Featured Artist of the Month: Gil Gragert
What kind of mosaics do you make?
I work primarily in picassiette (broken pieces art) on three dimensional forms, but I often incorporate stones, glass, beads, ceramic tile and even plastic toys. I like the art of reconstituting objects into other forms.
When did you start making mosaics?
I have been doing various sorts of assemblage for as long as I can remember. During my grade school years I remember coloring pieces of paper, cutting them into pieces and pasting them in my coloring book, likely influenced by the stain glass windows of my Catholic Church upbringing. About six years ago I started doing mosaic in the more traditional sense.
How did you get into mosaics?
Six or seven years ago I happened across "Clay Squared to Infinity", a tile maker's shop in Northeast Minneapolis. It was there that I began looking at materials and seeing the work that was being done. I talked with them about materials, substrates, etc. I also talked with folks at commercial tile stores. I started collecting second hand ceramic objects and experimenting in the media on various surfaces. Once I started, I couldn't really stop.
What inspires you?
By far, how people relate to our world inspires me. I try to understand what they pursue and why; how they impact and designate their places in the world; what their desires, emotions or aspirations may manifest. The forces, elements and colors of nature also inspire me. I more often work in muted, earthy tones rather than bright colors.
How did you develop your style?
It seems that I tend more toward design rather than imagery. I'm not sure that I have a real specific mosaic style; it may be a style that I often use in all media I work in. Because I like flowing lines and muted colors a lot, some of my work has been described as Art Nouveau-ish, but I think it's hard to nail down anyone's style these days as experimentation and approaches change and artists evolve with different influences and media possibilities.
How did you learn to make mosaics?
Although I have consulted some with experienced mosaic artists and tile experts, I am primarily self-taught. I've never taken a mosaic class, but have applied technical knowledge from working with various materials for other purposes. Some things I've learned by trial and error, often a sloppy process, but one can learn a lot by trying different things and observing why they fail or succeed.
How do you work best?
On more complicated projects, I find myself pondering the various structural challenges, and design and color theory for quite awhile before I start. I may or may not draw out my idea before beginning execution. I just like to have ideas running through my head. I most often work with music on in the background. When I work with others, I like to work in very small groups of no more than four or five.
What do you do with your mosaics once you finish?
Much of my work I give to friends and family. I've had a few commissions. I also donate to silent auctions. Most of my latest work has been incorporated into our garden.
What have you learned?
I have learned a lot about the range of qualities and characteristics among materials, adhesives, substrates and grouts that could be used in mosaic. Over time, I've developed a preference for those that will stand up to the elements in Minnesota's climate, as I'm working more on larger pieces for our garden.
How do you fit mosaics into your personal/family life?
While I work a regular job full time and have the usual family obligations, I try to work daily on mosaic projects. Friends and family enjoy and often praise and encourage my work. I try to influence everyone to pursue art in their own way as I know that experiencing the arts add significantly to our quality of life.
Where do you work?
Spring through fall I use a studio above our garage; during the winter I use my basement studio. For some of the messier processes I try to work outside.
What do you like most about working with mosaics?
Mosaic adds color, design, depth and texture to sometimes drab surfaces. In the last several years, I look at everything differently. I often think about how objects can be transformed by being mosaiced or how they may be reconstituted in parts. My world has been expanded through mosaic.
Have you ever done public art, community art, worked with children, etc...?
In the process of teaching mosaic to others, I've worked on some group mosaic projects. I've also worked a little with children and disabled adults in various media. Once my time is freed up from a regular job, I hope to work on public art projects and/or volunteer in schools.