Today we’d like to introduce you to Kim Emerson.
Kim, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I think that I was born an artist but I did not realize it until later in life. As a child, I was always drawing, painting, and building things. In college, I wanted to study the arts but my parents steered me away from it worrying that I would not be able to make a living as an artist. I studied interior design, art history, and ended up with a master of science in historic preservation of architecture. I studied and traveled one year abroad in Europe which was truly the best education a young open-minded person could ever ask for.
After college, in San Diego, I was working my dream job for an architectural firm when I was laid-off during the economic downturn of the early 1990s. During that time I was also volunteering to help build a little school in Tijuana, Mexico located 25 minutes South from where I lived. It was then and there that I learned how to create mosaics alongside world-renowned artist James Hubbell. I learned how to apply mosaics to buildings, floors, and later to many other different surfaces while drawing upon my education in historic preservation. I like to say that we build and create our mosaic projects to last.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, it has not been a smooth road. Being an artist is not something you choose, I believe it chooses you. This may sound cliché but it is so true. Making a living as an artist is the most difficult part, nearly impossible, and especially in San Diego where the cost-of-living is so high. The struggle was keeping the course. There were many times when I felt that I should give up. I did persevere because it kept choosing me.
For most of my career I did it alone before I recently married my husband Dennis Reiter, now retired from photography, and who is the original founder of Chrome Digital photo processing lab on Kettner Boulevard. Now he is a mosaic artist too! I manage every aspect of the business from contract writing, to assembly, marketing, to the final installation. Much of my time working happens in the office which is absolutely necessary even though I would rather be in the studio “making stuff”.
A difficult part in designing and creating projects for the commission is finding the balance of my own self-expression while trying to sell artwork or create a project as per the client’s taste. This is always a balancing act. When creating commission work I believe the artist must put their ego aside and truly listen to the client or the community they represent. This is hard for artists.
In the past to survive I took jobs in and around the arts. For example, I was fortunate to have worked as an “Arts Coach” in public schools coaching teachers on how to integrate the arts with the standards. The lesson I learned is to have patience. Don’t give up. If there is something you really believe in, stay the course. Be comfortable with making mistakes and learn from them. Create something different for next time. I did have to make sacrifices and forgo big decisions, but now my creativity and mosaic artwork has become central in my life. As a result, I am working all the time but that is good!
Kim Emerson Mosaics, LLC – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
My husband Dennis Reiter and I work as a team. Our working production studio is located at our home in Normal Heights. We create mosaics for public and private spaces. Whether our projects are large or small, we strive to create our mosaics to have an emotion that tells a story beyond the materials. Our mosaics are made-up of many types of “tesserae” that being the little cut pieces of glass or ceramic tile that we carefully assemble into specific designs. Our designs are representational or abstract.
We founded the San Diego Mosaic School in 2015 and we teach the fine art of mosaics in our private studio setting to people of all ages, abilities, and levels of mosaic experience.
We are well known for our public art, large scale murals and sculpture that tells the story in color and beautiful designs about the community our projects represent. We also create small mosaics shown in special exhibitions and galleries that are displayed on the interior or exterior wall environments – like textured paintings that reflects light and color.
Integrity is the one thing that we are very proud of in our mosaic artwork in regards to the physical composition and design aesthetic of our creations. After 27 years of experience, and with a master of science degree in historic preservation, we utilize what is currently in the tile industry for all materials, adhesives, and substrates appropriate for the right environment.
We borrow from the ancient Romans and Byzantine mosaics in style and materials with our use of “smalti” glass in combination with the contemporary in design. Mosaics are very time consuming and the materials are expensive, but with that said, the way we build our projects are meant to last a very long time making them a real true investment.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Perhaps we are the most proud of how we notice our mosaics seem to invoke a sense of joy and happiness to all people who come into contact with our work. We love to incorporate the community in our large-scale public art projects, whether it is the sharing of ideas as input in the planning about a design, or volunteers with hands-on in the making, or the donation of broken dishes from their own kitchens to be incorporated into the final mosaic installation.
Especially in our times today, we believe in BEAUTY and creating something truly positive in the form of colorful mosaics and messages that spark people’s hearts and minds filling them with imagination, a sense of pride, and a feeling of connection to each other, their own community that ultimately cements us all together!
- There is no prevailing wage for mosaic artists.
- Every project is a different price depending on time and materials.
- Mosaic art workshops are from $275 to $350 for a 2-day workshop.
- Address: We are a private residence and studio. Contact by email and phone only. Thanks!
- Website: www.kimemersonmosaics.com
- Phone: 619.379.1123
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: KimEmersonMosaics
- Facebook: Kim Emerson