(3 min read)
Twenty years ago Eileen decided to abandon a corporate career path to answer the call to adventure. It led her to Lisbon, a city a city full of life, singular stories and most importantly vibrant street mosaics that immediately awoke her love and interest for this ancient art.
Her adventure continued with the discovery of antique blue and white tiles shards called azulejos near a construction site. Thus started a new passion and eventually a new career. Over the years Eileen exhibited in Portugal and the USA and her pieces have been sold all over the world.
In 2015 she founded
Lisbon Mosaic Studio where she now runs workshops to spread the gospel according to mosaics.
Even after all these years, when her husband senses her slowing down as they walk by a construction site, he’ll gently nudge her to “keep on walking.” So she keeps on walking, paving her way with her delightful creations.
(Vasco da Gama by Eileen McDonough provided by Lisbon Mosaic Studio) Tell us a bit about yourself
I call myself a "Corporate America" drop-out, as during my career in publishing in USA, I came to Lisbon for a short-term contract, and....stayed for good! My background was not in art, but business. I am very much self-taught with mosaics. I started doing them 20 years ago, then started my own greeting card company in Lisbon, Mandamor (means send love), cards beautifully illustrated by artists all over the world. But yet, for those many years, any spare time between raising my daughter and running Mandamor, I would be doing mosaics. I finally took the plunge last year, answered the call and went full-time with mosaics, and got the smartest, most competent person I have ever met to run Mandamor (my husband!).
What got you interested in mosaics and how did you learn this unique craft?
I fell in love with the mosaic sidewalks when first arriving in Lisbon, and felt the need to learn this cool technique. Unable to locate any courses, and life before youtube how-to videos, I taught myself.
What do you like most about being a mosaicist?
What I like most is that, for me, it's the quickest way to get in the zone, or "out of my mind" if you will. It's meditative and relaxing, a great creative therapy.
Are there any artists that inspire you?
I am most inspired by Polish painter and sculptor
Tomasz Mitztal. Tomasz was the first and only artist with whom I shared an atelier. Almost 20 years ago, we met in Lisbon. As you see in his website, he is greatly accomplished (has a piece in the Vatican museum!), but more importantly, one is struck by his kindness, his dedication, his love and respect for his art, his modesty and spiritual nature, and his unexpected wicked sense of humor. He currently resides in Oregon, USA. Which of your works are you particularly proud of or have a special connection to?
I have a special connection to Amor em Lisboa.
(Amor em Lisboa by Eileen McDonough provided by Lisbon Mosaic Studio)
This was made in 2015, during a summer when my husband, daughter and I decided to rent out our city home and live near the beach (outside Lisbon). It speaks to me on various levels: I like the theme (Love!); it includes items that one associates with Lisbon (the traditional blue and white tiles, the cobblestone mosaic sidewalks, the streetlamps), and lastly I like to incorporate a variety of materials: this has contemporary tile, antique tiles, glass, slate and stone.
What would your dream project be?
Two things jump to mind: 1) There are 86 steps leading from the main street up to my studio. I cannot climb them without envisioning them covered with mosaics. It could be a great community art project. I haven't decided yet on the theme...and have not yet proposed it to city hall for approval! Stay tuned on that one...2) I have a dream to do mosaic tables or wall pieces as a commission for a café/restaurant/hotel located on every continent. Tables with portraits of local heroes would lend itself well to such a project. So far for my goal, one down (Europe), several to go...
(Fernando Pessoa mosaic by Eileen McDonough provided by Lisbon Mosaic Studio) What recommendation would you give to someone interested in purchasing a mosaic?
I think when buying art, as with buying a home, one should operate on emotion; How does it make you feel? Does it speak to you, move you? Does it make you smile? Bring you joy? I'm all for buying pieces that bring you joy; what better to surround yourself with in your home or office?
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Eileen’s world of mosaics. What questions do you have for our mosaicists? Feel free to drop them in the comment section and we’ll keep them in mind for our next spotlight segment. Meanwhile check out some of Eileen’s stunning
mosaic tile art on Mosaics Lab. Now that you know a bit more about her creative process you can’t but appreciate more her amazing mosaics.
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