Chanelle Tourish learns how to give old furniture a makeover via the colourful art of mosaic
Ever wondered about the level of skill that goes into the intricate task of handcrafting a tiled masterpiece worthy of a place in a Turkish bathhouse? We have… So when we’re offered a lesson in the art of mosaic, we’re intrigued to say the least, mainly because those fancy mosaic mirrors we’ve been eyeing up at the mall are beyond our budget and think a DIY job is the next best thing – or the cheapest at least. So we head to Dubai International Art Centre in Jumeirah to give the mosaic class a go.
For those who aren’t familiar with the technique, it’s the art of creating images and patterns by assembling small pieces of coloured glass or stone onto a surface. The oldest known mosaic dates back to the Mesopotamian era in the third millennium BC, while pebble mosaics were commonly found in Ancient Greece and Rome. But these days, you can find everything from toothbrush holders, door signs and swimming pools adorned in mosaic patterns.
The course takes place over six hours in two weekly sessions with the latest instalment beginning on Tuesday September 8 from 9am until noon. Arriving at the centre’s café in a spacious two-storey villa in Jumeirah, we’re greeted by course instructor and café manager, Diana Wynnberry, who offers us some refreshments as we take a seat at one of the three tables. The café is tiny, but it’s cosy, homely and the perfect setting to unwind.
The three-hour introductory class is designed to teach newcomers the basics. During our visit, we’re joined by eight Arab and European ladies who are all interested in taking it up as a new hobby. Wynnberry begins by giving each of us a small rectangular slate of wood, informing us that this project will be relatively simple until we get the hang of the technique – with further classes aimed at more adventurous and creative undertakings. Using a pencil, we’re instructed to draw a pattern or design on the wood. We decide on the number 23 in an attempt to create a nifty door sign for our home, while others go for heart-shaped sketches and signs decorated with their children’s names.
All materials are provided and we’re told the tiles can be bought at Dubai’s DragonMart for less than Dhs50 for a large batch. In order to get a variety of tile sizes, we use a cutter to break them into smaller pieces. We then use a basic wood glue to stick them onto the base until our sketch is covered, leaving gaps in between each piece so there is room for the grout to fill. We leave this in the sun to dry until it hardens, before grouting the block. Cleaning off the excess material is to be done at home with water and a cloth.
There’s friendly chatter during the class, with everyone getting along while drinking tea and coffee and enjoying some traditional Greek pastry treats. Wynnberry grew up in Greece where she taught mosaic for 18 years, before settling in Dubai two years ago. Her passion for the craft is contagious. We find the class therapeutic and enjoyable, largely down to her warm and friendly nature. Though the course takes place over two weeks, Wynnberry is happy to host participants who want to perfect their designs daily in the café. Once our door sign sets and we give it a good old polish, it’s ready to be mounted at home. We think we’ll give our regular trip to Ikea a miss and get crafty at home instead. Dhs480 (six-hour course including coffee and cake). From Tue September 8, 9am-noon. Ongoing. Dubai International Arts Centre, villa 27, street 75B, Jumeirah 1 (04 344 4398).