Hours To Sunset: A Stunning Bisazza Customisation

Hours to Sunset is a unique mosaic sundial from the ingenious mind of artist Shaun Tan, created to commemorate the centenary of The University of Western Australia.

Shaun Tan grew up in Perth, graduating from The University of Western Australia in 1995 with joint honours in Fine Arts and English Literature. He currently works full-time as a freelance artist and author in Melbourne. That’s where Susan Marie, Director of UWA Extension tracked him down with an irresistible opportunity to create a large-scale, west-facing sundial for a prominent wall within the University Campus.

By collaborating with Dr Peter Kovesi (an engineer at UWA’s Centre for Exploration Targeting) who provided the mathematical calculations, Shaun designed a sundial that measures the hours relative to the time of sunset, a system that was widely used in Europe during the middle ages. In Shaun’s spectacular artwork, the sun is shown as an all-seeing bird, with luminous representations of the sky and heavenly bodies, inspired by the medieval Book of Hours.

Shaun Tan Presents His Design
Shaun Tan Presents His Sundial Design

Shaun’s beautifully detailed artwork however, was presented on an A2 size piece of artist’s paper. Somehow it would have to make a colossal leap in scale and medium to become a 4.5m x 8m mosaic installation.

Only one company in Australia – Bisazza – had the aesthetic vision, the range and quality of mosaic, the technology and the craftspeople to enable the final mosaic piece to become a beautiful reality in line with Shaun’s vision.

Carefully scanning Shaun’s original artwork, the Bisazza creative team first produced a pixellated ‘map.’ Using this map as a basis, Shaun and the Bisazza team individually selected differently coloured and textured tesserae from Bisazza’s premium Venetian glass mosaic collections to bring the various parts of the image to life.

Eventually, and with precise mathematical accuracy, Bisazza formed these selections into 375 sheets containing 900 individual tesserae, which combined, amounts to 337,500 individual tiles. Quite a feat!

The Courtyard Golden Egg
The Courtyard Golden Egg

Iain Middleton, a master installer with V-vo Architectural Mosaics in Perth, along with his team of craftsmen, was commissioned to install the mosaic itself and the surrounding courtyard, also designed by Shaun Tan, which features a giant golden egg that is rendered entirely in 10mm x 10 mm Bisazza mosaic.

The task facing Iain and his team was immense – putting together an image delivered in square sheets, using a technique that makes all the seams invisible, bringing out the true character of this type of glass, its brightness, colour and shape and showing the true, organic nature of the artist’s original work. To help with this, Iain selected a special Bisazza translucent epoxy grout (Fillgel), infused with millions of tiny Swarovski crystals, which has the effect of reflecting the adjacent tile colouring.

An impressive 560 man-hours, spread across 27 days saw the customised mosaic installation finally complete.

As customisations go, the project for UWA produced some impressive statistics:

  • Tessera: 10x10x4mm with a grout gap of 0.775 mm
  • Weight of 900 tessera per sheet, across 375 sheets: 266.625 kg
  • Total of 337,500 tessera.
  • Backing and mounting: 425 kg
  • Grout: 54 kg.
  • Total weight added to wall: 745 kg.
  • Total Dimensions: 4.56×8.0 m.

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Enjoy this time lapse movie of the customised mosaic installation:


The Completed Customised Mosaic Sundial
The Completed Customised Mosaic Sundial