The creative process for smalti mosaics is different from my etched or leaded glass work. In my other glass art work, cutting, line placement, color and texture is largely determined on paper prior to creating the design in glass – although some changes occur as the art comes to life. For smalti mosaics, tesserae is cut from hand poured smalti from the Orsoni Smalti Veneziani foundry in Venice, Italy. The hand made smalti varies in size and color. Today, one of the colors I am working with has four different shades for the same color number. Details for the mosaic's form, general design layout and colors are determined before any smalti is cut. Before I begin a mosaic I have a sense of where I want to use which colors and how I envision the andamento to run. Andamento is the flow of the tesserae. It's the artistic design element that carries the eye through the mosaic. It's the movement and a major part of the life of the mosaic. The other critical component of a smalti design is the blending of colors. A mosaic as a whole is best enjoyed once you step back when the individual colors blend together to make an image somewhat like today's pixels on a computer. The difference is that the smalti mosaic has wonderful visual and physical texture that gently glistens in the light.
For this mosaic, I am constantly referring to the scaled drawing and stepping back to look at the mosaic by way of a photograph or viewed from a step ladder. Few lines are marked on the board the mosaic is being built on. The color is not drawn out on the board. The andamento and color blending are created right then and there. I might layout the color ways for a two to three inches out at a time, then go back to cut and fit the smalti.
So, for now, it's loose, but not exactly spontaneous like all mosaics, inch by inch, but for nearly forever.
And here, Oliver doesn't want to miss a thing as he waits for me to wrap things up for the evening.