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Collage Meets Glass: Les Gemmaux de France

Pont de Grenelle (Grenelle Bridge) Les Gemmaux de France
Pont de Grenelle (Grenelle Bridge)(1959). Design by Louis Gilis; technique invented by artist Jean Crotti (1870-1958); panel assembled by “gemmists” in the Paris studio of Roger Malherbe-Navarre called Les Gemmaux de France. Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. Photo by Wayne Stratz.

This piece caught my eye at the Corning Museum of Glass.  It was mounted in front of a lightbox and the colors of glass emerged in glowing layers.  Before I started making mosaics, I made collages with magazine paper and the Gemmail technique is like having those scraps of paper turn to glass.  Artist Jean Crotti wanted to incorporate light into his paintings in a new way and began working with thin glass glued and then fused, and called it Gemmail from combining the French words for gem and enamel(Gemmaux in the plural).

Crotti sought advice on the logistics of his technique with his neighbors, the Malherbe-Navarre family, physicists studying light and fluorescence.  Eventually Roger Malherbe-Navarre became the primary maker of Gemmail, and artists like Braque and Picasso were enchanted, and wanted to translate their paintings into glass and light.

A reviewer of a set of Gemmail windows, Winefride Wilson from a 1964 issue of Tablet, was ambivalent, torn between the wonder of the effect and concern that it reminded her of childhood kaleidoscopes, and hard to take seriously.  I have no such reservations ~ I am on the side of wonder.


Jean Crotti and Georges Braque, ca. 1956 / Guy Suignard, photographer. Jean Crotti papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


Pablo Picasso: Le Gemmail

A Brief History of Gemmaux, Corning Museum of Glass

Jean Crotti Papers, Archives of American Art




Transformations Art and Craft Show 2013 Featured Artist: Sally Stang and Her Floral Mosaics

BigOfeather by Sally Stang.
BigOfeather by Sally Stang.

Lambertville artist Sally Stang creates pressed flower collages, which she calls “Fleurage.”  She also calls them “floral mosaics” because that is what they truly are – an arrangement of floral bits and pieces with the addition of some butterflies, feathers and the occasional cicada wing. Sally has been making pressed flower pictures for about 35 years.  She was inspired by a cover of “Horticulture” magazine which featured the work of Harry White who did portraits and other unusual designs using pressed flowers. She had always loved floral arranging, so the idea of arranging “flat flowers” was attractive.  Her first pressed flower entry in the Philadelphia Flower Show won a 2nd prize, which propelled her to do more work.

Flower 1 by Sally Stang.
Flower 1 by Sally Stang.

The biggest hurdle with pressed flower art is that the flowers fade. If she piled flowers on top of each other, as Harry White did, they would eventually fade into mass of beige and dull greens, losing most of that beautiful color. So, Sally has spent much time experimenting with how to preserve color. None of the books on flower pressing had good ideas, but one British woman (the Brits love pressed flowers) said that she used a Q-tip and applied tempera paint powder (the kind we had in elementary school) and that gave Sally the idea of using pastels, which are pure pigment. Each petal and leaf is rubbed with pastel “dust” – she uses the softest pastels, so there are no hard bits to tear the petals.  The colors hold fast for decades. After she applies the pastel, each bit and piece of flower is then glued on acid-free matboard, then framed up under glass.

Red Wing Up by Sally Stang.
Red Wing Up by Sally Stang.

Sally Stang has an eye for making the spaces in between the materials as beautiful as the flowers themselves, and I love her undulating shapes. Transformations 40th Annual Art and Craft Show, November 8-10, 2013, Hopewell Train Station, Hopewell, NJ.

Transformations Featured Artists:

Connie Bracci-McIndoe(pottery)

Susan Nadelson(hand dyed and handspun yarn)

Bernard Hohlfeld(artistic woodturner)

Amy Turner(weaving)

Ron Dombrowski(wood carving)


Transformations Art and Craft Show 2013
Transformations 40th Annual Art and Craft Show, November 8-10, 2013. Hopewell Train Station, NJ
John Cage Chess Pieces

Margaret Leng Tan(1945-): Avant-garde Pianist and her Reconstruction of John Cage

John Cage Chess Pieces
John Cage Chess Pieces


Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 21, 2013.

Stratoz and I took a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum, and saw the Dancing around the Bride exhibit, about 4 artists who enjoyed working with each other, inspiring each other and playing with their art forms of music, dance and visual art.  I was intrigued by the room of art inspired by chess, and the John Cage work made of bits of music notation in a light-dark chess pattern.  Reading the tag, I discovered that for many years the general assumption was that the music was not “playable” but purely visual, but pianist Margaret Leng Tan transcribed it into a score.  She deciphered the original scraps of paper, like making an aural collage, or cryptography of assumptions.

Margaret Leng Tan is originally from Singapore and came to the Juilliard School in her teens and was the first woman to earn a doctorate there in 1971.  She collaborated with John Cage for many years, as well as becoming rapt with toy pianos, and transforms them into full musical expression.  I remember the toy piano I had as a child, in a vivid blue, and how it was within my grasp, the right size for my reach.  Here is a video of her playing Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles on a toy piano:

Margaret Leng Tan’s Website

The Artist’s Way By Julia Cameron and the Accidental Artist

Collage circa 1997 While Reading The Artist's Way
Collage circa 1997 While Reading The Artist’s Way

When Abby Sernoff of 111 Collage Design and I had a chance to meet, we discovered our shared experience with The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron, and how this led us into collage.    I got my copy out, and looked in the index, and “collage” only has one mention, in the chapter, Recovering a Sense of Connection, as a kind of pictorial autobiography, with past, present, future and your dreams.  That one exercise opened up a whole world of visual expression for me, a language I didn’t even know I knew.

I was reading The Artist’s Way in 1997 because I wasn’t writing poetry, and I was searching for ways to move toward my writing, rather than wrapping myself in avoidance.  I had gone from getting my MFA in Creative Writing in 1992, to going to Library School in 1993, to getting my first library job at the reference desk of the University of Scranton in 1995, and I felt lost, as if I wasn’t real.

The beliefs we have about ourselves can be constricting, painful, damaging.  What I noticed, when collecting images for my collage, was the open doors, a window, and up in the corner, the phrase, “Have your next Escape Clause.”  This was unsettling, since I’d just gotten my first real, professional library job, and that was supposed to be my escape clause, my way to be self-sufficient in the face of a degree in poetry.

Now, I notice that I have two artists toward the center of the collage, Frida Kahlo and Maya Lin.  I resonated with visual artists, but until I started making collages, I didn’t believe I had kinship with them.

The collage task was the main thing I took away from reading The Artist’s Way, Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message.”  I kept making collages, and I enjoyed searching for images, and then laying them out on the table and making connections, finding patterns, symbols, colors.  I was beginning to find my escape clause.

What became or is becoming your escape clause?  What doors opened in your life?


Jazz Tree Mixed Media Collage ©Abby Sernoff 2012

Jazz Tree Collaboration is Done: Abby Sernoff of 111 Collage Design

Jazz Tree Mixed Media Collage ©Abby Sernoff 2012
Jazz Tree Mixed Media Collage ©Abby Sernoff 2012

Stratoz and I met up with Abby Sernoff and her husband for dinner and for delivery of the collage commission/collaboration, featuring Abby’s re-envisioning of Stratoz’s colored pencil doodles.  As I wrote about on a previous Orange Tuesday, Let the Creativity Flow, Stratoz was wondering what kind of client he’d be, and the nature of riffing on themes, like John Coltrane’s many versions of My Favorite Things.  Abby did a fabulous job.  I told Stratoz he needs to hang the collage in a strategic spot in his studio so I can see it from mine.

Jazz Tree Mixed Media Collage ©Abby Sernoff 2012
Jazz Tree Mixed Media Collage ©Abby Sernoff 2012

It was fun to look at Abby’s blog post just now to find out she named the collage Jazz Tree, which makes perfect sense to me.  It was also fun talking with her husband Mike about taking a Jazz History class as an undergraduate at U/MASS with Max Roach.  Mike learned a lot about jazz, enjoyed the class, and said it was one of the hardest finals he’s ever had.

For bonus points, here’s Abby’s bird collage made entirely from campaign literature for the PA 2012 Election.  Vicariously enjoyed her ripping and shredding and creating art.

Note:  I missed my first Orange Tuesday in the wake of Sandy.  I am thankful I only lost internet, and a couple screen doors, and my thoughts are with those who suffered great loss.


More Orange Goodness at my Orange Tuesdays Pinterest Board.



Let the Creativity Flow: Commissioning Art from Abby Sernoff of 111 Collage Design.

Warm Prismacolors by Wayne Stratz
Warm Colors by Wayne Stratz for a Collage by Abby Sernoff.

Collage was one of my first art loves.  Much of what I learned from making collages informs my mosaics, the way pieces combine to create a new whole.  Also, being covered in glue is a common thread!  Stratoz has been musing on what kind of client he would be, inspired by listening to Coltrane playing My Favorite Things, and a collaboration he was envisioning with collage artist Abby Sernoff of 111 Collage Design.  He asks:

And I wonder how I would act as a client??? Would I be willing to commission a piece and say, “Make it new. Let the creativity flow?”  I am thinking of doing that with a collage artist.  I desire one of Abby Sernoff’s pieces, but how to make that commission still floats in my mind.

Stratoz made some colored pencil drawings to send to Abby and she is going to incorporate them, in whatever way she is inspired, into a collage for him.  The collage below is one that both Stratoz and I admire, with the vibrant color.  I look forward to seeing what Abby creates for her new client.

111 Collage Design: Art by Abby Sernoff

Check out The finished commission: Jazz Tree

Related Posts my Love of Collage:

Every Last Scrap.

Log Cabin Quilt Collages.


More Orange Goodness at my Orange Tuesdays Pinterest Board.

Matthew Scissorhands: Matt W. Moore’s Cut Paper Collage

Matthew W. Moore: MWM Graphics: Matthew Scissorhands Series
Matthew W. Moore: MWM Graphics, Matthew Scissorhands Series.

Before I made mosaics, I made collages, and sometimes a work like this one by Matt W. Moore gives me a hankering for cut paper.  I also have to dig a guy who calls this series Matthew Scissorhands.  He also does spray painted murals, skateboards, and Vectorfunk(another cool name).


More Orange love on my Orange Tuesdays Board on Pinterest.

Every Last Scrap

Margaret Almon's Studio
Margaret Almon’s Studio, 2009

I once took a collage workshop where an array of beautiful handmade paper was spread on every surface, and we could choose which sheets we wanted to work with.  When we finished the first collage, the instructor then told us to gather all the scraps left over, and use these to make another collage.  After the initial spike of anxiety, this challenge had a kind of thrill, as I worked within limits, spurring on my creativity.   I liked the 2nd collage even more than the first one, and it was satisfying to use the scraps, the leavings, and create something new.  I keep the two collages in my studio(1st one on the right, 2nd one on the left), a reminder of two kinds of working–one out of an abundance of materials, an array on every surface, and another out of sparseness.  Too few choices can lead to a paucity, a deficit, but too many choices can lead to overwhelm.

Scraps of Glass in the Studio.
Scraps of Glass in the Studio.

In making mosaics, I create a lot of fragments.  The nature of cutting glass, and tile, is like sculpting or woodcarving, paring away the material until the form is revealed.  Fortunately in mosaic, the fragments are every bit as valuable as the original uncut glass or tile.  For a couple years I saved all the tiniest bits, because I hated to imagine throwing them out.  Then one day I noticed that I had enough to cover a surface, and I was using them in delight.  I opened an tin of jagged scraps, non-linear ones, and set myself the challenge of making a mandala with them.  I used only fragments in the center, and then relented and let myself cut some larger pieces for the border.  My definition of “large” is still quite small, at least according to my husband.  Working with these scraps must be akin to scrappy quilts, crazy quilts, all the ways to use up the stash of small pieces, and make something new.

Scrappy Mandala in Progress by Margaret Almon
Scrappy Mandala in Progress by Margaret Almon

Scrappy Mandala Grouted

Over at Stratoz:

Stratozpheric Suncatcher from Scraps

What art should you like? What art should you make?

Bear Paw Quilt Stained Glass by Wayne Stratz.
Bear Paw Quilt Stained Glass by Wayne Stratz.

I’ve been contemplating the “shoulds” that keep recurring in my mind, careening about in arbitrariness. My husband’s love of his grandmother’s quilts led him to a desire to make his own quilts, and after surviving a class in which he was surrounded by calico, he began his elegant patchwork of batik and abstraction. He was mighty good at matching points and seams. His summer as an assistant to his father, a draftsman, aided in this. He finished the quilt top, and then it sat in a dresser drawer, because basting seemed tediously daunting.

This is where he lands in the limbo of what he should do–finish the quilt with a multitude of tiny stitches, slog through. Fortunately, the quilt top came up in conversation with a friend who loves quilting, who practically demanded to finish it, and a bartering deal was struck, whereby Wayne made a 99 piece stained glass panel inspired by a bear paw design quilt block in exchange for the finished quilt. He enjoyed making that stained glass. 99 pieces was a challenge, but not a duty.

I remember taking a drawing class in 2005, and loving it. Suddenly seeing the world, knowing that I carried the ability within me to interpret the world on paper. I didn’t have to research it, or carry anything but pen and paper. I wanted to draw everything. Drawing draws you close to your subject, an intimate way of seeing, noticing things that were invisible to you just seconds before. In the midst of this the “shoulds” butted in, and insisted I needed to be making collages, because I was good at making collages. This voice has seemingly infinite energy, a persistent whine. It simply wants to perpetuate itself. It’s not sophisticated enough to actually encourage creativity, but pretends that it is helping you. In a moment of courage, I decided to set collaging aside. It was scary. You can recognize the “should” voice because it quickly degenerates in doom, into dire visions of failure and worthlessness.

There is no reference manual that indicates exactly which are you should love, hang on your walls, or create. You are your own reference.