26 July 2015

Celebrating the Independent Spirit - Yvette Green

The last in our mini series on independent artist/designers as part of our feature for Independent Retailer Month focuses on mosaic artist, Yvette Green, of Baobab Tree Mosaics. Once again, we began by asking Yvette how mosaic-making had become her occupation.

Yvette Green mosaic artist
Yvette creating mosaic fern fronds

Mosaicking started out as a hobby while I was teaching science at a secondary school. I took evening classes and started out in traditional mosaic. I then decided to make a glass piece featuring sailing ships (my other passion) for a skylight above the door in my study, and was completely hooked on glass from that moment on. That skylight is still there, and the study is now my studio!

Making it my occupation was a gradual process. My son was quite ill when he was younger so I left teaching to be at home with him. As he got a bit older and went to school, I started selling a few smaller bits in craft shops, then started selling at the occasional Christmas fair, then a regular monthly fair and so on. Now he has just started Secondary school, I have a lot more time to devote to it.

2. The Baobab tree is an unusual symbol. Does this have a personal connection?

Yvette Green, Baobab Tree Mosaics
Baobab Tree Mosaics logo

I am originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. The Baobab Tree is one of my favourite African trees.  We'd have to agree that they are fascinating to look at!

3. Your mosaics vary greatly in scale and style from tiny jewellery pieces to very large commissioned items. Which do you prefer making and which is most popular with customers?

Baobab Tree Mosaics jewellery
Just some of the many jewellery items Yvette makes

I have a short attention span, and like to vary my work to keep my interest levels up.  I do like working on a very small scale and find the intricate work on the pendants very therapeutic. I like taking on a new challenge every now and again, and try to do something completely different every few months. I have a couple of skulls standing on my workbench at the moment that I am very keen to start work on.

Baobab Tree Mosaics large butterfly
A large-scale butterfly for the garden

My favourites are definitely the larger garden pieces. I love putting mosaics out into the environment and watching them change with the light through the day.

Baobab Tree Mosaics birds, bees and blooms
Yvette makes a wide selection of birds, bees and blooms to decorate plant pots

My best sellers are definitely the pot plant birds, and I must admit I do get a bit fed up with them occasionally. When I do though, I break off and make some new jewellery, or come up with a new bird I haven’t done before.

4. Your garden birds and flowers are very distinctive. Many people would think of mosaics being created on solid, opaque bases; what prompted you to use a Perspex base?

Baobab Tree Mosaics parrot
A splendid scarlet macaw!

I started using Perspex as a base because I didn’t have a fancy glass saw to cut the glass into the shape I wanted. I did however have a jigsaw, so was able to cut out the shapes I wanted in acrylic. I do now own a glass saw, but remain attached to the flexibility and robustness of the Perspex. I also work on glass bases and still work on MDF.

5. When you took part in Cirencester’s Mad March Hare Festival last year, was ‘Alphonse’ the largest piece you had done? How much did Alphonse raise for charity? Has the publicity surrounding the festival brought you more work?

Cirencester Mad March Hair Festival 2014
At around five feet tall, Alphonse is Yvette's largest piece

Yes, at approximately 5ft, ‘Alphonse’ was most definitely the largest piece I have ever done on my own. When he arrived in my studio and I saw he was taller than my son, I did freak out a bit. I had quite a few sleepless nights thinking “Oh My, what have I done?”  After drawing the design on I started working on his left paw, which looked like the hardest bit to me. After that I calmed down a bit and enjoyed the process. Alphonse’s official name was ‘Flame the Phoenix Wayfarer’ as he was located on Phoenix Way in Cirencester, outside Havas EHS who sponsored him. He eventually sold for £5000 at the charity auction which I was very pleased with. I have had a couple of large commissions follow on from the festival which has been great.

6. You sell at craft fairs as well as supplying galleries and some shops; is this what you prefer?

Baobab Tree Mosaics craft fair stand
A beautiful craft fair display showing a little of everything Yvette creates

Craft fairs can sometimes be a bit hit or miss, so I definitely like to have a more permanent outlet for my work.

7. Is there any aspect of your business that you’d rather not have to do?

Yvette Green grouting
We can see why grouting might not be a favourite part of the job!

I am not very good at marketing and self promotion, and always find that area of the business quite difficult.  I enjoy running my Facebook page, but am not very good at putting myself out there.
Oh, and grouting, I don’t like grouting very much!

8. Do you have any exciting developments on the horizon?

Hare bracelets by Baobab Tree Mosaics
These hare bracelets seem very appropriate for the Corinium Museum

I have quite a few exhibitions and shows lined up for the second half of the year. There is also a commission to do another fairly large 3D mosaic. I have a joint exhibition with my friend Jo from Muddle House Mosaics lined up for April next year at the Corinium Museum. This will be my largest exhibition so far. I am hoping to produce some very exciting new work for that, if I can find the hours in the day to turn the ideas in my head into reality.

9. If you weren’t doing this, what do you think you might be doing now?

Triffids by Baobab Tree Mosaics
You can add these Triffids to your garden without fear!

I have pondered this question for quite a bit. I don’t think I would go back to science teaching, and it is too late to go back to a science career, although touring the jungles of the world and finding rare species still appeals…., no I will stick to mosaicking I think.

10. To finish off, Yvette told us about the other places where her work is available.

Baobab Tree Mosaics display at Arcade Artisans
Some of the items on display at Arcade Artisans

I currently sell at Arcade Artisans in the Beechwood Arcade in Cheltenham, which is a fabulous artist run collective. I also sell in the Corinium Museum shop in Cirencester. I recently became a provisional member of the Cotswold Craftsmen and will be exhibiting with them on a regular basis.

It's been wonderful to see just how varied the art of mosaicking can be, and Yvette does so much more than we've been able to show here. Do take a look at her website and facebook page. We are so grateful for the time she's given us.
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