Before I Was An Artist, #4 / by Jacqueline Iskander Mosaics

Circa 1997. I was pretty obsessed with mosaic. I saw mosaic everywhere. Either something could be transformed by mosaic, or it could be broken up and used for mosaic material. I wasn't an artist; mosaic was just an obsessive hobby. 

After my first birdbath, I decided that I would just make birdbaths - for forever. I made two more, and realized that forever had come not soon enough. I was ready to not make anymore birdbaths. I resumed my exploration of material and style via primarily decorative pieces. 

Stained glass caught my attention. It was relatively easy to find, to cut, and it was inexpensive. It was at a stained glass shop that I first found wheeled nippers. Wow! What an invention. I took a few stained glass classes to learn how to cut glass and I was off in that direction for a while, trying a lot of glass-on-glass stuff, certain that I would do that for the rest of my life.

There was my picassiette phase. I loved the chunkiness and mixed patterns of broken dishes and ceramics. Yes, I bought things just to break them up for material. Playing with picassiette led me to bottles, which still hold a bit of interest for me. 

By around 2000, I started focusing a bit more in the wall panel direction and ventured to make a few largish ones, one being a portrait for which I was woefully inadequate. But it never occurred to me that I did not know what I was doing, so I gave it a shot.

Fearlessly ambitious and deficient in both self-doubt and expertise from which to judge my success, I enthusiastically charged ahead. Though accomplishing much more technically than artistically, due to the sheer act of physically doing it, my ability to assess my own work was quite limited. While books offered a few tips and critiques, I was mostly oblivious to my technical errors. Still, I was growing, in that unconscious way that is a by-product of just making one thing after another. It was unavoidable, I suppose, that I would slowly and quite by accident be likewise growing artistically, learning a bit about line, composition, perspective, and color.

Looking back, I see that I was very content to just be making things. But then, my mosaic world was quite small. It was just me. I was not part of any mosaic community. SAMA was not in existence until 1998 or so, and there was no Facebook or CMA (not sure when MAO was formed). I was probably still ordering tiles by phone, although I recall the perfect joy of spending time in local tile stores and home improvement stores like the no longer Builder's Square. What fun!

My, how things would change in the next decade! Suppliers would be online, and the internet would be bringing the work of mosaicists from all over the world into my own home, my own studio.