I’ve been looking forward to writing this post – Gila is such an interesting and amazing person and I just got goosebumps when I read over the info she sent me about herself. And then of course there are her mosaics!
As the youngest of 6 kids, most of whom are artists and/or musicians, Gila was exposed to art and music at an early age. She counts her sister, renowned mosaic artist in her own right Elizabeth Raybee, as being one of her earliest influences. “By the time I was cognizant”, says Gila, “there was already plenty of music & art around. I remember my bedroom as a little girl, painted (by Elizabeth & perhaps some of her friends) chartreuse & covered with jungle animals and trees. On another wall was this bony woman with long skinny arms & poky fingers. Even though she looked kind of scary, I always thought she was way cool.”
The summer prior to her graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she spent that time with Elizabeth in San Francisco. She was taking a couple of art and geology electives at SF State to complete some requirements before graduating in ’89 (BA in Music). It was at this time that Elizabeth was just beginning in her mosaic adventures and it was in her studio that Gila got her start in mosaics; grouting Elizabeths’s first mosaic no less! Gila’s first actual mosaic was a table that she made in 1990.
After earning her Masters Degree (MM, Trombone Performance) Gila spent a year traveling around the world solo, followed by several years of teaching & more travel throughout SE Asia. One of the most memorable & life altering adventures of her life was spending time on the remote Indonesian Island of Siberut with the Mentawai people. Her time there is often a source of inspiration, both figuratively & in the abstract. Here’s a picture of her host & medicine man, Tarason, the inspiration for one of her first attempts at mosaic portraiture.
One of the more interesting positions Gila found herself in was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she was helping to organize a National Marching Band. Here she is directing the trombone choir during one of their music camp concerts. (1992)
After that experience, Gila joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Malaysia, Sarawak (Kuching, Borneo) where she taught instrumental (winds & brass) music & directed the orchestra. Throughout all her travels & adventures, she had an image in her mind of one day owning a place of her own where she could mosaic everything in sight. It was a very strong feeling & persistent.
In 1999 Gila returned to the USA & settled in New Orleans, where not long after, she met her partner Mark. It was for his birthday that she decided to make him a mosaic table. Gila had no tools, no materials & hadn’t made a mosaic in at least 6 years. “It wasn’t easy getting everything together without him knowing! When I gave it to him, he was speechless!! Believe me, that’s a rarity!”, she states.
That table really started her on her current path. Mark is way beyond supportive of her mosaic mania. Plus, he REALLY loves her work. There is rarely a piece that he wants her to sell. He prefers, & Gila concurs, it would be great to win the lottery so they could have a spacious gallery for her mosaics and the artwork they’ve collected over the years. Don’t we all?! I love how supportive her partner is. It’s a base that I certainly need in order for my creativity to really flourish, so I really admire them for this.
Gila goes on to say, “I feel as though through mosaics I’ve finally found my improvisational voice while continuing on of my life’s adventures; exploring materials & continually experimenting keeps me fully engaged with plenty of space for spontaneity.”
Gila teaches workshops between other projects, on an irregular basis. She usually holds 4-6 workshops a year with up to 6 participants. She has always been passionate about teaching & enjoys discovering the similarities between music & mosaic in the process. “I guess, since I love to learn, it makes sense that I love to teach!”
“It’s my aim for each participant to leave equipped to do something similar on their own. Among other things, we discuss tools, materials, design & inspiration.” One thing that everyone loves is the wide range of materials in her studio, from which they can choose to create their mosaic.
If you are interested in the classes, email Gila and you should check out her website as well as her Flickr account. Her portfolio is so huge that I can’t possibly really show it off here to its fullest potential… But here are some of my faves:
details of her kitchen window… it’s just stunning!!!
Finally, meet Gila 🙂