By Trish Holder
I like Janice Schmidt’s style – and I’m not just talking about the gorgeous mosaic artwork and home accessories she creates. She’s open, personable and very real.
I had a pleasant conversation with Janice at the High Point Furniture Market this spring where I found myself captivated by her work, including our American Made Pick-of-the-Week, “Lizards in the Sun”. Janice chatted enthusiastically with me about a great grout she had discovered called “Crystal Glass Grout” that takes on the color of whatever shade of glass an artist uses. I like it when artists invite me into the “technical” side of their craft.
Aside from being a wonderful artist, Janice, it turns out, is a great communicator, something that I noted when we interviewed her for this feature. In fact, I found her responses so eloquent and interesting I’m breaking from my typical “Pick-of-the-Week” format so that I can share word-for-word her responses to our questions.
Here’s what Janice had to say about the art of mosaics….
Greenspiration: Did your school, family, or community environment play a large role in inspiring you to pursue the arts?
Schmidt: My family played a huge role in inspiring me to pursue the arts. I come from a family of makers. My grandmother painted and did ceramics. She even had her own kiln! I remember being very young and learning how to play with clay, bread dough, yarn…whatever the project of the day was. My mother was an excellent seamstress and even now, at 96, knits remarkably complex blankets. When you’re around creativity early, it gives you the courage to undertake anything your imagination conjures.
Greenspiration: When did you discover your passion for mosaics and decide to turn it into a professional practice?
Schmidt: It’s been nearly 20 years since a friend (a painter) told me about mosaics. She simply said “Try it, it’s fun. Get scrap glass, nip it, glue it and grout it.”
It was an irresistible medium from the start. It’s a great medium to experiment and stretch the boundaries. I was working in a corporate job, doing mosaic as a hobby. It’s been about 10 years since I decided to do mosaic full time.
Greenspiration: What have you found most rewarding as a mosaic artist?
Schmidt: Exceeding a client’s expectation. I love what I do and there are a lot of pieces I make that come from an idea that just won’t leave me alone. That alone is so gratifying. But when I have a commissioned project and I’m working on something that has to satisfy both my artistic sensibilities and my client’s, I’m under a different pressure. When it’s done and they tell me that it’s far better than they ever imagined…. now that’s rewarding!
Greenspiration: Nature seems to be a recurring motif in you work. Is this typical of other mosaic artists?
Schmidt: Not necessarily. I’ve seen many mosaic artists work with natural material (geodes, marble, rocks) in contemporary designs. Mosaic design is all over the map. I read a book recently where they referred to creative DNA – in other words, as your work evolves, you develop your own voice/style that speaks through your work. I love nature and natural themes. I also love working with natural materials.
Greenspiration: Are there certain materials you prefer to others when creating your mosaics?
Schmidt: My favorite material continues to be stained glass. I usually mix that with other materials (stone, gemstones, metal) to make the design more interesting and dimensional. Grout can be a real challenge. If done right it unifies a design. Epoxy grout is definitely more durable. It’s not only stain resistant, but UV protected, so it won’t deteriorate in the sun.
Greenspiration: Do you prefer to work solely with mosaics, or do you like the works where you combine various types of glass and paper to create your artwork?
Schmidt: Both are fascinating. It depends on the project/art piece. I’ve collaborated with a painter friend where the artwork combines painting and mosaic to create very interesting artwork. Sometimes you have to look close to see where the mosaic begins/ends with the painting. I also do a lot of mixed media pieces where I combine paper collage and glass mosaic. Those pieces are primarily wall art rather than functional art.
Greenspiration: How does creating a customized piece and an inspired piece differ for you as an artist?
Schmidt: Customized pieces are usually controlled to some extent by my clients’ requirements – could be color or theme. I do direct the process, as I know more what’s possible with mosaic. But I often build off their design. I like to think of it as a collaboration to make sure we’re all satisfied – their ideas are respected and my creative style is honored. With an inspired piece I can experiment with colors, materials, and ideas without thought to meeting someone’s needs. When I’m at my best, I have no thoughts of whether or not a piece will sell. I create just for the joy of creating.
Greenspiration: What was your inspiration for “Lizards in the Sun”?
Schmidt: I thought of them more as chameleons that blend into their background. So I wanted to play with shapes and colors where lines and images intersected. Colors are wonderful on their own, but when they have relationship to another color, magic happens.
Greenspiration: Where do you find the materials for your mosaics?
Schmidt: Sourcing materials is always one of the biggest challenges in mosaics. Over the years I’ve developed a lot of sources and have collected materials that intrigue me for use in a future project. Occasionally I get to use recycled materials. My favorite came from Hurricane Katrina. My husband was doing disaster relief work in New Orleans including in an old convent. He found glass pieces that were probably a hundred years old. He packaged them up and shipped them home. I saved them for a few years until I could use them in the perfect piece!
Janice Schmidt, owner of Janice Schmidt Mosaic Design in Atlanta, GA, is a classically trained mosaic artist with over 15 years of experience in custom installations, lighting, and furniture. To see more of Janice’s work, go to http://www.janiceschmidtmosaics.com.