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Smalti is the name given to the brilliant Venetian handmade glass used since Byzantine times. It’s tricky to cut and pretty expensive, but has qualities you won’t find in any other medium. Its undulating surface and tactile qualities, incredible colour saturation, opalescence and sparkle make it something of a Holy Grail in mosaic.

In November 2012, I decided to learn how to cut and create with smalti at the Orsoni workshop in Venice. Aside from the technical difficulties – the material is best cut with a hammer and hardie (shown below), there’s a very different aesthetic to smalti pieces. For one thing, they’re almost always ungrouted and the pieces very tightly jointed. Also, with a huge range of colours available, it’s possible to create colour effects impossible in other mosaic media.

Anyhow, this is my first ever smalti piece!

Making the mosaic, step by step – click on any image for a slideshow with descriptions