Baked Earth, in the form of tiles, is one of man’s earliest forms of decoration. But tiles are fragile and break easily. So, in an ultimate case of making lemonade from lemons, mosaics take those bits of broken tile, porcelain, or glass, and turn them into something lovely.
Mosaics were popular for the Romans and throughout the ancient world. This photo gallery has pictures of many of them. There is also a British site, The Joy of Shards, which has historical information as well as pictures of many types of mosaics from all over the world.
One of my favorite forms of mosaics are the complex geometrical patterns made from different types of stone found on Italian church floors. The Byzantine era mosaics in Ravenna are so famous, that the town has been made a UN World Heritage site because of them.
There are also artists making lovely works in mosaic today. I think the frog by Jenifer Strachen looks almost Roman in design. There are also sites such as Mosaic Mad or Mosaic Heaven, that have patterns both for free and purchase. Why not use one of these as the inspiration for your needlepoint?
That takes care of the mosaic part, but what about the manipulation? One class of manipulation which is easy to do with simple patterns is a tessellation, a pattern repeated over and over again.
But the repeats don’t have to be the same every time. You can make translations and transformations of the shapes (and what’s inside them) to create complex patterns. There are many kinds, but a simple one is reversing a pattern, another is rotating it 90 degrees. Many of Escher’s patterns are tessellations. While it’s relatively simple, the explorations in Tessellationtown give you an idea of how they work. Tessellation Creator is another program which allows you to create simple patterns.
Once you have the overall pattern, think about how you can manipulate it. The idea of manipulating tessellations is one which has been done in the quilt world for awhile and there you can find resources, pictures, and information.
I’m thinking this is an avenue I’m going to explore some more.
If painted canvases are more your style and you want to try mosaic designs, consider projects from Brenda Flynn from Purple Palm.