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Shattered beauty
By Kathleen Ostrander

A Springfield woman breaks things to make things — and it’s art.

Jeannette Hoss is a mosaic artist. Mosaic art involves creating an image or pattern with small pieces of glass, stone, tile, beads or a variety of materials.

Mosaic art has been around for 4,000 years. The Greeks raised the technique to an art form using small pieces of textured stone to create detailed scenes. Artists soon realized complicated scenes didn’t play well on floors because of wear. Tiles were used to create intricate floor patterns, and wall mosaics took on depth and brilliance with small pieces of glass placed just so to reflect light.

Hoss uses ceramic and glass pieces from dinnerware along with glass tiles. She is working with smaller items now, but she’s done a floor mosaic and is working on a large mosaic that will be a backsplash in her brother’s home. 

“I buy the plates and things that end up in the mosaics at thrift stores, or people give them to me,” she said. 

Sometimes a single plate is too nice to break, which leads to a little side hobby — a plate collection.

She has plates that belonged to her grandmother, and they will become part of the backsplash in her brother’s home. It isn’t a full set of plates, and rather than let them sit and gather dust, a little bit of family history will go into the mosaic. 

“Some of the plates are already chipped and can’t be used, so this will re-purpose them into something,” she said.

Hoss creates the basic pattern and then assembles the large mosaic on pieces of mesh, which she attaches to the wall. 

“You can break the plates, but if you want them in regular shapes you have to use tile nippers to cut them. I try to preserve the maker’s mark to use somewhere. Red and orange plates make great mosaic pieces, and those are the hardest colors to come by,” she said.

“I draw the basic design and then start shaping the pieces. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and sometimes it sort of takes a life of its own. You can start with the basic design and then the shape of the pieces can move you a different way,” she said. Hoss likes using swirl patterns because it puts movement into a piece.

“The way you space the pieces can change the design. You can make a line with the grout or glue and then space the pieces out a certain way to get the design the way you want it,” she said. “You can make the grout part of the design if you want.”

The feel and look of a piece can change when a color is added, she said. “Sometimes the tiles just want to go a certain way in the design, and sometimes it’s the color that takes it a certain way,” she said.

Hoss said sometimes she starts a piece and then puts a picture on the Internet to get feedback before she continues. She also works in ceramics but prefers slab construction to working on a wheel. 

“You can make the designs on the clay and then put it together quickly. It’s better for instant gratification,” Hoss said with a laugh.

“I think ceramics are interesting because the clay looks so different before you fire it. You can glaze it and expect it to look like something, and then the heat changes it.”

A ceramic medallion or two might find its way into a mosaic; Hoss stays flexible that way.

She said she’s not sure if she wants to try to open a studio in the future or just keep working from home. Right now, her work area is a delicious hodgepodge of colored tiles, plates, adhesives and works in progress.

“I don’t know what I want to be doing in five years,” Hoss said. “I want to be creative, happy and doing something beneficial.”



E-mail Jeannette Hoss at jnetwrites@gmail.com

Story published Friday, May 7, 2010 ( Volume 5, Number 3 )

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