Geek About Town: Crazy Diamond Mosaics

Filling in for the amazing Shiboo this week is Erica McGillivray, our President and Marketing Director.

Mosaic artist Gretchen Fuller of Crazy Diamond Mosaics recently had a show as part of Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood art walk last Wednesday. I visited the show to catch a preview of her work.

Gretchen with her art Crazy Diamond MosaicsGretchen and I have been friends for many years, and she’s a vendor at the upcoming GeekGirlCon convention. She’s also been a GeekGirlCon supporter since the very beginning. Gretchen played guitar for our “Hero of Canton” flashmob all the way back in December 2010.

Erica: How long have you been an artist? And why mosaics?

Gretchen: I was a graphic designer for 18 years and always felt a pull to do something more expressive and on my own terms. I was drawn to mosaics when I went to Philadelphia a year ago and was inspired by the outdoor murals Isaiah Zagar has done all over South Philly. Some of them are over three stories high!

Zagar took a not particularly desirable area and made it sparkle with broken pieces of mirror and tile and glass — what other people might trash — and made something remarkable. I took a workshop with him and that kicked off the obsession. I came back to Seattle and began dumpster diving and tile store trolling. Hence, I have amassed over a ton of tile in my garage. Watch out Ballard!

Erica: A lot of your mosaics feature iconic images of people and characters from Bruce Lee to Wonder Woman to DavWonder Womanid Bowie. What exactly is it about these characters that calls to you?

Gretchen: My mosaics are often of superheroes or super “humans”  with characteristics that I admire. And since I’m not highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat, lack animal-like cunning, and can’t play the 12-string guitar, maybe in my warped little mind creating these mosaics makes me feel like I have superpowers.

Erica: How large is your average mosaic?

Gretchen: My mosaics right now range from 12×12″ to 21×33″, but they are getting larger. I’m slowly working up to wall-size murals. I also have started to do more sculptural, mixed media work.

Bunny Foo FooErica: A lot of mosaics I’ve seen have been more traditional, subdued images like flowers or boats or the kind of thing I imagine the Dale Chihuly of mosaics doing. You seem to buck this stereotype. How do your designs fit in with the history of mosaics?

Gretchen: Because of my design background, there was no choice but to jump out of the box and do graphically stimulating images. I can’t create emotionless images that look like they should be in a dentist’s office. But because of that stereotype, some people don’t really recognize mosaics as a viable art form; even though it goes back more than 4,000 years.

Creating mosaics is quite similar to painting; but instead of a brush and paint, you are using glass, tile, rocks, grout, cement, etc., and it takes a lot longer. It’s not for people who don’t want to get their hands dirty. Or bloody if you’re not careful.

Though Zagar introduced me to mosaics, my biggest inspiration is Claire Barnett of Seattle Mosaic Arts. She has built up my confidence in so many ways and taught me how to perfect my skills and technique. Her kindness and generosity is boundless. And she gave me my first gallery show at Seattle Mosaic Arts.

Erica: What advice would you give to someone interested in being a mosaic artist?

Gretchen: I have only considered myself a mosaic “artist” for the last couple of months, since my first art show in June. My advice is to check out Seattle Mosaic Arts, make a mosaic or two, and see how you like it. You will know within two weeks wBlue Kittyhether its for you or not. It changed my career path and life.

Erica: In addition to GeekGirlCon, do you have any upcoming shows or any other places where people can look and purchase your art?

Gretchen: My work is up at Seattle Mosaic Arts in Wallingford through August. Then in September, I  hope to have some pieces in the “Bits and Pieces” Exhibit at Tasty Gallery in Greenwood. Also, you can visit my website. I do commissions, so if you have a particular character or pet you would like to have immortalized in mosaic form you can email me.

Erica: Besides me bugging you, what made you want to be part of GeekGirlCon’s convention as a vendor?

Gretchen: My work appeals to a brainy woman’s sense of irony and taste. Doubtless there will be a great deal of active gray matter at the con. I couldn’t think of a more perfect venue for my mosaics.

David Bowie

Erica: Will you ever play “Hero of Canton” again? Have you finally watched Firefly?

Gretchen: Never ever ever. I can’t even watch the YouTube video. Though I have seen a couple episodes. My favorite character is the old fiddler in the bar that can actually play the “Hero of Canton.”

Erica: Besides making geeky mosaics, what other geeky things are you involved with?

Gretchen: Hmm, where to begin… I have recently become obsessed with Steampunk when I cleaned out my dad’s garage and found all his aviator stuff. He collected tools, old car parts, keys, watches, all kinds of gadgetry. So now I am using these to make sculptures and jewelry and incorporating them into my mosaics when possible. The geekiest thing I do on a regular basis is wear my dad’s old fighter pilot helmet goggles when I use my tile cutter. I look like an extra from The City of Lost Children.

Gretchen and her mosaics will be in the vendor room at GeekGirlCon, October 8th and 9th, at the Northwest Rooms. You can admire and buy her work there. To contact Gretchen about her art, check out her Facebook page.

Guest Contributor
“Rock On!”

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