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Artist Profile: Dee Ruff

Black Cat Mosaics

By Heike Hellmann-Brown

The art of creating images with an array of pieces of colored glass, stone or similar materials dates back as far as the 3rd millennium BC. Greeks and Romans used this technique to cover the surfaces of walls, ceilings and floors with figurative works using either tesserae, flat, square colored pieces of stone or glass, or small pebbles.

Artist Dee Ruff was first introduced to mosaics through her love for gardening, and today many of her artistic creations serve as interior decoration or decorative garden art.

“Since childhood I’ve been captivated by the beauty of colors and textures, especially those found in the natural world,” Ruff states and adds that she always had the mind of an artist but felt she was lacking the skills to express herself artistically. That changed when she discovered needlepoint and later applied her knowledge to mosaics. “Throughout my house you can find intricate needlepoint pieces, including a rug of African marigolds, tapestries, and framed pieces, all comprised of thousands of colorful stitches. Each stitch has been patiently, individually placed by me to form a whole,” she elaborates.

Ruff grew up in Western Pennsylvania and continued her education in Maryland. As a Master of Clinical Social Work she had been offering support and counseling in hospice and health settings for almost two decades, before she set out on a second career and became a Certified Massage Therapist. In 2005 Ruff moved to Georgia with her husband and two daughters and opened a private practice in Historic Roswell. In 2011 she had to close her practice due to physical problems.

When her husband introduced her to gardening, Ruff enthusiastically began to learn everything about the subject and even became a Master Gardener. As opposed to needlepoint where she used to follow patterns, gardening taught her to design using different colors and compositions. Additionally she began to incorporate garden art by re-purposing household items.

“During that time I discovered a book on mosaics, and my passion was ignited,” Ruff says. “I experimented at home with basic tools and supplies. Creating mosaics not only offered more challenges than needlepoint, but it also provided me with a new means of expression. Like the stitches in needlepoint, pieces of tesserae combine into a powerful and evocative piece of art. Yet each tessera means something: if you take away one, the entire composition changes.”

Ruff uses handmade substrates that give her flexibility in size, shape and characteristic. She is particularly drawn to abstract expressionism. Her home designs include everything from mirrors to a whimsical mosaic shoe, while her colorful birdbaths and garden sculptures are intended to complement and enhance the natural elements in a garden instead of competing with nature, as representational designs such as flowers, foliage, or insects would.

“It is my hope that my art brings together color, texture, space, and light as a means to convey my love of the natural world and to kindle these emotions in others.”