What lies beneath our feet: Wayfinding and the road ahead

I think that perhaps by now you’ve gotten a sense that mosaic camp had a pretty profound impact on me. So now it’s time to try to articulate what it all means. It’s actually kind of challenging to find the right words to adequately convey how pivotal and amazing this experience was for me. Over the course of this post, there will likely be ramblings and digressions, but I hope you’ll bear with me.

mosaic hardie in logIt’s hard to explain what this workshop meant to me without first understanding where I was in my relationship with mosaic. My early work with glass got me hooked on mosaic in terms of putting things together to form a cohesive whole. My brain works well that way, so it was natural that I should gravitate to mosaic. But the material and tools just didn’t do it for me. So I explored. I took a few classes and found out I didn’t like tile (neither vitreous nor ceramic), but that I did quite enjoy smalti and stone. Most importantly, I discovered my love for my hammer and hardie. But as I moved into these new materials, it felt like I was still missing a piece of the puzzle. I enjoyed the craftsmanship that went into each piece – I love working with my hands and creating something tangible – but I was still just a wee bit unsatisfied. I think that maybe I found the materials, although lovely, a bit uninspiring and sterile. Everything in neat cubes and rods and squares. It felt restrictive. I think it’s fair to say that prior to the workshop at Touchstone, I was in an uneasy transition period. I was still searching for my niche.

Now, I have long been a fan of Rachel Sager‘s work. It just speaks to me. I love the organic, almost eroded feel to it, and I definitely connect with the subject matter. I had a feeling that I would really enjoy taking a workshop with her, but I had no idea how transformational it would be. Seriously guys, this workshop was a game changer for me. It was the perfect course at the perfect time. The whole weekend I felt both euphoric and at peace. It was such a strange combination of feelings. I couldn’t make sense of it at the time, but now I know it was the result of finally finding my path. My previous restlessness had morphed into a peacefulness, a feeling like all was right with the world. And that made me so incredibly happy.

Maybe it’s my background in geography, but everything about the process we learned made my heart sing: the sense of place and connection, the dialogue with both nature and the materials, and the feeling of adventure and exploration that permeated the whole process. It all spoke to my soul. It was exactly what I had been searching for. Over the course of the weekend, Rachel kept returning to the themes of independence and freedom. I can think of no better way to describe how this workshop and this process made me feel.

I have always been uncomfortable calling myself an artist. I’ve always seen myself more as a maker, craftsperson, or artisan. But, oddly enough, when I was making “Grounded“, I felt (for the first time ever) like maybe I could eventually grow into the label of “artist”. It’ll probably take a while, but I think it’s an indication that I’m on the right path. [Complete aside: two people have already asked me if “Grounded” is for sale. You might think I’m crazy, but I’ve told them it isn’t. It’s just such a pivotal and emotional piece for me – I’m not ready to let it go yet. Maybe not ever. I never feel like this about any of my work. I’m always thrilled when it can go find a new home. But this piece is different.]

It feels exceedingly good to finally have direction. To feel that passion and fire. I was still bouncing off the walls for days after I got home. Poor R tells me I didn’t even look at her for 2 days – that’s how wrapped up in the experience I still was. I want a future (like, a full-time future) in mosaic where stone features prominently. Saying that is both exhilarating and terrifying. I still have a really really long way to go, and I know it isn’t going to happen overnight. But I’ll be patient and play the long game and keep chipping away at developing my skills and my voice. And then maybe one day…!

post-touchstone fb status

Music plays a big part in my life and ties me to moments in space and time. I often deliberately pick a song to act as a soundtrack for big events (like last days on the job, embarking on big trips, etc.). I’ll play it over and over to cement that feeling in my head and heart, and then whenever I hear it I’ll be transported back to that moment. Naturally, I chose a song to remember my experience in Rachel’s class. I hadn’t listened to any music at camp, swapping my ipod for the chirping of birds, the rustling of trees, and the babbling of the stream. When I got back to civilization and began my music-starved hunt for the perfect ‘theme song’, I went directly to Josh Ritter. I think his “Lark” pretty much embodies my experience at mosaic camp. The lightness of the music and some of the lyrics correspond perfectly with how I felt – like there was a “lark in my heartbeat.”

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9 Responses to What lies beneath our feet: Wayfinding and the road ahead

  1. Mosaico Marcela Szkarlat May 21, 2016 at 10:56 pm #

    Dear Julie, I will write you in my mother tongue because I want speak you with all my correct words, I hope you can translate with google. Querida Julie, te sigo en FB hace bastante tiempo porque adoro tus obras en piedras y logras muy bellos trabajos, pero hoy me detuve a leerte con más detenimiento cuando vi https://www.facebook.com/sperlingmosaics/photos/a.292561427492940.68376.217104208371996/1030956486986760/?type=3&theater
    También fui a leer tus reflexiones en http://sperlingmosaics.com/2015/05/on-ritual-and-reflection/ y luego acá, y me he quedado con una bella sensación en el alma. Espero tener la suerte de experimentar algo similar de lo que acá cuentas. Hace ya unos 6 años que hago mosaicos experimentando diversas técnicas y materiales, pero el material que siempre más me ha llamado más la atención, es la piedra, sin embargo a pesar de haber comprado muchos cinceles de diversos tamaños y tipos aun no puedo trozarlas. Quiero poder descubir las vetas y las lineas misteriosas que las piedras tienen dentro y poder cortarla en pedacitos chicos. Este post que aqui escribiste es muy inspirador, escribes muy bonito, no sólo eres una gran artista del mosaico en piedra, también eres una gran escritora con alma. Este post me hizo tener esperanzas en un futuro, tal vez algo cambie muy pronto en mi futuro y pueda finalmente trozar las piedras que llevo recolectando a lo largo de los años. Necesito un hardie+hammer!!!!!! En octubre conoceré a Rachel Sager y espero finalmente lograr eso que lograste tu, el efecto “pivotal” y mi amor por el hardie y el hammer. Muy bello tu escrito en este post, un abrazo desde Chile!

    • Julie Sperling May 29, 2016 at 11:54 am #

      Querida Marcela, mil gracias por tu mensaje. Entiendo perfectamente el español (lo estudié en la U, y además mi mujer es chapina), aunque no lo escribo muy bien, así que te voy a responder en inglés. I’m so glad that you enjoy my writing (I enjoy doing it!) and I wish you much satisfaction and success as you explore the wonderful world of stone, armed with your hammer and hardie. You will no doubt learn a LOT from Rachel in October – she’s such a fantastic teacher and artist…ENJOY! Un abrazo para ti desde Ottawa :-)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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