Interview with Vaishali Sanghavi, Mixed Media and Mosaic Artist

Please give us a brief introduction on yourself.

I grew up in Mumbai. I am a multi-disciplinary artist. I have worked in a lot of different mediums – drawing, painting, quilting, printmaking, kiln formed glass and now mosaics. I studied textile design at Sophia college majoring in Weaving, after that I did a one-year course in screen printing also at Sophia college.  I got married in 1989 and moved to America.

How did you start making mosaics and how long ago was that? 

I took one class in picassiette (broken china) from my daughter’s art teacher in 2005, and there was no looking back. I started researching this art form. I found Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland. They offered mosaic classes taught by some very well known mosaicists. I took a lot of classes there – Sonia King, Emma Biggs, Irina Charny, Laurel Skye, Lin Chinn, Lillian Seizemore, Laurel True and many more. Currently, I am enrolled in a certification program in mosaic arts at the Chicago Mosaic School. This school was founded by the dynamic Karen Ami. Here I have had the honor of studying under Verdiano Marzi, Toyoharo KII, Dugald Maccines, Karen Ami and Sue Gianotti.

What is your preferred mosaic media? Do tell us about the materials you use for your mosaics.

I am a mixed media artist. I use smalti, stone, slate, 24K gold leafed glass, metal, millefiori, kiln formed glass, handmade ceramic and found objects.

What all have you made in mosaics? What all do you plan to make in the future?

I started out making mirrors in tapestry style mosaics. My work has moved towards abstraction. Currently, all my work is 2D; I would like to get into sculptural mosaics so I am acquiring skills to make 3D substrates.

What are you currently working on? 

Currently, I am experimenting in combining slate with smalti. The new series is in design phase.

Where do you find inspiration for your compositions? What kind of themes interest you?

I only do abstract mosaics, most of my inspiration come from nature and state of mind.

What is the typical size of your mosaic pieces? How long does it take you on average to complete a mosaic?

I don’t work very large, 8”x10”, 12”x12″, 20”x20”, 18”x24”

The time it takes me to finish a mosaic depends on its intricacy. I am not a super-fast worker, I like to bond with the tesserae and the process of creating the piece.

What challenges have you encountered in mosaic-making?

Technical challenges – Andamento and learning how to use the hammer and hardie correctly.

Mosaic as an art charms even non-artists as it brings all the focus on the process or on working out the flow of tesserae. Many folks seem to find the art instantly therapeutic. Do you feel that way?

Absolutely.

What is your wish list for mosaics as an art in the US as also in India? 

Mosaic art is still considered a craft, I would like mosaic art to find a place in the fine art category.

What is your view of the Facebook group Mosaic India and its website? What principles should it promote in the future?     

I think Mosaic India is a great group. I would like this group to grow and thrive. I think for any group to thrive we should continue to 1 –  attract more artists, 2 – share our work more often and have a dialogue with the other members, because we all learn from each other. A closed group is a safe place for us to share our work, 3 – continue to share sources for materials and links to mosaic sites and artists.  

What is your advice to a new mosaic learner who is based in India?

Research other mosaic artists, there are a lot of tutorials on YouTube on Andamento, processing different materials. Keep creating mosaics and you will get better. There are a lot of good mosaic technique books available. I believe it is important to learn the rules correctly in order to break them.

Are there any learning resources or mosaic artists you would like to point new learners to?

mosaicartsonline.com. You can sign up for online courses here. The nice thing is you can have the course forever so you can refer to it as often as you want. Some courses are more advanced than others.

Is there a gallery link or website that you would like to share with others? 

americanmosaics.org

Any mosaic or art based philosophy that you’d like to be known by?

Keep creating without worrying about the end result.  

Do share with us some of your creations and links to your website.

vaishalisanghavi.com

Interview with Rajashree Dadarkar, Stained Glass Artist, Potter and Mosaicist

*Please give us an introduction on yourself.

I am Rajashree Dadarkar, From Pune.  I am an artist and I have been working in the field of Art for the past four decades.

I completed Diploma in commercial art- G.D Art – in 1978, from Abhinav Kala Vidyalay Pune.

For the final year exams, we went to J. J School of Arts, Mumbai. During that time we got a chance to visit the Jahangir Art gallery on frequent basis to see the various art exhibitions. That was the time I developed a keen interest in the field of Handicrafts.

After college, I started freelancing in commercial art, but I did not find that satisfying and interesting.

During that time, I got married to Sanjay, an artist from the Fine Arts background. In our Art journey together we both had a lot of influences on each other as we both loved Art and we started our journey together and we worked on many big projects together. My husband had keen interest in Ceramics and he took training in pottery and Ceramics from Gramoday Sangh, Chandrapur District, near Nagpur.

We both frequently visited the training institute; I too did a short training course in pottery. As we both were from the city like Pune, we had to face a lot of problems in staying in small village like Bhadrawati but working on the potter’s wheel, and complete procedure right from making to baking of clay fascinated us. The clay as a medium of art, huge furnaces and the pottery unit like Gramoday Sangh, the atmosphere, the production, all was like a wonder for me. That was the time I felt that I have found the medium of art that I was looking for.

The GURU of my Husband in this field was Late Mr. Krishnamurthy Mirmira. My Husband was his most favourite student so I became his student-cum-daughter-in-law. Staying at Bhadrawati and working with clay, the days were like a dream and we started dreaming about having our own pottery studio at Pune.

The dream came true in 1980 and we got a loan from Khadi and Village industry for a Studio Pottery unit in the rural development program.  The loan was for rural development, we started our studio 7-8 kms away from the city area, where there was no water and electricity but just the place to work.

We started experimenting with clay. In 1982, we did our first individual exhibition in ceramics and that was a great success and in the same month I gave birth to a baby girl.

It was a struggle in life on different levels; I was trying to work in the studio and at the same time looking after my little one. I learnt a lot from my husband at that time. He was very good at understanding the science behind the pottery and ceramics and he was very experimental in Art forms.

Between 1982-1988, Sanjay did 4 exhibitions in glazed pottery at Jahangir Art gallery, Mumbai, and I did my first solo exhibition of Terracotta Lamps before Diwali in Pune. The exhibition was successful. People admired the work and that was very encouraging.

With that success and experience, we never looked back then. We divided our studio into 2 streams.  My husband moved to Murals and Stained-glass and I focused on terracotta pottery. I had 17 individual exhibitions in terracotta lamps. I was also fortunate to be able to give training to the ladies from rural area. And this is how we established our studio and business in handicrafts.  Meanwhile we had our second child, my son. I continued to work and did a lot of exhibitions and Art shows. But during late 1990s I stopped working in Terracotta pottery as I developed some medical problems due to spending long hours on the potter’s wheel.

That was the time my husband and I started working with stained glass and we started learning the new medium by reading lots of books and experimenting with the glass. We got a chance to complete a number of commissioned jobs in stained-glass and we realised we had found one more medium of Art that we could focus on. My Husband started taking big projects in stained glass like huge domes, window panels, etc. and at the same time continuing the work in ceramic murals, Fibreglass domes, Tiffany lamps. I was helping him to complete the projects but the main driver in all the decision-making was him. He was the artist who introduced the Original Stained Glass Work to the people of Pune.

I was always looking at him experimenting in various art forms and mediums and I used to rely on him for all his technical knowledge.

When I look back now, I feel I was indirectly learning from him, which helps me today when he is not with me. He suddenly passed away in 2011 at the age of 54 and I was left with the daunting task of managing the studio without him.

Again the struggle started in a different way. The studio was fully established with all the tools and equipment but suddenly everything stopped. The commissioned jobs had stopped. No one knew that I could work in Stained glass because I was known for my Terracotta Lamps. This is how the studio activity stopped suddenly.  I also did not have the courage to go to the studio… that emptiness without my husband was unbearable.

But the last big stained glass panel project that my husband had undertaken was incomplete because of his unexpected death.  So I brought together all my strength and courage to face the situation and completed that panel. The first piece of stained glass panel which I completed on my responsibility was big in size, 10 feet * 4 feet. I did the job well.

After finishing the project, I discovered that it is impossible for me to live without creating something. I could not see our studio all quiet, without any artistic creation. My children were doing well with their own field of choice, so I had to do something of mine to keep the studio going.

I didn’t like the idea to sell all the raw material we had in our studio and stop everything. I started working in the studio not for money but only to keep myself busy and to keep the studio going. I was not thinking much and just tried to keep myself busy.

I was looking all around the studio where I found a lot of material like ceramic tiles, boxes filled with glass shards, ply woods, PVC foam sheets, Acrylic sheets, mirrors, sheets of stained glass, dozens of copper foils and kilos of solder wire, Terracotta clay bags etc. And I decided to make full use of the material I already had. For the last 6 years I am doing the same.

*How did you stumble onto mosaics and how long ago was that?

I was completely unaware of the use of stained glass in mosaics. During our Europe trip in 2010, we saw mosaics made with tiles, millefiori, marble mosaic tiles and stones. But how to use glass shards was a challenge in front of me. We had big investments in the imported glass we had purchased.  And when we completed big projects we never threw away the tiny pieces of glass left behind. While doing the research on Internet I found some websites on glass mosaics and I started experimenting in stained glass mosaic in 2012. I found this medium of art very interesting. As I was working in stained glass for many years before, cutting glass shapes for mosaics was easy for me. I made a nursery themed glass mosaic for my grandson as a gift for his first birthday which looked very adorable and got appreciated by a lot of people. So I started making more and more through my research and experiments in mosaic, and started learning about different surfaces and glues. A lot of raw material was already available in the studio. Now it has been almost 5 years I have been working with mosaics. I am using stained glass but I am also experimenting with more textures in my mosaic.

*What is your preferred mosaic media and how do you source it? Do tell us about the challenges you face in its sourcing.

When we started working in stained glass 20 years ago, there were no online sources of getting the raw material. Slowly we found suppliers in Mumbai.

We never got any stained glass material in the local market at Pune.

I preferred stained glass only because I have a lot of material in stock.  I personally would love to use other mosaic material along with stained glass. I want to experiment with terracotta and glass tesserae together.

We have also bought some tools from abroad, mainly USA and Europe.

*What all have you made in mosaics? What all do you plan to make in the future?

I have tried mosaic picture frames, mosaic over terracotta pots for garden display, mosaic over thermocol balls for garden display, mosaic tiles, birdhouses, etc.

I want to plan and work for an exhibition of mosaic art, in which I want to introduce the complete procedure of mosaic-making to people.

*What are you currently working on?

I am working on birdhouses. I make them with PVC foam sheets right from cutting them, making shapes and then mosaic them with glass pieces. With the use of coloured glass they look pretty.

PVC foam sheet is synthetic material so it’s totally waterproof and can hang in gardens.

*Where do you find inspiration for your compositions? What kind of themes interest you?

I get inspiration from nature. The colours and shapes inspire me. I would love to use different textures in mosaic.

I want to experiment with terracotta mosaic. I have made 2-3 pieces, but still need to do a lot. For the last 6 years I have worked in all three mediums i.e. Terracotta, Stained glass and Mosaic.

*What is the typical size of your mosaic pieces? How long does it take you on average to complete a mosaic?

The size can range from small 3-4 inches pieces to upto 2 feet long. It can take from a few hours to few days to complete the mosaic depending upon the design and size. I can sit with patience for a long period.

*What challenges have you encountered in mosaic-making?

When I started working in mosaic, I found it very challenging because it is a new technique not much used in India. So it was very difficult to get practical experience and I had to learn a lot by experimenting and learning from mistakes. I strongly feel that the Art colleges in India should introduce such different form of Arts in their curriculum.

Coloured glass as a medium doesn’t have smooth surface so I faced a problem like trapping of air bubbles under the glass, problems with bonding of glue for glass on glass mosaic. Yet to try different glues on different surfaces and learn more.

During my visit to United Kingdom, I also got a chance to visit a glass Mosaic Artist and I learned a lot during that visit.

*Mosaic as an art charms even non-artists as it brings all the focus on the process or on working out the flow of tesserae. Many folks seem to find the art instantly therapeutic. Do you or your students feel that way?

Yes definitely. Even I feel when the things in life were shattered and when there was not much hope to bring it together, I tried mosaic, which was a totally new thing for me. I started gluing piece by piece, kept myself busy and focussed on my work and survived from the big loss in my life.

Today, life is not simple and easy. Lots of problems and challenges everybody has to face in each and every field. You have to face it and accept the challenges. Art and craft is a stress and depression buster. It brings out creativity in you and it keeps your mind occupied in making something beautiful and new every time.  There is absolutely no need to be an artist to make mosaics.  The only thing that is needed is a WISH to create something with your hands and I am glad I am working in glass and clay that gave me this opportunity. I love the freedom of mosaics.

*What is your wishlist for mosaics in India? 

 I wish, we all mosaic artist in India should meet and exchange the experience. People like you (Jyoti) are doing a great job and helping us find much more in mosaic art, its equipment, and tools.

Thinking of the city I live in, that is Pune, there are very few people who know stained glass work and mosaic as a form of Art. The main aim of taking workshops in Terracotta, Stained glass and Mosaics is to make people aware of these mediums of art. I would love to conduct a workshop for art lovers in Pune, with well-known mosaic artists from India.

*What is your view of the Facebook group Mosaic India and its website? What principles should it promote in the future? 

 It’s been one year that I have joined this group.  You are doing a great job. We can share our thoughts and ideas on this page. Discuss the problems with each other. While teaching mosaics, I tell the students to refer to useful links from your website. It helps students to know more about mosaics.

*What is your advice to a new mosaic learner who is based in India?

 I haven’t worked a lot in mosaic to give advice to new learners.  I can only say there is no other way to achieve something without hard work.

*Are there any learning resources or mosaic artists you would like to point new learners to?

 Internet can be the guide for everything now a days and same applies to Mosaics as well.

I love the work of Solly-John-d-sollinger, Candace Clough and Michelle Combeau so learners should see the work by these artists.

*Is there your gallery link or website that you would like to share with others?

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007066097842
https://www.facebook.com/Dadarkarartstudio/

*Any mosaic or art based philosophy that you’d like to be known by?

 I feel when we create a mosaic with glass shards or, better to say, waste glass left behind after cutting perfect shapes, that waste too can be transformed into beautiful art pieces. Only thing that you need is vision. Nothing is waste….you can create something from nothing.

Do share with us some of your creations.

………………………………………………………………………………

Mrs. Rajashree Dadarkar runs a busy art studio in Pune where she creates varied handicraft and teaches pottery, traditional stained glass work and mosaic-making to children and adults.

This interview was carried out by email and the questions were compiled by Jyoti Bhargava.

Interview with Anjali Venkat, Glass Artist

Please give us an introduction on yourself.

Like a lot of women, I play very many roles, daughter, daughter-in-law, wife and mother. I think it’s my free spirited nature and artistic soul that has made me enjoy my journey so far. I’m a glass artist with an eclectic sense of art and design. I have a passion for all types of art and craft. I’m nosy; I’m interested in people and what they do!

How did you stumble onto mosaics and how long ago was that?

As a kid I would visit Rock Garden in Chandigarh often. I would collect broken tiles, mirror and bangles and stick them on my cupboard, cut magazine papers and make a collage.

 Assembling bits and pieces together has been a life long effort for me.

 I’ve dabbled in block printing of sarees, painting dupattas, pottery, painting, designing carpets, bookcovers and making stationery. I use the word dabbled, perhaps wrongly… for very many years these pursuits were my source of income. But once I started working with glass I stuck with it. It’s a difficult medium and I love the challenge of it.

I have formally worked with glass for over 20 years. Initially I used to sell my paintings to make the money to buy glass and tools.

I’ve run a glass studio in Chennai for very many years. I’ve shifted base to Singapore and run a studio there today. I visit Chennai twice a year and teach mosaics there.

What is your preferred mosaic media? Do tell us about any challenges you face in its sourcing or stocking.

I am a glass artist. In my mosaics, the main materials used are always glass. I like to incorporate the unusual and unexpected into my work.

When I started working with glass many years ago, I had to rely on books…. No classes, no internet with its fountain of information. And the books were expensive!

My supplies were dependant on a visit abroad. My dear husband used to lug around sheets of coloured glass and baby diapers from all over the world!

I strongly believe that lack of resources make one more resourceful.. a lot of my work today, like using broken glass bottles, broken mirrors etc is a direct result of not being able to source readily available materials.

With today’s flattening of the world, information, guidance and supplies are easily available.

Mosaicist to a large extent are hoarders. Bit and pieces are collected over time with an idea that it might be useful in some design. This can sometimes become overwhelming. Regular sorting and pruning of supplies is essential to keep both mind and space clutter free.

What all have you made in mosaics?

I’ve mosaicked a whole bunch of things including 2’ square planters, dining tables, smaller tables, wall art, jewelry etc

What are you currently working on?

 I love what I’m working on currently. I’ve been teaching seniors at an activity centre in Singapore the joys of mosaic. The theme for the Project is ‘JOY’

Over a period of 7 sessions, the seniors have played with glass shards and tiles, drawn out and coloured what brings them joy and then assembled the mosaic on net. Initially they were a bit hesitant exploring this new medium but over time their eagerness, ideas and enthusiasm grew. Each one of the 23 participants has made a petal shape and a few leaves. I’ve assembled them into a garden of flowers. Each petal showcases what the seniors like. I fused little birds, flowers, butterflies, a dog, fish and a house with a red roof. These designs were made on the basis of their drawings. I’ve fused their names too! 

This has been a hugely enriching experience for me and I’m grateful to be part of it.

Where do you find inspiration for your compositions? What kind of themes interest you?

As I mentioned earlier…I’m nosy. I pay attention to sights, sounds, patterns, colour … basically I pay attention to the world around me! I think in the abstract, so my work reflects that. I almost never make true to life subjects, its always my version of what I see/perceive.

What is the typical size of your mosaic pieces? How long does it take you on average to complete a mosaic?

 The size of my art work depends on whether it’s a commission or something for fun. I advice my clients about suitability of size, theme, colours etc but if it’s a commissioned piece ultimately the final decision lies with the clients.  Over time, I’ve developed a clientele that likes to buy my pieces off the shelf. They finally trust my judgement!

 Time taken depends on how much time I get. Some projects have a tight deadline, others are more relaxed. I personally like to start a project and finish it as fast as I can.

Do you mosaic every day and for how many hours? Do describe your work area.

Today, I run a glass studio in Singapore. I work and teach there. I work from 10 am to 6 pm mostly 5 days a week and often teach on weekends. My work schedule depends on what I have on my plate.

It sounds like I have no life at all but for me it’s actually not work!

I have people dropping by the studio regularly and enjoy the interaction and different points of view and style of working of my students.

I have designated areas in my studio for mosaic, stained glass and glass fusing-kilns and try to keep things organized, but of course that’s easier said than done!

What challenges have you encountered in mosaic-making?

I think my personal challenges have always been in sourcing something standard that just works… Like, one just goes to X shop and gets Y material and moves on to the fun part of design etc.

I’ve moved around a bit and have had to scout around for certain materials wherever I go… cement, grout etc. These are not commonly used materials and the average person just doesn’t know enough to help.

Many individuals even without much exposure to art-creation or training, seem to gravitate towards mosaic-making to find mental peace.  Do you feel that way? Why is that?

Mosaic is therapeutic. There is something about placing one fragment after another to make a whole, that is engrossing and very satisfying. The only thought is what piece comes next, the colour, shape or size. The act of making mosaic clears the head of all the incessant chatter… a sure-fire path to mental peace.

What is your advice to a new mosaic learner based in India?

Making mosaics is picking up rapidly in India and three cheers to that.

There is so much information out there, but one does not have to follow what a hundred other mosaicists have done. There is no point waiting for all the materials that we read about to magically materialise. Take the effort to explore new possibilities.

Experiment.. Find a new way. This is also in terms of design and style. While I believe, there is nothing really original in this world, it’s nice to put one’s own spin into things. Always remember to enjoy the journey, not only the final finished artwork.

There will always be a new tool that supposedly cuts down work to half, or some shiny new material but it’s good to remember that actually most of that does not matter. What matters is what the mosaicist makes out of what is available. Their passion for their work.

Nek Chand’s Rock Garden, in Chandigarh and Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Gardens in Philadelphia are proof of that.

What is your view of the Facebook group Mosaic India and its website? What kind of content would you like to see on it in future?

I like this group and enjoy being part of it. I’m happy to pitch in and clear any doubts that I can. However I think it would be nice if anybody posting pictures of finished work explains a bit of what they have used and how they have made it.

I think this page is not a page to show off one’s work; most people have their own FB page for that. And there are enough pages to drool over mosaics and other inspiring artwork.

 It’s for sharing knowledge.

Post a Mosaic related query and people who can and are willing to help should answer, without any prompting from the admin.

Post a photo of your work only if you also describe the process and materials used a little bit, again without any prompting from the admin.

A lot of us, including me, earn a living making mosaics. It’s not fair to expect us to give out all our ways of working, taking workshops, pricing and finding a market. Which is why some questions do not get answered. That’s totally acceptable to me. However if I post a picture of my work, I should be prepared to let people know how it is made.

Do you teach mosaic-making or will do so in the near future? If yes, please mention your city.

I teach Mosaics regularly. I have a couple of types of workshops that I conduct in Singapore, including for schools and other groups.

The age group is from 5+ to 80+ years.

I visit Chennai twice a year and teach Mosaics there. In a few days time I’m going to be teaching an intensive Mosaic workshop in Bangalore.

What do you aspire to do as a mosaic-maker over the next 5 years?

I want to be more involved with community projects and teaching; spreading the joys of making mosaics.

Please mention your preferred way for people to reach you.

 Email: anjalidesign9@gmail.com

Is there a gallery link or website of your mosaics that you would like to share with others?

 www.anjalidesign.com
FB Anjali Design   https://www.facebook.com/anjalidesignglass/

Please share some of your favourite mosaics from your creations. Is there any story about them that you would like to share?

My current two favourite mosaics are community projects. One at the Science Center in Singapore, where I was a Maker in Residence early this year. Visitors to the center irrespective of age made a small mosaic. I assembled all the pieces to make one big mural. It was great fun for me to show people how to cut glass and fit pieces together to make a whole.

The second is the Mosaic made at the senior activity centre, which I mentioned earlier.

While conducting these projects I try and make small personal charms for the participants so they can identify their handiwork in the midst of hundreds of other contributions.

 

The questions were compiled by Jyoti Bhargava and the interview was carried out by email.

Interview with Shilpa Dalal, Mosaic Artist and Painter

          It’s hard to know where to begin.  I studied Commercial Art in college and that is where a large part of my art knowledge comes from.  The rest is self-taught.  I married quite early, and because we were going to be moving all over the world, I did not work.  However, to keep myself busy I started painting in oils and and in those days I did a lot of stained glass painting.  I had some transparent glass paints and tubes of black liner and was able to do quite a few projects in those days.  I was quite busy with some project or the other, either in painting or stained glass painting and I was making a little pocket money, too. 

            Then, my daughters were born, one after another, and I decided to concentrate on them for a few years.  During this time, my husband was transferred to London, and we took our two little girls to London, and this kept me quite busy for some time.  However, after about a year or two, when I couldn’t handle singing nursery rhymes while in the shower, I decided to go back to some form of art work.  I did a few courses in clay modelling and silk painting at a local college, and then I found a weekend course in stained glass.  My husband looked after the girls for that weekend while I went for this course, and I came back all fired up to start.  I bought all the materials I needed and started working using my dining table as my work table.  Because my girls were so small, I had to be very careful that there was no glass on the carpet, and I became very good at cutting.  I made some small projects to begin with, then moved onto a tiffany lampshade and some other 3-dimensional projects.  I actually even got an order which turned out very well – a window – the largest project that I had made so far.  It was quite difficult for me at the time.  The stained glass shop was a bit far, and we didn’t have a car in London.  So, I would drop my older daughter to school, and take my younger daughter by bus to the stained glass shop and buy my materials.  I would hang them on her stroller, as it was quite heavy to carry.  Then I would come home and start working.  I had a hand held stone grinder which I had to wet with water and used for grinding my glass.  We couldn’t afford an electric grinder at the time, and I made my tiffany lampshade with a hand grinder!  But I was so fired up, that I walked through all the difficulties that came my way!

            A few years down the line and we were transferred to Antwerp, Belgium.  I found a stained glass shop fairly nearby and by then we had a car and I was driving!  Whew!  What a relief!  I also found a fantastic art store very close to my house and plenty of parking.  Both my girls were all day in school, and for the first time I had the day to myself and I could get around easily.  By this time, I was painting in oils and sending them to Bombay to an art gallery where my paintings were getting sold almost immediately.  Antwerp opened a lot for me creatively – I was able to get materials for anything that I wanted to do.  I made a good friend who was also interested in creating and together we dabbled in all sorts of arts and crafts, although my painting and stained glass was my own.  Then, one day, my friend and I saw a table made in mosaic at the stained glass store.  We asked how it was made and the owners were very helpful.  By this time, I had a very good relationship with them, and had also done some courses of stained glass with lead instead of copper foil, and sand blasting….. and I was going there all the time.  They showed us a glass cutter similar to the Leponitt ones and we were in seventh heaven… we had the means to use up the glass wastage that I had from stained glass and make some new products.  I taught my friend how to cut glass and we made a table each and then another, and I was invited to demonstrate my mosaic at a stained glass exhibition.  There I met the Leponitt cutter manufacturers.  They were demonstrating at the next table, and they introduced me to the Leponitt cutters and different ways to cut glass with these cutters…..

            Then we were transferred back to Bombay – and I had to start all over again! 

            Initially, it was difficult to find opaque glass that I could use in Bombay, so I decided to use china and tiles.  But, somehow I wasn’t too motivated by this medium.  Then I found some glass – very limited colours, but, all of a sudden I had a number of a person who could supply me with spectrum glass.  He would come home with his sample box, and I would choose my colours, and then he would deliver this to me at home.  It was fantastic!  I just had to buy a minimum of 4 square feet in each colour, so this made it quite expensive, but at least I could do some work and I wasn’t stuck!  I was painting madly, too, and had started watercolours.  I would go all over Bombay with my paints and paper in hand, and paint in plein air.  It was great fun.  I put these paintings together in a book called “BOMBAY!”  At the same time, I had started selling in a couple of stores and I was getting good orders.  I went to an exhibition at the The Happy Home & School for the Blind, and saw that they were doing glass mosaic, but with already cut up glass supplied by another stained glass artist.  They didn’t have the tools or the know-how to cut their own glass.  Mind you, these boys were partially blind and not fully blind.  So, I volunteered my services there, and provided them with the Leponitt cutters to start with.  They also learned to score and cut glass and soon there was a mosaic studio at the school, and we were producing a fair amount of mosaic.  We did some huge projects there, including a huge wall and two floors.  We even did a series of Four Seasons – 3’ x 3’ panels each depicting a season.  The school bought their own glass and invested in grinding and cutting machines.  Some of the boys I taught have graduated from the school and are now working there in the Mosaic Studio, and this is their livelihood.  I also came across another NGO called “Saathi” that looked after teenage boys and girls that had run away from home and come to Bombay.  The mosaics that they did were incredible, too.

            Around this time, I started my journey on a Spiritual Path with an Australian Guru, and I was juggling many activities at once. I had had several art shows with my paintings, but then my father fell very ill with a terminal illness, and I stopped all mosaic orders, because I knew I wouldn’t have the time to fulfill them.  I took a break from mosaic for over a year – I couldn’t get back my earlier orders and the shops that I was supplying to had closed down or had moved on.  It seemed as if the door had shut on me for mosaic.  Even if I started again, I wanted to do something that was more challenging than what I had done before.  I became very involved in my Spiritual path, and my paintings.  I had also moved house twice in this period and was a bit unsettled where mosaic was concerned.

            One day, I decided that I was not going to depend on any store buying my stuff, and I was just going to start again.  I racked my brains for something that would challenge me and decided to make some carpets in mosaic.  I had made a large one earlier 6’ x 3’, and it had taken me about 10-12 days to make it, but this time I felt to make some smaller ones.  I had friends who had birthdays coming up, and so I started again.  The carpets have been a real joy to make and have!

            I have made small and large projects in mosaics – from trays to chairs, tables, mirrors, lampbases, vases, carpets.  I have searched chor bazaar and hunted for different types of furniture to mosaic on.  Earlier, I used to do a lot of floral designs, but lately I seem to prefer more geometrical designs.  I work quite fast and once I get started on a piece, I work for several hours in a day, because I enjoy it so much, although now my back kills me!

            I have a small space in my home where I cut my glass and work.  All the glass is in two cupboards with the spare pieces in different jars.

            Although I have worked mostly on wood, I would love to work on bathroom sinks – this is a challenge for me, as I don’t know what are the materials needed in these projects, in terms of glue and grout.  The greatest challenge in India of mosaic-making is the procuring of the materials needed in smaller quantities and another challenge that I personally face is the space required to do bigger projects.  It is so expensive in Bombay to hire studio space and so I work from home, which has its limitations.

            Mosaic-making definitely is very therapeutic.  This was proven while working with the girls from Saathi.  They used to open up with their problems while doing the mosaic.

            I wish we could get more materials readily available in India, and in smaller quantities, otherwise mosaic is a very expensive hobby and this can put people off.

            My advice to a new mosaic learner based in India is “Where there is a will, there is a way”!  Just persevere and you will find the all you need!

            The Facebook group Mosaic India is a very good start – it definitely shows people how to start their own mosaics, and the website is very informative.  I feel there could be some videos and demonstrations and tutorials that people can take part in online, and that might be helpful.  Also I wish we could sell the materials needed from the website, too, so that it’s easier for people to start if they want to.  So, the materials required and some helpful videos and how to books would be greatly helpful to beginners.  Maybe a Mosaic Artists magazine giving names of suppliers, etc. based in India.

            Today, with Pinterest and Facebook, there is a lot of inspiration available on the internet.  I used to buy books because none of this was available when I started.

            I have not put my projects on the internet until recently.  Its just that with all that I was doing, I just didn’t have the time.  My children and friends have been after me to at least get on to Facebook, and so after much pushing and prodding, I joined Facebook.  Some of my recent paintings and mosaic can be found on Shilpa Dalal Studio. I have yet to add more of my earlier works and paintings, too.

            I hope to do more challenging work over the next five years – although I don’t know what that is as yet.

            You can reach me either via email:  shilpadalal2@gmail.com or my phone number:  098210 22559

            WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY!  That’s my philosophy!