One of the few schools with training for mosaic artists is the ‘Scuola Mosaico del Friuli‘ in Spilimbergo – in the North of Italy. Located about 100 km from Venice.
The Maestra or Maestro training takes 3 years. There are students from all over the world, the lessons are only given in Italian and you cannot be above a certain age to be admitted to the program (I thought 27 years old). If you are older, you must come up with very good reasons to be allowed in.
In the first year the students get to work with the Roman mosaics and what is called Faccina – this name is derived from the man who invented the mosaic paper in the 18th century. Faccina style means that you make the mosaic ‘indirect’, the stones are glued to a specially designed paper – mosaic paper – with a flower paste. Later the mosaic is cemented and what you have made appears in mirror image. The big advantage of this invention was that the mosaic could first be completely made in the studio and then when everything was ready, people went on site to place the mosaic. The disadvantage is that much of the vividness of the mosaic is lost, also because with this technique the stones are placed very close to eachother (see example of the hand).
The Roman mosaics are made indirectly. And have other characteristics. Which are extensively discussed in the workshop ‘Ancient mosaics’.
In Spilimbergo all students make a mosaic of the same theme, after all they are there to learn a craft.
In the second year, the students work with portraits of both animals and humans. If you take a good look at the cats face, you can see how perfectly transparent the eye seems to be. For this, a lot of small stones are placed next to each other. Not only are various materials mixed for this technique, but the ‘tesserae’ that are used are very different in format.
In the third year they make ‘Contemporary mosaic’ where the artist gets a central place. They work with a very diverse number of materials. This style of mosaics is actually still very young. Only in the last 10 years has there been a shift in mosaic training. With less emphasis being placed on mosaic as an immigration art and a pure craft, but mosaic as an art form. Beautiful works that you can hang perfectly on your wall as a work of art in itself.
It is very difficult to photograph this well, so if you are planning another trip to Italy, then definitely put Spilimbergo on your program and go take a look for yourself. 2 floors full of mosaics + the entrance hall, the stairwell, the floors (often made in terrazzo), the columns outside, and of course the large number of works that can be admired there. I assure you, you never saw mosaic like that. People who are not really in to mosaics and come there for the first time usually say: “I did not know that mosaic could also be this”.
In the meantime, I can no longer count on one hand how often I have been there, but every year I look forward to admiring the new works. The school also publishes a yearbook every year, presenting the latest works. Which you can order from there website.