Somerset-based mosaic artist Kate Rattray is taking part in a cultural exchange between British and Greek mosaic artists, culminating in an exhibition running at London's Hellenic centre from 19 - 23 July, at Athens' Michael Cacoyannis Foundation and The Municipal Art Gallery of Mykonos.
We catch up with her about the project, and how she became a mosaic artist.
How did you get started with mosaic art?
It all began in 1994 when I was living in the school house next to a primary school in Devon with my partner and our first two little boys. I was continuing my art practice making collages and photo-montages after leaving art college five years before, and I asked the headteacher of the school if I could make some art with the children.
I imagined we would create collages with photos and comics and maybe a few leaves. (There were enough leaves in that playground to make a palace for Andy Goldsworthy and I'm sure Mrs. Baker, the caretaker who swept up the leaves every morning would have been only too glad for me to make him one, if it got her off that job for a day or two!)
But the headteacher walked me outside, pointed to the red brick front wall of the school and said “can you put a mosaic on that?” Without hesitation I agreed to do it, it sounded like a good idea at the time!
Not having a clue how to build a mosaic I went to the library where I found many old and informative mosaic books. I also sought advice from a couple of builders who were building a new house in the village. They showed me how to mix up a mortar and they built a screed onto the wall free of charge.
The children brought in crockery and china, and collected pebbles from the river, and I found a stained glass artist who let me have his offcuts that I sifted out from his cigarette buts and ash.
On wet days we made the mosaic indoors on paper (indirect method) and on sunny days we installed the sections and mosaiced around them directly onto the wall. It was exciting and challenging and took much longer than expected, so I was running workshops to finish it in the summer holidays.
I remember the moment when I knew I wanted to continue making mosaic art - I was working on the sky after the children had gone home and I mixed a perfect mortar mix that was so pliable and easy to spread onto the wall, then when I pushed in the pieces of stained glass I noticed how beautiful the colours were and how the light played on the surfaces. It was a magical moment and I knew it was right.
How did you find Artfinder?
Just browsing the internet for places where I could sell my work. It appealed to me more than other online shops as I liked the way it was set out and the artist's pages looked good – the photos were sharp and in focus and you could see the work close up. Artfinder continues to look good, which is just so important to show the buyer beautiful and detailed images of the works.
Tell us about Mosaic Odysseys? How did you get involved?
I was called one evening by London mosaic artist, Norma Vondee, and asked if I would like to take part in a festival of mosaics held in London, Athens and Mykonos. Since I asked her many years ago to take part in an international mosaic exhibition I was planning (which unfortunately never came to fruition), she has always encouraged me to take part in whatever opportunities pass her way.
The project was thought up by another UK mosaic artist and curator, Aliyahgator, whilst attending a talk in London about the Byzantine mosaics of Thessaloniki. The talk was so inspiring and the mosaics were so vibrant and colourful that she wanted to find out more. She contacted the International Association of Contemporary Mosaicists who put her in touch with some leading mosaicists in Athens.
Aliyahgator began to acquire some knowledge about the contemporary mosaic scene in Greece, and to make friends with Greek artists. She was amazed by the variety and versatility of work she was seeing, and thought that it would make an extraordinary exhibition in London.
Tell us about the international aspect of the project?
We aim to promote a cultural exchange between Greek and British mosaic artists in order to develop friendships and a professional network between us and an opportunity to showcase our works together.
There are 11 of us showing our work. The Greek artists are Ioannis Touliatos, Artemis Klitsi, Eftychia Finou, Vasso Spanou, Lydia Papadopoulos, Alexandros Bassadis. The UK-based artists are Dugald MacInnes, Nathalie Vin, Aliyahgator, Arianna Puntin, and myself.
Each artist will be exhibiting new mosaic work inspired by their own personal interpretation of the theme Mosaic Odysseys.
What can people do to get involved / to help the project?
We're currently looking for sponsors for the project, for more information on that visit our website: www.mosaic-odysseys.weebly.com. Also please follow us on Twitter or Facebook, and of course come along to see the work in person!
The first exhibition will run for a week at the Hellenic Centre in London starting on Tuesday July 19th and finishing on Saturday July 23rd.
Meet the artists: Tuesday 19 July, 6.30pm-8.30pm.
The festival will then move to Athens with an exhibition at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation from 9 - 18 September, then to the Municipal Art Gallery of Mykonos, from 23 September - 3 October.