Our 4th ARTicle is by Hella Steins. Hella lives and works in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and has been making mosaics for more than 12 years now. In 2006 she founded her mosaic company Smashing Stones. Since then she not only continued developing her own mosaic style but she also has been sharing the joy of making mosaics with many others by giving workshops and courses, both in Amsterdam and in Greece.
Mosaics – What Else?
As long as I can remember I have had an urge to create. When I was a young girl, my mother used to draw a lot and I soon picked up on this habit and started drawing too. During my teens I also took up writing, did some beadwork and enthusiastically continued to draw. Unfortunately in my twenties things rather stagnated and I was quite unproductive for some years. The longing for a creative outlet did linger on though. Everything changed again during my early thirties when a friend of mine asked me to join her for a mosaic workshop. Although I had never considered making mosaics before and I had no idea of what to expect, I did not hesitate for a moment, being full of hope that I would like it. Well, I did not only like it, I absolutely loved it, even more so than I had ever loved making drawings or writing stories! A whole new world opened up for me, filled with cutting and nibbling and playing around with tesserae; a world in which I felt perfectly at home. I experienced a sense of calmness that I had rarely experienced before and which seemed to make all daily worries disappear.
After finishing my first mosaic, many more followed. In the beginning I only worked with ceramic wall tiles, later I also wanted to incorporate glass and mirror in my pieces. Naturally this meant that I had to master new techniques so to this end I joined a very instructive stained glass course. Nowadays I not only use ceramic tiles, mirror and art glass, but also – amongst others – millefiori, smalti, glass fusions, beads, old jewellery parts, pebbles and stones. I especially love combining different materials in one piece of mosaic because of the endless possibilities these combinations seem to offer. The different textures and surfaces, the way the materials do or do not reflect the light, the differences in height etc.; all these aspects contribute to the tremendous sense of joy I feel when making mosaics.
One of the other things that definitely attracts me to mosaics is that there are so many possible applications. When I ran into some beautiful and inspiring jewellery blanks a couple of years ago I was absolutely delighted. These blanks presented me with a new and welcome challenge: making mosaics on a much smaller scale than I was used to. Although my first mosaic jewellery pieces were mainly made up of “crazy paving”, I started experimenting with more elaborate designs later on (even more so after I had bought my first glass grinder). When making mosaic jewellery, I generally begin with determining the colour scheme. This phase – which sometimes takes me quite a while – almost always consists of trying out all kinds of colour combinations by shifting around a lot of different pieces of glass and other materials. Then, after I have (finally) come to a decision, I cut, nibble, grind and sometimes even drill the first few pieces in the shape I want them to have and as soon as I am satisfied with those pieces I adhere them to the jewellery base. From that point onwards I usually just “go with the flow” and see where that takes me.
Not only do I find it very gratifying to make mosaic (jewellery) myself but I also love teaching other people how to do it. I have been giving mosaic courses and workshops for more than five years now and I sincerely hope that my students leave class with the same happy feeling I experienced for the first time all those many years ago: “Mosaics – What Else?”.