Independence 2015: A Mosaic Symposium


What exactly is a symposium anyway? The Greeks invented it. One definition that I like is: an event that provided liberation from everyday restraints within a carefully regulated environment. These events are where we got the iconic images of men lounging in togas, drinking wine, pontificating and philosophizing. That’s not too far off the mark, actually. The aristocratic, all-male participants drank together, played music, and just generally enjoyed themselves in a convivial but carefully choreographed atmosphere.


The symposiarch, master of ceremonies, was in charge of how much or little water to mix with the wine that filled a large central krater. I can only imagine the power that guy wielded! The sharing of ideas and values was a central element of a successfully run symposium. It really was a brilliant invention when you think of it: control the drinking enough that everyone can still think clearly, play good music, and keep people fed.

One of the great benefits of living in a free society is how easily we can reinvent a traditional or textbook system and turn it to our own uses, without the constraints of dogma or getting stuck into too many rules. Our symposium is open to all peoples, regardless of orientation, aristocracy, or sex. Come one come all! The only requirements I can think of are an open mind and an interest in learning new things about this most ancient and modern of arts: mosaic.

Rachel Sager "Ode to a legacy" mosaic coastline map cartography

For many of you contemporary mosaic makers and enthusiasts out there, the education process can be challenging. Bettering yourself within the medium sometimes involves significant travel, taking a risk on an artist/teacher you may not be familiar with, spending your hard-earned money and time on a week or a day that you hope will pay off for you. The beauty of this weekend event is in its choreographed format that gives you, as a symposiast, the most bang for your buck. Three presenters—Sherri Warner Hunter, Cynthia Fisher, and myself—will be sharing our knowledge, stories, and techniques in a relaxed, fun atmosphere. We work hard to be independent artists and we want to share what we know that works with you. We will be talking about ideas like The Earth as your Shopping Cart, Sculptural Substrates, and Freedom of Choice as a Working Artist. The beautiful campus of Touchstone Center for Crafts will be buzzing with demonstrations, idea-sharing, and cross-pollination. It will be one big, boisterous mosaic party. The wine will certainly flow, although not until the evening hours, and the Touchstone chef will keep you well fed. We will wrap up the busy Saturday with a Pecha Kucha style panel discussion led by the Executive Director of The Society of American Mosaic Artists herself, Dawnmarie Zimmerman. If you have not had the pleasure of attending a Pecha Kucha yet, click here to learn more about this phenomenal new way of communicating ideas and realize what a perfect accompaniment it is to the symposium format. More fun and wine!

As if that isn’t enough to pack into a weekend, we are also hosting the first ever unveiling of The Touchstone Stump, a collaboration that I have worked out with blacksmith Dennis Gilkey.

Dennis Gilkey at the forge, Touchstone Center for Crafts Dennis hard at work

After watching my students struggle for years trying to finagle an appropriate base for their hardies, I decided that maybe we should create our own and make them available for purchase. Made of sassafras wood from the Touchstone property and encircled with heavy hammered metal to keep them from splitting, the stumps can be cut to fit your body mechanics on site. They even have two hammer holsters. If you are driving to the Symposium, consider this investment for your studio. I am pretty much in love with mine.

The Symposium will be sponsored by the wonderful people at DiMosaico, and Theresa will be there with all manner of hammers and hardies for sale at The Marketplace. I will have various substrate-building materials for sale and Sherri Warner Hunter Studios will be offering the always-in-demand mortar colorants and mesh tape, among other necessities for the independent artist.

I hope to see you up on the mountain on May 22-24!

Touchstone Center for Crafts forest path in autumn

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