Interview By Sarah Mills
I was born and raised in Detroit and am back living in this creative mecca of music and art. After years experimenting with clay, wood and other 3D art I found my way to sculptural mosaics and realized I could join my creative inspiration with the beauty, grace and power of animals in the wild. My appreciation of the untamed world is captured through the raw beauty of unaltered animal skulls as the scaffold for my art.
Mosaic art provides a medium through which I design works that create a new way of seeing natural objects and their beauty. There is a lack of symmetry in any skull and I incorporate that variability, resulting in shifting designs from one side of the skull to the other. Integrating nontraditional elements into the design allows for the creation of a unique voice for the animal that is at the heart of the piece. Elements can range from stained glass, ceramics and smalti to beads, buttons, shells, vintage jewelry and other decorative objects. The skull of the animal creates the landscape for the story that is told.
Tell us more about the use of skulls in your work! When and why were you inspired to work with skulls?
Animal skulls have a natural elegance, and following the contours is fascinating and inspiring. About five years ago, I began to see painted and carved skulls, but when I saw skulls with mosaic elements, I knew immediately that this was my process. I don’t develop a design and then copy it onto the skull. I get an idea for the focal area in the front of the skull and then let the design flow and change as I progress. With the differences from one side of the skull to the other, there has to be a freedom to allow the design to change and reflect the grace of the animal within. Placing the hundreds of beads on the animal skull one at a time becomes a meditation that allows the design to flow from the hills and valleys of the skeletal framework.
What are some of your favorite aspects of working with mosaics?
Traditional mosaics use tiles and glass to create beautiful works of art. Modern mosaics allows for a much wider range of materials and is challenging the classical definitions. I incorporate glass, beads, tiles, natural stones, buttons, and other elements in my work, and that is why I refer to the method as mixed media mosaics. Placing pieces onto an existing substrate provokes a sense of a symbiotic process with the animal directing the design and together creating a work of art.
What inspires you when you’re in the studio?
I am lucky to have the beauty and variety of different animal skulls to inspire me. The challenge of creating a design that honors the animal’s spirit and demonstrates the elegance and power that were part of their living persona stirs my imagination and energizes my work. Finding animals with majestic horns or antlers and working with a wide variety of skull structures is a deeply moving experience.
How do you keep things fresh in the studio?
One aspect of my work that opens up new ideas is reading about the animals in their natural habitat and viewing photos and paintings of them in the wild. Nature is the most amazing artist of all, and viewing these beautiful beings as they were created is humbling and moves me beyond just creating a design to making the work an expression of the animal’s essence.
How do you hope to see your work progress over the next year?
Because I have only been creating mosaic skull art for a few years, the challenges of incorporating new elements and exploring the design process is an ongoing venture. The possibilities of developing new skills and honing the current ones makes the coming year an exciting and eye-opening time of creativity.