Friday, November 10, 2017

Gila Rayberg, Mosaic Artist, Tells Her Story



So, what do playing trombone and making mosaics have in common? (sounds like the start of a bad joke!) Patience, practice, technique, tools, discipline, repetitive ... repeat ... repetitive motion!

For one, both are physically demanding. As a music student, I spent countless hours in a small room playing, practicing, playing, over and over whatever I was working on. Six, seven, sometimes 9 hours a day. The mosaic equivalent, cutting tile, shaping glass, splitting stone, again and again, achieving the cut you want, the perfect curve, the smoothest edge, it comes with practice. Practice is what makes it become second nature. Just like playing scales, the exercise and repetition prepares you for the hard work ahead. For making music, for making art, creating something that speaks for itself.

Seventh Position, (self-portrait) ceramic, glass, dinnerware & pottery shards, 16"x9"
Music school taught me to be critical. Not having that weight on my shoulders when creating art, I’ve finally found the freedom to improvise, better than I ever could with music. This is especially true with my most recent work, using dishes, pottery, and other discarded items.

For a time I lived in Southeast Asia, taking advantage of every opportunity to travel in the region. I taught music and English, while collecting indigenous musical instruments and textiles. It’s these travels that influenced my first mosaics.


Headed Home, Smalti, millefiori, stone & stained glass, 13"x8"
Talk about culture shock, I moved from Malaysia to New Orleans! It’s there that my long standing dream of mosaic-ing the world around me began. I gathered everything I needed, in secret, to make a table for my new boyfriend’s birthday. Well, needless to say, that effort sealed the deal, as we’re still together, more than 17 years later!

Driving around the piled-high with debris streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I spotted a small chair on the side of the road. My immediate thought, “Mosaic Chair!” After months of preparation, using a moisture barrier, fiberglass, and concrete mix, it was ready for mosaic. The upholstery designs came from patterns from my Malaysian and Indonesian batik collection. Midway through we moved to Florida.  Packing up an entire mosaic studio was no easy task! Almost a year later,  I  completed the Textile Throne. Everyone who see and sit on it,  comments on how comfortable it looks ...  and it is!

Textile Throne, chair with mosaic & mirrors
As I was transitioning from full time musician to focusing on mosaics, I accepted an invitation from Julia Kay to join her Portrait Party (JKPP).  This international online group of artists portray (in any media) portraits of each other. Little did I know how much this group would become part of my daily life and influence my artistic direction.

Revolutionary #34 Arturo, Pen & Watercolor
At that point I had only done a few small portraits, and little to no drawing. My interactions with other artists grew quickly from a handful to hundreds from around the world. It’s been a consistent driving force and remains a primary reference source for my portraits. What began  online, has become an international community of artists, who have drawn together, have gallery shows, and most recently published a book, Portrait Revolution: Inspiration From Around The World For Creating Art In Multiple Mediums And Styles, in both the UK and US. It’s a humbling experience and great honor to be one of 15 Featured Artists in the book, among 200 artists from 55 countries.  

Sidekick, glass, ceramic, dinnerware & pottery, 16"x20"
As a result, my largest ongoing series is Portraits of Contemporary Portrait Artists. Each portrait is a new challenge, which is one of the main things that keeps me doing them. I use photos and drawings as reference, and allow myself total freedom to improvise and make spontaneous changes as the materials demand. 

Kimie, Smailti, Mexican pottery, vitreous glass & dinnerware, 10"x13"x3.5"
My first mosaic works were done exclusively with ceramic tile, but through the years, through workshops and experimentation, I’ve learning to incorporate stained glass, Smalti (Byzantine glass), stone, shell and most recently, dishes and crockery. All together, they enhanced my pallet and increased the ways I can create texture, which I so love.

As a practicing artist I spend hours in my studio, sometimes with music, but most often alone, in quiet solitude. I allow thoughts to come and go, as I search through stacks and boxes of materials, dishes given to me by friends, family, and neighbors. Thoughts about their histories, the people that handled them, as well as their designs, mingle with whatever work I have going on, finding connection in unexpected places.  I love the moment when a particular shard jumps out as an indispensable anchor, or hidden message within a portrait.

Time Out, hands thrown pottery, dinnerware, glass & shells, 16"x45"

For each and every piece I lay down, a series of decisions have to be made. Beyond finding

the appropriate material, I have to decide where and how to cut it, which direction to place

it, while taking into consideration how it fits together with all the pieces around it. It can

take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes, or longer, to cut and place a single

piece. Patience and commitment. There are endless ways to make a likeness, so I rely

on my intuition to make choices, then I follow through to make them work ... when they

don't, I rip it out. Working primarily with cement adhesive, making changes after a piece

is set, takes a chisel and determination!


Spider Fingers, glass, ceramic & dinnerware, 12"x12"

This is Week 44 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Gila's

story today. To connect with Gila and see more of her work, please visit the following links: