Joanna studied Ceramics and Tapestry at Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland followed by an MA in Tapestry at the Royal College of Art, London. She set up Edinburgh Mosaic Studio in 2009 and has been a Committee Member for the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) since 2014.
Joanna specialises in the design and fabrication of mosaic artworks for public and private spaces. She is passionate about the positive effects that the arts can have on our psychological and physiological well-being. Both her father and god-father were Psychiatrists and were early protagonists for the integration of Art In Hospitals in the UK. Recent public art work includes the series of integrated mosaic artworks ‘Seaworn Pebble & Field Patterns’ at Crookston Dementia Care Unit commissioned by East Lothian Council Architecture Department.
In 2010 Joanna received a Research and Development Award from the Scottish Arts Council (Creative Scotland) to study mosaic in Italy. She studied at Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli, Spilimbergo and during this time came across the work of the Venetian architect Carlo Scarpa, whose sensitive use of concrete, light and architectural detail captivated her. The trip culminated in a solo exhibition ‘Andamento: Un Viaggio in Italia’ at the Italian Institute, Edinburgh in 2011.
Joanna creates exquisitely crafted contemporary mosaics and her work is shown internationally; Scottish Craft and Design Pavilion, London Design Fair (2016), Palazzo Tadea, Spilimbergo, Italy (2016), the mosaic Biennales in Ravenna, Italy (2015/13) and Chartres, France and Clauiano Mosaics, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (2014).
Joanna runs a popular mosaic course programme from her studio and in Italy. She is an enthusiastic teacher and delivers workshops and talks for many organisations; the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh College of Art, Leith School of Art, BAMM, AIMC and so on.
I am inquisitive by nature and am curious about materials, surface texture, colour – I delight in the dynamic created when one material is juxtaposed against another, what happens when you alter the proportions and how this emphasizes and makes visible their inherent qualities. Mosaic fascinates me as you are working with tangible colour, right there in your hand, it’s physical. I enjoy the slow, repetitive process of making, the rhythm and the time involved creates a meditative space, a calm that imbues the work. Time also feels apparent to me through the use of the hand tools and techniques similar to those used in the Roman and Byzantine eras. I enjoy that I am creating something highly contemporary and at the same time acknowledging mosaic as an ancient craft rooted in history.
In the current series of work ‘(In)visible Cities’ I create sketchbook-like collages alongside architectural scaled work in which mosaic is combined with other materials, ordinary and precious. These cast concrete and mosaic artworks are inspired by the architectural work of Carlo Scarpa and take their title from Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities and explore the intimate detail, and beauty, of unseen 'glimpsed' spaces.
"The city... does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets... every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls".
These mosaic artworks depict a highly personal response to ‘place’. They bring together an interest in abstracted, simplified forms and a fascination with the subconscious associations and memories evoked by these.
Photographs by Michael Wolchover
Copyright © 2016 Joanna Kessel. All rights reserved.