27 March 2010


Come with me through our kitchen doorway.
Across the decking, down the steps to the little stone path between the greenhouse and our underhouse door.
Open the white door. Crouch a little. Don't bang your head. Open the mysterious door.
In we go to Yorkshire Pudding's secret grotto. Turn on the light. What a mess!

What has he been doing down here? There on the desk - what is it?
It's a mosaic...

I just finished it yesterday. It's the first mosaic I have made since 1971 when one of my A level courses was Art. That's a gap of nearly forty years. Now you're probably looking at it and wondering what the hell it's all about. Why this design? Well it harks back to my visit to Easter Island. The central, slightly comical figure is "the birdman" and it's closely based on rock carvings that commemorate the island's strange birdman cult. Each spring, young men from different clans would descend the high cliffs of Orongo and swim out to the islets that lie off the south western peninsula in order to retrieve the first sooty tern egg of the season. This prize ensured that the leader of the winner's clan became the overall chief of the island for that year.

Putting the mosaic together was time-consuming but pleasurable. I have listened to several hours of Radio 4 in the process. Ceramic pieces don't bend and every piece had to be nipped into shape. It was like putting together an intricate jigsaw after first making the pieces. I plan to make some more mosaics this year. This is an ancient and painstaking craft but quite therapeutic with, if I might be so bold, satisfying end results.


  1. Fantastic! What a lovely post to be my first 'visit' after being ill. Well done YP!
    Or, as they say in Sooty-ternese: "cr'ackkt! Keeahopu trict trict trcit!" Meaning "here comes the bloody Hopu after our eggs again!"

  2. Elizabeth6:36 am

    Well done, YP.That's brilliant. There's something very cathartic about losing yourself in a creativite task in that way. Where is the finished work going to reside?
    By the way, what is an 'underhouse' - I've never heard that expression before? x

  3. That's lovely YP. A lot of work - but well worth it.

  4. Frances10:54 am

    Nice job Dad, I'm proud. A very impressive first attempt... and you thought it would just be a bit of a practice run.
    The bird-man is weird. I like him :) He's going to have to go somewhere - you can't keep a beak like that locked away under the house!

  5. Great work. I really love it. Do you have a great BBQ area where he can hang on the wall? I bet it's heavy.
    Keep it up. Perhaps you can expand into table tops too.

  6. KATHERINE Obviously - as you are so artistically aware - I very much value your response and hope you weren't just being polite.
    ELIZABETH Thanks. It was just a practice piece. The next one will be better. I guess I invented the term "underhouse" myself. It's not a cellar. You approach it from outside. The paved area where my desk is required me to remove about a foot of earth a few years ago.
    LOIS Perhaps you could get some of your youngsters making mosaics either with paper pieces or on screen. I am sure there with be mathematical matters to address.
    FRANCES (Beloved Daughter) Thank you. The birdman is odd isn't he? It is a unique image evolved two thousand miles from anywhere else. Having bought the tiles, I spent a long time wondering what the design should be and then it dawned on me.
    HELEN This one couldn't go outside as it has been made using the "direct method" on an MDF board but I would like to make an external mosaic image on a wall near our kitchen. I am thinking green mosaic pieces and a botanical design.

  7. Seeing the photos of your "secret" den reminded me of the book (which you've probably seen) "Sheds and Men", by Gordon Thorburn, a fascinating peek at where men hide out ... and women? do women have a shed "thing"?

    Brian (writing from my other identity!)

  8. Now that you've received the much-coveted "Huzzah!" from Katherine, who speaks Sooty-ternese to boot, there is nothing left for me to say except they taught you wonderful skills in rehab....


  9. You can scan a piece of art and apply a "mosaic" filter in Photoshop, which might be a good way for students to quickly lay out a pattern.

    Your birdman reminds me vaguely of Kokopeli, except he has a flute instead of a beak, but it conveys the same message to me: "I'm a wild and crazy guy having a good time!"

    This woman has a shed, but it's full to the ceiling with her husband's crip crap. So I retire to the garden instead, or go sit with the chickens in THEIR shed. I bet your room (underhouse sounds sorta Bilbo Bagginsish to me) is nice and cool in the summer, but maybe that's not so much a concern in England as it is here in California.

  10. BRIAN (TEMPS de PARAULES)No I haven't seen that book but you know it is nice to have a space that I can call my own and keep so higgledy-piggledy. Women seem programmed to tidy things up.
    RHYMES How did you guess I had been in rehab? After three months of sitting in a corner rocking, they gradually got me into colouring books. The next step was mosaic making.
    JAN BLAWAT I find your reaction to the birdman most interesting. I guess there was some of that crazy man, devilish attitude in those who were brave enough to swim out for the first egg. And we DO have hot days or weeks in the summer and you are right - it is always cool down there in the secret underhouse where I chant my chants and mix my potions.

  11. Lovely mosaic, YP...

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