08 January 2010

A trip to New Ravenna

Across the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis, MD sits the Delmarva Peninsula, so named for the three states that divide it. There's the whole of Delaware on the eastern side. It's flanked by Maryland to the west and the bottom 70 or so miles of that spit of land make up Virginia's Eastern Shore.

US 13 runs down the spine of the Eastern Shore and to drive south on it is to leave behind the pace and the hassles inherent in living in the rest of the northeastern US. The miles pass wide expanses of fertile fields dotted with pine and oak flatwoods. Ocassional, orderly towns come into view and there's a Spartan efficiency to them.

It's clear that for a lot of these towns, their best years are behind them. There's no real sense of loss that's readily apparent though. History runs very deep on the Eastern Shore, and that kind of history leaves a people with the steely resolve that even though the good times are in the past, they'll come back.

About two-thirds of the way down the peninsula sits the town of Exmore, VA; and in what was once an Arrow shirt factory, New Ravenna Mosaics and Stone creates some of the most beautiful work in glass and stone available anywhere.

New Ravenna Mosaics and Stone is the largest employer in Northhampton County. The 100 people who arrive at that old shirt factory every morning are artisans in every sense of the word and their workplace is an atelier much more than something that could be called a factory.

Sara Baldwin founded New Ravenna in 1991. She started as an artist with a passionate vision to bring beauty to the world through the medium of stone tesserae. That vision still burns as brightly as ever and her enthusiasm, her love, for the medium infuses everything about New Ravenna.

While it's true that New Ravenna utilizes an impressive assortment of water jets, tumblers and wet saws; at the end of the day they create their art the way mosaicists always have. Someone considers a piece of stone, cuts it into the shape she needs and then sets it in place. Repeat 10,000 times.

19 years ago, New Ravenna started out as a woman with a vision. 19 years later, New Ravenna is 100 people with a shared vision.

Look through their entire collection on their website and follow New Ravenna's latest developments through Sara Balwin's blog. Oh, and if you ever find yourself in Exmore, VA; stop in for a visit. If you can't make it to Exmore, you can find a bit of New Ravenna's Exmore at distributors far and wide.


  1. Pure tile porn - look at the peacock feathers. Mmm. Chesapeake Bay photos are beautiful, too

  2. Thanks Jane, that place is nothing short of miraculous. The peacock feathers are a real achievement in stone, that's for sure. You can see them in person at Studium in the A&D Building the next time you're in New York. Photos don't begin to do them justice.

  3. I was just going to comment on the peacocks & peacock feathers myself. I love the fish scales pattern in their ready to ship section.

  4. There's a new series they're doing that features interlocking chains. That series reminds me of an Hermès scarf in stone.

  5. Simply stated: works of art!
    Love, love, love New Ravenna.

  6. I love tile!!! And yes, I get lost in tile stores/warehouses. HaHa! Maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to tour a place like this... Exmore here I come!! ;-)

    Thanks for the bathroom kudos, Paul. And to answer your question, the fixtures are made by Riobel and we're using the Eiffel Collection in chrome. They're decadent and sexy!!


  7. Laurie: As much as I love seeing what they do, seeing where they do it was an absolute inspiration.

    Victoria: Make it a point to get to Exmore! Thanks for the ID on those fixtures. You're doing fantastic work in Vancouver!

  8. Hey everybody, just contact us if you'd ever like a tour, we're off the beaten track so it's a rare occasion and always a treat to entertain visitors. Just email Mary at mharris@newravenna.com.
    Thanks so much for all the compliments. Paul is so generous and is such good company! We didn't get enough time with him, but we're having him back when we have another training event, right Paul?

  9. Wow, Thanks Paul for such a great blog. I'm glad I got to you meet you!


  10. Gorgeous work. I had no idea this place existed, and it's not far from my home in Arlington, Va. Thank you.

    The peacock feathers caught my eye, as I have just licensed an artist's image of a peacock and had it re-created in Vietnamese hend embroidery (http://transformationalthreads.com).

  11. God, I would love to work there. I like doing detailed work. I had no idea of their location. Nice to know they're not terribly far away in the event I can ever get something. We have a small entryway that's tiled and it's just hideous. I'd love to have it re-done.

  12. Sara: You can count on it! Christine and I were talking about that very thing when I was there.

    Meredith: It was a real pleasure to meet you as well. Dinner with you guys was a blast.

    Maureen: Thanks for your comment, pop over there some time. You'll be amazed by what you see.

    Melody: I think you'd make a terrific mosaicist. You'd be in heaven. It's the perfect blend of math and art.

  13. Wow Paul you really know how to find beautiful things to share! Thank you!

  14. Thanks Michelle, I appreciate your leaving a comment.

  15. Awesome! Such creative works of Art. -Brenda-

  16. Great art made by some of the coolest people I've ever met.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. Nice Post and great work! Just Gorgeous! we have only four years beginning creating mosaics, we still have much to learn how these marvels presented above.
    visit our blog: http://artcolormosaicos.blogspot.com
    regards, Joe and Romio
    Artcolor mosaicos

  19. Tile porn. Perfect. Especially considering whose blog this is!

    The Eastern Shore is like a new world. What a perfect setting for the artists at New Ravenna.

  20. Take a road trip, the Eastern Shore reminds me of Maine without the Ayuhs.


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