Taking Time to Follow Her Muse



Two sisters, Mary and Linda Pannullo catch up via the phone and email

By: Mary Pannullo

Mary Pannullo:  Let’s start with the name, Disegno do Pezzi, Mosaics for the Home and Garden
Linda Pannullo: Well, I am Italian and love all things Italian-Disegno di Pezzi means Bits and Pieces design and since a single mosaic can contain hundreds of tesserae (individual pieces) the name seemed appropriate.   I enjoy creating functional art that will stand up to wear and tear and the elements.
MP: Why mosaics and why now?
LP: I remember being really engrossed while painting the border of a mirror when I was young.  Today I do that with mosaics, and the possibilities are endless-mosaic s can be 2 or 3 D, and made with a variety of materials for indoor or outside applications.  I derive a great deal of satisfaction from the planning stages to the finished product.  Now that my 3 children are older I can make more time for my art.
MP: How do you fit mosaic work in around your massage and teaching practice?
LP: I arranged my massage practice to be on certain days to concentrate more blocks of time to mosaics.   Above one of my desks is The Artist’s Creed, written by Jan Phillips. It is a reminder about the importance of uninterrupted time for  honoring the space to create.
MP: What kicked off your mosaic hobby?
LP: In 2006, I took a week long workshop at Arrowmount School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN.  It was taught by a wonderful mosaic artist from TN, Sherri Warner-Hunter.  We created a personal totem pole  made of 3 objects-banged rebar and made fake rocks, carved foam for armatures and practiced direct and indirect techniques and I was hooked!!  Since then, I’ve been out to Oakland and learned how to use a hammer and hardie to cut marble and stone, been to Sherri’s workshop in Bell Buckle, and taken several classes in Charlotte at Ciel Gallery.  I’ve learned how to carve “wet” concrete! Each time I gained a little more confidence in my ability to play with new materials. 
MP: What is a hammer and hardie?
LP: Traditionally, mosaic pieces were cut by a sickle-shaped hammer.  A piece of marble was held over a chisel imbedded in a log and then sliced with the hammer.  Although the hammer and hardie are still used today one can use a more contemporary tool like wheeled nippers to cut materials. 
MP: What types of materials do you use?
LP: A project determines what I will use- we are fortunate that Asheville is the home of Van Gogh glass, a colored reflective glass,  made by a Touch of Glass, -I use that in my mirrors and artplates; my latest piece, Gaia the Mother, is my 1st attempt with smalti and Orsoni gold. Smalti is a beautiful enameled glass use by the Byzantine (Istanbul today) particularly for religious decoration in churches.   Orsoni is the name of the Italian family that has been making the smalti and 24k gold leaf pieces since 1888.  Millefiori (thousand flowers) is imported from Murano, an island in Italy.  These are small pieces with various inlaid decorations and colors that add a good pop-Seems like I can’t get away from that country. I also have drawers full of ammonites, geode slices, crystals, beads, you name it, even some armadillo exoskeleton that I have a purpose for when I get the time.  I also save china and broken pottery which is for another technique in itself, called picasiette.  Broken crockery is fastened to objects for a new look-good way to repurpose! You can imagine how hard it is to throw anything away just in case I may use it in the “late’ future.
I also enjoy working with concrete-it will take any mold and pick up the smallest details-it biggest drawback, of course, it its weight.
MP: Gaia the Mother is your latest piece-can you tell us where you got the inspiration for her?
LP: I sketched the vaguest idea of her several years ago –a female deity connected to the earth.  She didn’t manifest until I took the hammer and hardie class and purchased a book on Italian mosaics from the 300-1300AD.  Then she gelled, based on a 13th century Madonna from a church in Trastevere, Italy.   Smalti was the only way to go, to create a traditional piece.  Her original name was “God the Mother”-generally speaking, in our culture, the word goddess can invoke a lesser deity, and I wanted someone with power, strength and compassion.  I changed her name to Gaia , because Gaia is the Greek primordial earth goddess, from whom all creation sprang.  It is also the name of the Gais hypothesis,that sees the world as a living functioning organism for maintaining life on earth.
MP: You are going to use her as a fund raiser for Manna?
LP: Yes, this is my 1st time doing something I have wanted to do for a long time-combining my art for social and environmental purposes. The Asheville community is very generous with deserving causes.   Gaia is being printed on a recycled cotton bag by Gallery MIA (Made in Avl.) on Lexington Ave. (Details on how to order the bag will be at the end of this article.)  After costs and taxes, 100% of the sales will go to Manna.  In Western NC, 1 out of 6 people are facing hunger and every dollar donated to Manna will help provide food for 3 meals.  
MP: Any particular influences?
LP: I keep getting drawn back to the Art Noveau period-Gustav Klimt is greatly admired and I just stopped by the Biltmore House to see the Tiffany display. Antonio Gaudi. Niki de Saint Phalle, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Wassliy Kandinsky are a few more and there are many inspiring contemporary artists that are pushing the edge of mosaics.
MP: What are your subject matters?
LP:  I have experimented with human and animal portraits, children’s art, mirrors and 3D designs.   Exploring where art, nature and biology intersect will be another focus.
MP: Are you planning anything in the near future?
LP: Well, I may have an opportunity to cast a 4 ft. Thai Giant Elephant Ear leaf and I am really excited about that and will need some help picking it up.  I am also going to try and create a piece for the Mosaic arts International Show coming up in March that may combine a barn owl with some Tiffany like design but don’t hold me to it!
MP: Where do you work?
LP: I work outside when I am making my concrete leaves. I converted a room in my home for my mosaic studio.
MP: Any last words?
LP: It is incredibly important to move towards your dreams and desires.  I would encourage everyone to follow their impulses and pay attention to their intuition.

Mary Pannullo works in advertising and lives in Virginia Beach, VA.  Linda Pannullo is a mosaic artist/massage therapist/teacher living with her family in Asheville.  Her artplates are carried by the Grovewood Gallery, K2 Gallery and The Arch.  She can be contacted at disegnodipezzi@charter.net.  Follow her on Facebook to order a bag to help MANNA ….and Mother Earth!

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker