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Mosaic Craft by Karen Costigan

of All African Mosaics


30 May 2009



There is a definite philosophical aspect to mosaic work that can be expressed in the various approaches that are used to create the colourful creations that have decorated the homes and structures of so many civilisations, cultures and communities in different eras extending over millennia.


Somehow a big picture, constructed from apparently unrelated pieces, reminds us how so many interrelated components go towards the completion of any facet of life on our complex planetary world. And we see too how even the absence of just one piece is able to upset the net effect.


But from another point on view, sometimes pieces of some broken treasures glued together with lots of imagination and insight (plus a little cement) can be used to create a new masterpiece, like a ceramic Phoenix, a new artwork that can easily exceed the beauty of the original items.


Karen Costigan, a mosaic artist, has her own insights into this philosophical side of mosaics, but equally recognises the more basic value of mosaic art as a way to add colour and beauty to all manner of items in everyday use. She will be demonstrating her mosaic techniques and ideas at the last Country Craft Market before the winter recess, on 30 May.


But the demonstration will be a double billing as Laurette van der Merwe whose demonstration was washed out when rain forced the cancellation of the market of 25 April, will also be demonstrating her teabag folding as reported on prior to the 25 April market - see below.






Karen is a self-taught mosaic artist. She was born and raised in Cape Town and became interested in mosaics when some impromptu urge started her patching together these colourful jigsaw puzzles from broken tiles. “My first ever mosaic was on a glass jar”, she tells. “That did not work out very well but I enjoyed the creative release it gave me so I continued to want to do more.”








Being a widow, Karen recognised many parallels in her art and her life. “There have been many moments when my life has felt broken like mosaic pieces”, she tells. “And as I knew it needed the cement of love to put it together again, my family was and remains very important to me.”










“My two children and I have realised what loss is and how precious every little bit of life is. Every moment is a valuable piece of this grand picture, just like the mosaic pieces”, she adds. “So while others may consider throwing these pieces away, I use the broken bits to creating something new that retains the essence of the past, but produces a positive, fresh and beautiful picture from the brokenness in life.”










“As my mosaic journey proceeded, I embraced the art of pique assiette to give new life to damaged or discarded china. I like to use a variety of china plates, both old and new. I look at it as the past blended with the present, becoming whole again, brought together to form lasting art. I’m drawn to the textural and reflective qualities of smalti and love the fun pops of colour that these pieces add. I am also exploring mixed media embellishments.”






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Karen believes there is definitely something therapeutic in mosaic art. The realisation that broken dreams are not the end of the road, but that they produce new segments that may well be combined in better ways to produce better options. “There are many people in South Africa who are broken”, she adds, “and it is my desire to work with these people and through the art of mosaics, to help them put their broken lives together again with new visions, new hope and new purpose.”






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Karen is most appreciative of any support that helps her achieve this dream and offers of any and all materials and tools from broken cups and tiles, tile cutters, grout and polishing tools are put to excellent use.


Needless to say, mosaic work makes one look at recycling in a completely different way. “Collecting materials is a huge part of being a mixed media mosaic artist” she tells, “and I love the fact that I am recycling as I work on my mosaics.”


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“This is especially true of found objects, anything from old taps to driftwood that I find on lonely stretches of beach, all become my treasure.”


With winter just ahead, Karen recommends family time making mosaic items in the warmth of your own homes, to create lasting memories from perhaps some old broken ones.





At her demonstration on 30 May, she will show visitors to her stall, the techniques needed and discuss courses and materials that will assist with such aims. Her varying range of mosaic items will be on display as inspiration, and perhaps one or other piece will be just the special gift you need for a special person.




Last Updated 15 October 2016 18:30