The use of found objects is a central theme in pique assiette.
Found objects lend a particular richness to the work and bring
with them meaning and symbolism. On the one hand there is the
mystique, the unknown, stemming from that part of their history
that has to be guessed at. On the other hand there is the particular
story of the chance events that allowed them to be found. The
circumstances, the place, the time, all become embedded in the
This type of mosaic, particularly where the items are personal ones, is sometimes referred to as "shardware" or "memoryware". Just as hints of smells can trigger vivid memories, fragments of the objects or patterns we have around us at different times in our lives can be very evocative, carrying associations with people, places, events. Also, items of sentimental value that have been damaged beyond repair can be given a new lease of life, using the techniques of pique assiette.
For many, hunting for materials is an important part of the creative experience. Found objects are by their very nature unpredictable - charity shops, jumble sales, car boot sales can produce treasures, while flower beds and skips (dumpsters) may also yield gems to the eagle-eyed and appreciative. This is something that might be called "urban beachcombing". Whether it is a hunter-gatherer instinct or a joyfully obsessive magpie tendency, the process of discovery becomes part of the finished article.
There are contemporary aspects that add extra meaning to pique assiette. The current importance given to recycling means that creative use of discarded materials has a feel-good factor attached to it, and makes a positive statement. In addition, there's something satisfyingly postmodern in extracting unexpected motifs from the most horrible and uninspiring tableware. It can seem like an act of cultural subversion to deconstruct previously popular designs and breathe new life into them.
It is also true that domestic ceramics have many qualities that make them a material of choice for artists. The range of glazes, colours and textures can be greater than is available with other mosaic materials. Curved surfaces give reflective effects and the three dimensional nature of crockery fragments adds physical depth.
A pique assiette mosaic can be seen as a collage of found and prepared objects, rearranged into new combinations. This montage approach gives wide scope for imagination and innovation, as in any mixed media assemblage. It also generates the humour often associated with pique assiette. As objects are given new roles or used in unexpected ways, they make the viewer consider everyday items in a different context.
This type of mosaic work has more levels of appreciation than might first appear, and it draws on a long history of influential examples. As a folk tradition, or a craft hobby, it is certainly art that anyone can have a share in, yet it offers scope for strong personal statements, originality, visual puns, exuberance and the happy accidents of serendipity. It can bring order to chaos, or vice versa, depending on the mood of the maker.
To round off, then, here are a few examples of mosaicists who make things from things that used to be other things...
Repsyche mosaics (Angela Casazza)
...not forgetting my own galleries
More about pique assiette: the history of pique assiette