Anew and original scheme of decoration has aroused much interest within the last few years. It is known by the name of "Marine Mosaics," and consists of a clever adaptation of shells, stones, and glass, strongly cemented, to form beautiful effects in colour and unique features in design. It is novel in showing a development in the penetration of light through objects so arranged as to illuminate in a pictorial manner the harvest of the sea. The transcendent beauties of nature cannot be equalled by artificial products; but the mediums for the construction of marine mosaics are all from nature's storehouse, the fields, the beach, and the sea.
After many years of experience, skill in utilizing these products has been assured by W. Cole Brigham, in his studio at Shelter Island, New York. For several years he has been experimenting until he has attained a degree of perfection which places the making of his mosaics among the fine arts.
At first glance it is difficult to understand how these beautiful effects in marine mosaics are brought about. The mosaic is composed of semi-transparent shells and pebbles, combined with rough or smooth glass, all of which are held together with cement, laid upon a background of clear plate glass. The cement gives the same effect as lead lines in stained-glass windows.
Much skill is required in gaining good colour schemes, as were these put together without regard to their subsequent effect when lighted they would be garish, but done in the way in which the inventor doe. them they are pictures in true colour. These results are brought about by a careful drawing and blending of accents, reproducing the sparkle and life of the sea in a unique and effective manner. The high relief of the shells, and the density and dark colour of the pebbles, together with the brilliant mosaics of glass, suggest action in a forcible and impressive manner.
Hitherto the gathering of shells has been confined to children or scientists, but now that the beautiful craft of marine mosaics has come to the fore, a new purpose will be given to the summer vacation spent at the shore, and delightful experiments can be made in the home. Although a mosaic made in this way closely resembles stained glass, the mechanical process is entirely different, and the result shows the sparkle and light so dear to the heart of the impressionist. The fact that cement is used in the place of lead makes a secure application for the small and irregularly shaped pieces of which the mosaic is composed. The foundation of plate or hammered glass should be three-eighths of an inch thick. Under this the design is placed, and then the shells, pebbles, and pieces of glass are laid on the glass, which covers the pattern. They are held in place by a narrow line of cement, which is put on with the brush. The cement must be coloured to be in harmony with the rest of the mosaic. Green is generally the colour chosen. The mosaics must be placed on the glass, and each piece lifted for an instant while the narrow line of cement is drawn for the purpose of holding each piece in place. These lines in coloured cement give the same effect as the lead lines in a stained-glass window, and the designs must be made so that these lines are an integral part of the whole.
There must be no smearing of cement behind the shells, and everything must be neat and taut. The line of cement which holds the shells in place is not more than an eighth of an inch in width. The design must first be made on paper, and each shell and pebble must be examined individually and very carefully, in order to determine its colour value, before it is placed on the glass. The cartoon can be placed underneath the glass, so that the worker can easily see the design, and fasten the mosaics in the proper location. The cement used should never be white, but stained, to combine with the general colour effect. Pale green is perhaps the best shade to use, as it combines well with practically any colour.
When the design is worked out with pebbles and shells, and the stems formed by small, irregularly shaped pieces of broken glass, any spaces left open may be filled with odd bits of broken glass. It would be well to make a colour cartoon suggesting the effect of the marble mosaics, and this will be a guide when the work is in progress.
The worker must display considerable skill in order to obtain good atmospheric effects. These are secured by the use of irregular bits of material. Pebbles in all sizes and density are available for the purpose, gaining perspective when they are of the same quality of colour. A cartoon in colour to suggest the mosaic when finished would be a great help in bringing about the desired result. It is essential in the making of artistic mosaics that good colour schemes be chosen, and the colours must be chosen with the ultimate view of their effect when lighted, as well as for their general pictorial effect. The density and colour of the dark shells, the high relief of the pebbles, and the brilliant particles of glass mosaics must be harmonized successfully in order to produce a finished and beautiful work of art.
Designs in fruit effects are usually formed by the adroit use of pebbles. The purple hues, so prominent in them, are particularly effective in forming a bunch of Tokay grapes, the tones blending in colour from the deepest purple to the most delicate pink. The stalks and stems are formed of bits of glass, each arranged in a manner suited to the varying width of the stems. Floral effects in these mosaics are obtained chiefly by the use of shells of the palest hues - crabs, scallops, spliny oysters, jungle scallops, and mussel shells, being so well adapted, owing to their exquisitely delicate colourings, for the formation of the petals of flowers. Any flower almost can be thus cleverly reproduced in shell forms - their odd shapes and different colours making them peculiarly adapted for this purpose. When the light filters gently through the colours are beautiful and varied, and one feels unconsciously, through this interesting artificial method of imitating nature, the purity suggested by the presence of the natural flowers.
Seascapes and landscapes, for window decorations, give the artist of these marine pictures opportunities to display brilliant effects. The rising sun is depicted by a bright spot of colour, and its reflections are simulated by bits of stone and glass. The trunks of trees are represented by razor shells, and their foliage may be rendered by the use of differently shaded glass particles.
Any girl clever with her fingers can accomplish wonderful results in utilizing marine mosaics. Not only may they be used for windows, bathroom and staircase windows particularly, but they make beautiful moving screens. Perhaps the fire-screen is one of the most effective displays for the use of these sea beauties, for when the picture displayed is viewed with the firelight in the background, the brilliancy and effectiveness of the colours is marvellous, the rich hues of purple and Pompeiian red - the bold effects of the high lights - are most striking. Lamp shades and candle shades may be made to form the same effects, and from these mosaics all sorts of interesting and unique features have been evolved to secure original methods in screening lights. Electricity especially gives a wide field for this work, and the beauty of the colourings formed must really be seen in order to be appreciated. Hanging lanterns for dark corners suggest a decorative note that is invaluable for artistic homes. These may be cylindrical, hexagonal, square, or like those used by sailors. They are usually painted black or green, thus throwing into relief the glass panels. Cabinet doors, yacht port-lights, and all kinds of transparencies are only some of the many uses to which these interesting productions can be put.
Years ago shells were used for windows. This new art is an advanced development in the study of the transparency of objects, placed in such a manner as to illustrate pic-torially the beauties of nature. This interesting scheme of decoration can be developed along original lines, which will suggest themselves to the worker, and the results will amply repay the time spent in working out the plans and making experiments.
The success that attends the making of marine mosaics is brought about by variations in colour and the depth of each tone. The deep red of the spliny oyster, when distributed among colours of varying degrees of depth, is superb, and the delicate effects, as shown in lily petals, may be secured by using mother-of-pearl to represent the pure white petals.
It is so hard to find occupations that are not beyond the ability of the daughter of the house, but I am sure my readers will be unusually pleased if they try this new and interesting work, requiring not only the knowledge of colour and design, but skill in manipulating pieces into a beautiful mosaic.
The illustrations of some of Mr. Cole Brigham's work show several ways of using marine mosaics. The double-light window is composed of scallop and mussel shells, the stems consisting of bits of glass, divided by-heavy cement lines. Those who are clever in making jewellery can add shells to form the wings of beetles and butterflies, but as this requires a knowledge both of jewellery-making and jewellery-setting, the girl craft-worker may prefer to buy some inexpensive jewellery, and replace the sham jewels with beautiful shells. The illustration of the flower-holders show the introduction of pebbles as well as shells.
Window Of Marine Mosaics Designed And Executed By MR. W. Cole Brigham Marine Mosaics.
The making of marine mosaics is a most interesting craft, and, when colour harmonies are understood, repays the time spent in evolving beautiful colour schemes. I would not suggest that amateur workers attempt to mount the lights, but vendors of lamps would mount the shades, and a glazier would set the lights in the window-frames. A good cement for holding the shells in place on the glass may be made from gelatine, plaster of Paris, and white lead. The paste must be made thick enough to hold the shells in place, but must not contain too much plaster to render it heavy. When of the proper consistency a dry powder paint may be added, after first being ground free of lumps with a palette knife.