Pique assiette

DEFINITION

Pique assiette (sometimes picassiette) is a style of mosaic or tiling which incorporates ceramic shards ? found pieces of broken plates, dishes, cups, etc. ? into a design.(pr. peek AH-see-ET)This term has a convolutedly poetic French origin. Various authorities say pique assiette means "stolen plate," "plate stealer," or "broken plate." A "pique-assiette" is also what the French call a scrounger; someone whose objective in stealing a plate would most likely be the food on it. "Piqu?" is the slang equivalent to "crazy" and "nuts." Some credit the earliest uses of pique assiette and picassiette as art terms to the neighborhood critics of French folk artist Raymond Isidore (1900-1964). In the 1930s, Isidore, a cemetery sweeper by trade, obsessively embellished his house in Chartes, now known as La Maison Picassiette, with intricate mosaics of colorful shards, both inside and out. "Picassiette" is likely a pun on "Picasso," whose cubist paintings have been compared to collected shards.This type of mosaic is also sometimes called "shardware" or "memoryware."Architect Antoni Gaud? (Spanish, 1852-1926) used waste tiles to clad buildings, a practice closely related to pique-assiette called trencadis. He was fortunate to have a number of ceramics factories nearby. His collaborator, Josep Maria Jujol (Spanish, 1879-1949) developed this further, breaking and reassembling new tiles. In addition to the mosaics produced in G?ell Park (Parc G?ell), Barcelona, he incorporated broken colored glass bottles, plates from his own dinner service and even fragments of a porcelain doll. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this kind of collage approach was highly inovative. Such other artists as Picasso and Dali would later visit the Guell Park, and it seems likely that their assemblage and collage works developed roots in Jujol's work.Since no found material is obtained from an art supply shop, those who produce pique assiette must be resourceful in obtaining old ceramics ? in either shard or pre-broken form. (Stealing is not an option to the ethical artist.) Luckily much is broken every day, and many an old dish can be found for resale. This distant relative to archaeology might be called "urban beachcombing." The process of discovery becomes part of finished objects.Related link: The Joy of Shards' Rod Humby offers hundreds of pages of information about mosaics and mosaic making, with step-by-step illustrated instructions, photo features and pique assiette galleries. With Rod Humby's permission, ArtLex has drawn the above definition largely from his article about pique assiette.

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