Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Interview with Nutmeg Designs

Today's post is the first in an occasional series exploring Tile Artisans. I hope to share their love of tile by discovering both their techniques and inspirations. Social media allows me to find and connect with these amazing tiles artisans that I never knew existed - some around the corner and others across the globe. Today I'm excited to share an interview with Margaret Almon of Nutmeg Designs.

Card & Thank you Bill Buyok received from Nutmeg Designs

I became enamoured with some of Margaret's work a few years back and began following and supporting her on twitter. This spring I was touched by the kindness of a simple gesture that few of us do in this electronic age, Margaret wrote a note thanking me for my support - on the cover was a joyful expression of her stain glass mosaics. I was touched and so happy to share more about this amazing person and tile artisans.

How and when did you start creating the mosaic glass art masterpieces?

In 2003, I saw the mosaics of Hildreth Meiere at the Wernersville Jesuit Center, and I was smitten. I was working as a medical librarian and making collages at my dining room table, and cutting glass wasn't feasible.

Buying a house with my husband, Wayne Stratz, in 2004, gave me a studio space. After reading and checking every possible book on mosaic out of the library(being a librarian after all), and taking some classes, I began my Etsy shop, Nutmeg Designs in 2007.

Hope Spiral by Nutmeg Designs

My husband began making stained glass in 2008, which transformed our home into a "one-bedroom-two-studio-rowhouse." We wanted to collaborate, and started with words, such as Hope and Joy, with Wayne designing the lettering and cutting and grinding the pieces, and then I created the background.

In 2010, a friend suggested we make house numbers, and what a friend she was! House numbers on Pennsylvania slate had an immediate positive response from our clients. Even though craft shows have been much tougher over the past few years, clients have found our house numbers online, and commissions and custom work have steadily increased.

House Numbers 1670 by Nutmeg Designs

As an artisan, what inspires your glass art creations?

Quilt blocks were my first inspiration. My husband's grandmother was a quilter, and we have one of her Log Cabin quilts. Like quilts, mosaics are based on modular patterns, and since sewing was not my strength, I was eager to translate the patterns into glass.

Color guides me in my work, experimenting with complementary hues, and color gradation.

My husband and I started collecting art tiles before we started making art, and the aesthetic of the Arts & Crafts movement remain an inspiration with our house numbers. We are fortunate to live near the Moravian Tileworks in Doylestown, PA.

Garden Sign in Blue and Orange by Nutmeg Designs

Now, of the many designs and projects, which stands out as your favorite? Why?

A Flickr friend commissioned us to create a house number for her sister, who loves the weathered colors of totem poles. Wayne began by designing and cutting out the numbers in white glass. Looking at the blue, teal, and red glass for the background reminded me of a Canadian artist I admired, Emily Carr. Flipping through a book of her art, I found a watercolor painting of totem poles evocative of what our client requested. It was a pleasure to have such variegation, and other clients have gravitated toward the color scheme when they see photos of the original 1670. Listening to our clients tell stories about what they envision is a catalyst for creativity.

Joy Mosaic by Nutmeg Designs

What was the proudest moment for you and your hand-made mosaic/tile business?

After my employer closed the library in 2010, I began working in my business full time. Being laid off was a shock, but after the initial shock receded, and after many conversations with my husband, I knew that making mosaics was what I wanted to do. I stopped looking for a library job, stopped receiving Unemployment, and began working for myself, and persisting in spite of uncertainty.

Log Cabin in Copper and Cream by Nutmeg Designs

In promoting your creations, and to help gain greater exposure, which digital platforms do you use (Blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)? How do you use them to promote your hand-made business?

I have blogged at Margaret Almon Mosaics (http://margaretalmon.com), since 2008, on topics such as mosaic art, tiles, Margaret Mondays, Orange Tuesdays, quilts, The Alexander Technique and jazz. Our most recent house number order was from someone who saw a photo on my blog. Readers have become friends, fans, and clients.

This year Wayne and I began a blog at our website for collaborations (http//nutmegdesignsart.com), documenting work in progress, our commissions and the process of being a Dynamic Duo.

Facebook, both personal accounts and Business Pages, has allowed us to share photos of our work in progress, our studios, materials, and finished mosaics.

Twitter is something we enjoy, and have met very interesting folks, including an Icelandic Jazz Pianist, Sunna Gunnlaugs, and jazz vocalist Andrea Wolper, both of whom make wonderful music and who became clients.

Pinterest excels in being a visual medium for sharing our work, and we do get traffic from that platform. I also find it tempting, and need to take breaks from it to actually make work in the studio. It is the top referral source to my blog

Turtle Camp by Nutmeg Designs

Which of these social media platforms has helped your business the most? How?

Facebook has shown us how responsive people are to our images, and their tendency to say "I want to buy that." The exponential process of friends of friends of friends viewing our images has been a blessing.

Although Etsy may be more e-commerce than social media, it also has been very helpful in helping people discover us. If someone searches for mosaic house numbers in Google, results in Etsy rank high, and people can come across our work.

Where do you see Nutmeg Designs going from this point forward?

Commissions have led us to new collaborative designs, like a Celtic knot tree for a wedding gift, and we practice remaining open to inspiration and improvisation. We cherish delighting people with our work. As we like to say, "Catching the Eye. Delighting the Soul."

Is there anything you would like to add, especially to those who have a deep appreciation for the art you create?

When someone makes one of our house numbers part of her home, we are honored. When someone commissions a word sign to bring hope to a friend going through a hard time, we are awed by the power of friendship. We are grateful to those who champion our art, purchase it, share it, write about it, and enjoy it.

House Numbers 737 by Nutmeg Designs

Name: Margaret Almon & Wayne Stratz

Company(s) Name: Nutmeg Designs (Margaret Almon Mosaics /Stratozpheres Stained Glass)
Email: imagine@nutmegdesignsart.com
Phone: 215-353-6970






Website for Collaborative Nutmeg Designs glass

Margaret Almon Mosaics Blog

Nutmeg Designs Shop has Collaborative Work plus Margaret's solo work

Stratozpheres also stocks the Collaborative Work plus Wayne's solo work

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