Since ancient times the art of Mosaic has played an important role in the decoration and artistic expression of homes, churches, and public places. The Greeks were the first to use the technique in their extensive use of pebble mosaics. They continued later by doing wall panels using marble and stone tesserae. The Romans followed using marble and glass. In fact, we see the use of mosaics throughout the world continuing on for centuries. Then the Aztecs finally brought the art to three-dimentional objects. During the middle ages the Byzantine Empire really flourished with their elaborate use of mosaics. In modern times Gaudi in Spain carried these techniques forward with his famous works in Barcalona.

Today we see the contemporary mosaic movement flourishing. It seems like people are mosaicing everything! As we go through Art Galleries and Crafts Faires, we know that the time has come for yet another movement of modern mosaics. As we view mosaics we can easily compare the tile in mosaics to the brush stroke in painting. For me the seduction of mosaic lies in the saturation and purity of color.

There are many things to think about when you are designing a mosaic work. Of course, the first is design...then the materials you will use...and then the colors you desire. The way that the individual mosaic pieces—known to us as the tesserae—are laid down on the work is of great importance.

TESSERAE (pronounced "tessera") is a Latin/Roman word meaning "cube." These cubes are the basic building blocks of Mosaic and consist of a number of materials, including glass, ceramic, marble, stone, pebbles—virtually anything can be used to do a mosaic and any combination of materials is quite acceptable. Feel free to experiment.

ANDAMENTO is the word which describes the general "flow" of the mosaic—the movement line of the tesserae.

The laying down of the tesserae is known traditionally as the "opus." Different opus result in a different flow or look of the piece. By being familiar with, and understanding the results of using the various opus, one can pre-determine the ultimate outcome/look of their work.
OPUS REGULATUM is when the tesserae are laid out in a regular grid—both horizontally and vertically. It was a Roman technique and was used to fill in large expanses of background.
OPUS SECTILE This is when one tessera forms a complete shape. For instance, if a fish is made from one piece of glass, it is considered opus sectile.
OPUS TESSELLATUM uses tesserae applied in straight rows—either horizontally or vertically. This opus results in a "brick wall" effect. Make sure that none of the tesserae line up across both of the rows as this will catch the eye and draw attention.
OPUS PALLADIANUM is the term used for an irregular laying down of the tesserae. It is sometimes called "crazy paving." In this laying of tesserae, it is especially important to have a regular width of the interstaces (gaps).
OPUS VERMICULATUM is the opus which outlines the shape of the mosaic motif to create a halo—or aura effect. It emphasizes the design and gives it a bit more of its own energy. Vermis is the latin word for worm. In case you don't like worms, think of vermicelli and put a piece of spaghetti around your design!
OPUS MUSIVUM When the opus vermiculatum is extended out so that the entire area is filled, this area is then referred to as the opus musivum. This gives the piece a really lively sense of movement.
OPUS CLASSICUM This technique combines opus tessellatum with opus vermiculatum. This technique creates a very strong, sharp and clear image.

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