Antonio Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona (see previous posts) has inspired many, including French-American artist Niki Saint Phalle, who created her own interactive gardens of art, combining both artistic and natural elements. Several years ago I took my daughters to see a traveling exhibit of her wonderfully whimsical mosaics at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. They enjoyed exploring and interacting with the sculptures, while identifying the wide array of textures and colorful materials, including ceramics, glass, mirrors and stones.
As an instructor at The Art Center of Highland Park, I am able to share my love of mosaics with students with a wide range of experience. Some are brand new to art and others have fine arts degrees, though for most this is their first time working with mosaics. This art form has unlimited possibilities that we explore together, and it is wonderful to see the different directions taken.
One of my students, Cindy Robin, has helped me grow as both a teacher and an artist. Her creativity and talent amaze me. Whenever I introduce new concepts or elements, Cindy jumps in and lets loose with her imagination, vast collection of materials, and skill. Below are just two samples of her wonderful work.
I love to work with stones and have been encouraging my mosaic students at The Art Center of Highland Park to explore the wide variety of color, texture, and beauty found in this material. The 36th Annual Gem, Jewelry, Fossil, and Mineral Show and Sale, sponsored by the Chicagoland Gems and Minerals Association, provided a wonderful opportunity for us to spend time in stone paradise. Several hours and pounds of stone later, we left with our treasures. Black spinel, hessonite garnet, labradorite, iolite, carnelian, and tanzanite were among my finds for my mosaic jewelry. I also came away with quartz, chrysocolla, apatite, and fuchite for future fine art projects.
Last week I spent four incredible days at the annual Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) conference. I was able to totally immerse myself in mosaics by participating in workshops, attending lectures, interacting with other mosaic artists, and viewing a wide range of mosaic artworks.
The above mosaics created by Ilana Shafir and Sophie Drouin, artists that I have had the privilege of taking workshops with, have wonderful texture and beautifully utilize stone, my favorite material. These pieces and many other amazing mosaics are currently on exhibit in the Mosaic Arts International 2012 exhibition at the Lexington Center Museum & Gallerythrough April 27, 2012.
While exploring lava fields on the Big Island of Hawaii last winter, I learned that it is wise to look down, watch your step, and take time to enjoy the wide variety of colors and textures. Above are just a few examples of my discoveries.
Recently, I felt like I struck gold. I was invited by a lapidary (art of cutting and polishing stone) instructor to come raid the scrap buckets of stone at the studio where he teaches. He has been saving the discarded pieces for years, for what, he wasn’t sure. In the back of his mind he must have known someone would appreciate them as I do.
As I sort the stones by color, texture, size and shape, I’m taking my time to admire their natural beauty as I try to identify them. In my treasure trove I’ve discovered lapis, jade, obsidian, chrysocolla, copper, quartz, agate, jasper, fossils and so much more. Already, I have numerous projects in mind for my find.
The New Year has officially begun and I’ve welcomed it by cutting into a new batch of stones. One of my favorite stones to cut and use is aquamarine. Sorting through the pound of aquamarine stones I recently purchased, I felt like a kid in a candy store. The many different hues of blues and greens, varying transparency and iridescence of each stone excited me and I couldn’t wait to cut into them to see the treasures within. I have hours of cutting ahead and look forward to the new creative directions the stones take me.
One of my favorite walking paths is a loop around Northwestern University’s beautiful campus and alongside Lake Michigan. This summer I noticed the arrival of this whimsical graffiti shark. Over the years students have painted the rocks along the shore to create works of art and public statements. It’s always fun to see the ever-changing collaborative mosaic created by the Northwestern students.
I also use stones to create mosaic art although in a very different manner. If you would like to see my use of stones please visit Gray Raven Designs.