meet the makers | Apr 25, 2024 |
This Minnesota artist makes music and mosaics
Maggie Morrison of Mercury Mosaics
Maggie MorrisonCourtesy of Mercury Mosaics

For Maggie Morrison, making mosaics is meditative. The Minneapolis-based operations director at Mercury Mosaics says the process of transforming clay into hand-made tile is an exercise in mindfulness. “I have a running script in my head called ‘Zen and the Art of Tile Making,’” she tells Business of Home. “The practice requires deliberate movement and constant attention to detail.”

Morrison has always been an artist. Growing up in Wisconsin, she began playing the piano at a young age and by high school was writing songs and performing live shows. She moved to Minneapolis not long after turning 18, and spent the next several years playing in bands with various musicians while touring the country. “I started making slip-cast mugs and selling them at festivals to earn money on the side while pursuing music,” she says.

Fifteen years ago, the artist landed a job at Mercury Mosaics, and the rest is history. “I am a self-taught mosaicist and learned my craft through on-the-job experience,” she says. “Ultimately, each project is a lesson in problem-solving—how can we honor a distinct design within the confines of hand-made ceramic tile?”

Morrison at work on Dyani White Hawk’s “Nourish” mosaic installation for the Whitney Museum of American Art
Morrison at work on Dyani White Hawk’s “Nourish” mosaic installation for the Whitney Museum of American Art
Courtesy of Mercury Mosaics

All Mercury Mosaics tile designs are hand-crafted, a process that starts with extruding clay from a pug mill, smoothing it into strips, and then cutting it into geometric shapes such as diamonds and triangles. After a round of firing and glazing, Morrison designs a pattern in AutoCAD that’s printed to scale and laid out like a jigsaw puzzle to guide each bespoke mosaic motif. “We have multiple wet saws that allow us to cut any custom piece you can imagine, from lettering to flowers to a North American Pacific rainbow trout,” she says. “Once cut, we decide which colors from our palette work together to best illustrate the vibe, and then adhere each individual tile onto a fiberglass mesh.”

Maggie Morrison crafts a custom mosaic floor design
Morrison crafts a custom mosaic floor designCourtesy of Mercury Mosaics

Though form and pattern play a pivotal role in the artisan’s work, materiality reigns supreme. “The organic nature of ceramic tile gives an automatic warmth to any space, regardless of color or design,” she says. “The materials themselves act as the focal point of the design because of the hand-made quality—the aesthetic is natural and timeless.”

The brand’s latest launch, Rise, features a multicolored asymmetrical motif for a fresh spin on traditional subway tiles. “The pattern itself consists of two diagonal pieces forming an oblong subway tile,” says Morrison. “The grout lines create vertical movement that adds depth and character, while providing clean lines.”

In March, Morrison and Mercury Mosaics collaborated with artist Dyani White Hawk on a 445-square-foot installation called “Nourish” for the Whitney Museum of American Art. “It consists of over 30,000 mosaic pieces diligently arranged in varying triangle and diamond patterns—all fabricated in our Northeast Minneapolis studio,” she says. “It’s my favorite piece to date.”

Morrison has hand-crafted more than 200 mosaic designs for Mercury Mosaics—while continuing to write and record music in her downtime. “True artistic inspiration is rooted in integrity and sensitivity to the complicated world around us,” she says. “Not all design can solve our problems, but creating a space that speaks to our own experiences can give us a start.”

If you want to learn more about Maggie Morrison, visit Mercury Mosaics’s website or Instagram.

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