I first encountered Laurie Mika's work when I saw one of her mosaic classes offered. While paper arts and photography are my primary art forms, I sometimes like to extend myself into the world of mosaics, where broken pieces are transformed into something of beauty. Her class was full, as most of them are, but I visited her website and was entranced by her work of creating her own tiles out of polymer clay.
This edition of the Sacred Artist Interview also serves as an edition of the Abbey Bookshelf, because Laurie has also published the wonderful Mixed Media Mosaics: Techniques and Projects Using Polymer Clay. It is truly a spectacular resource and Laurie shares her techniques very clearly and generously and I highly recommend it.
I finally had an excuse to contact Laurie when I was putting together the art for the most recent issue of Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction and I knew I wanted to use her art for the cover. She was most gracious in her response. "Tree of Life" is the first image below and one of my favorites of her work. Laurie does not profess a faith tradition or a belief in God. So when I asked her if she would consider this interview, she wondered whether her responses would be helpful. I replied that for me, spirituality is about a quest for meaning and integration in a person's life, and that may or may not include a belief in a higher power. I am grateful that she took the time to participate:
Are you rooted in a particular faith tradition?
My father’s side of the family was Jewish and my mother’s was Christian. However, I was not raised in any particular faith.
What is your primary art medium?
My primary medium is a style of mixed media mosaics that has evolved over the past 15 years. I use polymer clay to make hand made tiles that are either painted or stamped and then combined with jewelry parts, beads, commercial tile and found objects in wall pieces that I call “Mosaicons”.
How do you experience the connection between spirituality and creativity?
I feel that the way that I experience the connection between spirituality and creativity is by exploring people’s belief systems. I am fascinated by the rites and rituals associated with various religions, especially in ancient cultures. I find the art that reflects these ancient cultures, like medieval devotional panels, to be very inspirational. I know that this is more of an objective rather than a personal answer, but alas, I am still wrestling with the concept of spirituality without a belief in a higher power.
What role does spiritual practice have in your art-making?
I don’t adhere to a particular spiritual practice but I would say that the times that I am the most creative are the times when my mind is free from the details of everyday living. In that sense I can see where doing yoga or meditating is very valuable as a way to “still” the mind. It is very difficult to allow the creative process to take hold when the mind is drifting or worrying about mundane things that need to get done.
What sparked your spiritual journey?
This is difficult to answer because I don’t feel like I am on a spiritual journey unless it is meant in the sense of trying to bring meaning to one’s life and work. If this is, in fact, the essence of being spiritual, then this journey began when I realized that I could express myself through my art. It is wonderful when people can find meaning and can connect in the non-verbal realm of visual arts.
What sparked your artistic journey?
I would say that the need to create is the primary impetus that sparked my artistic journey. I would not feel complete if I wasn’t able to use art as a means of self expression. It has always been a part of my being for as long as I can remember. There was never a conscious choice about becoming an artist or pursuing an art-filled life. It is who I am.
Do you have a particular process you use when entering into your creative work?
Generally, I like to have a large chunk of time available. I will put music on in my studio and start working. It is often in the process of creating art, that one idea will spark another. The best times are when I don’t have a deadline and I am free to explore new ideas. One thing is for sure, I get really crabby when I don’t have time to create art!
A warm and enthusiastic thank you to Laurie for sharing her wisdom here. Despite our different spiritual journeys, there is much of what she shares that I resonate with strongly — the need for stillness in creating, the impulse to make art, crabbiness when I don't make art. :-) I also appreciate the way she re-interprets many religious symbols in her art which creates a space for new ways of looking on these images.
Make sure to visit Laurie Mika's website and peruse her many gorgeous pieces.
Images from top to bottom: Tree of Life, Time Heals, Tiny Adornments, Splendor of Life, Peace.