We had the opportunity to learn about the mosaic journey of the artist Kathy Schaffer, based in Pilot Butte, Saskatchewan.
Here it is in her own words:
An orange house sits on the Saskatchewan prairies, with a tiny creek meandering in the hollow below. That's where the cattails (kattails) grow! There are solar panels on the roof catching the last sun of the day and if you look closely you might notice that the house isn't quite like any other house. Everything is gentle and rounded. Could it be because the walls are made of straw bales? Yes, I think they are; maybe oat straw. And in that straw bale house there is a tiny studio nestled into that little nook (3rd window from the left) and in that tiny studio. . . is where I create my mosaic art!
It seems like I’ve always done mosaics, but that could be because I was an avid jigsaw puzzler from a very young age….still am today! But the real mosaics started happening about 25 years ago when my sister and I saw a mosaic table in a garden magazine and said, “we could do that”…so we did. We took a hammer and smashed some left over ceramic tiles from a bathroom renovation and came up with “The Turtle Table”. It’s still my favourite table to this day!
We worked together for a few years, creating tables, trays and teacup mirrors and taking our creations to craft sales where they were very popular, as there was no one else doing mosaics at that time in our area.
We pretty much just used salvaged tiles and whatever we could get our hands on.
Down the road, my sister took a different creative path, but I stuck with mosaics. Over the years as different mosaic tiles and materials became available I experimented and started creating more intricate designs using vitreous tiles, stained glass and broken china, often incorporating interesting elements such as keys, Mirror, agate or even ladybugs into my designs.
I created Kattail Acres as a business in 2016, when I retired from a career in IT and accounting, and have been going non stop ever since. The pandemic years have been my most successful years when I started creating DIY mosaic kits as a way to share my art/craft.
I love all the different aspects of mosaicing (is that a word?) - everything from using the band saw to cut out my kit shapes to painting the backs, to doing the actual mosaics, grouting, marketing and even the accounting.
Facebook ads work well for me to get the word out about new kits or art that I have created and Instagram is where “my people” hang out and where mentoring happens. I do a quarterly email newsletter to my subscribers with news about my upcoming events and classes. I also have a GoDaddy website, but to save costs I have a free online store on Square that only charges credit card fees and a small transaction fee.
I do at least seven in person art shows/markets in my local area. Both my husband Scott and I enjoy talking with folks and explaining what it is that we do. Scott is an intricate part of the business with his support, design critiquing, and assistance in the workshop, as well as his physical labour lugging my stuff from sale to sale!
I’ve never taken a mosaic course, but am inspired by mosaic artists across the world! I became involved in our local community Arts Committee in 2018 and the team insisted that I should teach, so reluctantly (as I never like to be in the spotlight) started teaching in 2019 and now do it on a regular basis.
My one piece of advice to others exploring mosaics is don’t compare yourselves to others…create what feels good to you and if it doesn’t feel right, wipe the slate clean and start again. I do this all the time and am always amazed what the 2nd or third go around brings. I like to say that when the tiles talk to me, I know I’ve got it right! If you create from within and take a few risks here and there, you’ll be surprised what happens.
My one piece of advice to others exploring mosaics is don’t compare yourselves to others…create what feels good to you and if it doesn’t feel right, wipe the slate clean and start again.
I recently discovered Artsy Crafts and was delighted to find a Canadian supplier of mosaic tiles 🇨🇦! I love their ceramic pieces and am excited that they are expanding their selection of glass and glitter tiles. They ship quickly and I can always rely on them to get me the product in time. Thanks Artsy Crafts, for supporting Canadian mosaic artists!
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