Monday, March 29, 2010

Mosaic Conference and Studio Update

Last week, Anouk and I flew to Chicago to attend the 10th Annual Society of American Mosaic Artist Conference.  My mom, who lives in Michigan, drove to meet us so that we could spend some time together between my conference activities.  I skipped all of the workshops, partly out of financial necessity, and also to spend more time with my mom.  We hadn't seen each other in about 3 years!  We enjoyed walking in Millennium Park and a trip to the American Girl Store, which was the highlight for Anouk.

The highlight for me was the mini-salon and silent auction, where I presenteed the piece pictured above, titled "Melting."  After seeing the other absolutely outstanding mosaic art included, I had lost some confidence.  However, the piece was very well received and sold after 11 bids.  I reached Nirvana when I saw the incoming SAMA president, the esteemed Shug Jones, writing a bid.  I was floating!

I was inspired by presentations by amazing mosaic artists and the stunning accompanying mosaic exhibit at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass at the Navy Pier.  I made a few new friends from Colorado, Montreal and Turkey.  Over 400 artists attended this year's conference, from 14 different countries, and the sense of comeraderie was profound.   SAMA artists are generous about sharing techniques and information, which results in very high standards of artistic integrity and quality.  Every year, the artists push the envelope a bit further, and mosaic is becoming highly regarded throughout the art world.  I feel so lucky to have discovered this medium just at the beginning of a mosaic renaissance, and to be acquainted with so many outstanding artists in the field. 

This past year, I began to look carefully at my own work, and to take it more seriously.  At the age of 40, I am questioning how I wish to pursue my work during the next decade.  I have increasingly mixed feelings about creating functional and small mosaic pieces for recycled art festivals where I typically earn about $4-10/hour for my painstaking work.  I collect salvaged materials, custom cut each piece and file the edges so that people can safely handle the items, and there are always a number of pieces that are not good enough, or that get damaged.  Then I haul all of it, plus the displays, down to Oregon.  I spend a day carrying heavy stuff, killing my back, setting up.  And then, contrary to my natural introversion, I force myself to talk to strangers for a day or two, and to listen to them say to each other that they could make the same thing, or buy something similar for much less at Walmart.  At my last sale, I wound up right next to a very nice woman who had hundreds of small, simple mosaics done on picture frames for as little as $13.  I felt like the fair-trade import store when Cost Plus moves in next door.

At the same time, I love the recycled art movement, and these fairs offer us a chance to take a little family trip and for me to get out of my hermitage now and then.  I would just like to see the standards raised for recycled art in the same way they have been for mosaic, for all artists to ask for and receive a liveable wage, and for more mutual support instead of competition.  But then, I'm learning these lessons after 10 years working in mosaic, and 7 years as a full-time artist.

In the meantime, here's what is on my schedule at the moment: Next week, I'll be installing the final stage of the Olympia Pediatrics entryway.  You will be able to find me on scaffolding over the doors on clear days, until it is finished.  I will be teaching a glass-on-glass mosaic workshop on April 3rd at Hexen Glass in Olympia.  On April 9th, I'll install a backsplash in Portland that features a forest meadow with sun rays shining through.  Soon after that, I will begin work on a public art project for the Federal Way Senior Center/Food Bank, which is a 2.5' x 4' exterior panel featuring figures working together in a garden framed by flowers, veggies and mountains.  Between these, I am facilitating a 3' x 5' mosaic with students from Choice High School that will be installed at a Mason County park, and I hope to complete a 100 s.f. mosaic at Anouk's school with the students.  I am also making more individual pieces for galleries and the next Cracked Pots fair in July.  I'm busy!


  1. NO one could do what you do. Those cheap knock-offs and neighbors with underpriced stuff will always happen but people who understand and appreciate real art will always know and care about the difference and see that you are the real deal. It's also about finding the right shows.
    However - You're work is amazing. It really seems to me that you belong more in the art world than at the craft fairs. It's always nice to do craft shows to keep the bank account full, and so people on a budget can buy little pieces of your work and hope to become collectors of larger pieces as they can afford to. But if it's not your thing, don't do it. It's a terrible burn out, as you described.

    You are creating a name and reputation and I see BIG things continuing to happen for you. You are one of the stand out students in my classes, You blew me away! I say, follow your dream and trust your instincts, you can take this anywhere you want to!

  2. Wow, thanks Pam. I'm still on the fence and mainly, I just haven't gotten my act together to assemble a nice, professional booth and good photos to apply for higher-end art festivals. Your encouragement means a lot to me.

  3. Hi Jennifer, I've loved your work for a long time and I see it more in the fine art realm and private and public installations. It is too good to be at craft shows. :-) I was hoping to get to meet you at SAMA this year. Hopefully next year in Austin!

  4. I sure hope I make it to Austin. Right now, the prospect is daunting...