Newark artist Celeste Kelly worked in fabric arts before she found inspiration during a trip to Barcelona. Now she fuses glass and ceramics into beautiful mosaics for the garden.
Kelly was working in fabric arts. She went to Barcelona to visit a friend and saw the work of Antoni Gaudí, “Gaudí is this incredible architect from about the 1870s. His work is just inspiring,” she said.
Gaudí worked beautiful mosaics and metal work into various buildings and cathedrals in Spain. After viewing Gaudí’s amazing work, Kelly came home and decided to start making her own mosaic art.
Getting right to work, Kelly says she “just went wild.” Speaking of her earlier work, “I thought they were fantastic and then I was like ‘Oh, I wish I hadn’t.'” Her work has come a long way and what you see (in the video and picture slideshow below) is the accumulation of roughly 18 years of experience.
An artist needs to find their voice, and at the beginning Kelly copied the work of others till she found her voice. “I like a lot of texture in my mosaic, some people do a lot of flat, everything is the same height. I like to add tile and bottles and different things like that,” she said.
As you walk through her studio, there are bottles and bits of pottery and glass, lots of glass, from ornaments to full sheets of different colored glass. All these materials come together to form the mosaics that can sometimes take weeks to make.
Kelly makes almost everything herself. “I use plastic, I use ceramics, I use fiberglass, and cement, and then I make the bases.” Sometimes she has a design in mind, other times “I let the design emerge.”
Those designs are all unique, Kelly doesn’t make copies of her work. “I cannot do anything exactly the same. It just doesn’t work for me.”
Color, texture and design all work together in these pieces. She first picks some colors to work with in a piece, “Then I see what colors go with that.” There may be various shades of cobalt, tiles with different colors or pieces of bottles that all contribute to add depth and texture.
For the tuffets, what Kelly calls her garden benches, she may start by putting some bottles on them and see what colors work. “It’s also about the flow of the pattern.” She likes things to go out in different directions and angles, not just flat. “I like the vertical, because it pops out the design in the center, so its really about design and color, and I think I have a really good sense of that.”
Probably her favorite thing to make are what she calls her “modern day gargoyles.” They are sculptures made out of ceramic faces with tile and glass. Everyone can relate to these gargoyles, “It resonates with them at some level,” Kelly said. The kids are especially taken with these pieces. “They’re just mesmerized by it. Its kind of fun to see all the reactions to it.”
These gargoyles don’t really come to life until she puts the eyes in, “Suddenly, they come alive, and its a hoot.” The pieces tell her what they want, “No this isn’t going to work, and no I need more, and that kind of thing.”
Kelly has in the past delivered some of the works she sells at shows. After one particular show in Lewes there were three of her bigger pieces sold, she loaded them into her van and delivered them. She was amazed at the spaces her creations get to live in. “I really enjoy seeing where its going to be, and where its life is.”
Kelly doesn’t name her pieces, she doesn’t want to take that away from the owner. The buyer can also decide whether the gargoyles are male or female. “I talk to them at another show they’ll tell me what they named the piece, its fun,” Kelly said.
She creates for the sake of creation. For her, doing art is a delight, a joy. “That’s why I think people love to view art, because it brings out the joy of being human.”
You can learn more about Celeste Kelly and her work when you visit her on the web.