A mosaic terrace

Jacques’ garage sits under a terrace at the side of the house, and in it he parks his two most beloved possessions. So when he noticed a steady drip (…splat…splat….) landing on the hood of the Four-Wheeled One, he sprang into action. Within days, he had found an outfit to seal the surface overhead with tarpaper and a layer of cement. “Aha!”,  I thought, “Do I spy a Blank Canvas?”


It may be hard to find tiny brass hinges around here, but oh, is this the land of textured surfaces!

Spanish pavement  Spanish pavement mosaics  Walls of Rome Spanish pavement St. Chiara, Assisi

And what about the mosaic masterpieces which are part of “our” rich cultural heritage!….

Roman ship mosaic, Rimini Girls with bikinis, Roman, Piazza Armerina, Sicily  Fish mosaic, Museo Nazionale Romano Three Kings, S. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna 

…who do I think I am, anyway, to meddle in such traditions?…. but wouldn’t it be criminal NOT to have some fun with such a promising surface? 

    A brief mosaic course in Rome (perfect for people wanting to copy Roman masterpieces, but not so inspiring for Free Spirits!) did at least cover the basic concepts, like preparing your surface, selecting and cutting marble, and choosing appropriate adhesives. I wasn’t so happy with the idea of ordering a truckload of precut 2″x2″ squares from Florence; it seemed kind of inhibiting, as well as expensive. Luckily I found a marble yard not too far from us, specializing in cutting marble for interior decoration. In their front yard was a mountain of broken trimmings and scraps awaiting removal. The boss gave me permission to take away anything I could use.

scavenging for scraps

Over the next few months, I made regular trips, filling buckets and containers with whatever interesting scraps I could find. There was always an abundance of Carrera marble and travertine, but sometimes you got really lucky and found bits of black, deep green, veined red, or yellow. The area in front of my studio became a no-man’s land as I chopped and sorted, thinking about what kind of design would best accommodate my unpredictable flow of materials. But I enjoyed scavenging and chopping, and luring unsuspecting house guests into action! 

  mosaic-project1 mosaic-hammer

 mosaic-project_0001_21   mosaic-project_0001_2_21

   The time came to take the leap. With a big squeeze bottle full of diluted ink, I mapped out a gestural sort of grid on the cement surface, going up to the top floor to squint at it from a distance. I was pretty sure I would find enough colored marble to make at least the lines of the grid, and there seemed to be no shortage of whites and beiges for filling each compartment. It seemed a loose enough design to allow for surprises along the way.

Mapping it out from top floor window

Visitors continued to lend a hand from time to time, but we were slowed down a bit by bad weather, and by the marble yard’s closing for the month of August.

 Mom comes to help Clara and Edith come to help


A visit to Grosseto with Mom to see Niki de Saint Phalle’s psychedelic mosaic gardens resulted in a surge of playful color near the middle, which had to be absorbed in the next few meters!

Niki de Saint Phalle, Grosseto

The whole project took nearly four months from start to finish. Here are a couple of views from the top of the house!

mosaic-terrace mosaic-terrace-2 mosaic-41

Unable to stop, with all those tesserae sitting, sorted, in their buckets, I did another smaller terrace up a flight of stairs….

upstairs-mosaic-2 upstairs-mosaic1

and STILL not ready to quit, I used up all the carefully rationed colored bits on smaller projects here and there.mosaic-pots 


And we spread the rest of the little pieces of marble into the ruts in our driveway.

The project was wonderful fun, and I have rarely felt so strong and fit and purposeful!








7 Responses to “A mosaic terrace”

  1. It’s inadequate to say this is beautiful work. You demonstrated the skills of chief executive, artist extraordinaire, and day laborer! I’ve been known to bite off big pieces from time to time, but none to equal this. Thanks for sharing. You also have the skills of a poet! Karol

  2. Wow!! Love the blog and it is hardly babysteps.
    In fact I am inspired to drop my site and do this instead. How cool. Love the terrace. What an undertaking.


  3. The jobs you give yourself are breathtaking. To me, handling concrete and marble seems easier than understanding the computer, which is so skittery that I think it will run away forever. It is a wow of an account of your artistic life. I send aawesome respect and a barrel of hugs.

  4. WOW. BETSY! What a fantastic account. The fact is, I had a friend over the other day, and when she was dazzled by your clock, I told her about your Body of Work, and the mosaic terrace, and then I fumbled around in my scrapbooks trying to find a picture and I didn’t. So now the full narrative and I love it. Keep it up. Love.

  5. Bets,

    Your web site is absolutely fantastic. The mosaic pieces are gorgeous, Win’s hat is adorable, the clocks are breathtaking and I am in awe of your talents. Your blogs are so interesting and it’s great fun learning about how you have created these masterpieces.


  6. What an amazing job you did! This is truly impressive 😉


  7. Hi Betsy, great account of your adventures in tessellation! My hat’s off to your courage in tackling such a large area. It turned out magnificently. As did all of the smaller surfaces, love how you worked BPLS into one *grin*.
    Did you have your guest workers sign a tessera somewhere in the terrace?
    That is certainly not the average online account of an art project! Great fun to see and dangerously inspiring for those of us with boring bathroom or kitchen tile; thanks for putting your record up to see on your blog!

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