Marian Shapiro – Mosaic Artist Spotlight


How did you get started in mosaics?

In 2003 we were living in the USA and working in the computer industry.  My Australian husband decided he wanted to come back and live here, and we both decided to reinvent ourselves at the same time.  David decided to import Turkish tile to Australia and I started making mosaic. 

How long have your been doing mosaics?

Full time since 2004.  I started by going on a course in the UK and have continued my mosaic education ever since in various countries.

Why mosaics?

I love the way the materials work directly with light, either reflecting or absorbing it and the way that the look of mosaics can change at different times of day and at different seasons.  There’s also a satisfaction when you finish something and you know you couldn’t have achieved the particular effect in any other medium.

How have your other interests, hobbies, career influenced your mosaics?

I’ve always liked making things and went to art school a million years ago in the 1970s.  Later I worked in the theatre in stage management and lighting design before making a 20 year detour into the computer industry.  I am a sometime quilter, and the interest in fabric shows in the mosaic work.

How or what inspires you?

Oh all sorts of things.  I like to work in series as that enables me to explore an idea thoroughly.  Recent series include Forbidden Fruit; a series of plant forms inspired by nature but not limited by it and The DNA Sequence, which explores visual representations of DNA.  Many of my textile pieces explore the tension between making things appear soft and flowing from hard and unyielding materials.

What makes your work unique from everyone else’s?

I like to play with illusion and hidden meanings, to take the ordinary and twist things a bit.

What is the strangest thing you have ever mosaicked?

I’m not sure I’ve ever mosaicked anything that strange, but the strangest material I have ever used was carpet tile, when I was commissioned to do a piece for a carpet tile manufacturer.

Whose work mosaics or otherwise do you most admire?

I’m inspired by and admire lots of people, but I try not to be too influenced by them.  I think it’s very important to try and find your own voice, and vastly more satisfying as a process.  Having said that the people on my admiration list range from the painter Mark Rothko to the glass artist Dale Chihuly and the art quilter,  Jenny Bowker.  In mosaics, I always find it inspiring when people take the medium to a new and interesting place.

Do you sell your work?

Yes I do.  About 70% of my work is on commission, both private and public.

What advice would you have for other mosaic artists?

Well personally, I don’t feel you can go wrong by grounding yourself in technique and giving yourself a solid base to make your artistic choices from.  I try, but I’m sure I don’t always succeed, to do my best work in each piece.  Keep looking and keep learning; buy or borrow books and get involved in the mosaic world either physically if you are lucky enough to have a group or association, or join an internet mosaic group.

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Marian teaches regular classes and workshops in Sydney and is also happy to travel to teach.  Teaching commitments for later this year include Western Australia and New Zealand.  If you would like to be on her mosaic mailing list, drop her an email.

All mosaic work in this article © Marian Shapiro 2008-2012.  Not to be reproduced in any form without permission from the artist.

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