I have admired Wesley’s vibrant colors, and revel in the inherent joy that comes from viewing his work. In speaking with him via telephone, I learned that Wesley took an early retirement from developing software, and quickly got to work doing what he loves-working with glass. Wesley not only makes mosaics with stained glass, but prior to his mosaic career, Wesley was a stained glass artist in the more traditional technique of leaded stained glass. He soon started using scraps of glass to lead the way into mosaics, and then glass fusing, and more recently, teaching.
I hope that you find as much positive energy in your viewing experience! Below, Wesley shares more about his personal experience with mosaics and glass in general, a bit more about himself, and some incredible eye candy!
Without further ado, Mr. Wesley Wong’s interview…
LMA: How did you get started in mosaics?
Wesley: I took a stained glass class shortly after graduating from the University of California Santa Barbara with a degree in Computer Science in 1980. I got hooked on stained glass as a creative outlet making windows, panels, boxes and lamps. After a while, I accumulated so much scrap glass I thought I would try mosaics as a way to use up the scrap. When I discovered some artists incorporating fused glass into their mosaics, I took classes in fused glass and got hooked on fused glass too. I try to combine both art forms when I can.
LMA: What is it about making mosaics that resonates with you?
Wesley: Much of the patience, design, and technical skills that I developed through my stained glass work translated easily into mosaics. With mosaics, you can be a little more free-form and spontaneous with the glass cutting. But, I still like to plan and sketch my designs in advance. Even with a computer background, all of my designs are still done on paper. I enjoy making sculptural forms that are unique and I like the challenge of mosaicking on the 3D forms. I use primarily stained glass and fusible glass in my mosaics, and occasionally smalti, because of the variety of colors and textures that are available, and the illuminative and reflective quality of glass. I find that the mosaic projects tend to go faster than the stained glass projects, because there is no foiling and soldering involved.
LMA: Do you have a favorite subject matter? what is it and why?
Wesley: My favorite subjects are butterflies, and koi fish. I am attracted to butterflies because of the variety of the species and the colorful markings on their wings. I like to make my butterflies as close to nature as possible. I enjoy koi fish for their gracefulness and the symbolism that they represent, such as long-life and prosperity. I enjoy fishing and one-day hope to install a koi fishpond in my back yard.
LMA: What is your least favorite thing about mosaics and why?
Wesley: Like many mosaic artists, I do not like to grout. It is too messy and takes a while to complete, especially when working with a 3D substrate. The reveal is the only part of it that I like. I like to make my own colored grout by mixing powered pigment with white grout. This gives me greater flexibility in the grout colors to suit the mosaic.
LMA: Have you taken any mosaic classes or workshops? Which ones?
Wesley: I started mosaics as a self-taught medium, and didn't really enjoy it. When I took a mosaics class from Christine Stewart at the Glass Craft Expo in Las Vegas, I discovered how to properly use the tools, how much easier it was to do. Then I took a variety of classes with Laurel True when she operated the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland, CA. Laurel expanded my creative universe into mosaics. I have also taken mosaic workshops with Emma Biggs, Martin Cheek, Lynne Chinn, and Carol Shelkin.
I like to share my glass knowledge and techniques. I have published several articles in Glass Patterns Quarterly on my techniques. I teach workshops at the Glass Expo in Las Vegas, and at various studios around the country.
LMA: How would you describe your mosaic style?
Wesley: I would describe my mosaic style as colorful and contemporary. Coming from a stained glass background, my grout lines are thin and my cuts are clean and precise. I like to use bright colors and often lean towards the primary colors. A mosaic artist friend of mine once described my work as happy and joyful. My pieces are representational, as I tend to struggle with the abstract style. I have started to specialize and teach in a style called Fused Glass Mosaics, which combines the techniques of mosaic art with glass fusing.
LMA: If you could give readers one single piece of advice, what would it be?
Wesley: Network with other artists, by joining your local art groups or on social media. You can pick up new tips and techniques, get help and inspiration from other artists as well as the experts in the field. Artists often work alone in their own studios. By interacting with other artists, you can broaden your perspective and open opportunities for future work. Also continue to increase your skills and don't be afraid to try new things.
LMA: Tell us about your studio/workspace.
Wesley: My studio is in my garage. I have 2 workbenches and a table for my kiln. It is a small space, and I have recently taken over the tops of my washer/dryer for extra workspace. We have a "California" garage, where we have 25+ years of accumulated family "stuff". Eventually I would like to clear out my garage and setup a large workspace to hold workshops, and work on larger projects.
LMA: Attach 3 of your favorite mosaics by someone else. Why do they capture your interest?
Wesley: I cannot pick favorite works from other mosaic artists, but my favorite artists are Da Vinci, M.C. Escher, and Dale Chihuly, because they are all art geniuses. Da Vinci was a genius for combining art with technology, Escher was a genius at twisting perspective, and Chihuly produces amazing work in hot glass.
LMA: Do you support any charitable causes? Which ones and why?
Wesley: I am an Eagle Scout and a Silver Beaver, so I support the Boy Scouts. I was a Cub Scout leader when my son grew up in the program. I did a lot of volunteer work at the Pack and council levels. One of my council activities was covered by the national Scouting magazine one year and even made the cover.
I have participated in Lin Schorr's Doctors Without Borders mosaic art auctions, because Lin is a dynamo and DWB does fantastic work. Some of my best pieces I have made were for her auctions. I have also participated in the Heart of the City auctions for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation to raise funds for the hospital. The hospital has the largest trauma center for the region. My mosaic hearts generated lots of money for the foundation. They liked my "World of Love" mosaic heart so much, they turned it into a holiday greeting card to send to all of their donors, and it also appeared on the box of a special edition Ghirardelli Chocolate bar.
Wesley has observed that his mosaics have taken on an Asian feel in both subject matter and style, but I would say they have more of a Wesley Wong feel to them! I asked Wesley what he liked more; stained glass, mosaics or fusing. He responded by saying he likes how combining fusing with mosaics it becomes a quicker process and can also be used as functional art. I got the sense that Wesley is very much like many mosaic artists in that we enjoy incorporating other art forms we have learned on our artistic journeys. I have come to believe that this comes through in an artist’s mosaics, making them uniquely their own. Perhaps this also adds to the development of our artistic voices…Hmmm…