Shug Jones is a Texas based artist and she has been working in mosaic since 2001 when she transitioned from painting. For 14 years Shug was co-owner of Tesserae Mosaic Studio Inc., where she created everything from wall hung art to mosaic installations in hotels, hospitals, restaurants and private homes across the United States. Her materials include glass tile, marble, slate, stained glass and smalti. Shug has taught beginner to advanced level mosaic in the US and Australia. Since her semi-retirement in 2015, she has focused exclusively on her own fine art mosaics with an emphasis on stained glass realism. Shug is past president of SAMA (Society of American Mosaic Artists)
My first real travel experience began in 1970 in Okinawa, Japan when my husband, who served in the U.S. Navy, was stationed there for 2 ½ years. A few years later, we were sent to Spain. Both countries were total culture shocks to a small town Texas girl, but in a good way. I learned that people are pretty much the same everywhere even if they speak a different language and wear different clothes. My husband and I loved meeting people and traveling around visiting cities, countries, and sites we had only read about in books. This was the 1970’s, there was no internet! We were amazed at the buildings that were hundreds of years old, not something we could see in America.
As a result of these experiences, we developed a true love of travel and have made it a priority in our lives. Is there any wonder that my art is inspired by it? As my favorite illustration professor told me, it is impossible for someone to remember every single detail of something, so my camera is my constant companion, ready to whip out in an instant to capture a scene that catches my attention. I’m an observer of people. Whether traveling the world, watching my grandchildren play in the park, or simply walking down the aisle in the grocery store, I love nothing more than to watch the people around me. I notice the interaction (or lack thereof) between others whether it be with family, friends, or strangers. It is fascinating to me.
My work is based on my observations. Realism is my goal. I prefer to use stained glass in most of my work because the variety of glass, the swirls, the texture, the colors, lends itself to my needs. Finding that perfect section of the perfect glass to create the fabric of a pair of pants or to represent the shadow on a face is my challenge that I readily accept. My mosaics look like photographs because they are meant to be a picture of life, a moment in time.
I have recently begun a series of “mosaic photographs” that are travel photos. This group will be of English scenes because that is our favorite country to visit. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been there and I never tire of going. Even though the mosaics are based on photos, they are not copies. I generally combine several photos by tracing the objects, buildings, and people I want to include and then moving them around to get the exact placement I want, editing even further by adding and deleting things as I choose. Once my composition is complete, I do a full line drawing from which to work.
My “mosaic photograph” series is being created on handmade substrates that I have developed over the past year. They are thin (1/8” thick), strong, rigid, and lightweight in order to most closely mimic photographic paper. Some of them are flat and others have a slight undulation to give them sense of movement. The substrate is either sprayed or painted with a white primer before the drawing is transferred. Because I work in stained glass, some of which is transparent, the white substrate and a clear adhesive keep the colors true. On some of them I am including a narrow white edge around the outside to replicate the border on a printed photo enlargement.
I begin the mosaic with the most important elements in the composition which are usually the figures and their immediate surroundings. From there, depending on the size of the piece, I will either work on one area and then move around as I rotate the piece on my easel to make it easier to reach, or jump around to whatever interests me on a smaller piece. My andamento is primarily opus sectile. This works perfectly for me as it allows me to create a mosaic that will read as a photo from a distance. It also allows me to use some larger tesserae that I can cut from just the right area of a sheet of glass to represent what I want to convey instead of using several smaller pieces.
My mosaic photos are grouted, usually with 2 or more colors. I use white to grout the outer white border before taping it (and any other areas that need it) off and then use medium dark grey and/or other colors (sometimes my own color mix) to grout the rest. Sanded grout is always my choice even though my interstices are miniscule at best. I like the way it mixes, the way it feels, and most importantly the way it looks. Cleaning is as important as grouting. I can spend hours wiping, scrubbing, and then scraping with a craft knife to make sure that every bit of excess grout is removed. This is my favorite part as the mosaic comes to life and is ready to meet the world.
Study #1 for Richmond Hill – The Roebuck
14” h x 11”w
Materials: Stained glass, gold mirror glass, glass noodles, filati. This study was to work out how to create the depth from the bottom of the steps to the door of the pub.
Study #2 for Richmond Hill – The Roebuck
11”h x 14”w
Materials: Stained glass, glass noodles, filati. This study was to work out the positioning and poses of the two men on the bench. What I learned most from doing it was that I did NOT want to include the bicycle in the larger mosaic as it would have been much smaller and an incredible challenge. I love challenges but I had a deadline to complete the larger mosaic for an exhibit.
Richmond Hill – The Roebuck (Richmond, England)
19”h x 25”w
Materials: Stained glass, glass noodles, filati, gold mirror glass, custom cut glass letters. This is my favorite mosaic so far. I used 5 different photos of the same scene to create the composition. This hill overlooks a famous bend in the Thames that has been painted many times, but most memorably by J.M.W. Turner. He painted it so many times, it was nicknamed Turner’s View. I have turned the camera around and captured those who have come to take in the view.
Girl with the Red Umbrella – The Shambles (York, England)
12”h x 9”w
Materials: Stained glass, filati and slate. I love unexpected compositions. While the overall image is the teahouse along the short street, it is offset by the young woman pausing after she lowered her umbrella as the shower ended.
Study for Duke of York – London, England – Victoria Station
14”h x 11”w
Materials: Stained glass, gold mirror glass, paper and glass noodles. I did this one several years ago in preparation for a mosaic that is next up on my easel. In the time since I made it, they have actually torn the entire building down and built a new modern building in its place. I am heartbroken.
Look Left – London, England
6”h x 6”w
Materials: Stained glass, gold mirror glass, glass noodles and a brass ring. This is a very recent piece that is another study for Duke of York. Something I have to keep in mind every time I visit is to remember to look left, not right when crossing the street! What I learned from doing this study was that it’s really difficult to put a lot of detail into figures that are only 4” to 5” tall.
A Pint at the Pub – Greenwich, England
14”h x 11”w
Materials: Stained glass. Just a couple of guys having a pint at the local pub during a lunch break. Wonder what they are talking about?
More of Shug’s work can be seen on her facebook page, pinterest and on the SAMA website.