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Why I Make: Quiet Jubilation

Images courtesy of the author.

Images courtesy of the author.

Images courtesy of the author.

Photo gallery (2 images)

It is indeed daunting and incredibly sustaining to sit with a blank surface trying to find exactly the right shape or rhythm or movement that brings bits of stone, fossil, glass, or porcelain to life in a way that is aesthetically relevant. Amid the sublime satisfaction of creation, there is inevitably a vital bit of delicious suffering involved as I make decisions that seek to carry the life of the piece to the viewer.

It is a thrill to come to the art of mosaic with a naiveté and purity of heart - still exploring technicalities, but trusting that the beauty of this world and what I know about art will manifest in a piece. For me, mosaics are borne of an inexplicable paradox of time and space. Materials that are ancient and honored may be juxtaposed with those that are transient and disposable. Bits of reality may wander amid the illogical. A whole might be composed of hundreds or thousands of disparate parts. And yet, when things go right, it all works.

Perhaps it is my father's influence that draws me to mosaic. He was Italian - a stonemason, a bricklayer, a lover of the arts. He would survey a wall or a set of steps with a critical, aesthetic eye, ensuring that every stone or brick was exactly the right one - the one that was critical to the beauty of design. Sometimes I can almost hear his voice guiding, questioning, challenging. How does that color work with the ones around it? Why does the chip right here work so well? Will this line carry the eye to the place you want it to go?

Then there is the silence that mosaic art engenders. There is a certain seductive and meditative quality that accompanies this type of work. It's hard to attend to composing in a meaningful way if my mind is cluttered or chattering. This work has a way of forcing me to listen to the materials and to the repetition of placing each bit in relationship to the last, to the next, and to the whole.

Finally, I find the element of surprise so intriguing. When a piece fits just right it is cause for quiet jubilation.

Jhane Gagliardi-Plenge was born in Philadelphia to Anne and Eugene, has six sisters and one brother, is mother to two amazing young men and Nona to three grandchildren, and was well educated at Geogian Court University, University of Connecticut, and Saint Joseph's University. She has worked as a secondary art teacher and coordinated and taught in an academically gifted program for teens. She still teaches as at the university level, retired from public school administration, and is now blissfully practicing creatively and productively as a mosaic artist.

Why I Make is a guest series exploring the human impulse to create. Read more posts in the Why I Make archives or submit your own story.




So wonderful to see a contemporary mosaic artist featured! Thank you, American Craft. You are making a long-held dream of mine come true. And kudos to Ms. Gagliardi-Plenge for her heartfelt words and work.

beautifully written prose depicting a (nother) talented and humane side of the artist--bravo!

How wonderfully expressed! I find the same calm and focused silence when piecing a quilt -- and the same surprise and delight when the components work well together. Kudos to you, Jane.

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