A Conversation with Artist Instructor Ellen Dinerman

Two years ago, when Piece by Piece had to shutter in-person workshops, we transitioned to all online engagement. Our creative team of instructors shifted and adjusted to the new world of virtual learning—no easy feat for mosaic, which is a hands-on visual art. Luckily for us, we had artist Ellen Dinerman join us a few months in, and she has been supporting our artists through a series of skill-building and inspirational Zoom workshops ever since. We took a moment to talk with Ellen and learn a little more about her.

How did you come to mosaic art? My first mosaic project was a mural with elementary school students about peace. I thought I would make one myself before I began with the kids and did a highly textured piece from a drawing I had done of my 18 lb cat, Moca.

That piece got me hooked! My grandmother had some antique micro mosaic jewelry that I always love. Mireille inspired me to make my own micro mosaic and also to learn about smalti. 

What do you like about teaching? I value connections with people, and I see teaching art as a wonderful way to connect with others. 

What is your personal inspiration to create? I am still discovering what that is! The process of creating something from nothing or disparate elements is gratifying to me. I am interested in combining my love of ceramics with mosaic into a new form.

Do you have a favorite artist who influences your work? Many! I have been inspired by Japanese art, Native American arts, and, most recently the variety of art coming out of the Spilimbergo School of Mosaic in Northern Italy. In addition, I value many artists’ work such as Maya Lin, Henri Matisse, David Hockney, and Deborah Butterfield.

How has it been teaching virtually? What are the joys and the challenges? I began my virtual teaching with elementary school students early in the pandemic. It was the way to stay connected to the kids during that scary time. By contrast, working with Piece by Piece has been a pleasure. The artists are curious, thoughtful, focused, and appreciative. We have had some really stimulating conversations and learning on all sides; me and theirs! I love that we are building relationships and skills with people all over the City by Zoom! Sometimes it is frustrating that it is hard to see clearly what someone is working on or to explain what I mean through Zoom, but we are learning to work around those issues by sharing photos and other techniques.

We are grateful for Ellen and all of the instructors who have been supporting the program through inspiration, enthusiasm, and creativity. Art and Creativity have been essential to us all during these trying times, and we’re so happy to be able to provide continued engagement and art-making for our artists.

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