Featured Artist of the Month: Lisa Arnold
What kind of mosaics do you make?
Mostly stained glass on glass but I like playing with tile too (especially Royal Mosa). I’m also a sucker for colored mirror.
When did you start making mosaics?
How did you get into mosaics?
I was trying to avoid writing my dissertation! I was teaching theatre and film at the University of St. Thomas and College of St. Catherine in St. Paul and working on my PhD at the U of M. A friend who made stained glass windows took me to the glass store and I was hooked. I didn’t get my degree.
What inspires you?
Materials, nature, other art forms, light and color.
How did you develop your style?
I think I’m still in the process of doing that but Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, The Wizard of Oz’s Technicolor and Walt Disney’s fantasy lands had big influences on me as a child. Now, as then, I love blasts of color, hidden treasures and sparkling other worlds.
How did you learn to make mosaics?
I bought a book, a friend taught me how to use a glass cutter and I experimented. I’ve since taken a class with Sonia King and Wooterina de Raad.
How do you work best?
With plenty of freedom within limits. I never completely know what I want the final piece to look like. I might have an idea about shape, outline, color, design, etc. but I have to be able to experiment while I’m mosaicing or it just feels like I’m filling in the blanks. I like to surprise myself.
How do you approach a mosaic?
It depends. I like doodling with glass – making a line and responding to it, but I also like working from a cartoon. The thing I love about mosaic making is the variety – in approach, materials, subject... It’s always a new thing.
What do you do with your mosaics once you finish?
Well, I have about 40 of them on display in my house! Otherwise I take photos and put them up on my website. I sell them out of Blue Moon Coffee Shop, Mother Earth Gardens and by word of mouth. … I also work as a teaching artist, doing 8-10 residencies a year, which often involves overseeing community-made mosaic murals. These mosaics are installed in schools and community centers around the state.
What have you learned?
Go with your gut, do what feels natural, learn from others but don’t compare yourself to others (I’m still working on that one).
How do you fit mosaics into your personal/family life?
My career mantra is “working vacation” – mosaics are a part of my everyday life. It’s my day job and my hobby. Luckily, I don’t have to fit it in; it’s integrated. Not having children probably makes that easier. I mosaic everyday and if I don’t I start feeling disconnected from myself. Mosaicing = happy Lisa. When I have long teaching stints, I miss doing individual work, but being able to make large pieces is an ok trade-off.
Where do you work?
I have a studio in my basement but I’m also known to do some good work in front a Netflix film. I find that Radiolab and This American Life are often good “places” for my head to be while I’m working. Otherwise you will find me in the classroom. I’m on the Minnesota and North Dakota State Arts’ Boards so I do a lot of residencies around the region. This summer I am hosting a Mosaic Vacation in the Boundary Waters, teaching classes each day in mosaics – pebbles, stained glass, tile, pique assiette, etc.
What is your favorite thing about working with mosaics?
The materials make me very happy but seeing the finished product in the light is always the ‘wow’ part for me.
Have you ever done public art, community art, worked with children, etc…?
I’ve been working as an artist in residence for the last decade so I make a lot of art with children. It’s one of my favorite parts of being a mosaic artist. It’s a treat to work on a grand scale too. When I do community work, the murals tend to be 3 feet x 7 feet and sometimes we do 3 or 4 that size on a project. I’d never be able to make something that large without the help of 100s of hands. I’ve done some larger commissions for public spaces too: Springboard for the Arts, Tofte Lake Center conference wall, a few windows for local businesses. Again, I love all this variety!