Annette Batson meets up with Montclair mosaic artist Anne Oshman, for today’s installment of “Coffee.”
How did you become interested in making mosaics?
When my kids were little, we had a lot of construction going on in the house, and I watched the masons installing tile. I asked them a lot of questions, picked up their broken pieces, and started playing around making designs. Making mosaics was peaceful and repetitive. I did this for years. It became a therapeutic kind of escape for me.
So, you’re basically self-taught?
Yes and no. The more time I spent playing around with mosaics, the more I loved it. In 2000 I enrolled in a class at Unicorn Mosaic Studio in New York City. I wanted to do more with mosaic than stripes and checks – take my art to the next level. I knew the tilemaking process of cutting, glueing and grouting, but needed to learn the artistic side. I learned the fine art of mosaic, taking classes for about a year.
When did you begin to take yourself seriously as an artist?
After 911, it got to be a struggle to get into the city, and I told my husband, “I think I have it, I can do this on my own. Making mosaics was a passion, and around 2003 I began to sell my art. My art is still exciting for me – it’s what gets me up in the morning – there’s always something else to work on, a new idea formulating.
Were you surprised to see your artistic talent emerge?
My whole family was surprised. It all happens in my basement studio. I use glass, mirrors, tiles of all colors and shapes. Every piece is hand cut. I draw a design first, then transfer that into a mosaic. I started working on home projects in my kids’ rooms, bathrooms, and making cabinet tops. I could play around trying different things.
Tell me about some of your pieces.
I started with clothing sculptures – bras, underwear, shirts, anything I could get my hands on and wrap in fiberglass. I turned baseball caps into mosaics and gave them as gifts, I thought it would be interesting to work on a soft base with a hard medium, and turn everyday objects into mosaics. Then I worked on “fine art” pieces – contemporary mosaic portraits that you can hang on the wall. About five years ago I started playing around with three dimensional sculptures.
You have a giant tiled cupcake on your dining room table.
The cupcake craze had just started when I made that. I thought, why not try and make something that is so malleable (frosting) out of glass which is not malleable? They are very whimsical. The large cupcakes take about six weeks to make. I made a series of them, large and small, and have sold a couple of them.
You made the big mural for the South Fullerton parking deck, right?
That was early on in my career. I was shocked – and happy – to win that public art commission. Initially terror struck – I was totally out of my comfort zone. I worked on it for nine months; my concept was to include familiar images of Montclair. My other “public” mosaic in Montclair – I tiled the floor/entry way of Thread boutique in Watchung Plaza.
Now you are making really cool garden sculptures. I saw one in an art show at MSU and at the Van Vleck Garden during their big plant sale.
That’s my stalagmite collection. I researched different materials, what goes together, and what works for outdoor use. I’m always experimenting – no two are alike.
How long does it take you to complete a piece?
It’s very labor intensive, depending on the size, I’ll spend six to nine weeks on each piece.
What do your mosaics cost?
The sculptures can range from $1,000 to $2,500. The portraits, which I call the fine art pieces range from $2,500 – $5,000. Each one is very labor intensive, and materials alone cost around $700 for a fine arts piece.
What’s your next project?
I just found out that I’ve been chosen as one of the artists to create an “Urban Tree” for the port of San Diego. It has to be delivered by Sept. 27! The 13′ sculpture will be on loan there from October 2010 to October 2011. After that, I hope they’ll buy it, or someone else from the area will.
Congratulations, you must feel like you’re at the top of your game!
Well, my college-age son recently saw one of my pieces and told me, “Mom, when you get really good, will you do this in my apartment?”