Arts and Entertainment

Island mosaic artist reaches new heights

Raquel Stanek
Raquel Stanek's giraffe mosaic is the largest piece of artwork she has taken on.
— image credit: Nick Felkey photo

Bainbridge Island’s Raquel Stanek is not new to mosaics. The artist has been perfecting her craft for 15 years.

“Mosaics is really anything, it can be clay tiles, it can be glass tiles, and putting them together to make a larger design,” Stanek enthusiastically said of the art form. “I usually use all glass.”

She really had to stick her neck out, though, for her latest artwork.

Stanek’s most recent project, was by far her biggest — literally. A private customer on the island commissioned Stanek to craft a 9-foot-tall mosaic of a giraffe bust.

“It’s the largest three-dimensional piece (I’ve done),” Stanek said. “I did a chicken coop a few years ago, but that was flat. Working with curves is something else.”

The project was so large, that it outgrew the artist’s own studio. She moved the project into her home, clearing out her living room to get the job done.

“My ceilings are 8 feet tall, so working on something that is 9 1/2 feet tall was a challenge,” she said. “We removed everything in the living room and put it horizontally.”

The artist worked from forms obtained through a taxidermist. She received two parts that when put together resembled a long neck and head of a giraffe. She had worked on a zebra bust before, so she had an idea of how she wanted to assemble the artwork.

“(I was) doing the background first, then the design between the spots,” she said.

Not only was the project a major accomplishment for the artist, it’s a  big step — especially considering that Stanek took on the work in the year following major surgery for a possibly life-threatening aneurysm.

While on a bike ride in August 2011, she began experiencing a headache and neck pain. She went home to lay down. It turned out that Stanek slept through a subarachnoid hemorrhage — an aneurysm.

After surgery, she faced months of recovery. But the time frame didn’t settle well with the artist.

“Not working for a month is a pretty big deal,” she said. “A month is about all I could stomach. I like being busy.”

“I don’t hate what I do for work,” Stanek added. “Being in bed, recovering, I was getting stir crazy.”

Stanek was soon making trips to the store, taking walks and regaining her strength.

With her recovery steadily underway, she decided that taking on the biggest art project she’s ever contemplated was just what she needed.

For Stanek, it’s a nice sense of accomplishment after years of perfecting her art.

“Artists or people interested in art really seem to have the mentally that it should all work out overnight,” she said. “For 15 years I’ve been plugging away at having a business and having a product. You really cannot snap your fingers to be successful. You got to be flexible and be consistent and have the energy to move forward.”

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