Posted by ngs123 | Posted in Generally Speaking | Posted on 30-01-2011
Today we’re talking with artist and landscape architect Melinda Polites about her fabulous mosaic pots. Each pot is hand made in a meticulous process which she will talk about in the interview. Let’s begin!
BYBz: Tell us something about yourself, and about how long you’ve been making these mosaic pots and objects. Where did the idea for mosaic pots originate?
MP: I’ve been a landscape architect for over 30 years, and I’ve been crafting things all my life, really, but in 2002 while working as a landscape architect for one of Atlanta’s largest landscaping companies, I was assigned the job of making some colbalt blue mosaic pots and a matching water feature for the company’s 2002 Garden & Patio Show exhibit. At that time I don’t think they knew me well enough yet to know that it wasn’t in my nature to just go out and break a bunch of tiles and glue them to a pot and that would be that.
Instead, I borrowed a neighbor’s brand new wet saw and learned how to cut tile. I’m surprised I didn’t cut any fingers off! After that I began to collect pieces and parts, much the same way I used to collect quilting fabrics. I started making the pots again at the end of 2009 when I became unemployed. I had shopped the landscape market well enough over the years to know there was nothing else like them out there.
BYBz: How did you come up with the process? Has it changed much from your first efforts?
MP: There was no process in the beginning. It was strictly trial and error after reading up on the subject. Two of the first three pots turned out excellent, the third was an experiment with the crackle tiles and they didn’t seem to work as well.
In the beginning it was a mess. It was freezing cold and I was getting soaking wet out in the garage using the wet saw-this was in January and February! My fingers would go numb. My sunroom was a complete mess with tiles and pots and plywood strewn everywhere. The pieces were so heavy I had to work around them because I couldn’t pick them up alone. I’m much smarter now. I have a lot of wheels!
I plan things out to scale on paper most of the time, although sometimes I just experiment and it usually works out. I am always striving for perfection – sometimes I get it, mostly I come close.
BYBz: Where do you get your materials?
MP: It’s been a big problem, getting the materials I want for the things I want to do. I have to shop it a lot. Vendors aren’t keeping as much in stock anymore. Luckily I’ve just found a tile vendor that is willing to work with me and I have been able to get most of what I need from them. It’s also difficult to find the exact precast concrete pieces I want without paying retail.
BYBz: Where do you get your design ideas?
MP: I’ve always been a creative person, and for years I was a quilter, too, so I get a lot of ideas from those resources. It’s all geometry, proportion, color. I learned a lot from quilting. I used a lot of black in my quilts like the Amish-it has a way of making the colors pop. I tried it on the first pots and the results were amazing. Because I experiment a lot I can see what works in different projects and then use those ideas in different ways. Many of the pieces I’ve made so far have been somewhat art deco in style, but I also love classic and craftsman style and am now moving in that direction. Whatever the style, all my pieces are sophisticated and unique.
BYBz: How long does it take, from concept to completion, to put together a medium sized pot?
MP: Working out the design and colors takes the majority of the time. Once I’ve worked that out I can produce a medium sized pot in about three days. I’m usually working on more than one at a time because each step requires overnight set up time before I can go to the next step.
BYBz: I understand that you do commission work. Who would be your ideal client?
MP: I think my pieces can work well just about anywhere, so the ideal client could be anyone from a homeowner wanting a single piece or multiple pieces, to urban projects, hotels or restaurants that want to raise the bar a notch from terra cotta or precast concrete to something that really glows. When I go to the Forum on Peachtree Industrial I always envision how that big obelisk focal point they have would look if I had done it. I believe a focal piece is not a focal piece if everyone’s got one, so my ideal client would be someone who thinks the same way!
MP: Most of my pieces are intended to weather the elements outside. I have a number of planters that have been outside for over six months now, through all the recent bad weather and they have held up fine. They require nothing more than wiping off with a clean cloth to knock off any dirt and restore the luster.
Most of the base objects I use are made of precast concrete and won’t freeze and crack. My intention is for everything to last so I use the same type of waterproofing used on swimming pools. I waterproof the outsides of the pots, too, so that water doesn’t leach through to the tiles, and the black grout that I use doesn’t show dirt as the lighter grouts will. However, the small terra cotta based pots will not make it outside in a freeze. I put several outside and had to pick up the pieces afterwards! So except for the small pots, all my products are intended for outdoor landscape use.
BYBz: Where can we see more of your work? Where is it sold?
I’m working on creating a catalog of my work so that pieces may be ordered. I have some planters on consignment at Habersham Gardens off Cheshire Bridge Road. For inquiries, custom work, or for the curious, I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope to exhibit in some of the upcoming neighborhood markets as well. When you see my pots in person, you will see how they have a way glowing in the light. To see a slide show of most of my creations, check out YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/mpolites10011
BYBz: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Melinda! We wish you much success in the coming years.
MP: Thank you!