Meditation in motion

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Pictured above: Darter

For Australian mosaicist Jaky Pinnock, creating mosaics is like meditation in motion. She uses distinctive flow lines and vibrant glass to depict wildlife and oceanic themes in her mosaics. Here, Rhona Duffy catches up with her to find out about her techniques, inspiration and plans for the future.

By Rhona Duffy

What led you to mosaics? How did you learn?

I have always loved exploring different forms of art. First, I did a lead lighting course but I found it too rigid and unforgiving for me. But what did excite me was the vast array of colours in the glass we were using. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I went home from the course with all this luminous, vibrant glass that inspired me and I had to find something to do with it. After searching the local bookshops and libraries (the internet was not available to me then), I came across mosaics. 

Although my first project was an utter disaster (a glass-on-glass tabletop where I used the wrong glue), I have never stopped loving the artform of mosaics. For me, mosaic is like meditation in motion. I have had no formal training or done any courses in mosaic. It has been trial and error, learning the hard way, but you never make the same mistake. I always read the technical and safety data now. It’s heartbreaking to put weeks of work into a mosaic and watch it disintegrate before your eyes. It only happened once, and now I tend to over engineer things. The adhesives I use are rated for swimming pool use, just in case someone decides to put my mosaic outside.

Blue Ringed Octopus

What are your favourite materials, styles and techniques in mosaic?

Glass is the primary material I use. The array of colours is mind-boggling, allowing me to create a watercolour effect on some of my artworks. I love the luminosity of glass and the light play, especially with dichroic and iridised glass. It brings such vibrancy to the artwork and makes it come alive. I always love watching people’s reactions when they see one of my artworks in person. I usually get responses like, “Oh my God, it sparkles and changes colour from this angle”. I did a recent commission with lots of dichroic glass, and it even surprised me that the colours were dynamic in low light. 

I also love using surprise natural elements, like marble, beach sand, coral, quarts and petrified wood. When I find something in nature that inspires me when beachcombing or bushwalking, I often put it in my treasures box until I can decide how to use it. 

Jaky Pinnock
Monstera

I prefer to use the direct method of applying the tesserae. I usually have an easel set up with my chosen substrate and I work upright. This way, I can step back and see if my flow lines, colour blends and overall composition are working.  Artworks can look quite different when you’ve been working on a flat surface and then go and hang them. I don’t use this method when working on fibreglass mesh. 

Do you work in other art mediums and do you find any benefits to your mosaic work in exploring other art forms?

I’ve worked in so many different art forms, including painting, ceramics, fashion design, jewellery, sculpture, floristry, glass fusing and lead lighting, that my studio is bulging from the number of different tools and supplies. I love them all, as they’ve added to my art journey and each has unfolded a different aspect of my creativity. They’ve allowed me to think outside the square, problem solve or come up with a creative solution to achieving the look I am after. I don’t think artists can go wrong with exploring different artworks. It’s rather like all the things we go through in our personal lives; we learn and become stronger.  I think it makes me a more versatile artist. I also have to admit I get a little bored if I do the same media every day so it’s nice to have a change.

Flow

The flow lines in your pieces are very distinctive. Can you talk about the importance of considering andamento in mosaic and do you plan your lines or work intuitively? 

I believe that flow lines are the life and soul of a mosaic. If I ran my lines straight across the mosaic, it would be a totally different artwork. I sometimes do a background with horizontal lines, which stabilises the subject. Sometimes you don’t want the background to gain too much attention. If you emphasise everything, you emphasise nothing. The andamento gives form, shape and liveliness to the mosaic. 

I could be a better planner. I work intuitively with my lines. Had I been formally educated in mosaics, I may have learned to sketch my lines on paper first. This is probably why I prefer to work upright, so I can step back and assess. I sometimes put in some basic cues, but more often than not I change the finer detail as I go along. I relax into creativity and the artwork tells me what it needs. I did a demonstration piece for an open studio last year and I discovered my colour blends were not working well, and the whole artwork looked stiff. I obviously wasn’t relaxed at the time. 

What pieces or projects are you most proud of and why?

Interesting question. My intellect went to my most prestigious commission in collaboration with Rudolph Verschoor – four hand-sculpted granite and marble mosaics in the Kings Park Botanic Garden; five million people see and walk on these each year. However, my heart goes to the commissions that I do for people. I enjoy collaborating with someone so they can have exactly what they would like to see on their wall, and to lift their spirits as they see it in their daily life.I recently did a commission for a gorgeous couple in Florida and I received a message from them just after they opened the parcel. “I know you’re asleep – but OH MY GOD! I am in LOOOOOVE WITH THESE. Stunning… We will treasure them.” Another lady was brought to tears with a sculpture that I did that resembled her granddaughter. If artwork can bring emotions like love and tears of joy, I don’t think I can ask for more than that.

The two fish above were part of the commission Jaky Pinnock did for a couple in Florida

What are the inspirations behind your work?

I love the ocean and all its inhabitants. I swim every day (as long as there’s no seaweed). It’s the way I recharge my battery. I also enjoy bushwalking and being amongst the tall trees. Being in nature is inspirational. This seems almost clique amongst artists. How can you compete against Mother Nature for beauty? As an artist, the best I can hope for is to replicate some magical element to provide beauty to the eye of the perceiver. At other times I can get inspired by an item, be it a piece of coral or a sheet of glass. If I see something beautiful, I often think, how can I capture this in artwork? 

What’s keeping you busy at the moment, and what are your plans for the future?

I am working towards another open studio in September this year. I took part in one for the first time last year and it was a fantastic experience. I learned so much. This year, I will have an ocean theme to my artwork. I also plan on doing more sculptural 3D mosaics. I feel the need to push my comfort boundaries a little. In 2021, I stepped away from my ‘safe’ career in nursing to follow my lifelong passion for the arts. I felt a sense of invigoration through making a choice based on a love for something and not based on fear. So far, it is working out beautifully. I recently did an introductory ceramic course to hand build and glaze sculpted tiles, to be able to incorporate them into largescale mosaic features. In saying this, I am open to whatever inspirational path comes my way. 

Kookaburra

Any final words?

I feel that we all have our songs to sing. Whether it’s art, music, cooking, photography or something else, anything that inspires you is your song. Not everyone is going to like your music, but that’s fine. Don’t take it personally, just keep singing. The world would be poorer if we were all carbon copies of each other. 

About Jaky Pinnock
Jaky Pinnock is an innovative, self-taught mosaic artist who was bitten by the mosaic bug over 30 years ago. Although she has tried many art disciplines, her true love is for the vibrancy and colour of mosaics. Living in the stunning South West corner of Australia, her themes usually include the natural environment. 

Technical Tips

  1. Most of the time, I like my grout lines to “disappear” so that they don’t compete with the beauty of the glass colours. Once my grout is thoroughly dry, I use archival-quality acrylic paints to colour the grout. I paint over the whole mosaic matching the acrylic to the colour of the glass. When the acrylic is dry, I use a damp microfibre cloth to clean the glass. This technique can only be used on non-porous surfaces. (See the before and after photo of Sacred Kingfisher below.) 
  • Read the technical data and safety sheet for all products that you use. Not only will this ensure the integrity of your mosaic for years to come, but it may save you from health issues. I use the principle that if I would not eat it, then I will avoid getting it on my skin. Our skin is our largest organ.  
  • Think outside the square and get inventive. There are so many fabulous unconventional uses for hardware and craft products. I often will go up and down the isles at my hardware shop looking at new products and figuring out how I might be able to use them. Insulation foil fixing fasteners (four-prong aluminium squares) work fabulously to secure your drawing and fibreglass mesh when working on a mosaic.