Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story? A story of coming into one’s own, a story of transformation and dreams come true? A Cinderella story is one that never gets old! Debra Mager, of Cinderella Mosaics, shares her story of finding her calling in creating mosaic art, and I believe her calling to teach and share mosaic art with others.
I had a wonderful chat with Debra regarding the transition from the so called corporate world, to making mosaics a full time business reality. I believe it is something many mosaic artists dream of doing, and Debra is making happen. Her love and passion for mosaics, as well as her gratitude for a life changing encounter, is motivating her to make the changes necessary to become a full time creator, educator, and supporter of the mosaic arts.
There is a great deal that Debra shares in the following interview, that I know many of us can relate to, and have experiences ourselves. Our destinations may not all be the same on our mosaic journeys, but I do believe we travel a similar path when we are new to mosaics. To have other artists share their journeys is one of the greatest gifts I think they can give another artist. There is so very much to learn not only in the art forms techniques, but in the intangible. To share a passion, to build the camaraderie, to encourage another artist to seek their passion and not give up…these are truly gifts so freely given in our small enclave of mosaics artists, and Debra gets that!
So enjoy getting to know a little more about Debra and her experience into the world of mosaic art, and reflect on the gifts you have received on your journey. What will you share with a new mosaic artist?
Mother Nature by Debra Mager
Marie Antoinette by Debra Mager
LMA: How did you get started in mosaics?
Debra: I’ve always been attracted to mosaic art, but as a collector and admirer, never a creator. As much as I’ve “soul searched” to see specifically why mosaics most attracted me, I can only say there is something about the puzzling together of random materials into a whole that fascinates me. It wasn’t until my husband and I were visiting an Austin art festival that I took the plunge to try my hand at mosaic art. I encountered an artist who would become my most influential mentor, Suzan Germond. Something about her whimsical, textured work spoke to my creative aesthetic. I never once considered learning to make art until Suzan urged me to take her class. My husband also encouraged me so I gave it a try. Little did I know there was a dormant creativity in me waiting to emerge. Mosaic art was its vehicle out of my heart into the world!
LMA: Which artists, do you feel, have influenced you the most?
Debra: Along with spending many hours with Suzan, I read almost every book published on the subject, practiced endlessly, went to the SAMA convention, visited Isaiah Zagar’s village in Philly and basically went on a tear to learn anything and everything I could. I had a private lesson in Doreen Bell’s home studio, and took classes with Sharra Frank, Laurel Skye, and Susan Wechsler, to name a few. I am so grateful I was able uncover my own talent and style through this intense research and the teachings of these talented women.
Here is My Heart by Debra Mager
LMA: Please share one of your important learning experiences with readers.
Debra: I have learned that one of the most wonderful aspects of mosaics for me is that it is a “forgiving” art form. No matter what your creative inclination or your own perception of your level of talent, mosaics “forgives” anything you might consider a mistake or not good enough. It allows for so many different artistic styles. If you’ve never made art, you can make mosaics. If you are a precision artist, that works. If you are a free-wheeling artist, that works, too. Any creative approach can be beautifully expressed in mosaics. Also, don’t look at what others make and think you should be that kind of artist… it causes you to struggle. Create in the style that comes naturally to you. Mosaic art welcomes your unique expression!
Poppy by Debra Mager
LMA: I noticed that most your mosaics are on 3D substrates. Could you share how and why you choose them?
Debra: I love working in 3D. I love the texture and dimension versus working on a flat surface and I love all the interesting materials I can add on to 3D objects. Even my florals have depth and dimension by incorporating found objects, beads, and jewels. I also love making animals; birds, cats, bears, pigs, whatever. That I can bring a sweet unremarkable animal to life by decorating and embellishing it just thrills me. The minute I give them their eyes, they come to life for me. I say hello and give them a name and then they keep me company until they go to their new homes, where they can bring that same joy to their new owners.
I’m just remembering now that when I was younger I used to give my friends make overs. I would change their hair and make-up and watch the transformation happen. When they saw themselves in the mirror I loved seeing their surprise and joy at their new look. I guess that might have been a glimpse of that urge in me to transform plain into fantastic!
Party Ready Pig by Debra Mager
Queen by Debra Mager
LMA: What are your favorite and least favorite steps in creating mosaics?
Debra: I’m not good with too much tedium. Large expanses of the same color or style can easily bore me. I need more immediate gratification, although I’ve been working on patience. I will go back and forth between projects to keep things lively, which means I have a lot of projects working at once. I admire artists who can work on a project for months or years, especially the ones with shadows and nuances and realism. Realism requires a skill I just don’t have. I prefer whimsy and beauty and bling and color and fun. I believe Clint Eastwood was right when he said, “Know your limitations and just keep going”.
LMA: Tell us about your decision to start teaching mosaics.
Debra: About 6 years ago I found myself suddenly graced with an unexpected talent I never knew I had. I became immersed in a creative endeavor that gave me incredible gratification and happiness. It validated me on so many levels, gave me new confidence, quelled long held insecurities, and enabled me to bring joy to people who saw and purchased what I made. What a blessing! My drive to teach was fueled by my desire to give others like me the same opportunity. I have students all ages from all walks of life, some who’ve never made art before and many with little confidence that they could. I feel through teaching I’m helping them discover their talent and in turn I get to celebrate it with them. There is no better feeling than to see them so happy with what they’ve made. The love I get back from them is my bonus.
McKenzie Bouquet by Debra Mager
Queen by Debra Mager
LMA: If you could give readers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Debra: Here’s a blog post I wrote titled “40,000 Hours”.
I think it is a poignant message for any new artist.
Last night at dinner, one of the gentleman at the table who has a deep passion for music, said he read it takes 40,000 hours of practice to become truly proficient at any instrument. I have not added up the number of hours I’ve spent learning and practicing mosaics but what I can say is that it’s only putting in the hours and practicing like crazy that has made me any good at it. I often hear my students say, “I can’t cut the glass right” or “I’m not good at cutting the glass” after their first or maybe second class. What’s that, about 24 hours?
The wonderful benefit of working in mosaic art is that it doesn’t require precision. Its meant to be seen from a distance so the parts and pieces you’ve puzzled together form the whole beautiful piece. Do we want to improve our skills? Yes. Do we want to become better artists? Yes. But it takes time and practice. If you love mosaics like I do, those 40,000 hours are a gift.
Marlene Mirror by Debra Mager
Neptune’s Muse 10 by Debra Mager