I have been closely following New Ravenna mosaics for the past year and I was more than thrilled to see them recently featured in September’s Vogue! Their mosaics are truly works of art and I hope I am lucky enough to have at least one in my own home someday. I am delighted to share an interview with New Ravenna’s Sara Baldwin - fresh from a trip to Paris!
Sara Baldwin with one of her favorite animals- a camel!
N/S: You recently returned from Paris, what are some of your favorite things about the city? Was there anything special about your most recent trip?
Sara: First, the food. And the bread (sighs) – I actually broke my gluten-free diet while in Paris! We also went to Helmut Newcake (gluten free bakery) where I could have my cake and eat it too. Second, the texture and color of the architecture. I love the patina of the cream and warm gray stone facades juxtaposed with Parisian glam like gold-gilded ornaments and statues. Other cities I’ve recently visited also have this wonderful palette—St. Petersburg and of course, Istanbul.
We didn’t find strong furniture trends (just more of the Restoration Hardware-ish retreading) as much as micro color trends such as rich greens, burnt sienna, strong saffron, teal. These jewel tones were used more as accents amongst all the beige and gray, which was a relief. We had inspiring conversations with fellow designers and business owners, like Letitia and her husband Alain from Marie’s Corner. I had remembered a colorful modern wing chair from my last visit and specifically sought them out to see what they were introducing this year. We chatted for over an hour, and it was wonderful to be able to discuss design, craftsmanship, moving to the states from Belgium, and running a family business.
loom jewel glass mosaic
Sara at her Vogue shoot
N/S: How do you find inspiration for your new designs?
Sara: I am inspired by my travels, fashion, and shows like High Point and Maison & Objet. I also live near the water and find both solace and inspiration from nature. And, always the daily conversations we have with designers and architects broaden our vision.
N/S: What are some of the key fall trends in the fall 2013 collection from New Ravenna?
Sara: Black and white is a strong trend, although it is a perennial classic and has really has never gone out of style. However some years it feels more dominant. I am continuing my explorations with textiles translated into mosaics. We are accenting with real gold pieces and warm golden stones that create a glow when added to marble mosaics. We create both stone and glass mosaics, and we’re exploring different textures and combinations of materials. I would say that contrast and texture are the most significant trends this fall.
marabel new ravenna
pamir jewel mosaic
N/S: New Ravenna was recently recognized September’s Vogue. What was this experience like?
Sara: Amazing, surreal, and…daunting. It impressed even my just turned 14-year-old daughter, who would love to have Anna Wintour‘s job someday. I was thrilled to share the work that we do as a team at New Ravenna. Vogue is the pinnacle of the international fashion community and so as an artist who has always sewn and loved clothing; it was truly an incredible honor. My marketing director Christine and I (think Thelma and Louise) went to New York where the stylists, make-up artist, photographer and her assistants fluffed me for over four hours. I was Cinderella for a day. The Vogue Home Editor, Mieke Ten Have did a beautiful job capturing the essence of what we try to do every day at New Ravenna.
margot in blue onyx
N/S: With the rise of quick, easy, and diy design, how would you support that there are individuals turning back to artisan quality work when it comes to interiors and design? Do you think this movement will continue?
Sara: There is always a space for people who love art. That never goes away. People seek out artisan quality because they want someone to understand and respect their vision. This is what we strive to accomplish every day. I think it is because of the swell of easy, fast design that people are even more interested in custom work that speaks to their individuality. Accessible design has educated folks, raised their standards, and fueled an interest in work that is more bespoke.
N/S: Where are some of your favorite places in the world to visit?
Sara: Easy! Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey. A close second is the Camel Festival in Liwa, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
N/S: What is the process like from the initial design to bringing the mosaic into a reality?
Sara: It really depends on the customer. We are happy to create a very traditional floor mosaic, like a basket weave for an older home renovation, which would be a quicker conversation about details, or a wall to wall mosaic design that is bespoke and must be designed to flow around corners and under tubs in an artful way, which would be a more in-depth conversation with the customer. We are also trusted to bring very abstract ideas to life and challenged to create special projects for hospitality and commercial structures.The conversations depend on the complexity of the project however in every instance we deliver a sample mosaic and drawing for the customer’s approval before we start cutting and assembling their mosaic.
I recently designed an exclusive line for Marble Systems that New Ravenna manufactures. That particular design process began with a trip to Istanbul and Afyon, Turkey, where my incredibly talented design team and I soaked up the sights and sounds of thousands of years of decorative art tradition and attempted to distill it into a line of waterjet crafted mosaics called Talya. We limited the palette to whites, grays, beiges, and then created prototypes. Patterns then need to be engineered for manufacturability and sometimes re-engineered, and then final prototypes are created, approved, and sales tools are created. Finally, the line is launched and “concept boards” are ordered by showrooms that choose to show the line. Working with Marble Systems (who also owns Country Floors) to create a cohesive line that you can mix and match has been an incredibly gratifying experience.
N/S: How do you hope to see your company grow in the future?
Sara: We hope to continue to learn from our customers. They are sources of inspiration for us. We are now exporting our mosaics to Europe, the Middle East and Russia. We want to grow our company without borders, learning from all the world’s cultures because there is beauty everywhere. I’m not sure I can think of a better reason to do what we do—we intend to create connections through an appreciation and sharing of our art and artisans. Mary Ann Shaffer, who wrote one of my favorite books “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society” once said something that I truly believe: “…love of art-be it poetry, storytelling, painting, sculpture, or music-enables people to transcend any barrier man has yet devised.” I love that quote! I hope New Ravenna’s work can also build a bridge or two.
Sara Baldwin & New Ravenna Mosaics in September 2013′s Vogue
N/S: What are 3 things you are excited about this fall?
Sara: Hot tea, hot toddies, being back in my cowboy boots. LOL.
N/S: What’s a typical day like for you?
Sara: I am lucky. I wake up in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I was born and raised and now have my business on “the Shore”. Many of us have been working side by side at New Ravenna for more much than a decade. It is a special group.
Some days I need the solitude of my house to let the designs flow from my brain onto paper or my team actually treks to my house so we can be away from the distractions of the Exmore studio. Some days I would prefer that, but I have meetings with bankers and lawyers and accountants and a million places and reasons to be at the studio. Really, I don’t repeat a day.
Learn more about New Ravenna here, Twitter here, and find them on Facebook here.