Agnieszka Kwiatkowska - mosaic artist and founder of Aurora Mosaics
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Aga, your art practice is quite unique and definitely stands out because of the traditional Italian method you use. Could you please explain your process?
Each piece of my mosaic is hand-cut and then shaped using a special mosaic hammer called “martellina” on a wood log with a piece of metal called “tagliolo” fixed inside. Then I glue the pieces onto the substrate. I mainly work in natural stone, marble and Italian glass called smalti. It’s a little bit like a puzzle but making the right piece that fits best.
Moreover, I do not grout my work and I use the fuga (the spacing between two elements) as an essential element of the composition. It creates more texture and movement.
I like to work in stages. Sometimes I work from a picture reference, or I make a preparatory sketch. At the beginning of each project, I usually spend a couple of days entirely on preparation: material sample making and colour mixing. I also have my “cutting days” and that can be very meditative but also physically intense.
Depending on the size, laying a mosaic could take me anything between 2 days and 2 months. I also do a lot of finishing work and framing myself. I only work on one piece at a time.
You have a BA in Integrated Communication and a career background in advertising. But then, you decided to move to Italy to follow your dream of becoming a mosaicist and graduated as a Maestra Mosaicista from Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli in Spilimbergo. What was the motivation behind this incredible career change?
I moved to The Netherlands shortly after high school and I tried to follow the “right” steps: I got a degree, I found a job, I was in a committed relationship, I was keeping busy advancing my career and earning my worth. I did what was expected of me and at the same time, I felt very disconnected from the life I have created. After a few years of sitting in long meetings, talking, emailing, and producing concepts, I realised that what I really wanted to do was to make things. To create something tangible, to experiment and to get my hands dirty. I wanted to make something I could touch and feel.
When you moved back to the Netherlands you founded your art studio Aurora Mosaics. What were the beginnings like for you and what have you learned throughout the years of running the business?
I’ve been trained in several mosaic styles and techniques, some of them traditional, some even ancient. There are a lot of rules when trying to follow a particular style. Since graduating from Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli I took the time to really delve into mosaic making as a practice rather than as a set of guidelines to follow, and as a way to express myself. I think I’ve gotten much freer in my approach and I allow myself to work intuitively and sometimes against the canon.
Part of my work is devoted to my personal artistic expression but I also love to work on a commission. I really enjoy brainstorming and coming up with different solutions to transform someone else's vision into life. These experiences are invaluable – collaborating with others shifts our perspectives and opens up new possibilities and avenues.
To run a creative business is hard, especially the past 1,5 years turned out to be very difficult for me. I have had several great opportunities such as art exhibitions, workshops and commissions disappearing due to COVID. Artpreneurship takes patience and commitment and I had to pick myself up to gain the momentum again, pivoting and reinventing my business in ways that are more accessible online, also transforming some of my mosaics into prints.
What inspires your art practice?
I’m inspired by nature and the materials themselves. I love working with natural stones, they are so captivating! I love discovering entire works of art inside of a rock, or a piece of marble. I see them as timeless stories about our place in the universe written by time.
What is the message behind your art?
My work is not about the brokenness. It’s about all of us – little islands, little fragments floating in the universe. And although we might feel lost sometimes, we are made to belong.
What does your art do for you?
I connect the pieces in order to stay grounded and to feel reconnected to myself and the world around me.
I love mosaics because of their calm and meditative process. My art is very intuitive but at the same time, it is very deliberate through the rhythm, movement and pattern.
To me, mosaic practice is to constantly take risks, make decisions, even before I’m able to see the final result. It demands an absolute focus, whilst at the same time, it is also grounding me in the present. It is only by allowing myself to sit in the discomfort of the unknown, I can let my work evolve, develop and grow as an artist.
You are about to enter a new chapter of your life – you are about to become a mum. How are you feeling?
Mostly I feel very excited but at the same time, I sometimes feel worried and overwhelmed. Then I remind myself that fear and excitement are all but two sides of the same coin, and the common denominator is the unknown.
I am so grateful for Art Mums United to be able to connect to other mum artists and to see them thrive. I feel so inspired and empowered by their stories and it gives me extra courage to fully embrace motherhood as a mosaic artist. The only trick seems to be: to embrace a little bit more chaos!
What are your dreams, plans and goals (both short and long-term)?
I have 30 ideas per minute and mosaic making is time-consuming so I have to use my time wisely. I have several new projects on my mind and they are all very different, but the ideas that keep popping in my head revolving around the further exploration of fluidity and incorporating figurative elements into abstract concepts.
Also, I can’t wait to host a regular exhibition in a physical gallery! To interact with people and to have an actual chat about mosaic art. As for a specific project I’d love to make a big-ass mosaic mural that will be visible from afar. Mosaic is meant for large spaces!
What advice do you have for fellow artists who are dreaming of becoming full-time artists and running their own business?
Start exactly where you are. Take baby steps and talk about your biggest and wildest dreams to anyone who genuinely wants to listen and who shares similar values – you’ll be surprised how much people around you will cheer you on!
On my studio wall I have a Paul Sahre’s poster that says with big red letters “TRY TRY AGAIN.”