LMA: Tell us a little about your artistic background:
Becky: I come from a very creative family, my mother is the botanical illustrator for Oxford university (for over 50 years now), my father is an amateur photographer and my brother is a graphic designer.
LMA: Do you have any professional art training?
Becky: I originally trained as a nurse for people with learning difficulties but decided to follow my true vocation at the age of 27 and did a degree in public art and design at Chelsea school of art in London. I decided to specialise in mosaic as I had always had a love of ‘sticking things on’.
Centenary of the end of the First World War by Becky Paton
LMA: How did you get started in mosaics? And how long have you been working in the medium?
Becky: Mosaic was a sophisticated progression from my collage work. I was very lucky at college to get a placement with the ex dean of Chelsea, making a mosaic floor for a Scottish town centre. We worked on the mosaic for 3 months and then I helped install it. It gave me a first class education and enabled me to teach my college summer school the moment I finished my degree, which was 23 years ago and I haven’t stopped!
Work in Progress by Becky Paton
LMA: What is your favorite part of the mosaic process?
Becky: Over the years I have worked in community and public art mosaics, had exhibitions both solo and group, taught classes and undertaken private commissions.
Even after all this time I am constantly learning. When I get a creative block, I never worry about it, as unbeknown to me, my brain is still whirring away in there with design and when the block lifts, I am literally on fire! I now enjoy the peace of that block because I end up working seven days a week when it lifts.
The domination of Queen Elizabeth 1 by Becky Paton
LMA: Do you have a favorite subject matter? What is it?
Becky: Apart from my community arts work, (adolescent mental health and children’s cancer being my favourites within this field), my passion has turned to mosaic portraiture. I started a series called ‘Warrior women’ which is rapidly growing in size. They are big, bright and dynamic, I started with Queen Elizabeth the first and my most recent has been Anne Lister aka Gentleman Jack. This was a wonderful commission for Sally Wainwright who wrote the tv series.
With Shibden on my shoulders by Becky Paton
LMA: Do you have favorite materials you like to work with? What are they?
Becky: When it comes to materials, I use it all. But I firmly believe, the better quality you can afford, the more beautiful the mosaic. I liken it to cooking, a few quality ingredients usually make a superb meal. That’s not to say I don’t use recycled objects as well. I do, you’ll find fossils in most of my work, plumbers washers, beads, buttons....if it works I use it.
Detail of Mary Anning and the Ichthyosaur by Becky Paton
Detail of The Golden Age of Disco by Becky Paton
LMA: Tell us a little about your studio
Becky: I’m lucky to have a studio in my garden, I work in chaos, I can’t help it, I’m too enthusiastic getting all my tiles out but after each project I tidy up, I feel it tidies and focusses the mind to allow new ideas and designs to flow.
LMA: Do you listen to music while creating (what type/bands)or do you prefer the TV(what shows/genera/channel)? Silence? Pod cast? Etc.?
Becky: I always listen to music, mainly Bowie, Nick Cave, Kate Bush, Beck, Radiohead plus many more, or podcasts, Louis Theroux, Adam Buxton and Jon Ronson being some of my favourites.
LMA: If you could give readers one single piece of advice, what would it be?
Becky: In terms of giving advice to others, it would be about grout. Firstly, I always do a test strip to see which grout colour works best with the tile colour palette I have chosen but also be aware that one grout colour may not work for the whole of your design. I usually do two different grouts by masking each area off and grouting separately or I get my painbrush out and highlight certain areas either with an acrylic wash to stain the grout or a product called Fuga Fresca by mapei grouts which is a thin layer of grout you can apply on top of original grout to change the colour, a life saver when you feel you’ve ruined your mosaic through grouting, it happens to us all. And then, when you are grouted, why stop there? I regularly embellish my mosaics with Swarovski crystals, glitter, jewels, anything to make them pop and catch the viewers eye. It works, have a go.
As a last note, keep experimenting, try new materials, new subject matters, looser or tighter ways of working. Some will work and some won’t but you’ll learn from it all and enrich your future masterpieces. Wishing you all a happy, wonderful world of mosaic making.
Garden glitter ball by Becky Paton