Ellen Blakeley of Ellen Blakeley Studio

Many of us walk by shattered glass strewn across sidewalks without giving the glass shards a second thought – other than swerving to avoid stepping on them. California based mosaic artist and principal of Ellen Blakeley Studio, Ellen Blakeley, on the other hand, sees a pool of glistening, broken glass as an artistic inspiration.

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Meredith

(Glass Mosaic & Wood Sculpture)

Mosaic Art Now winner “Best in Show” 2010

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Tiny Dancer

(Glass Mosaic & Wood Sculpture)

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Vilnius

(Glass Mosaic & Wood Sculpture)

The Decorating Diva.com: Ellen, you’ve mention that the shattered, tempered glass was an accidental find that became the core of your artistic endeavors. Take us back to that day and tell us what happened when you brought the broken glass home and had that magical “ah, ha” moment, when you knew you had created something special.

clip_image001Ellen: I was living in San Francisco and there had been a run on vandalism in the city in 1994. Teenagers where shooting the glass bus shelters to watch the dramatic explosion of the glass and leaving the piles of glass to be thrown away by the city.

I kept seeing these piles of sparkling coke bottle green glass lying on the streets and thought–look at all this free material. One day with my three year old daughter asleep in her car seat, I stopped at a shattered shelter and put about five pounds of glass in a box. I had picked it up with my bare hands, no problem-it was safety glass.

That night in my studio I painted a board white, glued down the glass and thought-oh, that’s nice if I want something light green. The following evening I painted a board with multiple bright colors and used a clear glue to adhere the tempered glass and that was the "aha moment." Once I realized that all the color was coming from underneath the glass and that I could think like a painter I knew I was onto something, that I had invented something. That was sixteen years ago and I’ve never stopped.

image Amazon,Water – Elements Collection
Ellen Blakeley Studio

 imageGold Coast, Metal, Elements Collection
Ellen Blakeley Studio

The Decorating Diva.com: Did you always know that you wanted to pursue the arts as a vocation?

Ellen: My mother was a painter and my father was a writer, so my childhood was filled with art, music, books and an overwhelming spirit of creativity In school I was good at art and fair at everything else. I majored in art at three colleges: Franklin College in Switzerland, Virginia Commonwealth University, and finally at Mills College in Oakland, California. While at Mills I studied with ceramic artist, Ron Nagle and it was while doing graduate work in ceramics that I decided to commit myself to being an artist come hell or high water.

Ellen Blakeley working with glass mosaics in her studioEvery tile is made by hand in an intricate process involving painting, layering, and hand placing the broken tempered glass to make a flat surface, which is then grouted and sealed to finish the tile.

The Decorating Diva.com: What do creating art and/or design mean to you?

Ellen:  Creating a design is a different process than creating a piece of art. The glimmer of inspiration comes from the same source, but a design must be repeated and is then ordered  and sold repeatedly. A work of art is a one of a kind that is not copied or pre-sold. When I am creating a new design or working on an art piece, I am in an altered state of mind: time flies by and I am simultaneously excited, scared, timid and confident. Knowing when a piece is finished is crucial, as overworking it will dull the spontaneity and the magic.

David Rockwell project with windows by Ellen Blakeley Studios. The Decorating Diva.com:  Being an artist can be wonderful (pursuing a dream and creating) yet, difficult at times (operating a business). How do you find the balance and the inspiration to manage both aspects of being an artist in business?

Ellen: I like being alone making things all day, so the artist part comes very naturally. Being a business woman is a different story. I could write a book on what not to do when starting your own business. I truly believe the only reason I have been successful  is that the work is good and also original, and the design world is always looking for the next new thing. I keep moving towards doing less business and more art and it’s a seesaw most of the time. If I could do it all over again, I would have learned basic computer skills in a class.

True Blood glass mosaics in kitchen backsplash Ellen Blakeley Studio’s True Blood glass mosaics – kitchen wall detail (Ellen’s house). detail view glass mosaic fireplace wall at ellen's house Detail view of glass mosaic fireplace wall at Ellen’s house.

The Decorating Diva.com:  What inspired the colors (Wild Mango, Amethyst Sparkle and Tropical H20) for the Pop Collection?

 Wild Mango glass mosaic Ellen Blakeley
Wild Mango

Amethyst Sparkle  glass mosaic Ellen Blakeley
Amethyst Sparkle

Tropical H20 glass mosaic Ellen Blakeley
Tropical H20

Ellen: The hot pink, orange and lime green were inspired by Laurel True at The Institute of Mosaic Art (IMA) in Oakland, CA, where I teach as a visiting artist. When you walk into IMA you are enveloped in the hottest color palette imaginable-every square inch is bright and fun. The name Wild Mango is the name of a sizzling all female salsa band in San Francisco. Amethyst Sparkle was designed with The Purple People in mind (you know who you are). Bling to the max, a lavender jewel to satisfy that "over the top" itch. Tropical H2O comes from spending a lot of time in Miami Beach as a teenager and swooning over tropical weather, water, and that rush of diving in when you are hot. Naming the collection Pop is a nod to the Pop Art movement which was my first true love at age eleven, when my mother took me to the Pop Art show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

pink and black lace glass mosaic tiles from Ellen Blakeley StudioSweet Young Thing glass mosaic tile. blue and black glass mosaic tiles from Ellen Blakeley StudioTurquoise Lace glass mosaic tile.

The Decorating Diva.com: What’s next for Ellen Blakely Studio? Will you be expanding the mosaics line? Branching out into other product designs?

Ellen: I am always expanding the mosaic line with new colors. We just added nine new ones a few months ago and are starting to market them now. We have three sexy Valentine colors for February and there will be a spring water and blossom collection. I’d like to do new tabletops, chandeliers and translucent windows using my tempered glass technique too.

About Ellen Blakely Studio

Ellen Blakeley Studio creates custom hand-crafted mosaic tiles from recycled tempered glass – giving new life to discarded glass products.

The Decorating Diva is a luxury home design magazine and lifestyle journal dedicated to the concept of living a stylish and comfortably elegant life at home – joyfully surrounded by the beautiful things you love.Join, Carmen, The Decorating Diva’s founder, as she blogs about sophisticated, smart, stylish and beautiful decor for your home and shares her decorating and style advice with you.Follow her and several of our wonderful contributors on inspirational design trips as they explore enchanted lands both far and near – returning with a delightful treasure trove of design finds for your home.