Saturday, January 28, 2012

October 6, 2011 -- Going Radical with Kelley Knickerbocker

I've been a fan of Seattle mosaicist Kelley Knickerbocker since 2008, upon seeing her dazzling and dimensional 33oF in SAMA’s Mosaic Arts International exhibition, held that year in Miami. 

33F, by Kelley Knickerbocker, 2007, 17 in. h x 18.5 in. w;
glass, mirror, smalti. Used with permission. 
So when I heard she was coming to Doylestown, PA (just an hour away from my home) to teach a Labor Day weekend workshop called Radical Dimensions in Glass Mosaic, I signed up immediately, eager to learn her stacked glass techniques. The experience did not disappoint. The workshop combined a lecture and slideshow of Kelley’s work (Friday evening), followed by two full days of demos and hands-on practice. Our host was Katia McGuirk, whose tile studio classroom provided the perfect environment for our group, many of whom drove up from Philadelphia.
Kelley had recently been on a buying spree at Youghiogheny Glass and brought with her an inspiring assortment of matte-finish translucent and textured architectural glass, perfect for layered mosaic making. She demo’d three techniques she had developed and used in her own practice:

Flat Stacking, in which stained glass is layered atop itself for unique color blending and 3-D effects;

Edge Stacking
, in which clear, opaque, and translucent stained glass strips of varying heights and lengths are stacked on edge to reveal their beautifully striated riven edges;

Texture Field, in which multiple patterns of clear architectural glass are combined to form a dense but harmonious texture field. 

She then described three ways to organize the composition—tableau, river, or simple spine—and we set to work, experimenting with the material to create small-format mosaics of our own design on mirror substrate.

A generous and attentive teacher, Kelley circulated among the group, instructing, guiding, and encouraging each student. Like the true wonks we are, we reveled in the chatter about tools, adhesives, and techniques, picking up lots of pointers along the way. Jokes flew and there was some happy munching on artisan pizza. Most of us were able to complete at least two mosaics during the weekend. Here are mine:

Skating the Spine
©2011 RHMA

Moon Over Vermont
©2011 RHMA

On Sunday afternoon Kelley offered a critique of our work, and I think we were all astonished at the variety and imagination we had brought to the task.

For me, a workshop like this one provides a chance to shake my perceptions, break old habits of working, experiment with unfamiliar materials, and learn some very cool new techniques, some of which may find their way into future work. I had been busy much of the year on a mosaic commission that called for nine mosaic landscapes—highly detailed representational work—and so it was a real treat to be able to step away from that mindset for a couple of days and enter a world of abstraction and pure color. I came back to the studio on Monday refreshed and inspired and rarin’ to go.

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