This Week's Poll



-Coffee portrait by Je’ Czaja

By Je’ Czaja

 Making art is part of being a whole human being, but since each human being is unique, your art may be painting, music, poetry, or landscaping.

In Africa, one entire neighborhood, both homes and garden walls, are painted with colorful designs.

This Ndebele tradition started a hundred years ago, when the natives were fighting the Dutch colonizers. The designs were actually a secret message, such as “Meet me at sunset down by the river with your spear.” The Dutch thought they were just doing some home decorating, so they left them alone. This art is the work of the women, who pass on their skills to their daughters and grand daughters. Eighty-one year old Ndebele artist Esther Mahlangu has been commissioned by BMW, has recently completed a world tour, and now runs an art school for young people in her native village.

Across the world from the Ndebels and sixty miles east of Krakow, Poland, is the painted village of Zalipie, covered top to bottom with flower designs. The culture in Poland is very different from that of Africa and the designs are different, but the impulse is the same. Far away in Kuwait, wife and mother Lidia Al Qattan had two problems. Her little girl kept drawing on the walls and her husband was often out of town on business. So she spent the next ten years covering all her walls, inside and out, with seventy tons of ceramic and mirror tile designs.

The Mirror House is now an internationally known landmark. Artists in New York, Brazil, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere have covered their homes in mosaics. Florida has several, notably Whimseyland in Safety Harbor, Florida, which is open to visitors.

Recently a donor gifted Suwannee River Studio with many boxes of mosaic tiles. Every day I went in to clean up and every day I stopped to try to make a mosaic, resulting in a worse mess.

One mess was generated when I grabbed a random board and made an abstract amaryllis design, inspired by my neighbor Pat Mosely’s garden. The next day, Pat was walking past the studio, carrying table legs that needed painting. I mentioned the mosaics and she expressed interest in learning to make them. I grabbed my amaryllis mosaic to show her and shockingly, it fit perfectly on top of her table legs! The finished product is now at the Studio.

Art, like any human endeavor, has its fads. A volunteer mentioned that mosaics are probably a fad. While it is true that some art forms rise and fall in popularity, I don’t think an art form that has been around for five thousand years could fairly be called a fad.

Some frugal modern mosaic artists recycle yard sale dishes into tiles, by placing them in a bag and smacking them gently with a hammer. Tiles can be glued to almost any firm surface and after drying, can be grouted just like bathroom tiles.

YouTube has lots of do-it-yourself videos on the subject for those interested. Have a great week and keep arting

Je’ Czaja is the instructor at Suwannee River Studio. For more information call 229-375-9276.