The Ayvalik Mosaic – grouted and ready to be used!

The aim of this project was to decorate a room in a restored greek townhouse in Ayvalik at the norther aegean  coast of Turkey with a mosaic. This newly build multi purpose bath room which is accessible from the garden and from the house has features of a turkish bath/hamam: a heated floor, heated marble benches and walls but also serves as a water play area of the patio in summer and a second shower room for the 6 bed holiday house.

Fascinated by the beauty of antik mosaics I wanted to recreate some of the decorative elements of an antik mosaic to appear in our modern life today again. And I wanted to give this mosaic the purposes that mosaics  originally were created for:

a practical purpose of covering a floor to be better walked on, water to be better drained from the floor into a drain system and the floor to be better cleaned,

a decorative purpose to add color and designs to the raw walls and

a communicative purpose to give a reason for the observers to think and talk  about the figures in the mosaic.

The latter has already started with humor. I was offered a fishing rod by a friend to go fishing in my aquarium :), some people were trying to identify the kinds of fish and we were wondering if Walt Disney got his inspiration from the dolphin figure. Also one speaks about the techniques of the mosaic making.

The choice of material, limestone and marble, came because they offer the color range that the original figures are made in. It turns out to be a perfect fit in the total composition with the other floor and wall materials of the surroundings of the mosaic.

The practical use will be seen with time.

Please take a short re-cap with me of the amazing story of THE AYVALIK MOSAIC now:

the poseidon mosaic at Zeugma Museum, Gaziantep
the poseidon mosaic at Zeugma Museum, Gaziantep

There is the poseidon mosaic in the Zeugma Mosaik Museum in Gaziantep/Southern Turkey. The mosaic originates from the archeological site of Zeugma, at the banks of the river Euprates 30km east of Gaziantep. It was made in the 3rd century AD together with many other amazingly beautiful mosaics.


From a photo of the mosaic some figures of the sea creature were taken and newly arranged on photo shop for the decoration of a shower room with turkish bath features of a newly restored greek house in Ayvalik, at the northern aegean coast of Turkey.


No material has been bought, it was all found on the ground. Rocks were collected at the bank of the Euphrates river, lime stone in different colors found in the collection of  the  Gaziantep mosaic workshop and marble collected on waste heaps of marble manufactories all over Turkey.


Then cut into discs of 1cm


and further broken with the hydraulic stone breaking machine


until finally these parts were broken into cubes of about 1cm3 with  hammer and hardie.


By skilled mosaic masters in the hidden workshop of Nusret Osdemir in the heart of Gaziantep the first sea creatures of the poseidon mosaic were reborn during long hours in the scorching heat of south eastern Turkey in July/August.


IMG_5074In August in Sarimsak near Ayvalik at the longest sandy beach of the Turkish aegean coast already in the breeze of the sea thousands of background tesserae were prepared from 6 different rocks and marbles in beige tones.


At the end of September 50kg of marble and lime stone tesserae  went on a trip to Brasilia.


There they were assembled into wall tiles from October till February by enthusiastic brasilian mosaic artists.


End of  February  Brasilia art lovers admired these mosaics in roman style at the opening of the mosaic moments studio in Brasilia.


The 7 wall tiles of about 40x40cm and a weight of  36 kg travelled in 2 suitcases from Brasilia via Sao Paolo and Istanbul back to Ayvalik to be reunited with the floor figures and be installed in a garden shower room.

IMG_6451The mosaic figures from Gaziantep were  taken out of the storage and prepared with contour lines.


more marble was broken into tesserae


the room was prepared in long lasting mortar work


mosaic parts were measured and measured and altered again and again and again until they fitted perfectly


then finally on March 17 the wall parts were mounted on the fronts of the hamam benches


and the mounting paper and board removed after two days


Then the floor was prepared for the installation of the floor figures


And these figures installed on March 24



Again after 2 days on March 26 these figures were uncovered by the most enthusiastic helpers overall

and the areas in between the figures were filled by setting the tesserae directly into the cement


Then finally the mosaic was grouted on April 7


Now these wonderful creatures are ready to be used in summer as a garden – water play area and on colder days as a hamam. You are all invited to enjoy the mosaic under your feet, touch it and live with it like in roman times as a guest at the Ayvalik Mosaicli Ev. In a short while the house will be up for rent. Please contact for enquiries.

Mosaik_10 Mosaik_15 Mosaik_11 Mosaik_8 Mosaik_7 Mosaik_5 Mosaik_16

Without the following people I would not have succeeded, I am very grateful I had the chance to  work with:

During the design phase in Ankara and Ayvalik in May/June 2015:

Kutalmis Görkay, Firat Aykac

The Cahill family, Kay, Nick, Nora and Phoebe

During the material collection phase in Ayvalik in June 2015:

Evren Agabeyoglu, Turgut Bekisoglu, Miriam Engstrom, Ali Ihsan Basöz, Hassan Gül

During the floor figure production phase at Gaziantep Mosaic Workshop of Nusret Özdemir in July/August 2015:

Nusret Özdemir,Tahir Köroglu, Ayse Ebru Corbaci

During the background stone breaking phase at Sarimsak beach house in September 2015:

Mustafa Salih Kamanlioglu, Tulya Madra

During the wall part production phase at mosaic moments studio Brasilia October 2015 - Februar 2016:

Alina d'Alva Duchrow, 
My family: Martin, Hillary, Emil, Charlotte Louise, Kilian Raiser
Cida Carvalho, Lidia, Robson, Laura Anduze

During the installation phase in Ayvalik in March/April 2016:
Ümit, Rifat Kaya, Nasuh, Yusuf Usta, Monika,  Elfriede Dann, Berkan Karaduman, Kudret, Derya, Dirk Schaefer








THE AYVALIK MOSAIC – finally in Ayvalik fifth week

And there they came….

ready for the magic moment of uncovering the floor pieces!

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these figures were produced in August in Gaziantep and had been stuck on canvas since then. It was much harder to get the glue off then on the wall pieces. But with the enthusiasm and strength of 3 teenagers and a lot of very hot water and hard brushes we managed to remove all the glue within 2 hours.


I was absolutely stunned how beautiful these figures came out. Almost all tesserae stuck in the cement. There were only a few single stones that were loose.


As you can see in the following pictures in the area of the figures where tesserae have been joined tightly together the cement did not get up to the surface. Whilst in the background area, where the spaces between the tesserae was left deliberately larger it mattered how much sand I applied for the cement to squeeze all the way up or to stay down and keep a grout line open.



I was afraid the tesserae wouldn’t stick well enough if the grout lines where only marginally filled with cement.

I must admit that at this moment again, I SO much regretted not to use traditional roman cement! In roman mosaics there is just ONE setting cement and no different materials are used for glueing and grouting. This works so much easier as one does not need to be afraid to keep grout lines open when putting tesserae down.

Another time consuming difficulty I created was to have added partly background tesserae to the fish figures.  This was not the original plan. I wanted to put just the figures down without any background tesserae and then apply the background directly on the floor. This would have given me more flexibility with the placing of the figures. It would also not have mattered in which direction they were looking.

But because the  building work in the room was not ready when I arrived for installation, I had to find a way to start with the background work in the studio.

Knowing about the difficulty that a background with lines would create , I contemplated to fill the spaces between the figures randomly and not use lines. But I  decided against it because I was afraid the figures would loose their expression if they would not be in a defined background.

What shall I do with this whirly – twirly figure in the centre?

For filling the gaps between the figures I had 5 days. ( My time was limited, because I negotiated one month away from the family for the installation and I had taken a week extension. So I couldn’t possibly have extended again. Without the help of Berkan Karaduman, a young man that just moved from Istanbul to Ayvalik, I would not have managed it. I am very grateful!

We applied the following method:

edges of the figures were cleaned of cement with hammer and a fine chisel


cement mixed out of white and grey tile cement mixed with 1:1 latex and water liquid like a cake dough mix


to the consistency of playdough
the gap was well wetted with a spray bottle
pressed the cement into the gap and layd tesserae loosely onto it, then pressing it down to the level of the figure with a straight board

After working frantically patch by patch I was really questioning what we were doing. Putting the right amount of cement onto the floor so that the grout lines would still be a bit open but the cement would not squeeze to the surface was impossible to predict. I really questioned my ablilitys and regretted not having taken more lessons in working with this direct method on the ground or inviting a master over to help me putting this mosaic on the floor.

Only when I took this photo on day 3 I became much more relaxed. It did look good! Its so important to step back and look at a mosaic from far! Doing this on a floor mosaic is quite tricky. You have to climb up above it. Here I am standing on the 40cm high bench.

Almost done with the background!

On Wednesday evening I put the last stone down. Thursday morning the tiler would come and put the grout down. Thursday night I would fl back to Brasilia. Just made it!

the ungrouted AYVALIK MOSAIC



THE AYVALIK MOSAIC – finally in Ayvalik fourth week

Hello – be prepared for the unveiling!

After48 hours of keeping the protective boards wet, one already fell off, revealing some beauty still lightly covered by thin paper
remaining boards could easily be loosened from the top and hot water applied into the gap to soften the rest of the glue
then with more hot water board and paper came off easily
some of the glues used came off immediately with the paper, like in the very left of the picture, some stuck to the grout lines like rubber (middle)

With more  hot water, a scrub and the energy and enthusiasm of  Rifat Usta the remaining glue was removed.

The unveiling and cleaning of the wall took half a day of 3 people. The difficulty was to keep the surfaces wet and warm so the softened glue would not get cold  and dry and then stick to the tesserae again.

I am very satisfied by the result. Of course some tesserae came off.

IMG_6698I also left some deliberate gaps at the joints of the tiles for easy fitting. These we put back in one days work with liquidish tile cement which we squeezed into the cleaned holes and then stuck the prepared tesserae back..

Two days later, the figures for the floor were installed.

(Be prepared for more technical description.)

At this point I want to thank tiling master Yusuf and our foreman Rifat again for their patience to understand what I could only communicate in very limited vocabulary. They really took to the project and used their knowledge flexibly to adapt it to this very special task.


I prepared the floor like this. The cardboard pieces simulate the figures. On the backing of the figures I head drawn the lines that you see here on the floor. This way the figures could be placed in line. It worked well for the installation. But it took me several sleepless nights to come up with this.

The installation of the floor pieces  went in similar steps then the wall.

first I put sand into the grout lines. This time I did not fill them quite as much as on the wall pieces as I wanted more cement to enter the grout lines for more stability. In the end people will walk over the mosaic.
then Yusuf added the tile cement (again mixed to the same color then the grout)
after he added a layer of ordinary cement to add weight and press the tile cement into the grout lines (cement was mixed with a latex water solution )
Then he spread tile cement on the floor exactly inside the outline of the figure on the floor
turning the heavy and wobbly piece of mosaic upside down onto the slap was a bit tricky. But after 2 figures we became skilled!
and the soft cover allowed to take the mosaic partially up and add more cement because the floor had to be leveled to allow for the water to run into the drain in the corner
first piece set
after 3 hours it looked like this. If you zoom in you can see the lines on the backing of the pieces in line with the lines on the floor

Today I had a rest to let the cement dry. At 4pm I wetted the pieces well with water, covered them with cloth and covered this again with a plastic sheet in order not to dry out over night.

It is raining heavily at the moment. This will help to keep them moist. Tomorrow afternoon I am planning to remove the protective sheets with my family.  You will read about it in the next blog.

I have been in Ayvalik on my own for 4 weeks now. Which was good in order to fully concentrate on finishing the building site and installing the mosaic.

But there have been nights when I looked at the moon and was longing for the company of my loved ones.