The exhilaration of creating a piece of mosaic art led Nancy Roberts to momentary amnesia. Any mosaic artist knows that handling sharp-edged glass is an inherent danger of the form. But enraptured by the stunning iridescence of her new creation, she forgot to wear protective gloves and smoothed grout over the artwork with her bare hand. The resulting small slashes kept her from playing the piano for a week.
Such passion is typical of creatives. Like most of them, Nancy has worked or expressed herself in some artistic way all of her life: She has written for art magazines, published her photography, designed cottage gardens and taught the history of early American architecture. (You can see the influence of architecture and her garden in her work.) And her curiosity has propelled her in many new directions. She has recently taken up the dulcimer and, of course, mosaic art. Taking a course from a local mosaic artist, Nancy immediately loved it. “It blew me away,” she says.
Tables are her favorite item to mosaic at the moment. “People throw them out and I love getting them re-glued and repaired.” Then they become a blank canvas for myriad designs in glass. She notes how a different architectural quality is evident in every table, such as old iron nails or a gracefully tapered shelf. “I try to make them look really beautiful again,” she says. She also mosaics mirrors, flat wall decorations and even a mail sorter currently hanging at VAM.
Nancy buys her materials from stained glass supply and DIY stores, often online, and she discovers mosaic materials in unusual places. A salvaged piece of a stained-glass window from a Victorian house in Saratoga Springs eventually found its way into a work titled Homage to Notre Dame, which is on sale at VAM. She also incorporates sea glass, porcelain and mirror tiles, sea shells, and vintage crockery in her work.
She enjoys the challenge of hunting down the right scraps from stained glass stores and then using those little fragments to create. Such bounty is plentiful at these shops and you can buy a boxful for a modest price, she says.
One source of her inspiration is the rolling countryside of Washington County, with its farms, fields, wetlands, and wildflowers. In fact, her next frontier in mosaics may well be landscapes, with smaller and more intricate designs. Inspiration also comes from the pleasing lines of historic architecture. Having studied early American architecture, Nancy says, “I can’t walk down the street without seeing the intricate details of houses and I see that wherever I go.” Much of her inspiration is from her extensive garden (where she grows pawpaw fruit trees as well as vining Arctic kiwis and kale). Favorite flowers — rose campion, irises and daffodils — grace some of her work. The natural world is her muse, leading her also to portray seascapes and the brilliant forms of butterflies. The adventure of learning something new sings in her voice and her eyes when she speaks about any of her creations.