DEE RUFF Artist Statement
I think I’ve always been captivated by the beauty of colors and textures, especially those found in the natural world. As a young child, the forests and rolling hills of western Pennsylvania were my playgrounds. In the spring and summer months, I celebrated seeing wildflowers dot the bright green fields, where I rode my beloved horses. I held smooth, shiny pebbles and felt the silky moss that lined the trickling stream in my backyard. I romped in the lush woodland, collecting lichen-covered sticks while marveling at the mayapples that resembled little green umbrellas. In autumn, the brilliantly colored leaves of the sugar maples sharply contrasted with the fields of gold and the bright blue autumn sky. During winter, delicate white snowflakes and shiny icicles greeted me many mornings. At night, the moon illuminated the serene landscape, and the stars looked like softly sprinkled powder across the velvety black sky.
For more than two decades, I’ve created intricate works of art, using patterns developed by some of the most celebrated designers in the world of needlepoint. I found I was especially drawn to patterns based on William Morris, Gustav Klimt, and other masters of the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts movements. Throughout my home, you can find many works of needlepoint, including a rug of African marigolds, tapestries, and framed pieces, all comprised of thousands of colorful stitches. Each stitch has been patiently, individually placed to form a completed whole.
In 2011, I ended a cherished career after developing physical problems. Thankfully, most of those problems are now resolved. During my time of rest and healing, I was determined to remain productive, and enrolled in a master gardener certification course. One day, after a gardening lecture, I discovered a book on mosaics, near the garden section in a local bookstore. My passion for mosaics was ignited.
Like needlepoint, I first learned about mosaic art by reading voraciously, studying on the Internet, and asking questions of gracious mosaic professionals. I ambitiously gathered basic tools, supplies and materials. After experimenting at home, I found that creating mosaic art offered not only more challenges than needlepoint, but also provided a means of expression I had not known before.
As I healed, I completed the master gardener volunteer certification. During this time, I also invested in private study with internationally renowned mosaic artists. Under the guidance of these professionals, I discovered a greater depth to my art and continued to explore different styles and techniques.
Through my ever-evolving creative path in mosaic art, I have combined my love of gardening and nature by creating unique and colorful abstract mosaics. Many of my early works were garden mosaics where I enjoyed experimenting with spirals and circles, along with other patterns and textures found in nature, to create birdbaths and sculptural forms. Rather than using representational designs such as flowers, foliage, or insects, I created abstracts that do not directly compete with nature, but complement and enhance the natural elements in a garden setting.
As I continue to explore mosaic art, particularly with my new modern mosaics, called “Illuminated Shards,” I am still captivated by my childhood love of nature. Through my indoor mosaics, I seek to inspire the moods, textures, and colors of the outdoors. Some of my art is created on my own handmade substrates, which gives me flexibility in size, shape and characteristic of each composition. I am fascinated by the way natural stone, such as marble, slate, and granite, breaks under the force of my hammer and hardie, which is an Italian tool that ancient and modern-day mosaic maestros use. I am smitten with the hues of fine Italian smalti glass, and the way the light refracts across the highly textured surfaces of carefully combined materials. Some of my mosaics feature mixed media, such as alcohol inks, beads, unique painting techniques, and metals. Along with nature, I am deeply inspired by many influences, including abstract paintings, textiles and needlepoint designs, contemporary mosaic masters, and architecture, ranging from ancient to modern. It is my hope that my art brings together color, texture, space, and light as a means to convey my love of the natural world and kindle these emotions in others. Mosaic art is one of the most ancient and durable forms of art. Much like the stitches in needlepoint, pieces of tesserae combine into a powerful and evocative unified expression. Each tessera means something: if you take away one, the entire composition changes.