Upcycled: Mosaic artist pieces together new creations one shard at a time

Award-winning mosaic artist Linda Drinkhorn views her art-making, which has included elements of oil and acrylic painting, wood and clay sculpting, and stained glass art, as a calling.

"If I am not working for awhile, I am just not the same person," said Drinkhorn, "I am in my element when I am making art, even if it is sketching an idea or even just writing the idea down so I don't forget it. I have been making something for as long as I can remember."

Through her studies at Oakland Community College, Macomb Community College, Oakland University, and Center for Creative Studies (where she took classes with the late Nancy Prophit and Robert Maniscalsco), and many multimedia experiments, Drinkhorn discovered mosaic art as the medium for which she feels the most passion.

"I love to see the way that glass shines and reflects the light," she said. "I love the old feel and look of china. I love a lot of stuff--the more stuff the better--so I enjoy the technique because of the varied ways I can use my material."

Drinkhorn’s materials include bits of conventional glass art supplies, like the colored glass used for stained glass windows, in an engaging mix with shattered china, bits of ceramic statuary, and porcelain jewelry.

"I think I love the hunt [for materials] as much as I love the creating," she said. "I find materials everywhere--I have been seen even picking up broken glass from a parking lot." Drinkhorn cites her and friends and family as a good source, as well.

"I love it when I come home and there is a box of something on the porch that someone gave me!" she said. "I get my materials from friends and family, resale shops, antique stores, my favorites garage sales and flea markets."

Drinkhorn’s passion for finding broken glass to recycle into her work--called "cullet" by glass artists--has even taken her on interstate road trips.

"My husband is a jewel and drives me to West Virginia and Pennsylvania to buy broken glass," she said.

More recently, Drinkhorn has been using bits of her own original pottery, which she makes at Studio 1219, where she is a member with work on display in the gallery.

"The sky is the limit on material and substrates," she said. "I love 3D."

She is also experimenting with new sculpting projects for outdoors, working with concrete and other base materials. Drinkhorn has honed her technique, working out of a home studio that her family affectionately refers to as "the warehouse district," based on her penchant for storing up materials.

"When I first started mosaics, I would [smash] the plates in a towel, and my young grandsons would help," said Drinkhorn. "They loved it and still talk about it, but now I use hammer and hardie, nippers, or one of five wet saws and a grinder if I need it. You can't beat the saws when you want to cut a vase in half!"

Drinkhorn will often have multiple pieces in progress at the same time, jumping from one piece to the next to avoid stalling out or wasting studio time.

"If I come to a place where I cannot make a decision, I will leave it and return later," she said. "I would rather work on one piece at a time and complete it, but it just doesn't work that way for me. When I am working on five to 10 projects at a time it can become a little full," she said, laughingly.

Drinkhorn’s work, and her way of talking about it is imbued with a spirit of puckish fun—she is clearly a maker who takes much joy in her materials, her process, and her finished projects, referring to them with whimsical titles like "Mrs. Platterhead" or with affection as, "my girls." She also takes joy in the moments when people encounter her work.

"I love to see people's reactions when they just step back and see the elements that their grandmother or mother or other family member may have had when they were younger," she said. Clearly Drinkhorn’s process of salvaging materials has not only to do with their aesthetic appeal, but their sentiment, and the capacity of mosaic as a form to bring new life to shattered or disused family treasures.

"It brings me great pleasure to see some of my pieces that have things that belonged to both of my grandmothers, my mom and myself--instead of closing the door and never seeing them, they now bring me great joy everyday! I also love it when a person is looking at my work and they see the unexpected! It is fun!"

Drinkhorn has shown in Flint, Grand Rapids, Lansing, and other places, in addition to her current relationship with Studio 1219 in Port Huron. Her perspective on her art-making--and life in general, it seems--is unflaggingly upbeat, and a testament to the power of following one’s inner vision.

"All I know is, I just love creating and when someone calls me an artist, I am full of giggles," she said. "I am living my dream, and that is a good thing."