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Emile Norman: Endomosaics and a Life by His Own Design

Emile Norman's Masonic Temple Window
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Emile Norman’s Masonic Temple Window via wallyg on Flickr

I read that Emile Norman, mosaic artist, died on September 24, 2009 at age 91.  I was not familiar with his work, but was intrigued to read about his “endomosaics.”  Endo means “inside” and that’s exactly what his mosaics were about, a technique he developed making store displays in New York City.    He took fragments of stained glass, shells, plant matter, stones, and for this window from the Nob Hill Masonic Temple, soil from all the counties in California(sent to him by Masons!) and Islands of Hawaii, and sandwiched them between two layers of methyl methacrylate(plastic to non-chemists).

Norman was commissioned by the Masons to make this mosaic in 1958, and he worked on it for almost 2 years, with his life partner Brooks Clement.  I admire his creative energy, his improvisational spirit, as if he were a geological force, creating sedimentary rock.  Conservators at the Architectural Resources Group started restoring Norman’s mural.  Plastic was exciting technology in 1958, and all the preservation implications not understood, but the Masons had the savvy to ask him to write down all his construction materials and methods and they kept the notes in the Temple’s safe.

Emile Norman lived in Big Sur, and his neighbors Michael Tucker and Jill Eikenberry produced a PBS documentary on his life, Emile Norman:  By His Own Design.  This is a courageous way to live, by your own vision and design.

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