Antioch Mosaic with Needle and Thread by Arlene Cohen

2nd Place, Non-Professional Original

This needlework is my interpretation in thread of a Roman mosaic from 350 AD, an ancient 10′ x 10′ masterpiece whose geometry has intrigued me for years. I confronted mathematical and stitching challenges, which I addressed by ruminating on the nature of symmetry; by trying to imagine the design process of the mosaic artist working seventeen centuries ago in a medium entirely different from mine; and by close study of the original mosaic. I decided to use 50-count silk gauze to stitch the eight squares surrounding the center circle and then appliqué it onto 24-count congress cloth. This allowed me to set stitches at an angle for those squares and also to use smaller stitches for those areas—imitating the original stone tesserae. Using overdyed threads to mimic the slight color variations of the mosaic tiles, I wanted the stitches in my needlework to simply melt into the background, without creating a strong pattern when viewed from a distance. This is a transformation of stone into thread.