Several moons ago, I had the fortunate experience of “bumping” into Carol Shelkin, aka artist_mama on Flickr. I noticed a letter box that she had mosaiced and I thought, “kewl!” Since then, she has gotten involved with glass mosaics and her work really is awesome! She’s very modest about her creations thus far, maintaining that she is only a beginner. Well, I would almost argue that we’re all still there. It’s always about learning and how we can continue to extend ourselves. I’ve always said that I hope I continue to learn People who “know it all” are just belligerent! Carol obviously is incredibly talented at all she does, and she certainly has a knack for mosaics.
Carol has always been drawn to the creative process, from making clothes for her Barbie doll in the ’50′s, to beaded jewelery, macramé and embroidery in the ’60s. She also has immersed herself in pottery and oil painting for the last 25 years. After graduating from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, she continued painting, submitting her work into competitions and shows in Philadelphia, where her paintings were award winning, as well as accepting commissions.
After marrying her best friend in the ’70s, Carol found herself happily veering away from the fine arts to pursue family life. While raising her three children, she continued to work full time, taught herself silk painting, Ukrainian egg design, photography, pottery, jewelry making, folk art painting on wooden objects, soap making, sewing, macramé, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet, glass bead making, basket weaving and the art of baking a great chocolate cake! She owned a small business baking breads (apparently they were really cakes) for several health food stores in the local community. Phew!!! Is there anything this woman cannot do?! Carol found clay and painting to be the two mediums she felt more at home with and mainly pursued these two art forms, part-time, while raising her kids.
Still painting and working as a potter part time with one or two private shows a year, Carol became involved with other artists. The “no-hassle and no-stress” Fine Art and Fine Craft Sale was born and continued for over 15 years. They would gather all their muso friends to play live music while they prepared good food and sold their work.
Several years ago, she was called upon to help care for her gorgeous granddaughter as her eldest daughter became a single mum. This was also the time when her mother passed away and she became the primary caregiver for her only sibling, a special needs adult and a true love in her life. They both needed attention and Carol, firmly knowing her priorities in life, closed her studio doors.
The doors remained shut for a couple years and feeling the loss of art, Carol discovered mosaics. She had heard about the Steve Irwin Mosaic Tribute in December of 2006 and started to search for information on mesh mosaics, as was requested for any submissions. Her desire was to contribute something to the mural with her Arts Nursery School class, which she had opened back in the ’80s.
With no supplies, no tools and no idea where to start, Carol contacted Sandy Robertson of Oz Mosaics, the Chief Mosaic Mischief for this mural. Sandy contacted Kathy over at Maryland Mosaics who donated supplies and tools for the class. I have said and I will say it again, the international mosaic community is small! It’s heartwarming to know this story… The children had a ball working on the mosaic and had an unexpected lesson on giving. Since they were all aware of who Steve Irwin was and his love for animals, they were very keen to participate. Their mosaic was shipped, to be included with the hundreds of other donations from around the World at the Australia Zoo just north of Brisbane, Australia.
On the third floor of her house, Carol had an empty walk-in closet (there are 3 floors in your house?!). She set up a space to mosaic there and her granddaughter, Lola, has a playroom in that area also. So Carol works in her closet, listening to Lola sing Laurie Berkner’s Best of and they are all happy.
Soon after the tree frog was shipped to Australia, one of her students’ parents wanted a mailbox mosaiced. This was her first commission. Then a mirror was requested, then a wall hanging, then a table…The rest, as they say, is history
In her own words, on whether or not she is a mosaic addict:
“When I went to Costa Rica several months ago, all I could see through the viewfinder was future mosaics. I now look around the house to see what I can break or decorate with tiles. My daughter in-law received three mosaics in the past couple of months for the new house and tenderly asked if I had an addiction.”
Carol continues to seek the support she needs from her flickr friends and mosaic yahoo groups. The camaraderie from mosaic artists, she says, is so welcoming: “Whoever said you can’t meet warm, supportive friends on the Internet have never met the people I’ve encountered on-line. I can’t emphasise enough how fortunate I am to have discovered my new-found love for mosaics and “mo” friends.”
Continuing to have the support from her hubby and three adult kids allows her a moment in time to express her recently found mosaic passion. “I am hopeful whatever piece I create brings people as much pleasure as I had in the process of creation.”
They most certainly do…
And finally, meet Carol