Working Method

Sonia King Mosaic ArtistMy design process is completely intuitive, integrating technique and vision. I am driven by the desire to work with a huge variety of tesserae. I collect materials from around the world, such as shells, mineral specimens, unusual tiles, anything that captures my interest. The ideas about how to use these materials may percolate for years or may be immediately apparent.

I have always traveled a great deal. Images of the earth from the air relate, in my mind, to images seen under a microscope and to satellite imagery of our universe. While my designs don’t derive directly from these images, I think they are probably a source for my creative process. I spend a lot of ‘head time’ on a piece before ever selecting the first tessera. Eventually this all distills into abstract mosaics that I hope find a tranquil place in a complicated world.

I am particularly fascinated by the opposing goals of creating serenity from a complex blend of varying materials, shapes, interstices, scale, reflectivity, etc. Each tessera has to stand on it’s own. But it also must interact with the pieces around it in a particular way. So while a piece may work in color and shape, it must also correctly handle light, create contrast in texture, move the eye in a certain way and so on. And putting down a new piece can change the relationships between the ones already in place. It makes the work slow but mentally engaging.

Everything is created by hand. I use a variety of nippers, cutters and hammers to control each tessera’s shape and scale but I don’t grind edges, use a wet saw or power tools. I want that physical connection to the process of creating my art. If I can’t shape it by my own hand, it doesn’t work for me. And I create all the fine artworks myself. I want to lay each tessera, feel the cement squish, control the depth, the tilt…all the variables that go into creating my art.

The constant interplay between intellectual stimulation and the tactile pleasures of shaping each piece and then placing it, keeps me in the studio for hours. I have no sense of time going by. It is myself and my ability (or inability) to master the materials and create a work that captures something elusive.

Mosaic is hard. Art is harder. Creating with a broad range of materials raises the complexity beyond just cutting a piece to fit. I work to get every tessera right while managing its relationship to the next piece and the one before, all the time considering the work as a whole. Unlimited choices in scale and texture and reflectivity and spacing and more, keep my mind working on multiple levels at the same time. The work is engrossing and consuming and challenging and hard and I wouldn’t do anything else.