A longtime arts and crafts teacher with over 36 years of experience in the classroom, I became interested in integrating mosaic into my teaching practice after completing the Spontaneous Mosaic Workshop offered by artist Ilana Shafir. Following the seminar, I began working with the principal of the local school in Ashkelon, Israel to develop a new curriculum of Spontaneous Mosaic, now integrated into the Plastic Arts department. This year, we debuted the new approach within my classroom. The Plastic Arts department includes children between the ages of 12-18, who work for an hour and a half each week on drawing, sculpture, sketching, and now mosaic, in classes of ten or twelve students at a time. We encouraged the students to use a diverse range of materials: broken ceramic tiles from construction sites and stores, colored clay, pebbles, pottery, and shells found on the local seashore. They explored different methods for breaking the materials, organizing the composition, attaching the materials, and putting the finishing touches on their mosaics. They were also taught safety precautions.
To allow students the opportunity to experiment with different kinds of mosaic during the year, we kept personal work surfaces small, enabling the completion of each piece within a reasonable period of time. The first assignment was for students to experiment with different materials at random on rectangular surfaces of different sizes. All of the children, with no exceptions, had a positive experience in the face of this new, spontaneous art form. Through their work, they explored approaches towards patterns, color schemes and contrasts.
The first assignment was for students to experiment with different materials at random on rectangular surfaces of different sizes. All of the children, with no exceptions, had a positive experience in the face of this new, spontaneous art form. Through their work, they explored approaches towards patterns, color schemes and contrasts
For their second project, the students were presented with a subject from nature, but given no preliminary drawing. Each student was asked to plan the picture according to his own taste and abilities, collect the necessary supplies, and create their composition, taking into account the shape, color, and application of material. The work process was long and each week we made small progress, but the measured pace gave students time to think, change, add, or take away materials. Perhaps because their work in other areas of art requires total precision, the students found it difficult to begin a project without some thematic direction. This challenge only increased with age; the older the child, the more difficult they found it to be spontaneous in their artwork. By working with mosaic, the students learned to be more open in their approach to art-making; in the future, I hope to teach how these methods can be applied to other areas of their studies, as well. This work generated by this year’s class was shown within the final exhibition of the Plastic Arts department, as well as throughout the school building, generating much excitement among the student body. Already, additional students have expressed interest in learning this new field, with one class proposing the creation of a mosaic wall as final project for their tenure at the school.
Working in art therapy for children, adolescents and adults, I decided to offer my younger students the opportunity to try the medium of mosaic, in addition to other art forms. Among the students were children between the ages of 7 and 13, as well as my three grand- children, ages 3 and 4. The materials at their disposal were different stones, shells, pieces of tiles, pebbles, and ceramic shards. Nothing was planned in advance. The children placed their materials on a board and organized them however they desired – without gluing. They were encouraged to rearrange them over and over across the surface. Only when they said that they were finished were they given another board of the same dimensions, on which to affix the composition. Together, we determined with which section to begin gluing, spread ceramic glue on the correlating section of the clean board, and transferred materials from the original board to the new permanent base. With time, the students learned to affix the materials themselves. In each session, they worked on an additional section of the creation. Most requested to return and work on an additional mosaic. I observed that older children (ages 7-12) showed a tendency to begin with symmetrical work, but in the second stage developed an openness to more freeform abstract works. The younger ones (ages 3-4) initially laid the stones in an arbitrary fashion, then slowly developed composition and organization. In both cases, the process of working sequentially provided students with a feeling of positive development and growth.
SPONTANEOUS MOSAIC METHOD IN THE ART SCHOOL OF ASHKELON I found that working in mosaic has many advantages for children, including improvements in: Self-expression and Positive Feedback Working with mosaic gave the children the possibility to express their personal taste, whether in abstract compositions or a subject of their choosing. In selecting materials, colors, and shapes, the children found an opportunity to express themselves freely without fear of failure. The results in mosaic are always thrilling, as the materials interact in new ways, giving students a profound feeling of satisfaction. Additional improvements in self image came from the appreciation and admiration of family and peers, who were consistently impressed by the children’s creativity. Sense of Control Over Progress The slowness inherent in the process of mosaic provided students with a strong sense of control over their own work. Mosaic is a medium in which small decisions are made constantly, allowing children to take the initiative and manage their own progress. The child has the ability to evaluate their work along the way, to find good and bad points and choose their next step accordingly. During the week, they have the opportunity to dream and think about their work until the next session, with a sort of delayed gratification. Each student works at his or her own pace, without competition, seeing the results of their own individual efforts. Assumed Responsibility and Learning The medium of mosaic presented the children with an opportunity to develop new skills specific to the task at hand – to gather and cut materials, to glue cleanly, to repair, to arrange objects according to their own concept or pattern. Each of these is an area where there is no firm right and wrong, allowing the children to see improvement within their own personal development, rather measured against peers.