Counting the Ways
by Jacki Sowers, Midlothian, VA
Believe it or not, there are still people who have no idea what a “mosaic” is! Occasionally people ask me what I “do”, and when I answer, “I am a mosaicist”, I see a quizzical look come over their faces. I tell them I make mosaics, and they ask what mosaics are. Probably even more people wonder, but are too timid or embarrassed to ask. SAMA wants to make sure such questions become a thing of the past. Promoting the art of mosaic, be it classical or modern, and those who create these works….that’s what SAMA does.
Life before SAMA…. I have created, in one form or another, for as long as I can remember….sewing and needlework, paper-making, hand-building with clay, writing, stained glass, and a welding class. I even tried wheel-thrown pottery. I was lousy at that….too impatient, I was told by my instructor, as a blob of very wet clay flew off my wheel, sailing across the studio and ending with a splat on the floor! Nothing fit. Then one Sunday, browsing through books at Barnes & Noble, I opened a book called Making Bits and Pieces Mosaics, by Marlene Hurley Marshall. She featured an oval Victorian parlor table, done in what she called “pique assiette” style. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it was fun to say, and I wanted that table! I persuaded my husband to make the table base for me (he did a great job, too!), then I started shopping for dishes to break, figurines, ceramic flowers, glass tiles….all sorts of fun materials! Looking back at pictures of that table, I shudder, but I did it…. and I was hooked! I wanted to mosaic my whole world!
I read every book I could find about mosaics, joined several online groups, and eventually learned of an organization called the “Society of American Mosaic Artists”. Life has not been the same for me since!
Counting reasons why I am a SAMA member would put Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “how do I love thee?”- counting to shame!
SAMA members are a family. It’s as simple as that. We support each other, encourage each other, and share our passion for the art of mosaic. I don’t think I have ever been a part of any group as dedicated or as generous as the SAMA organization. From “those in charge” (thanks, Dawnmarie and Chris!) to the elected Officers, to the volunteers….there is such a strong bond uniting each and every member of the group. They all work so hard for us!
My first SAMA experience was the Conference in Mesa. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t consider myself “an artist”, as I had never studied mosaics and I wondered if I would even fit in. I was completely “star-struck” as I walked into the hotel that first evening and saw so many names and faces come together, people I had read about in mosaic books. Would they be aloof, cliquish? Would they even acknowledge a newbie? Should I even be there? Unfounded worries! Acquaintances were made and some true friendships evolved. All the while, I became addicted to taking workshops taught by highly respected professionals, buying yummy materials and the newest tools at the Vendor Marketplace, and seeing the best-of-the-best work exhibited. Factor into that equation having fun, and there isn’t much left to ask for!
By the next year, in Miami, I was more comfortable with such a large, diverse-yet-bonded group, and I wanted to do more, so I volunteered to work at a few events. This has become one of my favorite parts of the SAMA Conference experience! It helps SAMA, and it helps me. I like that!
OK, Elizabeth B. Browning….let’s add to the list! SAMA members are giving people, both with their time and their talent. Instructors love what they do so much that they share their knowledge with us, in fantastic workshops, seminars, and presentations. Vendors generously donate materials to the “goody bags” we receive at Registration, to the Mosaic Marathon, and to the annual Raffle. I actually WON the grand prize, at the Miami Conference – a fabulous workshop at Perdomo’s Mosaics in Mexico in Cuernavaca!
The Mosaic Marathon not only results in a beautiful piece of art being installed in the city in which the Conference is held, but it is a great gathering experience for those working together on the mosaic. It is a time to reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones, a time for camaraderie.
SAMA honors one worthy mosaic artist every year with the Robin Brett Scholarship, a chance to further advance his/her art through study.
Sure, it’s possible to learn mosaic basics just by reading books, but why would anyone want to settle for just that? SAMA membership offers many opportunities to learn from “the best-of-the-best”, enhancing not only mosaic skills but providing lifetime memories of wonderful, fun-filled get-togethers. Attending SAMA Conferences is the high point of my year. Thank you, SAMA!