– the website of Alison Pierse. ABER, because Alison lives in Aberystwyth, DOO, because here you can see what she does, both as an art practitioner. DABBA is of course, because she is a dab-hand at what she does.
You will notice from the right hand header titles, that I give thematic walks in Aberystwyth, if this is your interest, please navigate to the walks page.
I teach and make mosaics. Why do I love mosaics? Mosaics are a form of Kinetic Art, they come alive when the light hits the tiles from different directions. I add iridescent tiles to ‘pepper’ the andamento (flow of tiles) within the mosaic; this emphasises the play of light. I also like the effect of mixing matt and shiny tiles to ‘pimp up’ the decoration. Some mosaics start from an objet trouve, a piece of glass, stone, rope or shell that I find when walking; these are the catalyst for some interesting mosaics that would not necessarily start with the usual process of design.
Once a year I give a pop-up studio in my garden in the town of Aberystwyth. Come along and see me demonstrating the technique of mosaic and ask questions
Above recent works: Sweet pea (sold), Covid chameleon (sold) and Winter Fox
How my work is made
Above: recent examples Sweet peas and pod, Covid chameleon and Winter fox.
Pieces always start with drawing or painting a design, usually in a sketchbook. For a direct mosaic, the drawing is transferred onto hardboard or overlaid with a plastic mesh substrate. The mesh allows a completed mosaic to be transferred directly onto a wall, to then be plastered or integrated within a wall tiling scheme. One the design and substrate decision is made I can start!
I then begin making the image, bonding the mosaic tiles to the mesh using a waterproof PVA adhesive. I employ traditional mosaic techniques to give a distinctive flow to the design. This is called ‘andamento‘. I use a mixture of cinca tiles (unglazed porcelain vitrified tiles from Portugal); broken mirrors – these can create reflective surfaces, giving greater radiance to the piece, polished vitreous tiles; glass tiles traditionally used for swimming pools and smalti; traditional Venetian mosaic pieces that can create a raised relief decorative effect within a mosaic. Over recent years, I have begun to incorporate glass fusions and create shaped mosaics; see the Kiwi polish, Covid chameleon, Tunnock’s teacake and fleur de lys. Fusions were pioneered by Martin Cheek and are glass pieces, layered with diochrome glass which are slumped in a kiln.
The final stage of a mosaic is grouting, this waterproofs the mosaic and fills in any gaps between the tesserae. It helps to strengthen and stablise the mosaic too. Grouting can be done in any colour, although I find that a mid-grey grout generally works best.
Occasionally, I undertake school residencies using mosaic as a tool to energise children to unleash their creativity. It is a tactile material, a mindful activity and can relate well to what they are learning in primary level history. It is also an excellent material to achieve big projects in schools such as centenaries. I call them my ‘bigger than Ben hur’ projects.
My teaching skills and the innovative ways I find to engage pupils, complement school assemblies and give context to what the students are learning in other areas of the curriculum. Working with the full school community; pupils, teachers and ancillary staff gives a sense of ownership – I become just the facilitator.
The Jubilee Mosaic for Felsted School, Essex was generated with the help of Laurie Plant, artist and ex-postgraduate student from Aberystwyth University’s School of Art, together with all the students and staff from the school. It was created over a completely bonkers week of frenetic activity. This piece is over four metres long and took four days to complete and one day to grout with a team of three grouters! The school commissioned me to produce designs to incorporate the centenary celebrations in 2012 and the Olympic Games; Felsted is a school with a strong reputation in sport. Quite a challenge! I chose Buckingham Palace at night, the celebratory fireworks and Damian Hirst’s ‘Spin Paintings’ of the Union Jack, used in the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. For each residency, my aim was to place secret references to the school within the piece only to be found by people who really look at the artwork. If you look carefully you will see a clock face; this was inserted by the Head Teacher as a symbol of her dedication to the school – she certainly worked around the clock!
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See my walks and teaching page for further information