I first came across smalti in Venice on my honeymoon. Exploring the less busy streets, we found a dark shop of vats, filled with coloured glass from Murano - the neighbouring island, famous for its glass making. The depth and vibrancy of the colours were breathtaking - a heavenly pick and mix! - and I have been smitten ever since.
With the proceeds from my first ever commission, I bought some authentic smalti, which are more rectangular pieces of this glass mosaic tile. When the parcel came, it really was exciting, and to open it, exhilarating! The colours! The nuggets of loveliness! And yes, I marked the moment with a photo!To put smalti in a historical perspective, they were originally used in mosaics created during the time of the Byzantine Empire - 330 -1415. They were made by mixing molten glass with metal oxides for colour; the result was a cloudy mixture that was poured into flat slabs and then cooled, and finally broken into individual pieces. The molten mixture could also be topped with gold leaf - very expensive! During the Byzantine era, Constantinople became the centre of the mosaic craft.
These days they are made by pouring molten liquid poured and cooled in trays, resulting in the pieces, like the ones you can see in the photos.
Working with smalti can be quite challenging. They do snip easily in straight lines, but are all different depths and heights, which makes it very interesting - like making your own jigsaw puzzle!
In my work with smalti so far, I haven't used grout, so emphasising the vividness of the colour mix. It is a real treat and privilege to work with them, and I look forward to creating some big stunning pieces in the future.