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Sharra Frank

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It seems that my entire mosaic journey has been a dream. As an artist, I have always followed my curiosity and intuition, developing my craft through experimentation and love for the mosaic process. Starting out, my mosaics were simple and elementary, but one project always led to another and their complexity grew into the work I’m creating today.

When I pursued my mosaic work as a business, opportunities developed over time. I participated in countless open studios events, gallery shows and art fairs for several years. I was 25 years old when I attended one of my first art fairs and a famous collector swooped through, purchasing nearly my entire booth of work. That experience was pivotal and incredibly validating. It gave me the confidence to press on and work harder.

Today I have been making mosaics for over 20 years — most of my life — which is so wild to think about. For many years, I was in a cycle of intense deadlines, completing public art installations and large-scale private commissions, usually overlapping each other and the workshops I was teaching. I am grateful that I had those opportunities to build my portfolio of work and experience.

Now, I’ve carefully honed my business to fit how I want to be present as a mother and wife. I had what I call “artist tunnel vision.” There were years when I hardly even noticed the change of seasons as I was buried so deep in my work.

I was entirely self-taught and had little exposure to other mosaics. It was a pocket of time before Pinterest and online learning, and I found a handful of mosaic books to learn about the various tools and materials to consider. My first mosaic was created when I was an art student. I started with plain white 4-inch-by-4-inch ceramic wall tile, Elmer’s glue and a hammer. I smashed the tile up with the hammer and adhered it to my coffee table.

After plain white wall tile and a hammer, I found proper nippers and cut up a porcelain plate covered with a delicate floral pattern. I used it to cover vases and picture frames. I then found a stained glass shop in my neighborhood, which opened up a whole new world of transparency, color and glass-cutting tools. I created many mosaic window hangings with swirling pieces of stained glass.

I then experimented with adding seed beads into my stained glass designs, and then came found objects, paper-under-glass, buttons and costume jewelry. … It developed into a mixed-media mosaic language that became my own unique voice and style — a blend of tile, glass, beads and found objects that eventually covered elaborate sculpted mirror frames (which I created from scratch), a whole other process of its own.

Over the years I’ve worked in many kinds of studios. I began at my kitchen table, like most artists do. I then expanded, adding a card table and bookshelf. Extra supplies were stored under my bed, in the closet and stacked around the sofa. My first official studio was a little space that had been a dentist’s office. I outgrew that space after a year and moved into a much larger studio in a giant warehouse, filled with over 200 art studios. I was in that building for nearly 10 years.

Today, I am in my dream studio nestled in the walkout basement of my current home, right outside of Minneapolis. My husband and I purchased the home with the intent to remodel this space into a home studio. We had a big window installed, letting in a flood of natural light. It overlooks a pond, full of wildlife — and I now notice every little shift in our beautiful seasons.

During the warmer months, I pull my table out onto the brick patio and work until the sunset. It is my favorite light and time to work. I can watch my children play in the fairy garden, join games with the neighborhood crew, or build forts in the woods.

During the remodel, laminate flooring replaced the carpet and custom cabinets were installed. It was a bit overwhelming to make all the decisions — from the placement of shelves to the track lighting and finding just the right shade of white for the walls. I had to move forward with many decisions and trust it would all function and flow with my materials and work habits.

Once it was finally all complete and I started moving in my supplies … it all came apart. During a record freeze here in Minnesota, a water pipe exploded in a wall adjacent to my studio. It resulted in a catastrophic flood, water gushing over the ceiling, soaking the freshly painted walls and flooding the floor. Days later, the newly installed built-ins were removed, mosaic supplies packed up again and the long process of remediation began. It took almost a year to fully recover and redo the initial remodel. I’m even more grateful for this space after that experience.

My hope is that my children have warm and loving memories of my studio space as a familiar place of wonder in our home. A place to find unexpected treasures, to dream and create. I hope they remember that I am always near and available to them. I hope they see how my passion for creating beautiful mosaics inspires others to create, too, and how important it is to carve out room and time for our creativity. I also want my children to see my studio as an entrepreneurial example, that you can create a living with your own unique gifts and ideas.

I used to fear missing out on opportunities after leaving the large artist warehouse community that I had been so active in, as that was how I built so much of my local following. Now, social media has replaced that. Sharing my work online has become much more efficient and effective. It still amazes me!

Today I am focused on my personal work. Large commissions and public installations are on hold indefinitely. I am having so much fun with a product line of mosaic frames I’ve created, called Sharra’s Shapes. I design uniquely whimsical shapes with the mosaic artist in mind. These designs become wooden frames with a raised edge to contain the mosaic materials. They are like coloring books for mosaics, giving the artist freedom to apply any style or material. I create original mosaics with them as well, making them available in my online shop. I also teach classes locally and online.

When I walk into my studio, I want the same rush of inspiration and delight that I feel from entering an art supply store, charming boutique, old bookstore, or vintage estate sale.

I aim for organization and order but also leave room for creative clutter and work-in-progress sprinkled throughout. I don’t mind messes and I like keeping my work out at all times, making it available and easy for me to drop in and spend an hour or two of time with it.

I make everything visible, as much as possible. So, tiles, rhinestones and findings are stored and displayed in clear glass containers. Plates stacked in the hutch show off the colors and patterns. Beads are strung and hung. Stained glass is lined up in vertical storage.

I consider myself to be a “mosaic maximalist,” as it’s difficult for me to choose just one material or technique in my work. At the same time, I am always curating materials, periodically editing them down to keep only what I absolutely love and use.

The materials I use tell a story. I still use vintage rhinestones that I sourced from a 121 private seller on the East Coast in 2005, and recently acquired a lifetime collection of beads from a retiring artist. I’ve also stopped at random estate sales, rescuing antique china sets in the final minutes.

I prefer using materials that have history and a story of their own. I favor a vintage bead over a brand-new one. Opening beads or rhinestones from their original early 1900s packaging is thrilling. I display these materials with nostalgic admiration, sometimes holding onto them for years waiting for just the right piece. The presentation of materials inspires my work. The inspiration to create a new mosaic is intensified upon entering my studio. I am always aware of the color, texture and visual input around me. Each time I enter my studio, these details come together to nurture a deep appreciation for a new opportunity to create.

This space represents all parts of me — my creativity, artistry, motherhood — and the love and support of my husband, and my hard work in the past that has paid off, which supported investing in a long-term home studio.

I have been making mosaics for over two decades and I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever tire of it. I just have so many ideas, I can’t imagine ever stopping. I could easily mosaic all day, every day and still go to bed thinking about what I want to make next. I love all parts of it: the hunt for materials, seeking out new materials to try, coming up with what to search for, where it might be and where I could someday travel to and scour for unique findings. I consider new ways to display collections and search estate sales for unique storage options, such as vintage apothecary cabinets or file drawers.

My favorite storage piece is a wooden set of drawers with little divided sections within. Now filled with candy-like glass pieces, tile and beads, it is like opening a treasure box. I found it at a local flea market and immediately knew that it was a perfect fit.

I love mixing unexpected materials. The elegance and luminescence of Italian smalti, a glass used in Byzantine cathedrals, mixed with Grandma’s porcelain china creates an unexpected yet satisfying combination. Finding ways to weave all the different materials together in an aesthetically and technically intriguing way is a challenge I continue to pursue.

When the house is quiet and I’m the only one home, our pets follow me into the studio. Our sassy Maine coon, Lucy, watches the squirrels from the window or struts across my tabletops while our Great Pyrenees rescue, Ringo, naps under my table, waiting for his next meal or walk.

It seems that my entire mosaic journey has been a dream. As an artist, I have always followed my curiosity and intuition, developing my craft through experimentation and love for the mosaic process. Starting out, my mosaics were simple and elementary, but one project always led to another and their complexity grew into the work I’m creating today.

When I pursued my mosaic work as a business, opportunities developed over time. I participated in countless open studios events, gallery shows and art fairs for several years. I was 25 years old when I attended one of my first art fairs and a famous collector swooped through, purchasing nearly my entire booth of work. That experience was pivotal and incredibly validating. It gave me the confidence to press on and work harder.

Today I have been making mosaics for over 20 years — most of my life — which is so wild to think about. For many years, I was in a cycle of intense deadlines, completing public art installations and large-scale private commissions, usually overlapping each other and the workshops I was teaching. I am grateful that I had those opportunities to build my portfolio of work and experience.

Now, I’ve carefully honed my business to fit how I want to be present as a mother and wife. I had what I call “artist tunnel vision.” There were years when I hardly even noticed the change of seasons as I was buried so deep in my work.

I was entirely self-taught and had little exposure to other mosaics. It was a pocket of time before Pinterest and online learning, and I found a handful of mosaic books to learn about the various tools and materials to consider. My first mosaic was created when I was an art student. I started with plain white 4-inch-by-4-inch ceramic wall tile, Elmer’s glue and a hammer. I smashed the tile up with the hammer and adhered it to my coffee table.

After plain white wall tile and a hammer, I found proper nippers and cut up a porcelain plate covered with a delicate floral pattern. I used it to cover vases and picture frames. I then found a stained glass shop in my neighborhood, which opened up a whole new world of transparency, color and glass-cutting tools. I created many mosaic window hangings with swirling pieces of stained glass.

I then experimented with adding seed beads into my stained glass designs, and then came found objects, paper-under-glass, buttons and costume jewelry. … It developed into a mixed-media mosaic language that became my own unique voice and style — a blend of tile, glass, beads and found objects that eventually covered elaborate sculpted mirror frames (which I created from scratch), a whole other process of its own.

Over the years I’ve worked in many kinds of studios. I began at my kitchen table, like most artists do. I then expanded, adding a card table and bookshelf. Extra supplies were stored under my bed, in the closet and stacked around the sofa. My first official studio was a little space that had been a dentist’s office. I outgrew that space after a year and moved into a much larger studio in a giant warehouse, filled with over 200 art studios. I was in that building for nearly 10 years.

Today, I am in my dream studio nestled in the walkout basement of my current home, right outside of Minneapolis. My husband and I purchased the home with the intent to remodel this space into a home studio. We had a big window installed, letting in a flood of natural light. It overlooks a pond, full of wildlife — and I now notice every little shift in our beautiful seasons.

During the warmer months, I pull my table out onto the brick patio and work until the sunset. It is my favorite light and time to work. I can watch my children play in the fairy garden, join games with the neighborhood crew, or build forts in the woods.

During the remodel, laminate flooring replaced the carpet and custom cabinets were installed. It was a bit overwhelming to make all the decisions — from the placement of shelves to the track lighting and finding just the right shade of white for the walls. I had to move forward with many decisions and trust it would all function and flow with my materials and work habits.

Once it was finally all complete and I started moving in my supplies … it all came apart. During a record freeze here in Minnesota, a water pipe exploded in a wall adjacent to my studio. It resulted in a catastrophic flood, water gushing over the ceiling, soaking the freshly painted walls and flooding the floor. Days later, the newly installed built-ins were removed, mosaic supplies packed up again and the long process of remediation began. It took almost a year to fully recover and redo the initial remodel. I’m even more grateful for this space after that experience.

My hope is that my children have warm and loving memories of my studio space as a familiar place of wonder in our home. A place to find unexpected treasures, to dream and create. I hope they remember that I am always near and available to them. I hope they see how my passion for creating beautiful mosaics inspires others to create, too, and how important it is to carve out room and time for our creativity. I also want my children to see my studio as an entrepreneurial example, that you can create a living with your own unique gifts and ideas.

I used to fear missing out on opportunities after leaving the large artist warehouse community that I had been so active in, as that was how I built so much of my local following. Now, social media has replaced that. Sharing my work online has become much more efficient and effective. It still amazes me!

Today I am focused on my personal work. Large commissions and public installations are on hold indefinitely. I am having so much fun with a product line of mosaic frames I’ve created, called Sharra’s Shapes. I design uniquely whimsical shapes with the mosaic artist in mind. These designs become wooden frames with a raised edge to contain the mosaic materials. They are like coloring books for mosaics, giving the artist freedom to apply any style or material. I create original mosaics with them as well, making them available in my online shop. I also teach classes locally and online.

When I walk into my studio, I want the same rush of inspiration and delight that I feel from entering an art supply store, charming boutique, old bookstore, or vintage estate sale.

I aim for organization and order but also leave room for creative clutter and work-in-progress sprinkled throughout. I don’t mind messes and I like keeping my work out at all times, making it available and easy for me to drop in and spend an hour or two of time with it.

I make everything visible, as much as possible. So, tiles, rhinestones and findings are stored and displayed in clear glass containers. Plates stacked in the hutch show off the colors and patterns. Beads are strung and hung. Stained glass is lined up in vertical storage.

I consider myself to be a “mosaic maximalist,” as it’s difficult for me to choose just one material or technique in my work. At the same time, I am always curating materials, periodically editing them down to keep only what I absolutely love and use.

The materials I use tell a story. I still use vintage rhinestones that I sourced from a 121 private seller on the East Coast in 2005, and recently acquired a lifetime collection of beads from a retiring artist. I’ve also stopped at random estate sales, rescuing antique china sets in the final minutes.

I prefer using materials that have history and a story of their own. I favor a vintage bead over a brand-new one. Opening beads or rhinestones from their original early 1900s packaging is thrilling. I display these materials with nostalgic admiration, sometimes holding onto them for years waiting for just the right piece. The presentation of materials inspires my work. The inspiration to create a new mosaic is intensified upon entering my studio. I am always aware of the color, texture and visual input around me. Each time I enter my studio, these details come together to nurture a deep appreciation for a new opportunity to create.

This space represents all parts of me — my creativity, artistry, motherhood — and the love and support of my husband, and my hard work in the past that has paid off, which supported investing in a long-term home studio.

I have been making mosaics for over two decades and I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever tire of it. I just have so many ideas, I can’t imagine ever stopping. I could easily mosaic all day, every day and still go to bed thinking about what I want to make next. I love all parts of it: the hunt for materials, seeking out new materials to try, coming up with what to search for, where it might be and where I could someday travel to and scour for unique findings. I consider new ways to display collections and search estate sales for unique storage options, such as vintage apothecary cabinets or file drawers.

My favorite storage piece is a wooden set of drawers with little divided sections within. Now filled with candy-like glass pieces, tile and beads, it is like opening a treasure box. I found it at a local flea market and immediately knew that it was a perfect fit.

I love mixing unexpected materials. The elegance and luminescence of Italian smalti, a glass used in Byzantine cathedrals, mixed with Grandma’s porcelain china creates an unexpected yet satisfying combination. Finding ways to weave all the different materials together in an aesthetically and technically intriguing way is a challenge I continue to pursue.

When the house is quiet and I’m the only one home, our pets follow me into the studio. Our sassy Maine coon, Lucy, watches the squirrels from the window or struts across my tabletops while our Great Pyrenees rescue, Ringo, naps under my table, waiting for his next meal or walk.

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