We had the good fortune of connecting with Vanessa Ryerse and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Vanessa, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
I’ve been an online vintage seller for almost twenty years and a mosaic artist for about ten years. I started making mosaics from the dishes that were too damaged to be sold in the vintage shop. I know that people love to think I just smash up dishes with a hammer or by throwing them “to get my frustrations out” and that they magically turn into beautiful mosaic art. A smashed up dish is just a mess, it’s not pretty or useful in a mosaic. The truth is that the time it took to gain my knowledge of vintage products -the history, materials, and construction – made me an effective artist. I learned the right tools to cut the dishes, not smash them, which results in a crafted, thoughtful design. With vintage items and with art, what we are really looking at is time. What is collected with care, crafted, curated, what we put into our homes and surround ourselves with is a valuation of time. People sometimes ask for discounts in my shop and I find myself wondering what they want me to give them less of: selection? photos of the product? safe shipping? My care and concern for their experience? The two things that make my business possible are my time and my product knowledge. They are both invisible, but they are also invaluable.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I source antique and vintage items to sell or use in broken china mosaics…. which means I buy a lot of old dishes! Sometimes I sell them whole and sometimes I hand-cut them for another life. I have loved old things for my entire life -I bought my first antique with babysitting money when I was in fifth grade. Selling online has allowed me to be at home with our kids as they grew up, and it allowed me to keep it small for a long time to fit with our other life as pastors of a church. Recently we retired from ministry, and I am exploring what it feels like to stretch out and let my work grow bigger. I think that shows up in the size of the mosaics I am making. In the past, I did craft shows, making smaller, hand-held items. Two years ago, I completed a room-size installation and currently I am working on a piece that will be shown in a museum in the fall. It is a huge challenge. I almost turned down the room-sized project because there was so much I didn’t know. But then I realized that I could be depended on. I know how seriously I take my work and how hard I work. I realized they would be lucky to have me on the project. When surprises came up, I was ashamed at first, but I stayed with it until the project was right. It’s not a mistake if you learn from it. It’s a lesson. Lessons cost something, but then you have the knowledge going forward. This is my job but it’s also a kind of calling. Lately I’ve been calling it The Ministry of Mosaics. I’m trying to make everything I touch a little better than when I found it.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My start as a mosaic artist happened when my husband listened to me wondering if I could make mosaics from old dishes. He bought me my first pair of nippers for a Mother’s Day present. I sat down and made a table right away and was absolutely hooked. He has lived with mosaics being made in the living room and then taking over the dining room and the garage. He loaded and unloaded from every craft and art show and cheered my on through my first major installation, a 25 x 14 foot mosaic in the Conrad Hilton in Washington DC. I would have quit without his total support. The other person who deserves accolades is my talented mother. We started making mosaics around the same time, but she has always been a maker, from sewing to reupholstery, needlework, quilting, canning, and painting. Her can-do approach and her excellence in presentation have marked the goal lines for my own work. Lastly, big love for my dear friend Stacie Bloomfield, an artist herself, who has always had my back and given me great advice.

Website: www.theclassicbutterfly.etsy.com

Instagram: @themosaicbutterfly

Other: www.vanessaryerse.com

Image Credits
Lauren Elizabeth Photography Shu Lan Tang Photography Conrad Hilton City Center, Washington DC

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