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Mosaics and mosaic making information from The joy of shards Mosaics Resource

What does "pique assiette" mean?

mosaic deer pictureThe term "pique assiette" for a mosaic of broken crockery originates in the activities of Raymond Isidore of Chartres, northern France, who became known by the name "Picassiette". In 1930s France, Isidore began the obsessive enrichment of his entire property (inside and out) with intricate and decorative mosaics of salvaged shards, and his house came to be called La Maison Picassiette

crockery face mosaicThe nickname he was given suggests that his neighbours were not enthusiastic about his achievements. In French, a "pique-assiette" is a scrounger, sponger or gatecrasher, someone whose interest in stealing a plate would generally be the food on it.

"Picassiette" may well be a pun on "Picasso", while "piqué" can mean "crazy" or "nuts". Despite this early disdain, 30,000 people a year visit "La Maison Picassiette" these days, and the term "pique assiette" is used around the world.

It's an interesting thought that perhaps the way this nickname was invented was unconsciously mimicking what Isidore was doing. It took pieces of language, broke them up and created something new, just as he did with crockery.

face in mosaicLa Maison Picassiette is often quoted as an example of "outsider art" or "art brut", because Isidore had no artistic training or connection with the art world. Pique assiette mosaic has found a place in the work of other outsider artists too. Certainly the materials are generally inexpensive and accessible, and their durability has allowed the creation of visionary constructions such as:

The Little Chapel, Guernsey, Channel Islands

Watts Towers, Los Angeles

Nek Chand's Rock Garden, Chandigarh, India

Gaudi's architectural scale and Isidore's mosaic modification of his personal environment are reflected in other large scale projects such as:

the Tarot Garden, Capalbio, Italy

Bruno Weber's Weinrebenpark, Dietikon, Switzerland web site (in German) [translation] another article

Jean Linard's Cathedral, Bourges, France

the monumental installations of Isaiah Zagar, Philadelphia

the House of Shards, Louisiana

Luna Parc, New Jersey

More about pique assiette: pique assiette and found objects

The history of pique assiette

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