Mary Alice Fox
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Spend just a few minutes with Mary Alice Fox and her vibrant personality resonates through the conversation, especially when she talks about her artwork and love of the Earth. The artisan combines these two passions to create colorful mosaic pieces, many of which feature garden themes and are suitable for outdoor use.
Her creations range from planters, birdhouses and watering cans to frames, wall hangings and large multicolored spheres that Fox calls Confetti Balls. She has applied her mosaic designs to about 150 types of pieces, or forms, over the last 12 years and explains that almost anything can become the basis for one of her works. “I see a form, and I want to cover it up—so don’t move!” she jokes.
A self-proclaimed “environmental nut,” Fox says she practiced ways to preserve the planet long before it became trendy. In fact, doing so motivated her to become a landscape designer more than 25 years ago. Over time, though, she became frustrated by the rabbits and quail that devoured vegetation in her own yard and began looking for non-edible ways to beautify her outdoor space.
One day, she spotted a mosaic pot at a nursery that sparked her imagination. The Phoenix artist began making her spherical Confetti Balls to place in gardens as long-lasting pops of color and soon began experimenting with an array of other forms that struck her fancy. She notes that inspiration for a design can come from almost anywhere. “If I see a fossil or an arrowhead or something incredibly unique—even a sand dollar—I’ll take that piece and I’ll mosaic around it.”
Fox took an intensive mosaic workshop in Ravenna, Italy, in 2006, which exposed her to the history of the art form and time-honored techniques that have been utilized for centuries. Today, the influences of this workshop can be seen in her choice of tools‚ two of which—a hammer and a hardie—have been used by mosaic artisans since ancient times to break tiles and stone into small bits. The experience also inspired her choice of materials. Many of her designs are created with brightly colored smalti glass tiles, which originated in Italy. But Fox does not limit herself. “I use everything from broken china to smalti to rocks to gold fillings,” she quips.
Now retired from the landscaping business, Fox spends much of her time at her home studio creating mosaics. “I love to decorate and I love color,” she reflects. “I sit there and I mosaic, and it’s just heaven.”