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Inside the Studio: Sharon Bachner

Step into the vibrant world of Sharon Bachner, an artist whose journey has been richly influenced by her travels and exposure to Byzantine art. Sharon's unique ability to blend traditional mosaic techniques with contemporary mixed media has resulted in stunning and evocative works that capture the essence of her experiences and creativity. From her early days of self-taught mosaic making in San Francisco to her innovative integration of materials like stained glass, polymer clay, and metal, Sharon's art is a testament to her unyielding passion and inventive spirit. Join us as we explore her process, inspirations, and the stories behind her captivating creations.



Sharon Bachner in Studio


Read on to learn more in an exclusive interview with Sharon Bachner :

 

1. How did your travels and exposure to Byzantine art influence your mosaic work and current mixed media projects?

Throughout my life, I have spent a lot of time visiting museums and churches. Some of the most spectacular examples of Byzantine art are in the religious institutions of southeastern Europe. Specifically, I think of the mosaics of Ravenna, Hagia Sophia, and many illuminated manuscripts with their ornate, gold patterns, stylized, flattened designs, and ethereal subject matter.


Thematically, the Byzantines shifted away from the realism of their artistic predecessors because of the new religious focus on the spiritual world. Although I am not a traditional Christian, I am very interested in portraying the world beneath the surface. I visualize each living thing as a dazzling point of light, but also as just an individual very similar to others. This has been the main theme of everything I am making right now.


Beach Stones II Sculpture

2. Can you describe your process of integrating various materials like stained glass, polymer clay, and metal into your artwork?

I started making mosaics in the mid-1990s while living in San Francisco. I didn’t have any access to instruction except for a couple of books I was lucky enough to find. I was frustrated not to be able to find the bright-colored smalti made in Italy, and I had to settle for the very limited materials I could find at tiling stores. Because I was entirely self-taught, I didn’t have any rules to follow, so there was no sense of a right or wrong method. I developed the habit of constantly looking for new materials to create the visual effect I was hoping to achieve.


Hierarchies

3. What inspired your shift from classical mosaics to more contemporary styles and methods?

It helped me immensely to spend several years copying the classical mosaics I found in books. However, there is only so much detail that can be achieved with pieces of colored tile and glass without working very large. With large mosaics, you have the practical limitations of material costs, time, weight, and portability of the artwork. I was extremely fortunate to receive early art training that celebrated a creative mindset as a foundational principle. It seemed natural to me to incorporate the artistic styles and methods that inspired me and over time, I pushed the limits of what I could include in my own compositions. I do not worry about developing or sticking to a consistent artistic style. I believe if you are true to creating what excites you, and just allow yourself to develop this way, your most authentic style emerges.


Beach Walkers Sculpture

4. How do you approach developing visual ideas in your sketchbook, and how do you decide which concepts to bring to life?

I have these flashes of completed images in my mind. I believe many of us do; the frustrated artist doesn’t pursue creating them and the dedicated artist does. These compositions are as elusive as dreams, so I try to take notes and quick sketches. Late at night, I work on extremely detailed sketches on my iPad. I ask as many people as possible which images appeal to them, and usually go with that. I have a backlog of images that I haven’t had the time to make, but I constantly revisit and revise. I love doing my sketches digitally because I can simply create a copy and make a variation without losing the original. Then I begin working out the practical aspects of how to create the images. I do a lot of experimenting with different materials to see what works.


Tapestry

5. Can you share a recent project that showcases your unique blend of traditional and alternative media?

I am currently working on a 6-foot by 3-foot “tapestry.” It is a large piece of unstretched, unprimed canvas that hangs from a curtain rod, with a recycled fishing net sewn on top. I have made thousands of small tesserae using polymer clay, metallic coatings, and tiny fused glass beads. Each has a wire fired into the clay that I am using to attach the tesserae to the fishing net. I have to transport it across the country to an exhibit next month, and this way I can simply roll it up and ship it in a box. The boring truth is I implement a lot of alternative media for practical reasons. When viewed from a distance, the effect is of a traditional mosaic, but examined up close, it is made in a completely new method.


Tapestry

6. How do you balance the meticulous nature of mosaic work with the spontaneity of mixed media techniques?

For me, the spontaneity all comes at the beginning while I am in the designing stage. My work is so labor-intensive and technical that I need a detailed drawn-out plan before I start. I get to experience the creative spontaneity every night when I am sketching.


Beach Walkers II Sculpture

7. What are some of the most challenging materials you have worked with, and how did you incorporate them into your art?

Oh, I’ve pursued some pretty crazy ideas. I was determined to incorporate layers of shattered tempered glass because of its unique refractive qualities. It turns out that tempered glass wants to spread everywhere, sort of like the Styrofoam packing peanuts of the glass family. I will probably only use it very sparingly in the future. Polymer clay is extremely versatile, but it does need to be heated to cure, so I have to carefully research what art materials to incorporate before firing. The list goes on. Every material has its limitations, and I tend to push them. Sometimes this is successful, but often it’s not. I almost always will start over midway through making something, usually more than once. For me, this is just part of the process.


Hierarchies

8. What advice would you give to artists who want to experiment with mixed media and unconventional materials?

My advice is to research and experiment as much as possible, but still expect things to go wrong. This is extremely rewarding if you have the patience and temperament for it. YouTube tutorials are an invaluable free resource from and for artists. Use what you learn and make it your own. If you are bored, then it’s time to allow your artwork to evolve.


Sharon Bachner in Studio

Sharon Bachner's exploration of traditional and alternative media offers a fascinating glimpse into the endless possibilities of artistic creation. Her dedication to pushing the boundaries of her craft and her willingness to experiment with unconventional materials continue to inspire and challenge the art world.


 

You can learn more about Sharon Bachner and her work via these links: Website: https://cohesionmosaicstudio.com/ Instgram: @cohesionmosaics Artmajeur: https://www.artmajeur.com/sharon-bachner Pinterest: @cohesionmosaics Saatchi Art: https://www.saatchiart.com/sharonbachner

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