The dog didn’t eat the homework. The homework ate the house.

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Christel Griffiths

Mosaic madness has become a Porterville woman’s legacy.

When her pottery passion became too expensive, Christel Griffiths’ husband suggested she should try her hand at a cheaper form of art. Little did he know that his world (and his house!) would be transformed into an exuberant mosaic statement.

Thus it came to be that Christel started modestly with a mosaic family tree 20 years ago. But pretty soon she turned her attention to tackling garden walls, paving and entire rooms at their Porterville house. To provide some perspective, it’s taken anywhere from a few months to several years to finish portions of the home. And sorting the broken pieces is by far the biggest time factor.

Mosaic history stretches from the Mesopotamian civilisation in 3 000 BC when the art was made of clay cones displaying geometric patterns rather than figurative designs. Becoming the leading form of pictorial art in the Byzantium age, mosaics were considered high artwork at that time because of their function as decorative ornaments for places of worship.

However, after being a bit passé for many years of late, the art form gained hype in March 2021 after Beeple’s Non-Fungible Token of Mike Winkelmann’s ‘Everydays: the First 5000 Days’ sold for the eye-watering price of around $69 million.

On home ground, Christel is an inveterate pro. Using tesserae such as paper chips, eggshells, ceramics, glass, leaves, stones, wood, tiles, or whatever she can lay her hands on, she plies her craft daily from nine to five.

“Many people are kind enough to donate their shards, unwanted ceramics, porcelain, tiles and bits of glass, so I’ve established a huge tesserae graveyard in the garden. These donations sure help to keep costs down.”

She explained that mosaic art was similar to painting, but with a more limited colour palette. “For instance, by using glass I can capture and reflect light for a unique effect. The basic concept of the art lies in the arrangement of gradations and diversity of forms such as square, round, hexagonal and abstract.”

Today Mosaic House at 55 Du Toit Street is a major tourist landmark – a colourful explosion that forces drivers to slam on the brakes. The interior provides even more wow. Table lamps, coffee tables, consoles, vases, bowls, mirror frames, floor lamps and fireplaces are all enlivened with Christel’s work. “Anything I could cover with mosaic I did.” she said.

Before the obsession began, Christel practised the art of make-up as a pharmacy beautician. Although her work is quite meditative in itself, she chooses to unwind with focused meditation. But nothing quite does the trick like a weekend away with husband Charles at their Elands Bay sanctuary.

FAST FACTS
Favourite West Coast place is Elands Bay
Best restaurant is Mosselpot in Elands Bay
I love eating messy, saucy pasta
My signature drink is white or red wine
Pets are two cats and three dogs

For a tour of Mosaic House @ R50 pp Mon – Sat, book on 073 2875940.