For nearly sixty years the congregation of Fairmount Temple synagogue of Beachwood Ohio has worshipped in one of the area's most beautiful religious buildings and sanctuaries. Over the years the building has retained a look that is both modern and classical while remaing very visually in the Jewish tradition. All who enter the building pass between two large mosaic covered columns. The original designs for the columns were created by artist Abraham Rattner who was best know for his oil paintings, stained glass windows and tapestry installations. There is no record of the workshop that turned Mr. Rattner's designs into mosaics. More than likely the mosacs were assmbled by old style craftsmen, perhaps of Italian background judging by the fact that the opaque glass tessere (little mosaic pieces) were Smalti, made by hand on the Island of Murano in the bay of Venice. Unfortunately, time, weather and sidewalk salt had taken its toll on the lower edges of both the mosaic and the concrete substrate beneath.
The restoration presented many difficulties: The traditional materials would need to be located; Smalti is a famously difficult material to handle, being handmade with no two pieces exactly the same size or thickness; Finally, the columns are conical in shape, with the small ends down and with cross sections that are oval. Fortunately the insatllation was handled by my favorite tile setter, Larry Guthrie, owner of Absolute Tile of Westlake Ohio. Larry is a true craftsman who loves the challenges of installing public art projects.