Dairy farmers wife Emma Ropner is mad about
mosaics as Wendy Owen discovered
EMMA has developed her artistic talent into a one-woman business which produces clocks, mirrors and ornaments covered in tiny, coloured tiles. She has also expanded into jewellery production, making belt buckles, necklaces, rings and cufflinks.
Set in the beautiful scenery of the North Yorkshire hills, Emmas farmhouse is a huge, homely place. Her mosaic work is everywhere and even appears on the kitchen tiles, which are decorated with one of her favourite themes – teapots.
"My Catholic faith has also been a great influence and I enjoy making religious crosses out of mosaics," says Emma. "Mosaic is a very ancient form of art which goes back to pre-Roman times, when they used pebbles instead of tiles."
Emmas husband, Charles, is a director of the familys dairy farm business but works as a design consultant in the opposite end of a converted barn at Hill Top East, near Bedale. Working from home means the couple are on hand to look after their three children, Mary-Rose (10), Eugenie (8) and Richard (6).
Her business sells to shops, has a catalogue for mail order customers, runs workshops for all ages and holds teaching sessions for schools and other groups.
"Living in the north was an advantage when I started out two years ago because although there were lots of other crafts, it seemed that no-one else was doing mosaics," she says.
"I especially enjoy the childrens workshops and some of their work is really impressive. The older ones love using the nippers to cut out shapes and the grouting is always fun too – they usually get extremely messy."
Very little equipment is needed to produce a piece of mosaic work, or tesserae as it is called officially. The frost-proof ceramic tiles are specially made and come in an enormous range of colours and patterns. Glass is often incorporated into the designs but stones, shells, jewellery beads etc can give the work a more individual look.
The outline of the design is drawn in pencil, normally on a piece of MDF, and the tiles are cut to size and glued on to the surface. Grout is then applied as a finishing touch.
"There are a number of techniques to learn, particularly in the way the tiles are cut," explains Emma.
"Some of the simple ideas are the most pleasing and it is not necessary to be too neat because the grouting will give the surface an even appearance."
Spending an hour or two with Emma and listening to her enthusiasm about her craft is guaranteed to make anyone want to have a go at creating a mosaic (01677 424049, www.ropnermosaics.com).
Emma (left) demonstrates her craft at a workshop. Above: Jewellery crosses made out of mosaics are one of her favourite items.