There's a reason why mosaic artists aren't a dime a dozen. The métier is taxing, time consuming, labor intensive.
Those same qualities are what charmed Metairie, La.-native, Houston-based fine art mosaic doyen Chris Silkwood to the genre.
Analogous to the many fragments that commingle to fashion one of her vibrant compositions, her career has been a colorful bricolage of experiences, including working as a corporate trainer, developing fitness facilities and spa resorts and toiling in sales and marketing. It was when her family relocated to Brisbane, Australia, that Silkwood stumbled upon the smiths of ArtBusters, an esteemed atelier she refers to as the Picassos of mosaic design.
With little experience in the craft, a cold call asking for a spot as an apprentice was received with apprehension — at first. Silkwood talked her way in, and her garage became her workshop. Her neighbors would visit often, wondering what this artsy dame was up to. Silkwood's first exhibition was at her home — and she sold many of her pieces.
After a summer in Italy studying at the Mosaic Art School in Ravenna, Silkwood's style matured into a zestful modern interpretation of the ancient decorative art form.
"I know artists want their work to have very deep meaning. For my art, I really just wanted people to look at it and have joy."
Her vision was to liberate the old world traditional practice and update it to suit contemporary tastes and fit into any décor. She resolved to incorporate three-dimensional materials, paint, light, handmade and natural elements to add depth and interest to her creations.
Rather than suffusing her manner with serious aesthetic meaning, Silkwood sought to evoke joy, light and a sense of wonder.
That was 12 years ago.
"I know artists want their work to have very deep meaning," she says. "For my art, I really just wanted people to look at it and have joy. Sometimes people say this is really happy art, and I've actually come to love that term. I want that piece to be within someone's collection, and when they see it, they say, wow!
"That's something really different, it lights up the space and makes them feel good."
Silkwood is in the midst of preparing for her 2012 fall show, "In Bloom: The Unexpected." Watch the video (above) for more of CultureMap's chat with Silkwood, and get a glimpse of the artist as she works on her pieces and talks about her journey.