The following text is from my last newsletter and I think it’s worth repeating here as it does give us an idea of just how fast a Roman floor mosaic could be laid. The full newsletter can be accessed here.
To answer the question of how fast can you work we need to look at how fast we think the mosaicists from the time of Rome worked. What is the first thing that you see about a Roman floor mosaic? Well………it’s on the floor! This should give us a clue about how they viewed them, art or craft? It has to be a craft, in much the same way as we consider how to get our bathrooms tiled. Even the Alexander mosaic was on the floor, not on a wall as something you’d spend time over in contemplation. Yes, there were those that made a statement, usually about the owner, their level of education, (look at my mosaic with scenes from Greek mythology, I must be well educated!), their ability to spend large amounts of money but mostly, I believe, they were just part of the architecture.
As part of the fabric of the building they needed to be completed within a certain time, nobody would have a villa built and then be ready to wait a year for the mosaics to be done. When you work to recreate a Roman mosaic now then I firmly believe that it is not just the application of the Rules which makes it Roman, but also the way in which you work. You need to have a set rate of work, not fast, but a steady speed that allows you to complete similar mosaics in the same time, every time.
How often do you go back and correct mistakes? Some mistakes you have to correct, not many though. Mostly on noticing them your attitude should be, ‘I’ll learn from that and not repeat it but it doesn’t matter enough for me to take up the extra time needed to go back and redo it’. Look at the original mosaics and see how many areas you think would benefit from a bit of tidying up and you’ll be surprised to see how rough some of the mosaics actually are when you get up close.
You should be able to lay 0.8 – 1 square metre a day, labour was never an issue in the Roman Empire with it being a slave economy so you could have five teams working in a villa, that’s five square metres a day. The idea of the mosaics for a villa taking over a year seems very improbable.
Set your standard of work, stick to it and then you’ll find your work speed.
If you want to know more about the Rules in Roman mosaics then you can find my online courses here.