Canberra 2019 : : The Transformative Nature of Mosaics

Canberra 2019 symposium mascotte

MAANZ’ 2019 Symposium was held in Canberra in September, titled The Transformative Nature of Mosaics. The main location was University House, Australian National University.

Art making, the process of self-expression, engages many aspects of ourselves, the way we see the world, the way we see ourselves, what we want to say, how we feel. The title, The Transformative Nature of Mosaics is the suggestion that the mosaic art making process is a collaboration between many elements; ourselves and nature, the material we use in the making, the found objects we include in the making, the people in community we may involve in the making and the many stories gathered along the way of the making.

PresentersWorkshopsTourSalonBrown Bag – ProgramCoinciding Exhibitions


Keynote Speaker

Our keynote speaker was Dr Claire Barnett

Dr Claire Barnett is from Seattle USA. Instructor, mosaic artist and family physician, Dr Claire Barnett has been studying, making and teaching mosaics for over 15 years. Claire began creating mosaics after the tragic death of her two young daughters in 2000. As her own backyard filled with memorial garden stones, Claire began expanding her studies, both in mosaic and in medicine, to incorporate the therapeutic nature of mosaics into her medical practice. In 2009 she opened Seattle Mosaic Arts. This community based studio features workshops from international artists, mosaic technique classes, lectures, art shows, group events, commissions, and space and support for people to create their own mosaic projects.

Claire specialises in therapeutic mosaics with a focus on grief and trauma and memorial mosaics. She says:

There is, I believe, some real meaning in the process of breaking up glass and tiles into small pieces and then putting them back together in a new form, over and over again. It is both meditative and creative. There is something soothing about the process and it is a comforting way to be with other people – sharing space and working side-by-side.”


Presenters Plenary Sessions:

Debora Aldo (USA), Principal Designer at Pietre Dure Design is a mosaic maker, teacher, explorer,intrepid traveler. Deb is a trained Landscape Architect who spent years focused on the act of creating and making spaces. She began drawing as a toddler, then onto painting and finally to dimensional objects and the creation of residential spaces inside and out. She creates fine art and public art. Each day is focused on how to create, what to design and what problems need solutions in a fun, functional, and beautiful way. This artist/designer believes art and design are teachable skills, everyone can learn!



John Botica (NZ), Power of Pebbles, is a pebble mosaic artist and designer residing in Auckland, New Zealand. He has been involved in many projects in both the private and public domain, domestically as well as internationally. As a former tennis professional turned pebble mosaic artist, he discovered the greatest passion of his life: from his point of view, pebble mosaics have awakened a giant within him: “I live in utmost ecstasy every day of my life being able to pursue this medium of expression”, John says. He’s made it his mission is to place enormous importance on improving his art throughout each of his consecutive projects. “To feel that one’s own existence does portray a portion of significance is a valid reason to pursue art. I encourage you to join me on this magnificent journey of mosaic art in general.”



Noula Diamantopoulus 

Noula is an Australian psychotherapist, author and artist who believes in the power of art process in eliminating individual and collective shame-based mental health issues. Expressed through large-scale creative mosaic works, Noula continues to dedicate her extensive and growing career to the provision of constructive resources that build positive connections between minds and behaviour.



Valerie McGarry

Valerie McGarry is a self-taught mosaic artist living in rural Southern Ontario, Canada. She has been creating mosaics for over 20 years. After a career in Biochemistry, she returned to her love of art and fell in love with mosaics. Since then, she has continued to develop her own style, primarily abstract designs with a focus on texture. Valerie likes to use traditional materials such as stone and smalti but occasionally uses non-traditional materials to create a contemporary feel. Of late, a focus for Valerie has been on the use of colour and colour gradations in stone and smalti.

Valerie’s mosaics are in private collection in Australia, Canada, Italy, the UK and the USA. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. She was an organizing member of the first CAME (Canadian Annual Mosaic Exhibition) in 2017 and continues to be a big part of this growing national exhibition in Canada. Valerie teaches mosaic classes and workshops in her home country and occasionally abroad.



Pat George

A self-taught artist, hooked on mosaics since she first came across the art form in the early 80’s on New Zealand’s Waiheke Island, assisting Verliska Campaign with a mosaic for the local Kindergarten Garden entrance. Pat has over 20 years experience as a Ceramic Artist, including teaching throughout England, working with the well-known English potter Harry Frazer, his company Potclays in Stoke on Trent and Lambourne Studio in Berkshire.

Mosaic art has always challenged and inspired Pat to develop the art form in exciting new ways, looking for different materials to incorporate into her pieces often creating a three dimensional complex designs. Her panels feature many different elements such as fine bone china, stained glass, vitreous glass tiles, tempered glass, mirror tiles, ceramic tiles, glass nuggets, stone pebbles, millefiori, flax, päua, shells, drift wood, bull kelp and often whatever the sea leaves her to find on her local beaches. She often incorporates her own sculpted clay designs which are raku or hand painted, glazed and fired to heighten her mosaic panels, giving them their unique design.

Pat has shared her knowledge of mosaic techniques through teaching for many years, including five years with intellectually disabled clients, at Kaurilands Skills Centre in Tokatoka. She currently teaches from her “Foxhanger Studio” together with her husband Steve George, also a mosaic artist. They share their knowledge through classes and workshops from their beautiful property in Matakohe: Moewaka Villa B&B.



Dugald Macinnes

Dugald Macinnes was born and raised on Scotland’s west coast, in a landscape that imbued a passion for geology and archaeology. He was familiar with Prehistoric megaliths and rock art and also with now defunct slate quarries. His familiarity with slate dramatically re-emerged when he was introduced to its use as an artistic medium by his tutor George Garson at the Glasgow School of Art in 1972.

Garson taught Dugald not as a mosaicist but as an artist and there was no involvement in Classical mosaic methodology and materials but, rather, great emphasis was placed upon the uses of visual elements in composing works of art per se. Dugald went on to obtain a degree in geology in 1985 as well as a qualification in archaeology at the University of Glasgow; both disciplines providing him with a deeper understanding of the creation and formation of the landscape, the dynamic geological forces that underpin our very existence, and how people throughout the ages have modified their environment.

Slate is Dugald’s principal medium; its variety of colour, texture, and form provides him with a range of approaches to his art; often minimalistic but on occasion returning to his roots with small studies, exploring the characteristics of the rock as a way of opening new pathways in his creative processes. His work has been shown in the USA, Europe and Japan and he teaches his unique approach to mosaic at the Chicago Mosaic School.



Erin Pankratz

Erin Pankratz lives and works in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and was the 2013 & 2016 recipient the Innovation in Mosaics Award for the juried group exhibition Mosaic Arts International.

In 2015 she exhibited her solo exhibition Recollections at Enterprise Square Galleries, part of the University of Alberta Museum Galleries, in downtown Edmonton, Alberta. Her numerous group exhibitions include “11e Rencontres Internationales de Mosaïque” at Chapelle du Lycée Fulbert, Chartres, France and “Trans-Position: An Ancient Medium in a Contemporary World” at Inscape Arts, in Seattle, Washington, USA. She has exhibited her works in Italy, France, Japan, Argentina, and the USA. Her work is in private collections in Canada, USA, Argentina, Brazil, and Italy.

In 2011 she created a large mosaic mural for the Edmonton International Airport. More recently she won an International Public Art call for a large exterior work for the Edmonton light rail transit expansion that is currently in progress. She was invited to show her work, along with 11 other Canadian artists, at Saint-Nicolas tower, in Paray le Monial, France in 2020.



Solange Piffer

Solange and Alexandre Piffer have been working with mosaics since 1999. In 2008, almost unintentionally, Solange discovered the material that would change the history of their work that is now known in various parts of the world.

After a few dishes had fallen to the floor, Solange Piffer picked up the shards of those treasured pieces and did not hesitate to reserve them for her first picassiette mosaic project. Since then with the help of her husband Alexandre, they have been developing techniques using dishes in their figurative mosaics. With a focus on recycling these materials, they explore their colours and shapes, turning what would be garbage into a unique mosaic expression. Embedding those fragments of crockery (that have often been part of someone’s existence) into beautifully crafted mosaics, gives them a new life, eternalizing stories, and memories with all their ups and downs.

Website: Solange Piffer Mosaic’ Facebook Page


Kathryn Portelli

Kathryn Portelli lives in Central Victoria, creating mosaics since early 2000, with formal training in ceramic art and lead lighting in the 80’s followed by three years working in two studios in Boston USA.

Best known for the Black Saturday Memorial in Kyneton, a large community project depicting the fire affected locals and the huge supportive representation that ‘got behind them’. Kathryn has also created mosaic installations for the local schools, kindergarten, sculpture park and nearby tourist venue where guests play on a large floral chessboard and other educative game boards.

As the former Victorian Representative of MAANZ for six years Kathryn participated in annual exhibitions, conducted workshops and collaborated on a series of walking tours of Melbourne CBD mosaics. Nowadays, a lot of joy and energy is concentrated on her art collective gallery Art on Piper in Kyneton run as a NFP with two partners. A window theme change every month sparks new ideas for artworks as offerings in a prime tourism retail environment. A positive new chapter transformation is in progress.



Heather Vollans is an Australian artist living in Canada.  Her mosaic work includes public art, community projects, teaching and exhibition work.

Her current mosaic work is mostly with stone and metal, each alone or combined.  And her work is always abstract because abstract does not interfere with the materials’ “voice”. Influenced by the Australian landscape colours and Middle Eastern desert colours, her palette often consists of soft and muted earth tones.

Materials matter! They speak and have their own voice – sometimes loud, sometimes soft, but always strong. It is the materials themselves that fire me – the finding, and the stories that surround them. Design mostly comes well after the finding and playing and is dictated by the materials themselves and how they work together, either disparately or harmoniously,” says Heather.

The transformative possibilities of materials – whether literally giving the materials new life or providing a forum for conversation and a way of people connecting (especially in community art projects) – are what have inspired Heather’s work for many years.



PechaKucha Sessions *)


Noula Diamantopoulus

Noula is an Australian psychotherapist, author and artist who believes in the power of art process in eliminating individual and collective shame-based mental health issues. Expressed through large-scale creative mosaic works, Noula continues to dedicate her extensive and growing career to the provision of constructive resources that build positive connections between minds and behaviour.




Kelley Knickerbocker

Seattle-based, self-taught visual artist Kelley Knickerbocker left a 22-year administrative career at the University of Washington in 2006 to found Rivenworks Mosaics, where she designs and fabricates mosaic artwork for commercial, residential and gallery environments.

Kelley’s ruggedly dimensional artworks, which incorporate a diverse range of whatever’s handy (stone, glass, ceramic, metal, bone, paper, wood, gold, found objects, etc.), are the distillation of her fascination with contrast/texture, and in 2015 garnered her the Innovation in Contemporary Mosaic award from the Society of American Mosaic Artists.  Her work is widely collected and regularly exhibited in the US and abroad, and has been featured in several mosaic books.

To enhance her studio practice Kelley travels extensively teaching in-depth workshops on mosaic style and technique, collaborating, and speaking on creativity and the practice of art.



Marian Shapiro

Originally trained in art and theatre, Marian became fascinated by the possibilities of the ancient art of mosaic in 2002 and has been a full-time working artist since 2003.

Living in the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney, she likes a visual and verbal pun and is well known for her sense of colour and her dimensional mosaic work, which gives the impression of movement and material. Recent work has explored a variety of topics including threatened species and responses to current events.

Her work is shown and collected nationally and internationally and has also been featured in a numerous books and magazines. Marian frequently travels both in Australia and internationally to speak and teach.


*) Don’t know what PechaKucha stands for? Here’s an explanation of this presentation format on Wikipedia.



The volunteers to date helping to make the symposium happen were Noula Diamantopoulos (NSW), Sue Leitch (TAS), Luna Cameron-Parrish (VIC), Helen Harman (VIC), Caitlin Hepworth (NSW), Marian Shapiro (NSW), David Lacey (NSW) and Sitara Morgenster (NZ).

On the Ground Volunteers:

* Kim Grant (Canberra)

* Terry Holland (Canberra)

* Kate Butler (Canberra)
– Conference Bag Wrangler

National Exhibition Coordinator:

* Caitlin Hepworth

Workshop Coordinator:

* Luna Cameron-Parrish

Brown Bag Exchange:

* Luna Cameron-Parrish