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Mosaic Maven

Author: Kim Hill
Issue: May, 2009, Page 46
Photography by Brandon Sullivan

Artist Vickie Morrow sits in her colorful kitchen, which features a handmade tile backsplash and bartop consisting of 2,800 tiles. The design was inspired by the mosaic columns at the entry of a church in the medieval town of Orvieto, Italy.

I’ve always been assembling things,” says mosaic-tile artist Vickie Morrow. Even as a child, the New Mexico native says she grouped rocks, leaves and sticks so that similar textures or exact colors did not appear together. As an adult, Morrow fashioned quilts as a way to relax. The art-isan says rearranging objects, fabrics or tiles to make an assemblage more pleasing to the eye “creates an element of surprise or a restful place to feast the eyes.”

These days, Morrow uses her skills to make mosaic-tile tabletops, mirror frames, decorative boxes and custom backsplashes for kitchens and baths. She has had a long career designing office interiors, landscapes and pools, but an offhand question in 2006 turned her vocation in a new direction.

Morrow makes all of her tiles by hand. Here, she uses a large toothbrush to add texture to tiles that will be installed in a kitchen backsplash.
“My mother was a ceramic artist, and she asked me if I wanted her kiln,” Morrow recalls. “I had the idea to install some interesting tilework on the bar between my great room and my kitchen, and I thought it would be fun to make the tiles for that bar.” After studying with a local potter, Morrow made ceramic tiles for the bar top and for a patio table. “Some interior designer friends saw those pieces, and my mosaics just took off from there,” the artist says.

Handmaking tiles is a time-consuming yet vastly rewarding process for Morrow. The Scottsdale resident explains that consistency of color is the most difficult element. “Anything can cause inconsistencies in the glazes, from where the tile is placed in the kiln to mixing the color using oxides,” she notes. “But I love the surprise of working with the color.”

Morrow begins arranging tiles after they are fired and glazed. Designs can be one of three types: random, repeated or pictorial. And inspiration can take many forms. Morrow’s daily walks with Lucy, her 14-year-old Lab mix, yield such treasures as fossils, pebbles, bits of broken glass, rusted castoffs and rescued tile and ceramic pieces. “This morning we found the metal tag that was on a rose bush,” she says. “That tag will work itself into a piece at some point.”

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