24 October 2010

Autumnal re-runs: A trip to New Ravenna

This post ran originally on 8 January 2010 and it recounts a trip I took to New Ravenna Mosaics about a month prior. I ran a post this week about some new stuff New Ravenna's been working on and it reminded me again how impressed I was by my experiences as their guest last year.

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. Beautiful and unique stonework. Very talented artists.

  2. They are an amazing group of people.


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