My name's Rod Humby. I'm 40-something, married and live in Norwich, Norfolk, in the east of England. I trained as an ecologist and initially worked in the field of environmental education. These days I work on the web. This, amongst other things, has sadly left little time for mosaics or maintaining this site. You can find Rod Humby on LinkedIn or even read my 2009 MSc thesis on mobile web browsing.
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I've always enjoyed the mystique of found objects. Even at primary school my desk would store attractive pebbles, or wing feathers I'd found of jays and goldfinches.
I recall a neighbour we used to have, Arnold, who made faces from whatever was to hand in the garden. Flints, shards, stiff wire and mortar combined to make his mark on the landscape, and an indelible impression on my memory. His motto to "always keep a cheerful countenance" was embellished with the unearthed stems of old clay pipes, a Victorian ceramic button and part of the head of a pottery cockerel, which might once have been an egg cup, who knows. Click here to see more of Arnold's creations.
I'm a big fan of the buildings designed by Antoni Gaudì in Barcelona.
It's generally overlooked that some of the most spectacular and innovative mosaics were the work of Gaudì's collaborator, Josep Maria Jujol. Like Gaudì, Jujol was an architect, and was given a free hand in producing the unique mosaics in the Guell Park. These include the snake-like bench and the overhead medallions in the "hall of a hundred columns".
Gaudì combined economy with aesthetics and practicality in the practice of trencadis (using waste tiles to clad buildings). Jujol developed this further, and sourced new tiles and also specially produced ceramics. Some of these he made himself, inscribing them with words that reflected his strong religious beliefs. In addition, he incorporated broken coloured bottles, plates from his own dinner service and even fragments of a broken china doll.
At the start of the twentieth century, this kind of collage approach was entirely new. Artists such as Dali and Picasso would later visit the Guell Park, and it seems likely that their assemblage and collage work had roots in Jujol's new approach. Click here for three galleries of Barcelona mosaic photos.
This series of three one-hour programmes (made in 1998 by Illuminations Television for UK Channel 4) was the brainchild of Jarvis Cocker. Taking time out from singing with Pulp, Jarvis travelled to visit environments created by outsider artists in Europe, the Americas and India. "Outsider Art" (or "Art Brut") is a term used for works produced outside mainstream art, typically by untrained, self-taught individuals, who are driven by creative urges that have no reference to the art world.
Jarvis's quest was a very personal one. In all the programmes he throws in his own insights on the wonderfully baffling, provoking sites and people he encounters. Finally, at Nek Chand's Rock Garden in Chandigarh, north-west India, he concludes:
"I'd started out on this journey thinking that maybe the modern world didn't give people enough room to manoeuvre anymore. But I'd forgotten that there's one space people will always have to themselves and that's inside their own heads. And the imagination that could turn the remains of everyday household objects into places as magical as these is what sets them apart. The starting point is something that's familiar to everyone, but the end result still seems out of this world.
And that was the best thing I found out on these journeys, that outsider art wasn't about outsiders at all. It was about something that was inside everyone if only they'd look for it. There's nothing difficult about it. Anyone could do something like this if they really wanted. Go on, I dare you..."
Jarvis, if you're reading this, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed those programmes.