Therapuetic mosaics – an invitation to you…

I have mused for years about why mosaic making is so therapeutic an art form. Having recently undertaken the process of applying for a Masters in the Neuroscience of Mindfulness (with research on the role of creative making), I took some time to organise my thoughts on the subject.

therapeutic mosaic

The reasons are likely to be varied and intertwined in different ways. There is little scientific research on why art making generally, let alone mosaics in particular, is effective in bringing about positive neuropsychological change (a theme for a Masters thesis maybe?!)  My musings lead me to consider that the therapeutic nature of mosaics is in the essence of the making process (slow, meditative, absorbing, physical, bringing together mind and body) as well as in the symbolism of the mosaic medium (making a whole from disparate, broken parts). Perhaps, by expressing ourselves in mosaic, we are also externalizing those intangible internal processes that go on within us by using the most solid and tangible of art forms?  This last point was beautifully illustrated by the words of one of my mosaic students about her experience of creating her first mosaic:

“Creating this mosaic was unexpectedly therapeutic for me. The image is of a tree shedding its leaves in autumn, symbolic of transition (I  am in a period of transition which has led me to give up a career I once loved, so it hasn’t felt easy). I think the choice of image was the starting point of the therapeutic process. I had a really clear idea of how I wanted key elements of the picture to appear. For example, it was important that the tree, representing a person (or myself), should appear really vibrant and strong. The falling leaves represent the shedding of the old garb / way of life and it was important to me that the leaves – and the image as a whole – should appear beautiful, ie: transition is a natural part of life, is a beautiful process and essential in order to give way to new life. I have also tried to evoke a sense of wind (life’s forces) and the tree, although strong and solid, is slightly slanted as if bent in the wind. I have tried to make the sky to the top right slightly brighter as if the sunshine is trying to poke through, ie: bright and positive things are to come.   The process of thinking about and creating the elements of the mosaic has helped me to better accept and enjoy the period I’m in and ultimately be more forward looking. I certainly got more than I bargained for!”.

autumn tree 2

In conversation with this student, she spoke about how the process of making – the choices she had, the slowness of it, how absorbed she became in making, how meditative she found it – were so much intertwined with its therapeutic benefit. Her words arrived in my inbox the evening before my interview at Kings College London. My head was in books, examining the role of art-making in creating a state of mindfulness and well-being and her timing could not have been better!

Having taught mosaics for many years, with 100’s of students having passed through the glittery shards of my classes and workshops, I now smile in recognition at how almost everybody exhales the words “This is soooo therapeutic!” when they begin to mosaic – an experience I am sure I share with mosaic teachers all over the world.

I loved the comment by one  participant in my Mosaic Taster workshop the other day, who said, quite simply,

“This is very good for the head, isn’t it?

Its the first time I have relaxed all week!”

 

autumn tree 3

Having taught mosaics to community groups such as refugees, families at risk, abuse survivors and also many helping professionals and  ‘Joe Bloggs’ on my courses, I know that there are a multitude more such stories.

And that is where you come in!

  • Do you have your own story of how mosaic making has helped you?
  • Have you found mosaic making to be therapeutic, calming or meditative?
  • Do you use mosaic to deal with stress, change and difficult feelings or memories?
  • Do you have a story of how mosaic making has supported you through difficult times (be that the process of making, the symbolism of the mosaics or what the finished mosaic meant to you)?
  • Has mosaic making increased your sense of well-ness, of YOU-ness? Has it helped you to feel more connected, more related?
  • If you are a mosaic teacher, do you have similar stories?

If yes, I would be honoured to read your story. My hope is to publish a book of stories about the transforming potential of  mosaic making.

But at this stage I am just putting out a call and collating stories. I will not publish anything without your permission (anonymous contributions are fine).

You can send stories – be they a couple of sentences or long pieces of writing (with or without pictures) by:

1. Writing in the comments of this blog post which is immediately visible to any reader

2. Emailing me privately at concetta@glitteringshards.com

Please feel free to put out this call on your own networks / Facebook pages etc..

Thank you!

3 Responses to “Therapuetic mosaics – an invitation to you…”

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  1. DH says:

    I also think often about the therapeutic effect, the making of mosaics have on myself. The following are some of my thoughts.

    -To give something that is broken and useless for many people, a new, beautiful form. To give value to something and someone, even when it is a “lost case”. It symbolizes to never give up.
    -For me the therapeutic effect of mosaics is also caused by the colours, because usually I use very bright and intense ones that give me the energy I need.
    -The feeling of the glass pieces, mounted on the board, when the hand touches them. They are at the same time somehow sharp and smooth and that excites my skin.
    -The potential dangerousness of the glass and it’s fragileness at the same time. You have to become friends with it, to know how to handle it not to be cut. There is a deep connection between me, the glass and every glass piece I cut.
    -The repeating movement while cutting small tesserae leads me in a meditative state.
    -My ear likes the “click” of the cutting tool.
    Mosaics are for all senses.
    -The effort needed to bring the tesserae in the desired shape. Sometimes it takes many minutes until one piece is exactly fitting in the mosaic. Often I take it off again, even with the glue already on it, and shape it again or leave it aside.
    -In many hours of concentrated work, I experience the “flow” moment for prolonged periods of time. Mosaics are very good for easy distructed minds like mine.
    -I see the progress on the work I have made a day. This gives me a feeling of satisfaction of achivement.
    -I keep all of the glass, every single piece has worth for me, I don’t know when, but it waits for its moment.
    -The theme of the mosaic. It is an art, where it is very difficult if not impossible to make something with a negative expression, so also for the other persons mosaics can be therapeutic to look at.
    -The feeling that the mosaic is almost indistructable for many many years. I’m excited that once someone else will find a mosaic of mine. It is a connection with people in the future.
    The exciting moment after the grout is put on: first all of the piece is covered with “mud” and then, after polishing it, it starts to appear and to shine and you see the whole piece, but it is always somehow unexpected and a bit by chance, how it will look.

    My first memory is one with glass. I was about 4 years of age and in our hometown there passed a parade on the day of the 3 Holy Kings, on horseback and in beautiful dresses. The most exciting thing for me where the pieces of an crystal chandelier that the horsemen dropped on the streets, passing by. I think they should symbolize the treasures they bring with them. I managed to collect three of the diamond shaped pieces and one of them I have still after 45 years.
    Later, I always carried a small glass marble in my pocket that I played with my fingers. That kept me selfassured and centered.
    The third experience, the most intense, was a visit to a church in Vienna. When coming in, I saw the most beautiful stained glass window, like a mandala, in happy colours. Then, I turned around and it came as a shock: On the opposite side of the church, behind me, there was a glass mandala, made in dark, very intense colours. This opposite was so deep that even now I remember the awe this experience provoked in me. This feeling appears again, when I’m doing mosaics.

    So, with these stories related to glass of my childhood, I wanted to show, that me myself, I’m also a kind of mosaic, with an big amount of pieces still unknown to me. Every piece needs shaping and polishing to shine, each piece is necessesary and worth being kept. Pieces of glass are a connecting thread that goes through all my life. They hold me together in rough times. Life is a mosaic and mosaic making a reflection of it.

    This is why for me the making of mosaics is very therapeutic. It gives me stableness, centeredness, connection and inner peace and… I create something beautiful.

    • Concetta says:

      Dear DH

      thanks so much for this amazing, eloquent and powerful description of the power of mosaic making. You really summarise so much of the salient points in your writing and the way you describe your relationship to glass – particularly the piece of crystal that has ‘followed’ you is beautiful. Thanks for taking the time to write this and share it with others. I really appreciate it.

      Concetta

  2. Concetta says:

    I just want to check in to say thank you for all the emails that have arrived in my inbox since I wrote this blog post. Beautiful stories of the power of making and of mosaics. Thank you all for sharing and keep them coming!

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