Updated: May 20
This month, Claire is interviewing gallery artist Nicola Upton, otherwise known as Mrs Mosaic. We get to learn a bit about Nicola's practice, her 'lockdown revolution' and how she manages her time between family life, working and making her art. The first time I met Nicola was in a gallery 'Zoom' meeting back in March, I'd just joined the The Two Tree Gallery and everything was new, including the looming pandemic. I'd been following Nicola's work on Instagram; her beautiful mosaics have become incredibly popular in a short space of time. Nicola's enthusiasm and passion for her work came across instantly and I just knew straight away we were going to get along! When did you first start making mosaics? After completing my degree in glass design in Wolverhampton, the centre of glassmaking in this country, I went on to work in the City of London. When I had my first child, I decided to go part time but then I applied for a job at Southend Adult Community College as a Stained Glass Tutor. I loved teaching at the college and here I was given the opportunity to take a City and Guilds in mosaics. Making mosaics is a relatively new thing for me, it started as a way of using up scraps from my stained glass work, now it's the main part of what I do, although I still like to work with fused glass. Lockdown gave me the chance to engage with a series of work, I call it the 'Lockdown Revolution' as I just haven't stopped working! What is inspiring your current body of work? Lockdown walks; I've come to notice so many different types of local birds. One day, I saw a heron land on the roof of a house I was walking past, I saw it as a symbol of hope and from then on I've been using birds in my designs. I've recently bought a book on ornithology and I am developing my knowledge of different species. Talk us through your process from design to completion? I start with looking for interesting images of birds through books or online. I use these to inspire watercolour sketches which then become the basis of my designs. Working on aquaboard as a base, I draw up the designs and then I start to cut the glass to fit each individual section. The glass is then laid on top of the design, starting with the body of the bird first before putting in the head and background details. Normally, I like to walk away at this point and come back to it the next day with a fresh pair of eyes. Once I'm happy, I glue each piece down and then grout! Recently, I've taken to naming each bird mosaic, as I am making them usually their character starts to appear and names roll around my head. I also have a list that I keep and if I hear a good one I pop it on there and assign it to a bird when it's complete!