Sara Baldwin, innovative founder of the incredible New Ravenna Mosaics recently spoke with me about designs, trends, and her love of mosaics. Sara has a lot to say, and when she gets started it is hard to stop – but why would you want her to!? Here is some of our recent conversation.
Hi Sarah! You just got back from this year’s Coverings show – how was it?
It was great and really busy for us. We launched a few new lines…our new Waterjet designs, our new stone line, and we showed our glass palette with all our fantastic 50 new glass colors. We had a great response. I am so excited about our new designs.
Well, New Ravenna has had a ‘great response’ since you founded it 18 yrs ago. With the whole home furnishings industry being so crazy this past year, what has been going on at your shop?
Good things, thankfully! Our focus is still on strong mosaic designs, but we have just added our Waterjet designs. Waterjet gives a lot cleaner look than mosaics, which are a lot more textural, of course. We often still add mosaics into the finished Waterjet design by hand if we want the pattern to have some texture.
Also, we are using a lot more of our new glass in the mosaics. We have doubled the number of jewel glass colors available lately. I don’t really see any one else doing this like we are.
That’s cool. What else are you seeing in mosaics these days?
I see an overall trend toward cleaner looks and to more organic flow and motion in mosaics. Personally, that is what I am focused on. On the other hand, there is still a need for complex designs. For example, while the mid-century influence remains strong in furnishings, it is boring unless you juxtapose it with something else, something contrasting to give the project an edge. Then, even with all this “modern”, I am also seeing a trend toward Moorish and Near Eastern influences, even crossed with sort of Gothic influences. All very curvy and flowing.
Hmmm…Moorish and Gothic are two of my favs, so I am glad to hear that! What is your favorite mosaic pattern lately?
I love our ‘Jacqueline’ CBO914. It was based on a wedding dress I saw in a magazine; the dress had the most intricate lace details. Jacqueline is cut with the Waterjet, and then the material is all tumbled. For installation, we recommend sanded grout, to accentuate the beautiful texture of the stone. It is a very versatile pattern. I love it.
We took a tour of your workshop last year and it was incredible, a real eye-opener for us. What do you think are some misconceptions people still have about mosaics?
Mainly, that they are only an Italian inspired tile design. Mosaics are like paint on a canvas – you can have a painting that is modern, Baroque, impressionist, lots of styles – the same is true with mosaics. I mean, the Italians had many masters in painting, but people don’t shrug and say, ‘ Oh paint, it’s so Italian!” With mosaics, you determine the function and color, and you can make a mosaic be anything you need it to be. It is often that final design touch that sets a space apart from any other, the touch that makes the space intensely personal. Also, people think mosaics are very expensive, but there is a lot of range in price as well.
What are some unusual things people have done with your mosaics?
I heard that someone did a radiator cover with one of our designs at the Kip’s Bay Showhouse this year, but I have not seen it yet… anyone have pictures?
What are you seeing as new uses for mosaics?
There are so many. Really we have just scratched the surface of using mosaics in modern times. They can be for any environment. A floor, a ceiling, a wall, a fountain, a fun detail. I like seeing them on the outside as well as the inside – in landscape design, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, pools, they can be an outdoor ‘rug’. So many things!
Sara, you are endlessly creative! What inspires you?
What inspires me? That’s hard. What inspires you? (LOL! this is your interview!) Things in nature, my house, the beach, the woods, fabrics, anything textural. Last year I was into rivets, in fact I almost wrecked my car one day looking at rivets on a bridge. So yeah, nature, but really everything inspires me, I just have to let it in!
Sara, thanks for talking with me and thanks again for the tour. It was amazing to see those mosaics come to life centimeter by centimeter and all by hand. I have a huge appreciation for your talented team and the painstaking and beautiful work they do! Thanks Sara!