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Mosaic Artist Nancy Low

Author: Shawndrea Corbin
Issue: April, 2013, Page 30
Photos by Garrett Cook

Artisan Nancy Low hand-cuts the china she uses for her mosaic creations.

Mosaic artist Nancy low Breathes New life into broken china

A simple clay figure of a Mexican woman peers down from the top of a shelf above mosaic artist Nancy Low’s kitchen cabinets in her Phoenix home. Around the figure is an assortment of goods that Low has acquired from what she refers to as “the hunt.” “I looked at the woman up there and thought, ‘What else would she be selling at a market?’” Low recalls. “So, when I find things she might ‘sell,’ I bring them back and put them up there.” And indeed the artist’s home and work are comprised of unique finds and the stories they tell.

Before graduating from Brown University, Low studied at the High School of Music & Art in New York. She notes that art, particularly artwork with interesting backstories, has played a vital role in her life. “I have always been curious as to how something can be repurposed,” she explains. “I have to be [immersed in art] every day.”

A native New Yorker, who now spends her time between Maryland and the Valley of the Sun, Low came to Phoenix 15 years ago and began making mosaics for fun. She now spends the majority of her time creating signature mosaic works and searching for unique pieces from thrift and antique stores that she can repurpose into them.

Above: The artist enjoys working with items that are structurally unique as a way to provide texture and dimension. Here, for example, a teacup handle projects from the corner of a planter.
Low’s designs often stem from a singular “found” element that speaks to her. The artist subsequently hand-cuts and shapes broken fragments of china, which she later assembles into intricate surrounding patterns. “It began when my mother and aunt passed away. They were both big antiques enthusiasts, and I received a motherload of china,” she elaborates. “But sadly, a lot of it was chipped. I realized that I love to redeem things that are broken, which I can turn into beauty.” It was this concept that launched her fondness for “meaningful” mosaics, and the reason she refers to her creations  as Heirloom Memoryware.

Low relates the story of one of her first customers, who came to her with two shopping bags of broken Christmas china. “The broken china was from her best friend’s house that had burnt down,” the artist recalls. “She had gone through the ashes and gathered what she could. I took the pieces and used them to mosaic an antique table.” The woman gave the table to her friend as a housewarming gift when she moved into her new home, Low adds.

The artist’s more notable achievements include being featured in several galleries across the country, creating a series of music-themed frames for the gift shop at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, and having her work carried by such shops as The Embellished House in Scottsdale. Low says her work isn’t about loving the process or finished product; instead, it’s about helping people transform old memories and heal, piece by piece.

Photos - From left: Low created this lazy Susan for her kitchen table, inspired by the small figurine that serves as a handle. • Nancy Low has embellished this antique table with fragmented china and figurines. The artist works on several pieces at once and says it takes three to four weeks, on average, to complete each project.

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