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Mosaics and Writing


The word ‘mosaic’ conjures some meaningful and beautiful imagery for me. One time stands out in particular.

I taught Secondary School Visual Art for more than twenty years. One year I invited a mosaic artist from Whitehorse to my classroom in Watson Lake, YT for a  week-long intensive workshop. Students had to sign up and commit to all-day immersion in the medium for the entire week. It was heaven! As we learned about proper techniques and a few tricks of the trade, each student made several small individual projects. However, the crowning achievement was a large mosaic made by the entire group that would be hung in the foyer of the school. The final product was stunning. It was our rendition of Tom Thomson’s ‘The Jack Pine’ done in shimmering half-inch iridescent glass tiles imported from Italy. It was truly magnificent and hangs there to this day, a testament to the students whose names grace the attached plaque.

Mosaics are an ancient and sometimes forgotten art form. In essence, they’re made up of tiny individual pieces when viewed together create a whole. They can be made purely for artistic purposes, like our ‘Jack Pine’, or can be quite functional like the trivets, coasters, and garden stones the students also made. In some cases, the design must be carefully mapped out, taking into consideration the space between each tile. Too much space and the image loses detail and may appear incoherent and choppy. Even random designs require some forethought. The grout can crack if it is spread across too large an area. On the other hand, tiles placed too closely prevent the grout from getting in between, while wiping the grout is its own special skill. Finally, the grout needs to be sealed for longevity. In short, there is a fair amount of technique involved.

I can’t help but see some parallels to my life as a writer. Writing takes effort and commitment to put each piece of the mosaic – each word, sentence, paragraph, chapter – together to create the whole. A quality piece of writing often takes advance planning. Even writing by the seat of one’s pants requires editing and afterthought. Technique is important no matter the style or the genre. (And I can still use the wisdom of the experts.)

In the end, my words will hopefully come together with just the right amount of space and detail to create something beautiful and meaningful.

Apologies for the rather poor photograph. It’s the only one I could find of the finished piece… 


  1. Pam M. says:

    I never realized how much work went into a mosaic. Very interesting and I like the parallels to writing.
    Pam M.

  2. It’s a good take on the Jack Pine, one of my favourite paintings.

    The first mosaic I can think of here is at a hospital. It’s made up of a multitude of small photographs that take the shape of the nun who founded the hospital.

    1. tracykrauss says:

      thanks William. The photo is not very good, however. It is very beautiful in real life but the picture doesn’t do it justice.

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