Rachel Davies is a talented mosaic artist who discovered and developed her love of the art form while living in California.
Now the former clinical psychologist and mum-of-three has a flourishing business – creating contemporary mosaics and hosting workshops from her home in Dunblane. Rachel, 44, has always enjoyed arts and crafts, including embroidery, painting and drawing, as hobbies but it was while based in the Northern California city of Pleasanton that her interest in mosaics was sparked.
She and her family moved from Scotland to the US in 2012 for five years after her husband Ian was offered a job there. Rachel was a stay-at-home mum to three young children at the time and remembers visiting an art exhibition featuring mosaics one day.
She says: “I really liked the ungrouted and textural mosaics which were featured at the exhibition and decided I wanted to have a go at making my own. I bought some materials and started playing around with them and then I took some classes.There is quite a big mosaic community on the west coast of California so I was able to take workshops with some well-known people in the mosaic world and learned a lot of techniques.”
The family moved back to Scotland in 2017 and Rachel decided that rather than return to her former career in psychology, she would try to build up a flexible business around her mosaic making. She began by creating small framed mosaics and first showed her works at one of the annual Christmas Craft Fayres run at the Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling.
She says: “I displayed my work and sold a few pieces and thought `maybe I can do this.’”
Rachel built up her mosaic business gradually and organically by exhibiting her work at different events, including Forth Valley Art Beat, and starting up social media accounts. As the business and her following grew, she began offering art classes and workshops and selling her mosaics through galleries including the Made in Stirling shop in the city’s King Street.
Rachel specialises in contemporary mosaic art using slate, stone and glass – each piece within the mosaic is individually cut and laid by hand which results in unique works of art.
Her range of artworks can be seen and purchased online via her website – www.racheldaviesmosaics.com
Rachel, who is Chair of the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM), also enjoys inspiring others to get creative and teaches regular workshops from her home studio.
She teaches both in-person (outwith lockdown) and via Zoom – with many of her regular online students based in the US, Canada, Australia, Europe and Singapore.
She says: “I believe the process of making a mosaic can be therapeutic, whether it is the mindfulness and relaxation that comes from concentrating on placing individual pieces, or the social interactions that arise from working as part of a group.”
Rachel has also been involved in community-based projects such as the 2019 Dementia Friendly Dunblane intergenerational initiative where she worked with primary pupils and people living with dementia to create a series of mosaic panels for local schools.
She was intrigued by the opportunity of taking part in Street Stories and excited to be chosen as one of the project’s eight artists. Rachel says: “I liked the concept of bringing art into the city to fill the streets and give people the chance to follow an arts trail around Stirling. I was intrigued by how all the works would be animated with the Augmented Reality (AR) technology and liked the fact that all types of expressive art would be included in the project – not just drawing and painting.
“Often mosaic art isn’t seen as mainstream but viewed as quite niche and specialist so it’s great to think that my mosaic works will be displayed in the city centre. It’s wonderful to engage the public in art and to inspire and encourage people to think about taking up different art forms.”
One of Rachel’s mosaics, which explores Scottish slate and stone, will be featured on the windows of the former Calvary Fellowship in the Stirling Arcade. It includes the slate which can be seen on the roofs of many iconic historical buildings in Stirling and the installation will tell the story of the building of Stirling Castle.