The evidence: The work table of a mosaic artist

Emma Biggs co-owns The Mosaic Workshop in London. She runs regular mosaic classes and has written several books on the subject.

"We've been commissioned to do a mosaic for a public space in Gosspool for their millennium celebrations. This is a template (1) of the design I am working on. You need to become a bit of an expert at writing back- to-front as the mosaic tiles have to be gradually stuck down with water- soluble glue (2) in reverse on the brown paper. A mosaicist's most essential tool are tile nippers (3), I have an American pair which are a bit of a luxury as they were expensive. Some materials are harder to cut than others and you end up with blisters all over your hands. With practice you can eventually use tile nippers like scissors. These tiles (4) are called 'smalti' which you see in all the Byzantine mosaics in cathedrals and churches. When we are working on a design it's very difficult to retain all the colours in your mind so I keep the complete range in front of me (5). I also have a box of scrap tiles (6) on my desk as I find the colours inspiring. I wear a mask (7) most of the time as some of the dust is carcinogenic. My favourite project is usually the one I'm working on as you can use all your most recent ideas."

Interview by Aoife O'Riordain

Photograph by Claudia Janke