An unemployed mosaicist

I have been mosaically unemployed for a year… In January 2020, I flew back to Alabama from France. I had just learned I was going to be a grandfather in August ! This grand child was going to be the first of his or her generation. 2020 was a good time to move back. I planned it all. I would fly to France in August to meet the baby, fly back to Alabama to put my house for sale and I would move back to France to spend the holidays with my family.

Then COVID came.

The epidemic (there was no words of pandemic in March…) was going to be over by the end of the summer, due to a combination of warm weather, insertion of little blue lights in the nostrils, bleach ingestion and thoughts and prayers. I purchased a shipping container and to packed it stuff I wanted to take back to Europe, which, beside a little furniture and clothing,  mostly consisted of :

  • Mosaic stuff : actual complete mosaics, tools, models, material and books

  • Martial arts stuff : uniforms, weapons and books

  • More books…

It took me 2 month to empty the studio. The stones being too heavy, I decided to leave them here. It broke my heart, but I got rid of gorgeous travertines, marbles, slates… I donated them to Habitat for humanity, they will serve a good purpose. However I kept all glass, smalti, mirrors, and thin ceramics… Some of those, bought in France and Italy for the past 15 years, will cross the Atlantic for the 2nd time !

By June in the container : tiles and tools neatly packed inside crates, complete mosaics carefully stacked with protection between them, models inside huge cardboard boxes, etc, etc…

I now just had to get the container loaded on a ship which would safely sail  to le Havre and from then to Saint Valery sur Somme where I plan to settle on my return.

Roman ships mosaic- Ostia Antica, 1st century BC with unemployed lighthouse guardian.
Roman ships mosaic.


This is when I learned shipping containers can only be used for shipping purpose if “seaworthy”. Meaning that there are no hole in it, a minimum amount of rust, the floors are sound and the door seals waterproof. Basically, NEW containers are seaworthy, and they stay seaworthy for 3 years after being built. Mine was 5 years old. The people I had bought it from never mentioned anything about this – truth is, I had not asked.

So now I needed to have the container inspected and certified seaworthy. I found a seaworthyness inspector who came from Mobile, Alabama, to inspect the container. But to be inspected, the container had to be empty, and 6 inches from the ground…

I emptied the whole damn thing, stored all the crates in my front yard, under huge tarps. I found a way to lift the giant 5000 lb lego from the ground without killing myself, repainted its walls, had it certified and reloaded it. This took me one one week. July came. I was still hoping I would be able to fly back to France in September.

What could go wrong ?

The situation did not improve with the weather. Millions of people got sick, and many people died. Quarantines were instated, flights canceled. France closed its borders. Like everybody else, I had to change my plans.

One year later…

Fast forward to April 2021. Thanks to a remarkable collaboration between public and private sectors many people are being vaccinated in the US and the situation seems to be at least stabilized. (at least, the daily number of new cases is not growing). Things seem to be more complicated in France, but at least I am allowed to fly back.

I have put my (quite empty now) house for sale. Hopefully, I may be able to close on it by the end of May. I will ship the container, buy tickets for my dogs and me and fly back…

Since last April, I have been utterly unemployed : although I sold a few pieces, I have not done ANY mosaics. I have not laid my hands on any stone, glass or ceramic and I really miss it. Of course this is when people  contact you to commission pieces, and you have to turn them down, but this is an other story..

What can a mosaicist do without tools or materials ?

He works on models for his next mosaics…

Mosaic model : Woman and Griffin, after a fresco from Pompeii
Woman and Griffin

Since last June I have spent many hours researching ancient and modern art and designing models. My researches, which were originally confined to the geometric patterns of Greek and Roman mosaics took me to areas I had little or even never before been exposed to :

  • Archaic and Classic Greek vases,


Greek Vase featuring a ship, 520 BC


  • Aegean Bronze age art : pottery and frescoes,
Minoan Ship, Akrotiri, ca 1600 BC


  • Scandinavian Bronze age rock carvings
Scandinavian war ship, rock art, ca 1300 BC


  • Near East, Minoan and Mycenean cylinder seals
imprint of a cylinder seal of mesopotamian cargo ship with unemployed slaves aboard
Mesopotamian cargo ship, ca 2500 BC


In my next “unemployed” post, I will expand on my researches in those areas, how I plan to use what I am learning for my next mosaics, and other artistic and entrepreneurial opportunities I am seeing for the coming year.

You're unemployed : Make lemonade

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Aegean, Akrotiri, artistic, Bronze age, container, COVID, cylinder seal, fresco, griffin, griphon, Le Havre, mesopotamia, neolithic, opportunity, Ostia, petroglyph, Pompeii, quarantine, rock art, Saint Valery, scandinavian, seaworthy, ship, shipping, shipping container, sumer, sumerian, Thera, travel, travertine, unemployment
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