Julie Norburn, Managing Director of Art4Space talks to Obby about her passion for mosaic art, her love of teaching and how Obby has helped her find success.

Meet one of the artists behind the non-profit Art4Space, Julie Norburn. Using her background and love of mosaics, she has turned this into an experience which can be enjoyed by all.

Here at Obby, we wanted to sit down with Julie and find out more about her story, her process and how she started.

Tell us about your background about how you got into mosaic?

In the late 1980’s it was through painting and my interest towards colour and pattern that moved me towards mosaic. During the mid 1990’s upon completion of my BA (Hons) in Community Art and Education (with a mosaic and painting specialism), I moved my work to the creation of site-specific mosaics for public and community art projects. Following my PGCE teaching, I realised I could combine my passion for mosaic and teaching so I formed my community arts organisation Art4Space in 1999 with two other partners.

As a freelancer and with Art4Space, I have created work for numerous schools, housing estates, community centres and hospitals using predominantly ceramic and mosaic. For example transforming dull playground walls into vibrant interactive murals or reclaiming disused wasteland to create active community gardens with mosaic sculptures. The aim is to promote investment, pride and creative expression in an exciting, fun and shared learning environment.

What do you think it was that made you fall in love specifically with mosaic?

Although mosaic is one of the most ancient forms of art, my goal as a mosaic artist is to expand upon what the ancient and Byzantine mosaic artists gave us, and to re energise the art form with a modern and personal twist. My method is essentially the same as it was thousands of years ago. Cutting every single piece by hand and adhere it to a hard surface.

I depart from the ancients however, with the help of modern technology and existence of the brilliant and diverse materials that I use. I am fascinated with decorative element of mosaics – assembling the pieces together to make a picture or pattern. I am constantly collecting an assortment of materials which I can join together to express my personal vision. There is tremendous satisfaction derived from the acquisition and skill of mosaic making and I find this when creating participatory work.

Everyone can work in a spontaneous and imaginative way, enhancing the effect of liveliness and discovering unpredictability, letting the materials take over, yet still working within the framework of the design. To organise ideas, understand the relationship of colours and develop the sensations created from the interplay of materials gives a great sense of achievement and ownership. Together we know what the big picture has to be, and yet collectively we have to piece it together one centimetre at a time.

How do you keep learning and evolving in mosaic?

Over the past 20 years I have introduced handmade ceramic shapes to my own work and projects with the community. Manipulating the soft clay and feeling the material respond to the merest touch is an exciting journey for participants. Clay seems to come to life in your hands. It can be moulded into many different and useful forms. The colours obtained are vast. It is truly a wonderful medium to use and incorporated into mosaic looks stunning.

What benefits does mosaic have on people’s lives?

I am very excited about my work with the community, and not only do I love what I do, but I love the end results. Permanently displayed the work can be seen and appreciated by people. My main practice today is in the development of new creative approaches to creativity and collaboration. These approaches share an emphasis on perception, engagement, and on an exploration of the relationship between the participants involved and the relationship of the artwork itself.

How does Obby make your life easier?

Obby have a great team and always prompt to respond. They have passion and care for their creative platform and Art4Space find them incredibly helpful. The Obby site is easy to navigate and great effort is shown to promote and support businesses and tutors so they can flourish to maximise their potential.

We think Julie is pretty great, but don't just take our word for it, book on to one of Art4Space's weekly workshops and discover Julie's incredible teaching and the amazing world of mosaics yourself.

Book now on Obby

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