Spotlight: Debra Hagen - Vancouver Island, British Columbia

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Discover the incredible mosaic journey of Debra Hagen, a passionate and talented artist based in scenic Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

We asked her about her story linked to the vibrant world of mosaics! Here it is her journey.

"I live on Vancouver Island, British Columbia and my mosaic journey began over 20 years ago. A friend invited me over to “do a mosaic” one evening. At the time, my art was focused on block printing, creating painted floor cloths and fabric art. Mosaics were not even on my radar. After dinner we sat down with our boards, some tile mastic and a box of broken tiles and dishes. I started at 7:00 pm, finished my first mosaic at midnight, and have never looked back. I was completely hooked.

"Who You Lookin' At" by Debra Hagen

I am more than a bit obsessed with mosaics! I am not a professional mosaic artist, but I do take it very seriously. I teach classes and sell some of my work. Now that I am retired from my “day job” I spend some time almost every day in my studio. Although I have dabbled in a number of different art forms, my focus has been on mosaics for almost two decades now. During that time I have taken many classes with several internationally respected mosaic artists including Mireille Swinnen, Kelley Knickerbocker, Gila Rayberg and Ariana Gallo, and also attended a week long mosaic class at Orsoni’s Glass Factory in Venice, Italy. I belong to BAMM (British Association of Modern Mosaics), MAANZ (Mosaic Association of Australia and New Zealand) and MAC (Mosaic Artists of Canada).

As I work away in my studio, often late into the evening, I sometimes ask myself- why am I doing this? My eyes are tired, my behind hurts from sitting too long and I can feel the beginnings of carpal tunnel in my nipper hand! But more often, I’m in the zone. As I cut the tesserae and place them, one by each tiny one, I experience a feeling of peace and contentment that’s hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t make things. I love the materials - the smalti, pebbles, stone, tumbled glass, gold smalti, jewellery bits, rusty bits, repurposed ceramics, beads, mirror, and did I mention gold smalti? All of it! And I love the repetitive, meditative motion of placing each tessera. The end result? Sometimes I love it; sometimes, not so much. But in the end it’s the material and the act of making that keeps me coming back for more.

I’m a bit like a magpie when it comes to inspiration. I find it everywhere – my morning walks on the beach, the colours I see someone wearing in the grocery store, a rocky cliff that I’m driving by, a descriptive piece I’ve read or music I’ve listened to. It’s all grist for the mill. Inspiration is defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. It’s important because it’s often a catalyst for creating our best work – although I’d be the first the admit, not everything I’m inspired to create turns out as well as I’d hoped!  Looking at other art and talking with other artists is also very inspiring to me. And not just mosaic art – painting, photography, fibre art - oh, and did I mention music? More grist for the mill.

"The Future's So Bright" by Debra Hagen

The Future’s so Bright (You Gotta Wear Shades) came about because I am very inspired by the work of the highly regarded mosaic artist, Giulio Menossi (be sure to check out his Facebook page or find him on Instagram). I love the richness of his work – the colours, texture, the 3D qualities. The title for my piece came to me as I was working on it one day. I thought to myself “people are going to need sunglasses to look at this”. Which made me think of an old rock song “The Future’s So Bright” by Timbuk 3. Showing my age now! 

I am not very good at promoting my work or using social media. I do have a website and it still amazes me when someone contacts me about buying a piece of art that they saw on my website! I also use Instagram, but mostly for inspiration. My posts are irregular at best. I am a mosaic evangelist and love spreading the word through teaching classes, giving artist talks and volunteering in the community. Selling the odd piece is great because it helps to feed my habit!

My main piece of advice to those who are just starting out in mosaics is to sign up for a class if possible. Learning the basics from someone who has already made the mistakes will save you a lot of time and possible grief!

"Tangled Up in Blue" by Debra Hagen

 An on-going goal for me is to educate others about mosaic art and to promote contemporary mosaic art in my community. Too many people today still think of mosaics only as broken tile or dishes glued randomly on a plant pot or reproductions of ancient Greek and Roman mosaics. However, contemporary mosaics are much more than that and they are finding their place on the stage of fine art in many parts of the world. I’m hopeful that we will begin to see more mosaic exhibitions and a greater appreciation of mosaics as fine art in Canada too."

We also inquired Debra's opinion of us:

"It’s wonderful to have Artsy Crafts on the mosaic scene in Canada! I purchase materials from them for classes that I give and during the Mosaic Artists of Canada exhibition in the summer of 2023, they gave us a generous discount on tiles we used for a community mosaic. It’s great to have a Canadian source for materials and to work with a business that is supportive of the arts in Canada."

Connect with Debra Hagen

Instagram: @goldbugmosaics

"How Did We Get Here" by Debra Hagen

Artsycrafts is collecting stories to help spread the joy of mosaic art and build the mosaic community across Canada. If you’d like to share your own mosaic journey,  please send an email to

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  • Sharlene Hawksby on

    Debra is an inspiration. I met her at my first meeting with BC mosaic artists. She creates great art and is an amazing teacher and artist.

  • Sandra on

    Debra is a wonderful spokesperson for this art form. She has helped grow our numbers here in BC and keep us all connected. Her work and her proliferation is amazing especially her petrosaics that are left in her community for walkers to find. Also I too love having a Canadian supplier of tiles so keep up the good work.

  • Trish Collins on

    Deb is one of the most dedicated Mosaicists I know of – her passion always shows in her work. Great blog, Thanks!

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