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Etty Hasak working on private commission in studio at 1127 Artist Studios

Etty Hasak had an established career in the arts well before first coming to mosaics in 2006. She originally studied studio art just outside of Tel Aviv and worked in galleries and framing in addition to her studio practice. In the late 90’s, she expanded her practice to ceramics, and added mosaics not long afterward.

Since then, Etty has developed a body of ceramic and mosaic work that is strongly influenced by earthy, natural textures and colors. Though she transitioned into mosaic with a ceramicist’s mindset, emphasizing clay and picassiette, her current work incorporates a wide range of tesserae materials including ceramic elements, natural stone with variegated patterning, particularly slate with warm iron inclusions, vibrant smalti, and metallic elements that catch the eye. She often draws inspiration from the natural world to create richly textured works that play with biological similitude, using dark matte surfaces to mimic the roughness of tree bark or green glass to recreate the waxy luster of a leaf. In stunning contrast, Etty’s frequent but highly selective use of blue or red smalti, gold, or copper elements punctuates the earthiness of her compositions with gleaming liquidity.

Today Etty shares some observations on her approach and motivations in her art.

GoCM: What kinds of aesthetic experiences do find to be most impactful on your work?

EH: I believe we carry in us all that we saw, studied, encountered and experienced throughout our lives. When I create a new work it is influenced by all that. Part of these experiences is how we react to texture and what it invoke in us. I always react strongly to texture, wether it is found in nature or in a piece of rust I found under a bridge. It is always a big influence on my work.

Taking Dugald McInnes's class I felt a secret door opened for me and with guidance from other artists like Maestro Verdiano Marzi, Sue Giannotti and Karen Ami, I now have the tools to voice all that through my work.

GoCM: What motivated you to transition from ceramics into mosaic making, and how do you integrate the two practices?

EH: I fell in love with mosaic from the first class I took in this medium about 12 years ago. Everything in my way was covered in mosaic and my garage soon filled up with materials to be used in future mosaics. When I found the Chicago Mosaic School, each class/ workshop I took I discovered a new layer that helped me find my voice as a mosaic artist. It changed my practice and brought it to a different level.

For a long time clay work was my primary medium. When I discovered mosaic, my broken ceramic pieces became integral part of my mosaic creations along with other materials. Taking classes at CMS introduced me to new materials and clay was pushed to the wayside. I love the texture created in mosaic. The quality each material brings to the final artwork and how it influences us as viewers. The search for certain "feel" brought me back to work with clay, this time creating my tesserae from clay in a deliberate way so I completely control the outcome for my mosaic.

GoCM: Do you have a particular method for approaching new works, and if so, what does that look like?

EH: It is hard to say, since the process is not always the same. It always start with an idea brewing in my head. Sometimes I put it on paper in very general outlines just so it doesn't disappear. At times, this is where it ends.

Other times It becomes words that work themselves to an idea or become part of the work itself. But I always let the work dictate where it goes with what I wish to express. Some works are created easily, others have a more complicated delivery and lots of "problems" on the way. I discovered "problems" often force me to be more creative and reveal things I haven't necessarily considered.

GoCM: When you imagine a finished piece of artwork, do you have an intended audience, or a particular intention for your work’s relationship with the world?

EH: As an artist I want the audience to value my work, but I don't think the audience is ever in my mind during the process of creating a work.

When I make a piece for a show under a certain criteria, I run the subject in my mind and try to find how it resonates with me. From there an idea will start to show up. Most of my works are what I need/ want to express. After the work is done, I'm done and I can let go of the work even if it is very personal.

GoCM: What would you consider the biggest challenge facing you as an artist today?

EH: Self doubt which includes exposing myself in all aspects.

GoCM: In the future, where do you see your practice going?

EH: I wish to be able to continue creating and developing my artwork, exhibiting and teaching.

2018; Smalti, Lead, Plaster, Sheet Glass, Acrylic Paint, Watercolor; 10x10”; $550
"Are You Still There?" by Lydia Shepard

In her work, Lydia Shepard proves time and again that she is not your average mosaicist. Like many artists on view at the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics, she has a firm grounding in historical methods, and coming from a background in large-scale public mosaics, she can adapt her technical skill to a wide range of styles and aesthetics. Just as adaptable in her professional life, she wears many hats including educator and youth mentor, introducing mosaic art to teenagers on Chicago’s north side through the After School Matters program.

In her own practice, this buoyant energy is channeled into a visual sensibility far from traditional mosaic imagery, reimagining the potential for time-honored techniques. She sidesteps the picturesque, aiming instead for high impact visuals that draw the eye with bright and graphic line work, defined borders and patterning, and bright, saturated color blocking. Inspired by comic books, social media, ads, and the guiding example of pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Lydia’s art reflects a appreciation for humor and whimsy and flair for visual drama.

Today she shares a bit about her journey as an artist.

GoCM: What brought you to the mosaic medium?

LS: My mosaic practice began after spending a couple of years working collaboratively with other artists on large-scale public works. I was introduced to mosaics during that period of time, and it was a process that really excited me. When I stopped working in public art, I was still drawn to mosaic, and had a strong desire to continue with my own practice. The switch from large-scale projects to smaller-scale projects was a learning curve, but it has really allowed me to spend more time focusing on details and technical skills.

GoCM: Having started in other media, do you find that mosaics are peripheral or central to your practice?

LS: Mosaic has been my primary medium for the past few years. There are many different elements in creating a mosaic that I am drawn to. I love using the hammer and hardie; I find the repetition therapeutic. I love the exercise of puzzling together pieces, and finding the way that they fit together best. I think most of all I love the flexibility and possibilities that mosaic allows. I'm always excited to start working with a new material, and find a way to incorporate it into my work.

GoCM: What aesthetic experiences or styles inspire you and how do you fine that inspiration playing out in your own work?

LS: Pop art has had a big aesthetic influence on my work, and incorporating pop art elements into my work has allowed me to find my voice in my mosaic practice. I'm drawn to bright primary colors and graphic elements, and I always find myself returning to that in my art. I think that a lot of my work has playful elements. I like to find everyday things to recreate as a mosaic; a to-do list, a cracked iPhone screen, or a Facebook photo of a friend.

The most important part of my process is also the part that intimidates me the most: the design phase. I don't consider myself a strong designer, and I am often slow to actually sit down and get my ideas onto paper. That makes it all the more exciting when I have a design that I am excited about.

GoCM: What kinds of challenges do you find yourself confronting the most

LS: I don't think that the challenges I face as an artist are uniq

ue to me: time, self- consciousness, doubt, etc. I guess that my biggest challenge would be to balance all of those negative feelings with the positive ones... the most important one being that making art and working with mosaic makes me happy.

GoCM: In terms of the bigger picture, what kind of goals do you have for your artwork, either in terms of specific projects or your more global practice?

LS: I guess my only hope is that I can hone my style enough that an audience can look at one of my pieces and recognize undoubtedly that it is mine. I'm very interested in making a comic strip-type mosaic series at some point. I think that is my nearest goal that I am working towards. In the more distant future, I just hope that I continue find ways to challenge myself, and I hope that I continue to enjoy the challenge.


Carolynn in her studio at 1127 Artist Studios

Today we are in the studio with Carolynn Friedman, whose brightly colored mosaics have long been a luminous feature at the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics. Carolynn’s background in culinary arts has significantly impacted her approach to mosaics, and the influence is felt by the view in her crisp presentation and the vivid, candy colored hues of her materials. Her work conveys an impressionistic instinct in color and placement of tesserae, which flow through abstracted fields of organic forms like brushstrokes. Favoring abstraction to varying degrees, her mosaics often feature orbs and arabesques that convey a sense of emotion and fluidity.

Carolynn has been featured in numerous exhibitions at the GoCM and has participated in the Prix Picassiette biennale in Chartres France. With a studio on the premises at GoCM, she maintains a close relationship with the community of artists on view, as she has done for nearly ten years. Below, she expands on the inspiration and concerns that inform her practice.

GoCM: What encouraged you to begin a mosaic practice?

CF: The Chicago School of Mosaic and it was by accident. I had no idea what that turn into the school's Ashland location was going to bring me 10 years ago. I was experiencing life changes in personal and professional areas of my life. I was in a tough place sorting out these changes. Being embraced by such a loving community, turned on a healing process that I found working in mosaics.

GoCM: Are there any materials that you find particularly rewarding to work with?

CF: I have to say, Italian Smalti is my primary medium. The color and texture of the materials and endless ways to incorporate into my art. At times I feel like I want to take a bite because the color looks so luscious. Of course I still love experimenting using other materials such as natural stone, shells, kokomo glass.etc, I keep an open mind using other materials in my work.

GoCM: Are there any experiences or intentions that influence your process

CF: Exploring a feeling and translating it into something meaningful is a starting point. My background in food has influenced my work, color wise and has helped me transition to mosaics. The planning and preparation were very similar: the executing of a meal and presenting was the fun creative part. The mosaic process is no different, except the tasting! What materials am I going to use to make this happen? Planning is essential. Drawing and more drawing. I find when I short change this process it reflects into my work. This art has taught me to be patient. It is essential to be open to change throughout the process. Many times, the work takes an unexpected turn for the better.

GoCM: When work on a piece of artwork, how do you envision its relationship with the world? Do you find that you create with a finished product in mind or no?

CF: I go back to my emotion that I had in mind. Does it say what I want it to? Usually the process is cathartic in nature. As I am working on the piece, my emotion is being worked on unconsciously. My mosaics take time as do working out my feelings. When asked to create for a certain subject for a show can be challenging and I've been stuck. It depends on the subject.

GoCM: What would you consider the biggest challenge facing you as an artist today?

CF: My next body of work. Recognizing what I want to say in my art and accepting where I am at the moment. Sometimes, ideas comes easier than other times in my life. They come from a deep personal place and being patient with my process.

GoCM: In the future, where do you see your practice going?

CF: I love making mosaics and plan to continue. I am open to whatever the future brings. I am a work in progress.

"Waning Moon" by Carolynn Friedman; 2015; Slate; 9x9 in; NFS

Carolynn was recently featured in GoCM’s exhibit Variegation at SOFA Chicago 2017 and GoCM at Gallery 1070, 2017.

If you would like to inquire about purchasing artwork from Carolynn, please contact the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics at

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