fill you in on all the things I have been doing towards the blog and shop in the world of mosaics. This has been quite a bit, let me tell you.

Over Christmas work on more or less everything else was shunted down to work on the mosaics but as usual my enthusiasm was greater that both my ability at the time and the time available. It has been much the same for both Valentine's Day and Mother's day. I mean oh yes I got a lot of heart things finished now, but not in time for V Day and as it's Mother's day in the UK next Sunday I doubt that I will have that much on the shop by then....

But, and it is a great big but, the lack of things in the shop in no way reflects the things that I have actually completed or are in the process of being finished.