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When Good Girls Go Smalti (yeah, look it up)
By Jody Rathgeb
At the annual conference of the Society of American Mosaic Artists in Philadelphia, the demographic was clear: women. More specifically, middle-aged women (median age 50), sensibly dressed but with bright scarves and jewelry, and either wearing comfortable shoes or clomping in that half-sexy, half-arthritic gait that boots create.
There were so many women that Isaiah Zagar, one of the speakers, commented that he was tempted to ask the few men to stand up for recognition.
Why so many women in mosaics? Paints and canvases are easier to handle than glass, stone, tile and concrete products. Likewise, fiber arts. Yet there we were, me among them in my sensible shoes and 62nd year.
Despite the demographic, there was nothing girly about the conversations. In fact, the chat overheard between workshops and in the elevators might well have taken place at Home Depot or Lowe’s: thinset vs. other adhesives; to grout or not to grout; the price of substrates. And tools! Trowels, nippers, hammer and hardie, tile cutters, glass grinders.
So it was the conference’s sound that defined it, rather than the sights. Odd, because mosaics are primarily visual, with all those little pieces adding up to something much bigger and expressive. Perhaps that is part of the art’s appeal.
Appeal? Too weak of a word. Obsession is more like it. From what I heard, many of the women at the SAMA conference started out, like me, thinking of mosaics as a hobby. But the process and the beauty grabbed us by our glass-cut, grout-dried hands, pulling some into full-time artwork and many more into a sideline business. It’s not just about making pretty things. It’s about finding expression in color and texture; about making something whole out of so many different pieces.
This is what women do with their lives, isn’t it? We put together our education, work, families and love, grouting them with time management (plus some wine and chocolate) for an artful life.
Maybe the SAMA demographic isn’t so mystifying, after all.
#Real #VisualArts #ArtsAndCrafts #Mosaics #GettingCrafty #Philly #Philadelphia
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