Maestra mosaicista Carolina Zanelli has been returning to the Chicago Mosaic School to teach year after year since her first visit in 2006. A native of Udine, Italy, Carolina was just finishing her studies in cello performance and classics when life redirected her to the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli – School of Mosaicists of Friuli, just north of Venice. She graduated in 1995 and maintains an ongoing presence there as an instructor. Fruili is one of several mosaic schools throughout Italy, but unlike schools in Ravenna and Rome that focus on teaching historical techniques geared toward conservation and restoration work, Fruili takes a more modern approach, teaching their own direct and indirect methods. Their specialty in portraiture and their unique approach to andamento techniques are features that Carolina brings to the Chicago Mosaic School in her yearly workshops.
Beyond teaching, Carolina’s mosaic career has spanned a range of practices and subjects, traveling internationally to teach and study, creating commissions, and developing a personal creative practice. In her personal work, Carolina favors the contemporary, opting to play with the constraints of the medium by reimagining glass and stone as something more ethereal: leggerezza, lightness. With her art, she endeavors to break away from the characterization of mosaic as decorative or architectural background and instead let the medium act as a vehicle for focused visual expression and artistic process.
Her recent work has involved affixing mosaic tile to flexible, transparent silicone sheeting to create a diaphanous effect, further achieved through elongated tesserae that evoke flowing movement. Her past work has also reflected on place, choice, and identity, including mosaics that resemble traditional medieval labyrinths, using the form as an apparatus to experiment with subtle explorations of color and pattern. In her words, “mosaic is not only a way for me to express myself as an individual, to play with colors and shapes… It is also a journey inside myself, as I engage in cutting pieces and rebuilding reality”. In addition to exhibiting internationally, Carolina’s work has been featured in Eventi and Vanity Fair magazines, and in Sonia King’s 2003 book, MOSAIC.