Interview with mosaicist, Marian Shapiro.
I had a fascinating conversation with Marian,
in Sydney, via phone. We talked about her techniques and unique materials
she uses in creating some amazing art works.
What gave you that first spark of interest in mosaic art?
I don’t know actually. We were living in the UK and decided that we’d be moving to Australia because my husband is Australian and he is very interested in Turkish tiles and he’s ended up importing Turkish tiles. It was just at around that time when I decided I would like to see if I was interested in mosaic. But I can’t pinpoint anything that actually set it off. I went to a course in London, run by a really inspirational mosaic artist and just got completely hooked on it.
When did you create your first piece?
About 3 or 4 years ago, on the course in London and then I didn’t do anything for a year while we were living in the states and then we were travelling. Then we got to Australia about 2 years ago and I started working then. I actually had a year’s gap between my first one and my next one.
What is it that attracts you to mosaic as a form of artistic expression?
The texture and the range of materials I think. The fact that it’s a very ancient craft, that its something that people have been doing for thousands of years so you get that kind of sense of continuity. But you can do so many things with it. I mean it can be functional, it can be decorative, and it can be bits of both.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on an art piece at the moment and also working on a commission for some garden bowls for someone in Tasmania who is restoring a heritage garden. So I am actually working on two quite different pieces at the same time, because the bowls are representational and the art piece is abstract, and quite different materials as well.
Do you find it difficult working on two things that are so different at the same time?
No. I like it actually, you can kind of be going on and then just have a shift and do a bit of another and come back. Especially if you’re working on bigger architectural projects, for instance, where you’ve got a lot of background or a lot of border. Sometimes you need a break. So I actually like having two things on the go at the same time.
Where do you look for inspiration when you are beginning a new mosaic?
It depends if its something I am doing for myself or if it’s a client’s commission because the processes will be quite different. If it’s for myself I don’t actually have any trouble with it, it’s more like fending off the ideas than anything else. We’re on the Northern beaches of Sydney and I just get a lot from being here because there’s a lot of bush and there’s a lot of water and the light is really different. So I get a lot of ideas from around texture, flow and stuff like that just from being in Australia really and from landscape.
I think you have just answered my next question actually.. How much does your surrounding environment influence your work? For example water appears to be a recurring theme.
We are three minutes from the water here, we are very lucky. I think it influences me a lot. Obviously if you are working on a piece for a client then the whole process is different, because you’re doing something for their taste and their site, that they are going to be living with. But I always hope that I bring my own kind of influences as well. What’s always great is when you can mesh your ideas with somebody else’s ideas and come up with something that you both like.
If you had to choose a favourite piece you have made what would it be?
Its funny, I went on a mosaic master class workshop in Auckland recently with a woman called Sonia King who is a fabulous mosaicist and who is the president of the Society of American Mosaic Artists and she asked me the same question. I think I have got two answers, if I am allowed to have two favourites. One is the first piece I ever made which I look at now and there are some things I really, really like about it. I can’t bear to look at it technically. It’s got a lot of technical problems with it, which I can recognise now, but there’s something about the feel of it that I really like. The other one is one that I have made recently because I have started using glass fusings as part of the mosaic work and it’s a diptych called Sea/Through, which is based on a quilting technique called bargello, where you take strips of materials joined together and arranged in the same order and you move the strips one up and one down and two up and two down. That technique was also borrowed from a needlework technique called bargello. So I really like the idea of taking techniques from different media, which is what I did with that, plus the incorporation of the fused glass stuff. I have just got into glass fusing and I love it.
It’s a very hard question, trying to pick your favourite.
Yeah and its often just the one I am working on at the moment as well, but it kind of changes.