Ravenna is a paradoxical little Italian city. It is relatively small by northern Italy standards, yet it used to be the capitol of the Western Roman empire towards the end. It is considered the mosaic making center of the world, but everything is relatively inexpensive here. I've been here before, but I really enjoyed it the second time because of the class I took.
When I first arrived at the Luciana Notturni school in Ravenna Italy, I was a bit nervous. At first glance I just noticed a very feminine looking dress made of dainty glass in the window and the sign on the wall for the shop which was a bit girly.
But looking further in, I was relieved to see great executions of classic mosaic pieces, so then I knew I had come to the right place. I was also almost an hour too early because I lost my sheet with the begin time, so the locals were gawking at 'the stranger' hanging out on their street as they went to work.
Eventually, people from the school began to show up and I had a chance to talk with a highly experienced teacher at the school, Brunie.
The class itself was directed by one of the luminaries in the mosaic and art worlds, Luciana Notturni (pictured below). This lady has restored ancient mosaics and created numerous award winning works of art, the work from her studio is highly sought after. During the class, she would stop by and give practical lessons as work assignments were progressing. Notice the cool 'Gypsy Girl' mosaic copy from Zeugma, Turkey in the background there?
So for an entire week, several technical aspects, fundamentals, and 'best practices' of mosaic making were covered in the class. Things like transfering images to lime, gluing a temporary binder to lift the cut pieces, permanent binders were all covered.
A delightful and vivacious historian, Manuela, who's picture I don't have gave great background on the development of mosaics over time. She might well have been the most knowledgable person in the world about mosaic history, and her presentation was just a joy to listen to.
Unfortunately, I couldn't go on her tour on the last day of class in the afternoon since I needed to get back to Venice to pick up my glass ordered at Orsoni.
This was time (and money) very well spent, and I can't wait to work using some of the new techniques learned in the Ravenna class.
In the image below, a student cuts stone for the first time with the little hammer and hardie that we all used.
A very wide array of materials were available. Not just glass, but rare marbles and other stones lined several shelves in bins everywhere. Wow, I thought I had a pretty good color selection of materials until I went here...
Sometimes, when there were very large pieces, we'd use the 'big guns' cutter like below. I need to get one of these...
Here is the classroom environment, where we did our daily work.
Here are some of the great shop artists and teaching assistants.
One of the projects was to think of an idea to put into mosaic, and use a modern cement binding system. I put off my design for too long, so at 6am, I woke up and it occurred to me that it might be funny to put a modern object into an ancient looking mosaic. So, I sketched the television in my room quickly... I call the finished work 'Ancient Technology', which CRT televisions kind of are now. : )
Here is one of the great artist teachers, Anna, who is working on a commission for the shop here (it has been censored, because someone else owns the work, not because it contains nudity or something like that).
Here is the work that I copied in glass smalti, It's from the 600s in a church in town. I liked the colors. Note: this is not the correct way to set down the hammer (martelina).
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