Made in England mosaic mural

Organic Originality

Domestic mosaic by Emma Biggs: a wall panel for a kitchen in New Jersey.
Domestic mosaic by Emma Biggs: a wall panel for a kitchen in New Jersey.

One of the joys of Diary of a Tile Addict is the ability to bring ceramicists and mosaic artists, well known in their own field, to the attention of a global audience of tile enthusiasts.  In this post I am concentrating on Emma Biggs, a professional mosaic artist who set up the influential company Mosaic Workshop in 1987.

Sartor Resartus mural by Emma Biggs
Sartor Resartus mural by Emma Biggs

Emma, who has been working solo since 2006, is acknowledged for her complete mastery of colour and pattern.  While she began as a fabricator and mosaic maker for architectural contexts, her personal work has increasingly focused on material culture and the social history of making.

Wharf Walk by Emma Biggs
Wharf Walk by Emma Biggs: 13 pavements in marble and Venetian glass smalti based on the history of goods traded through London’s docks.

In an illustrious career, Emma has created many mosaics for the public domain, including some striking works commissioned by public art bodies.  Some are situated outside, like the Mosaic Rill in Sheffield, or the History Pavement in Gosport’s Timespace Area; while others have been designed for an interior context, like Wharf Walk pavements in Jubilee Place, Canary Wharf, or the Sartor Resartus murals.

Residential installation by Emma Biggs at Orme Square
Residential installation by Emma Biggs at Orme Square

However Emma also relishes residential commissions and believes that there is something particularly appealing about making work for someone’s home.  “While it reflects the sensibility of the artist, it must also respond to the taste of the client, and the challenge can lead to real discoveries, and even to new friendships,” explains Emma.  She has produced works for clients in a number of countries, and this variety illustrates the true diversity of the art of mosaic.

Mosaic for the entrance to the Groucho Club by Emma Biggs
Mosaic for the entrance to the Groucho Club by Emma Biggs

Emma has also delivered a succession of stunning projects for commercial enterprises, notably clubs and restaurants.   Her work clearly demonstrates that mosaic can be a wonderful and long lasting decorative floor or wall surface, bringing colour and pattern to an environment.  Her mosaics for Kettner’s Restaurant in London, or the Kuda Hura Hotel in the Maldives, vividly demonstrate these qualities.

The Rill public art project in Sheffield by Emma Biggs
The Rill public art project in Sheffield by Emma Biggs

Emma also collaborates with her artist husband, Matthew Collings, on some striking geometric paintings that draw depth from her background as a mosaicist but also provide a deep well of inspiration for today’s commercial tile designers.  Working as Biggs & Collings, they are represented by London’s Vigo Gallery.

Tree of Life, Baldock Ground by Emma Biggs
Tree of Life, Baldock Ground by Emma Biggs

Biggs and Collings are interested in something they have noticed by looking at art from the past.  Art, as it used to be understood, has come to an end.  But what strikes them is that old ideas and habits of mind are hard to shake off.  Former ways of thinking constantly influence behaviour today.  You could say that an example of this phenomenon is the way the aestheticisation of the art object has been replaced by the aestheticisation of the art experience.  The thorny issue of how the past is present in what we, as a society, see and do, and the way in which it may differ from what we believe we say and do, is at the heart of Biggs’ and Collings’ work.

 

emmabiggsmosaic.net

emmabiggsandmatthewcollings.net

A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, December 2017.

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