New Zealand Mosaic Art

“It took as long as a pregnancy”, said mosaic artist Pat George, Northland reflecting on her commission to mosaic the entranceway to Whangarei’s new maternity unit Te Kohutu in 2015. “But it was a labour of love.”  The unit opened in February 2016.

In a very empathetic gesture Pat left the remaining two tiles off the completed mosaic; a space for the first girl and boy born in the unit, to place their tile. But when the first child was born on March 4 it was twin boys! Both names are recorded on the tile for the boy.

Pat was assisted by her husband Steve. However this was a very large undertaking, even for two, needing to cover two side walls of the entrance and a section above the reception area. Te Kohutu is for the whole Northland region and the DHB explained that they felt it important that the atmosphere created by the mosaic ensured everyone in Northland felt at home when they came to give birth or visit.

Pat came up with concept drawings which she called ‘Windows on Northland’ which feature the East Coast on one wall, the West Coast on the other, both capturing as many noteable places as would fit. However the space dictated a selection of only the most iconic. The West Coast depicts kauri forest with Tane Mahuta, the Opononi sand dues and the Kaipara Harbour while on the East Coast the Whangarei Falls and harbour, fishing in the area, children gathering kai moana are featured before ending at Cape Reinga.

Panels were created at Pat’s home studio in Matakohe. Tiles were glued onto mesh and when she she needed colours and pieces she could not obtain commercially, Pat made her own. She has been mosaicing for 30 years and thought nothing of making tiles, shaping clay forms and glazing them herself. She hancrafted oranges and lemons and kilned glass beads to create the froth at the base of the waterfall. The waterfall was both a challenge and a triumph; the water seems to leap from the cliff before plunging down. Pat wanted the whole mosaic to be textural and included kina and shells. She wanted people to run their hands over the walls. And that’s what people do; they feel it!

Pat’s helpers included her husband Steve George, family Sarah-Jane George and Bill Tarvel with Karen Brierley and Brenda Everson.

When Pat reflects on the experience what comes quickly to mind is that “there were lots of headaches, lots of pleasure but it was a privilege to be able to do it”.

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