Our featured maker for November 2010 was mosaic artist Kate Anderson, who works from her studio at Tongland near Kirkcudbright.
After originally studying painting and 3-Dimensional work at University, Kate went on to teach painting and drawing. It was during her time teaching that she was first asked to design and run a mosaic course.
“I had used mosaic techniques on 3-D work in the past, but by being involved in the teaching side the possibilities for using the medium became more and more irresistible.”
Kate now makes wall panels, screens and free-standing work for exhibitions and commissions, as well as teaching mosaic to students.
“While using some traditional techniques I also use materials in a variety of unconventional ways and combinations, but nearly all work is made in the Direct Method, that is designs applied directly to a surface and then grouted. Materials include vitreous glass, hand-painted ceramic, smalti, gold, stone and resin. For me, personally, being able to draw accurately is essential, and hand-painted ceramic allows me a painterly approach in some work.”
Kate is fascinated by the language of symbolism, both personal and universal, which she explores in her work.
“Themes are constantly excavated and reassembled, like my love of history and myth. Collections of work for exhibition often explore how symbols evolve, repeat and diverge in our conscious and unconscious time, and how they alter with our changing perceptions. I feel that repetition in technique reinforces a materials quality.
Tessellation makes for an intensity of image. Layering and dissecting designs fits with my thought processes and memories. The themes are always questions. Assembly must be careful, but I like to bend the rules too, and I’m probably not a purist where materials are concerned. I would hope that my best work is an expression of my stronger side.”
“Practically, it takes time, patience and practice to reach a level of technical assurance, but beyond this some of the biggest challenges lie in design. If you are a painter you must re-learn a way of using colour, and colour contrasts and co-ordinates cannot be experimented with mid-work. Materials themselves present the added challenges of their tonal, reflective and textural qualities.”
Kate is aware that the medium of mosaic can encompass a number of styles and uses, spanning disciplines including architecture, fine art and craft, and of the challenges this can bring.
“Coming from a background in Fine Art, it is only in the last ten years that I have been aware of belonging to any one sector in the Arts, other than when it has impacted on funding or job descriptions such as teaching posts I may have applied for. In recent years I have received a Craftmakers Award and Art and Craft Marketing Grant, and I am finding Craft websites helpful in a variety of ways.”
“Over the last decades modern mosaic work has evolved, often because of the extraordinary diversity of its practitioners, their backgrounds and objectives. This crafted artform is as inventive as it is traditional, it can embrace the political, the environmental, the religious and the utilitarian in aspirational ways.”
Work this year has included an exhibition at The Mill on the Fleet Galleries, the creation of two outdoor panels commissioned by Sulwath Connections for New Abbey School, as well as workshops. At present Kate is making a piece for Lichfield Cathedral to celebrate the 400th year of The King James Bible. In May 2011 there will be a jury selected exhibition showing mosaic work by members of the British Association for Modern Mosaic
“Belonging to the British Association for Modern Mosaic has been an inclusive and good experience. The association’s aim is to raise the profile of modern mosaic, and it has certainly done so in the last decade. Still there is a need to inform galleries and institutions about how cutting edge (no pun intended!) modern mosaic can be.”