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Mosaic Maven

Author: Sunamita Lim
Issue: March, 2007, Page 262
Portrait by David Fenton
For tile artist Erin Adams, pushing design boundaries means stretching her imagination, which she does on floors, walls and in the creation of decorative objects. On floors, her mosaic tile rugs mimic their woven counterparts. On walls, her glass tiles add dimension to a room. And on cabinetry, her door pulls bring a touch of whimsy.

As one of today’s foremost mosaic designers, Adams says she has a desire “to innovate with a sense of craftsmanship that intrigues and plays with our senses.” This creative ingenuity has jettisoned her into the stratosphere of international commissions and prestigious awards.

“I’m not a glass or mosaic artist, not even a lover of stained glass, because I’m a designer,” she declares. “My goal is for patterns and designs to impact you visually first, and then to delight your senses.”

Part of that delight is grounded in her fascination with what she terms “things that are not.” For example, Adams makes pendant lamps from glass that look like woven basketry. She creates other “woven” glass fixtures, accessories and furnishings as well, from bathroom sinks to mosaic rugs.

Adams, her ceramicist husband Michael Corney, and sons Max, 7, and Kit, 5, moved to Albuquerque, N.M., in 2000 from California. She often takes her sons on business trips, having learned the importance of maternal mentoring from her mother, the late Caroline Lee, who opened the first contemporary art gallery in San Antonio, Texas, in the mid-1970s.

Since Adams graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design in 1984, her stylish creations have captivated homeowners and appeared in commercial buildings as well. In addition to mosaics for the homes of actress Cameron Diaz and actor/director Ron Howard, her longest mural—one kilometer long—was completed for a Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Saudi Arabia.

For homeowners Robert and Lynette Henry of Albuquerque, Adams created a mosaic triptych. “Erin was right on intuiting our home’s foyer triptych after two meetings. It’s phenomenal to see rainbows dancing off the 5-foot by 11-foot-wide panels from natural light filtering in from the skylight overhead,” Lynette comments.

Other accolades abound. Last year this Master of the Southwest was recognized with a House Beautiful Chrysler Design Innovators Award; gave a keynote speech at Canada’s top design show, IIDEX/Neocon, where her collaboration with International Design Lines won bronze in the 200- to 400-square-foot category for Most Innovative Booth; and was honored for a Best of Year Roscoe Design Award at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum.

In 2005, Adams’ Quilts tile line garnered Home magazine’s Best Tile Award presented through Ann Sacks Tile & Stone, where she is exclusively represented.

Adams smiles warily while recounting stories of competitors in Mexico who copy her work. “This is the price of competition—trudging through, being more innovative, with higher levels of craftsmanship,” she reckons. Putting her moxie to work in other areas as well, she has streamlined operations for her company and her staff, and kept world-class artisan jobs in the U.S.

This year she launches lines featuring recycled materials. For example, LUNA is a collection of recycled aluminum tiles with glass insets. New concrete-based tile countertops, sinks and floor tile collections are in the works.

“I’m always pushing boundaries,” says Adams, “in exploring, experimenting and playing with new patterns, and using cutting-edge technology to create designs that look organic.”
Sunamita Lim is author of Chinese Style: Living in Beauty and Prosperity (Gibbs Smith, 2006).

Photo by Ann Sacks

Erin Adams uses hand-mixed artisan glass to craft tile mosaics that cover a range of surfaces, from walls to light fixtures to door pulls.
Photo by Erin Adams Design Inc.

Her designs come from a variety of inspirations, such as this Wedding Ring pattern which was based on the motif found on vintage wedding ring quilts.
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