Mad about Mosaics
When artist Sybil Sage made one of her mosaic vases for food writer Ruth Reichl, she did her homework. Many of the picture frames, planters, candlestick holders, lamps and vases Sage designs are customized to reflect the person who will display it. For Reichl's vase, she nipped shards from plates with pictures of vintage food-can labels. For a well-known flutist, she found antique French opera plates, The mosaic style Sage uses is called "pique assiette" which loosely translates as "broken plate." But Sage's work is far from traditional.
She ramps up the excitement and originality of her mosaics to PhD level by inserting names, initials, words, photos and messages that might be retro, romantic, or revelatory. Most are created to fit an occasion or the personality of the person who commissioned the piece or perhaps the one who will receive it as a gift.
For Lily Tomlin, Sage incorporated images of Edith Ann, Ernestine and other characters Tomlin portrayed. Another rarity is a vase dubbed "Fifteen Minutes of Fame," an abstract design that combines black and white plates with Andy Warhol's red Campbell soup labels.
Sage's main source for plates is eBay. "I tell the vendors not to go to great lengths to protect the plates, but they're always wrapped with layers and layers of bubble wrap which I yank off before I start breaking them." In addition to searching for unusual plates and combining them artistically, Sage is particular about grout color. "I use different colors for just the right impact. It's like picking a husband ---it's got to be right," she says. Last Christmas, Sage created a vase for Broadway theatrical producers with their initials and "SRO" (standing room only.) She'd been told their house was "woodsy colored" so she used greens, beige, browns and a touch of rust. Sage then settled on bay-leaf green grout and was convinced it was a terrible mistake. She was sure she had "deadened" the piece and was prepared to dump it and start over ---typical of the meticulous way this gifted artist works. The next morning, the grout had dried and Sage was thrilled to see "it had faded and the color was absolutely stunning."
Prices for Sage's work vary depending on the type of item and its size. Keep in mind that if you are thinking of Christmas gifts, she needs at least a few weeks to created each object. Details at www.sybilsage.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.