Stories within Stories

How recycling informs and forms Pamela Irving’s mosaic practice
If every piece of china or porcelain I used could speak, there would  be a whole lot of chatter going on. 
My materials come from many sources: They come from deceased estates, thrift shops, friends who give me something they have accidentally broken, and strangers who cannot bare to throw out their precious objects who know I can give them a new life.
Most of the pieces I use are well worn and had been much admired. I love to imagine what secrets they hold. I contemplate what food has been served on them over their years; who drank tea or coffee from a particular cup or mug; who had an intimate dinner on a particular plate, or how many hands has an object passed through. I love the dull echo sound old china makes compared to the high-pitched resonance of new ceramics. All of the china I use, each has its own story and then I re-imagine it to tell a whole new story.
I love to combine my discarded finds with more traditional mosaic materials such as smalti (Venetian glass) and marble.
In a recent series titled Tassie Tigers, I pay homage to my maternal grandmother Jessie Jane, whom I shared a room with, on and off, until the age of 13.  The head of the figures are the shape of a Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger, which is an extinct animal known only in Tasmania, Australia, where my grandmother was born. It is also a metaphor for the extinction of my family from Tasmania who all moved to mainland Australia. The body of each of the forms is the shape of Tasmania, that small Island south of the Australian mainland. 
I loved my Nana. She helped feed my virulent imaginings in very simple ways. Nana and I would talk and laugh about her fictitious boyfriend “Peg Leg” who often makes an appearance in my work. From her makeshift wheelchair she would teach me how to cook, sew, and she was always a willing participant in my doll parades. 
In this body of sentimental “doll” works, I have depicted my lessons from Nana.   Nan and I made lots of rag dolls recycled from old clothes and stockings. As I reflect on my life, I am grateful for the experiences I had with my Nana and how she taught me to be resourceful and creative. I think her very ordinary life helped create a very extraordinary one for me. I think she would be amazed where our chats about Peg Leg, our cupcake making, love of animals, and doll making has taken me. Her resourcefulness and thriftiness has definitely influenced my choices in materials and the stories they tell.

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