Archive for August, 2010

Inspiration: Tofino

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 8, 2010 by Laura Paull

My first mosaic: how could I know?

This was actually the first mosaic I ever made. It is 4 feet by 8 feet. I knew nothing about mosaics. I was driven by sheer inspiration. That is to say: I was insane.

I had just come back from a visit to my friends Kathy and Gary Shaw in Tofino B.C, where I had been inspired not only by the community of residents, who seemed to create art in everything they did (their homes, their  gardens, their food, etc),  but by the land and seascape in which they live this artful life, teeming with exuberant nature. We kayaked on the ocean there, and from sea level saw otter and dolphin and fish leaping from the waves, bear prowling the shores of not-too-distant islands; we peered up with drenched faces at all manner of long-winged birds. So I plunged into this project and essentially taught myself “on the job,” consulting with craftsmen and hardware store experts whenever I needed to know something.

I collected the materials as I went: scavenging remnant tiles and orphan dishes at the Goodwill, dredging the bottom of my jewelry box, emptying cups of stones and shells I had brought home from beaches all my life.If I suddenly realized I needed a dash of purple in the sky or  red tile for the starfish, off I would go in search of that element, disrupting the work.

The mermaid was a fancy of course – but if mermaids live anywhere in this world besides Ireland, it would be in the watery realms of Vancouver Island and Puget Sound. I modeled her on my step-daughter Sarah, who was not yet a woman, but was soon to become one, and this is what I imagined she would look like. She eventually

did, and does.

Framing it was a nightmare; with its base of marine grade plywood glued to hardibacker and all that tile and stone grouted on top, the thing weighed some 250 pounds when it was done. It took three strong men to hang in its original setting and three more to carry it to the place where you see it here, inside a fence by my hot tub.

I know now that I made every mistake in the book, and would never do a mosaic in this way again. Yet somehow it all came together, over six months of sustained drive and naive inspiration. It makes me happy to look at it when I’m soaking, and other people tell me it makes them happy too.

There is something to be said for “art primitif.” Now at least, when I take a workshop and the teacher tells us what to do and what not to do — I really get it, because in a sense, I’ve already made all the basic mistakes. Now, I think, I can move on.

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