By Regina Connell.
I can’t imagine kicking off our coverage of mavens with anyone other than Nancie Mills Pipgras, a woman who’s helping change the way the world looks at this ancient-contemporary form of art.
Nancie’s editor in chief of Mosaic Art Now, the website (and social community) that’s the go-to place for what’s going on in mosaics. That puts her at the heart of a tight-knit, passionate, and thriving community of mosaic artists and aficionados. She curates, cheerleads and supports; brings new people to the party; keeps the community up on events and happenings; and connects aficionados to the latest thinking, trends, and resources.
Actually I have to backtrack… I’m not sure that “tight-knit, passionate, and thriving” quite does justice to the intensity of this community. They’re vocal; they’re incredibly supportive of each other; they’re scrappy (Nancie’s word); and for a bunch of people who are working with one of the world’s oldest craft forms, they’ve embraced social media with a vengeance. They’re all damned good mavens, actually, but because of her role, you might call Nancie the Maven in Chief.
So what makes a maven? They have the eye of course: the ability to spot talent, trends, and truths before others do. And of course, they have passion, grit, guts, and lashings of personality. But more than that: what makes a maven is generosity: deep, profound generosity. That’s what it takes to make a difference, and to keep going when times get tough: because it’s not about them, it’s about the bigger idea.
Nancie ticks all of those boxes, naturally.
Mavens aren’t always steeped in the thing they’re mavening about, but in the case of craft… it does make sense. Nancie says, “It was the two empty niches on the front of my circa 1924 house in Sacramento that started it all. They bugged me. But, what to do? Mosaic came to mind, although I knew nothing about it. Bought the books. Googled and voila, found a Yahoo group filled with lovely people (about 99.9% women) who were making mosaics and sharing resources, knowledge, and encouragement. Voila again and the niche was transformed and I was in love with an art form and a community.”
Falling in love quickly led to commitment–in the form of serving on the board of the Society of American Mosaic Artists.
Some things are just meant to happen, aren’t they?
Eventually she was approached by Bill Buckingham, the then-publisher of Mosaic Art NOW magazine, to work on it with him, which she did (and loved). But then Bill died in October of 2010. And Nancie stayed on to continue the legacy. “So, now I am here, doing something that hasn’t been done before – a great love of mine. I adore finding new artists and getting to know them as people. I wish I knew French and Italian and German – that’d come in handy about now. Instead, in Google Translate I Trust.”
But what is it that drew her to mosaics? It couldn’t just be an empty niche. She talks about the “alchemy of mosaics” and the “magic in the creation of a beautiful whole out of disparate pieces.” For Nancie, it’s also the connection between past and present and the constant evolution in materials and techniques.
Mostly though, you get the sense that it’s the people that inspire Nancie. “I am just plain gob-smacked by the brilliance of artists who use the physical attributes of mosaic – manipulation of light, texture, space and color – to make something undeniably powerful.”