By Rita Cook
Forty-eight year old Dallas resident Connie Chantilis is a collector and an artist weaving the two into one medium with her standout mosaic designs that include a variety of art pieces that even encompasses yard art. Her passion for the mosaic medium was a natural progression she says from her love of collecting items that she uses in her art such as vintage pottery, found objects, glazed and unglazed ceramics, antique china and glass, shells, petrified wood, rocks and anything else that speaks to her intuition.
“I use quite a bit of recycled glass tile,” she explains. “It is often used as field or background tile. I recycle shell and rock collections that are no longer wanted, sample tiles, leftover metal and just about anything else that crosses my path. Gravitating to greens, turquoise, reds and oranges in her work, for the past 10 years Chantilis has been a professional artist.
She does add however, “I have two jobs or as I like to say a job and a half. I own Two Sisters Catering and am active there in business development and sales staff training. I also wear all hats at my other business, CAC Mosaic Designs.” Giving a boost to her work, last year Chantilis won a Juror’s Choice Award in the Society of American Mosaic Artists' Mosaic Arts International 2010 exhibit for her large-scale installation grotto.
In recent years too she says she has also explored urban archaeology locally unearthing turn-of-the-century objects such as oxidized glass and bottles, metal bike pedals, buttons and coins, these objects often finding its way into her work. “I have always been a collector of everything and anything,” she says. “I spend loads of time at flea markets, junk and antique shops. I collected vintage mosaics. My sister and I also collected old shell work pieces. Eventually, I decided to try mosaics myself. I started with china. I amassed a huge collection of vintage and antique transferware and pottery. Then, my work evolved and began to include shells and minerals I had collected.”
As for her inspiration she says she doesn’t really have one thing that comes to mind “each piece means something different to me,” most of the time being materials driven when she sees an item she can recycle. “I see a shell or piece of burned glass from the late 1800’s or anything else that speaks to me and it catches my eye, gets in my head and rolls and I begin the process. Usually, when something speaks to me, I place it in my studio space and ‘let it cook.’”
This cooking may take hours, a day or even years, but as her artist wheels are turning she will pass by the object, work around it, alter it or place and combine more objects with it to begin to tell a story. As for the mechanics of her work she uses thin set cement for most of her projects; sometimes tinted and sometimes not and many of her projects may have as many as five adhesives used on them depending on what she is doing.
“I create a wide variety of work. Recently, a series of Milagros were quite popular and sold out. I created a second series, which also sold extremely well. These pieces were created with recycled horseshoes, minerals and gem stones.” Her work varies in price with the smaller pieces coming in around $150 and the larger work selling for several thousand dollars.
In 2012 Chantilis is starting a new series of recycled glass, shell and gem stone mandalas, otherwise she keep it eco-friendly by recycling and she recently traded her SUV for a smaller eco- friendly Honda Element.“I also just added a 16-inch screen to my sliding glass wall in my living room to enjoy the fresh air and save on my electricity bills while turning my living area into one big screened in porch,” she concludes.
Interested in seeing Chantilis’ work? You can find it at the Sixth Floor Museum Store + Café in Downtown Dallas and she also sells locally out of her studio by appointment, visit www.cacmosaicdesigns.com to get in touch with her.
Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Cook is the Managing Editor of Insider Magazine, worked at the Chicago Sun Times for renowned columnist Irv Kupcinet and can also be heard Sunday morning in Los Angeles on The Insider Magazine Radio Show’s featured segment “I’m Standing Here.” With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org