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Why I’m a SAMA Member :: Nikki Sullivan

Thoughts on SAMA

by Nikki Sullivan, Moosup, Conneticut,  sullivancreativeworkshop.com

My interest in mosaics started shortly after I inherited a mosaic coffee table that my grandmother made in the early 60’s.  I had seen this table my whole life – in my grandmother’s home, then my parents, and finally it came to me in 2004.  It sat in my living room for months, giving me time to study its beauty without plants or pottery or magazines obscuring the surface.  Finally, I decided – why shouldn’t I be able to do this?

I made my first mosaic stepping stone in a four-hour class at a local stained glass studio.  It was terrible, but it got the mosaic ball rolling in my brain.  So I bought some materials, made some stuff, bought some books online, and became particularly fond of Sonia King’s book, MOSAIC Techniques and Traditions I studied every mosaic in it.

In my online searches for anything mosaic, I discovered SAMA and the conferences.  To my delight, I found that Sonia would be teaching at the 2007 SAMA conference in Mesa, AZ.  I dreamed of going but hey, I had two toddlers at home – how the heck was I going to do that?  Then, I discovered that sometimes my husband really does listen to me.

He surprised me that Christmas with a gift that will last a lifetime, a SAMA membership, a round trip ticket to Phoenix, AND he even registered me in Sonia King’s workshop.  I couldn’t believe it.  This man must really love me!

When the time came to leave, I hugged my kids and boarded the plane to Phoenix. Because I stayed with family, I didn’t get the whole SAMA experience, but I met a few people and very much enjoyed Sonia’s class.  I learned a lot and still have the notes I took.  Returning home with my small bag of supplies from the vendor marketplace and all that inspiration, I was ready to get serious.  I transformed a portion of my basement into a more professional studio and it became my favorite spot in the house.

Of course, my husband didn’t know the mosaic monster he had created and how I wanted MORE SAMA conferences.  In 2008, I traveled to the Miami conference with new local mosaic friend and amazing artist, Deb Aldo.  We shared a hotel room and the experience of staying at the conference was so much better because I had the opportunity to meet many more mosaic artists.

This time, I took Matteo Randi’s hammer & hardie workshop which taught me a lot about a totally new technique.  A hammer & hardie was put on order as soon as I got home.  I also took a critique workshop with British artist, Martin Cheek.   It was refreshing to hear a pro’s comments and advice on my work.  When I volunteered to help out with the conference, I found it gave me the opportunity to meet more people.  I even sold my piece at the Mosaic Art Salon!   Once again, I came home with a bundle of inspiration and supplies from the awesome vendor marketplace. I couldn’t wait to get to work.

2009 was family vacation year and I unfortunately missed San Diego.  But I made up for it with a whopping good time at the 2010 conference in Chicago!  Wow, what a city! I fell in love with it.  Deb had recently introduced me to the fabulous Connecticut mosaic artist Gwen Basilica.   We all shared a room at the beautiful Palmer House Hilton.  Traveling  together was fun – we saw beautiful sites, shared lots of laughs, had delicious food at every meal, and even took the amazing Verdiano Marzi workshop together.  What a mind blowing experience.  Just being at the Chicago Mosaic School was a thrill in itself.  I learned a lot from Mr. Marzi, a true mosaic genius whose work I admire very much, and hope to take more workshops with him in the future.

The conference definitely did not disappoint. There were great, inspiring lectures and I had the opportunity to once again show my work next to spectacular mosaic works at the Mosaic Art Salon.  I met so many artists who are now friends – it was the best conference yet!  I think I left a piece of my heart in Chicago and also left an extra $50 to Southwest Airlines for the amount of stone in my suitcase after another wallet breaking vendor show.   I came home with so much creative inspiration and material, I just couldn’t wait to get in my studio!

2011 brought my two fun-lovin’ roommates and me to the Austin, Texas conference and another great new fun city to explore.  It was great to see all the mosaic friends I had made at the previous conferences, plus to meet even more.  My husband can’t believe I went to Texas and didn’t eat any BBQ!

This time, I was fortunate enough to take a workshop with Giulio Menossi. It was a huge step away from anything I had ever experienced. And it was hard!   Through all my struggles though, I was grateful to learn something new.  While I didn’t get to work on the mosaic marathon, I kept popping in to see their wonderful work and progress.  The Mosaic Art Salon was one of the biggest and best yet – so much beautiful artwork to see and have the opportunity to own!  And the vendor marketplace…I wanted it all!   But I took what I could and actually fit it into my suitcase this time (and in the extra luggage I brought with me).

Of all the wonderful things I love about the SAMA conferences, one of my favorites is the fabulous MAI Exhibition.   The caliber of work exhibited is so impressive, it inspires me to do better with each piece I create in the hopes that I will feel comfortable enough to even apply for such an honor, never mind hope to be accepted.  I drool over previous exhibition catalogs, studying each piece, its materials, and the placement of tesserae, while trying to learn what made it catch the eyes of the exhibition jurors.  Someday, I hope to have my work hanging in such an incredible show.

The Great Divide by Nikki Sullivan

“The Great Divide” by Nikki Sullivan

SAMA and its conferences have given me confidence to take pride in my work.  It has taught me to try harder, learn more, accept mistakes, and not be frightened of the unknown.   I’ve learned to try something new and Improve the skills I already have. For weeks after returning home from a conference, I am filled with ideas swimming in my head, even in my dreams.  I have started to sketch all these ideas so I can remember them.

Attending SAMA conferences have given me the opportunity to visit places I’ve never been.  And most importantly, it has given me a whole new world of friends…friends who share the same passion for mosaics as I do.  So I was very disappointed that I didn’t make it to the Kentucky conference.  I was thinking of you all as it commenced and wished I were there to gain more knowledge from the pros, gather more inspiration from the artwork shown, and see my mosaic buds.   But I am planning on going to Tacoma and I’m keeping up with SAMA happenings on the website, which I check into often.   I hope to see you there!


Nikki Sullivan is a mosaic artist who works from her home studio in North Eastern, CT. Her work has been featured in galleries and exhibits from Boston to North Carolina. When not cutting glass in her studio, she is mom to two young boys, wife to a supportive husband and buddy to Hank the dog.

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