Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Interview with Fiona Tettman about Mosaics!

Viewers enjoying the works at Creativity Unlocked!

Curator Mardi Nowak chatted to Fiona Tettman who is the exhibition co-ordinator of the current exhibition Creativity Unlocked.  This beautiful exhibition will really change your mind about what mosaics are and can be.  The exhibition ends this Sunday 1 May at 3pm with the People's Choice Award being anounced that afternoon!

1. Where did the idea for this exhibition come from?

The idea came from the need to push beyond what we have always done. MAANZ Victorian branch has for many years held open theme exhibitions but this year we wanted to shake things up, so we came up with the challenge of including an object not related to mosaics in the work.

2. Why the lock and key?
Given that we were asking artists of all skill levels, spread far and wide to be a part of this exhibition we had to choose a readily available material suitable for mosaic that had a wide variety of meanings to respond to and work with. The committee came up with several suggestions and with your help (thank you) decided upon the lock and key.

A lock and key symbolises many things – valuables, ownership (by the locking up of property, boxes and sometimes people) exclusive love (key to my heart), power, wisdom (keeper/bearer of the keys), freedom (keys to the city), imprisonment, punishment (locked up, throw away the keys), being conquered (handing over the keys), the way things fit together (DNA, cells, enzymes), the phases of one’s life (21st, car, house), the keeping of secrets (a locked diary), etc.

The words lock and key can also suggest the way artists work - locked away in their studios, keeping their materials under lock and key (smalti and millefiori due to their value) and their creative ideas locked away in their subconscious.

3. Tell us about MAANZ! Who are they?
MAANZ stands for Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand. We have members all over Australia and New Zealand. MAANZ encourages mosaic practitioners of all skill levels to learn, share and participate in the joy of mosaics. We run workshops, social and community events and exhibitions, such as this one. Every other year we hold a symposium with local and international speakers and workshops. This year in August we will meet in the Barossa Valley in SA for 3 days of mosaic fun. More information can be found on

4. What is exciting and different about this show?
The amazing variety of work on display. It’s really interesting to see how each artist has responded to the challenge of including a lock and key in their mosaic. There is everything from deep and meaningful to quirky and fun through to purely decorative.

5. People seem to love mosaic, what is the attraction?
I think people love the simplicity of it. Most people have had a go at making their own mosaic at sometime and understand the technique. At its very basic level mosaics is just sticking stuff down but it is the way that you stick the stuff and the stuff itself that takes it to another level. All it requires is imagination.

The colour and tactile side of mosaics also adds to the attraction. As does the fact that you can use almost any material and in particular recycled or found materials which often have sentimental value.

6. There is a wide variety of materials used in the works; can you explain some of them to non mosaic folk?
In mosaics there are almost as many materials, as there are artists to use them. There is a huge variety and every mosaic artist has their favourites. I'll try to explain some of the specialist materials that we mosaicists love to use.

Starting with smalti - it is one of the oldest mosaic materials in use. It is an opaque glass ‘tile' that was originally developed for use in mosaics and created during the Byzantine Empire. Smalti is made by mixing molten glass with metal oxides for color; the result is a cloudy mixture that is poured into flat slabs that are cooled and broken into individual pieces. The molten mixture can also be topped with gold leaf, followed by a thin glass film to protect against tarnishing. When placed it gives an uneven surface which reflects the light. It is a magical material to use.

The beautiful millefiori which is a cylindrical glass rod that has been incorporated with various layers to create beautiful flower like patterns; when cut into small strips the flower pattern is revealed. The name millefiori literally means “thousand flowers”.

Fused Glass is made by melting art glass in a kiln, using a variety of techniques including slumping and casting.

Vitreous Glass is square pressed glass mosaic tiles with a bevelled edge which can be used as is or cut into shapes.

And my personal favourite stained glass. Sheets of coloured glass used in lead lighting.

There are other terms we use in mosaics that don’t make much sense to non mosaic folk until they are explained. Tesserae for example while not a specific material, is a term used to describe the components of a mosaic, which may include cut and uncut tiles, glass, china, pebbles and various other types of material. And adamento which is the visual flow and direction within a mosaic by the placement of tiles or tesserae.

7. There is a peoples' choice vote, how do people get involved.
To be involved all you have to do is chose your favourite works in the exhibition........possibly easier said than done as the work is all so varied and interesting. We have two sections - wall works and sculptural works. There are 6 awards in total - 3 for each section, so get your votes in. And if you can't get into the gallery to see the exhibition, visit see all the works and vote online. Winners will be announced at the end of the exhibition and posted on the blogspot.

8. Anything else you would like to share about Creativity Unlocked?
Yes, come along and see the exhibition, it will change your idea on what mosaic is.

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