Clara Hughes to speak at Bishop’s
Different places – different passions
After two weeks of holidays, it’s always nice to ease back into the work routine with a pleasant assignment like an interview with a dynamic, Eastern Townships artist. And that’s just how I started 2011, at the home of Marika
Szabo, a local artist with an interesting duality: she practices the art of stained glass much of the year at her home in Stanstead East, and does print-making during the winter in Arizona, where she has won awards with her prints annually.
“I do my glasswork here but I go to Arizona in the winter for the sun, so I set up a print-making studio there,” explained Ms. Szabo who moved to the Eastern Townships about thirty-five years ago.
Although born in Hungary and raised in California and other places, Marika seemed to fit in easily with the Eastern Townships ‘way of life’. “We built a timber frame home, cutting the wood for it on our property and getting it cut up at the sawmill in Fitch Bay. We had a ‘barn-raising’ with about thirty friends. It was flipping freezing that day and I made a lot of food!” remembered Marika.
It was also convenient living close to the border since, as an American, she could work in the United States. “I was very lucky to be able to work in the United States because my French wasn’t good enough to work here,” said Marika who held many different jobs as she worked on her art part time, including the job of Executive Director of the Haskell Free Library and Opera House at the time when the tower was built. Now that Ms. Szabo has retired from ‘regular’ work, she’s more than happy to be able to concentrate full time on her art.
Armed with a college degree in Humanities, Marika first dived into the art world as a potter. “I started taking pottery classes and then did production pottery, but eventually decided that pottery was not for me. Then while I was visiting a relative in California, since I don’t sit around real good, I took a stained glass course,” she commented. “I soon got a commission to do some work and it just took off from there. Predictably, I first began doing flowers; I love flowers and I have a huge garden. I also like machinery so I did that for awhile.” A huge stained glass of a red, semi-trailer truck hangs in the window behind Marika as we talk, a reminder of that earlier period.
“A streak in me wants to simplify; I like pears so I did only pears for awhile,” she continued. With some hesitation, Marika began experimenting with geometric shapes. “Some of my clients were dismayed but I found new people who liked it. A teacher once told me ‘Don’t do what’s expected of you – do what obsesses you!’”
Speaking of obsessions, Marika had wanted to learn printmaking since her twenties but only started five or six years ago. “When I retired I thought: now’s my chance to learn print-making while I’m in Arizona!” Marika now belongs to an Arizona Print group, often participating in exhibits and winning awards regularly for her unique prints.
“I like to use ‘found’ objects in my printmaking; I hate waste. In Tucson, near the railway tracks, I’ve found really neat pieces of metal. You’d be surprised what falls off of trains,” said the artist.
This love of recycling has also influenced Marika to try a new technique with glass: creating glass mosaics. “I’d wanted to make mosaics for a long time so I finally started after my last show. Over the years I’ve accumulated boxes of scraps of glass – perfect for mosaics.”
With typical stained glass, each piece of glass is wrapped in copper and then soldered down. “That technique can drive you crazy! But I started fusing glass a few years ago and now I’m having a lot of fun with the mosaics.”
Clients and others who visit Marika’s studio for the first time are usually surprised: it’s a bright yellow school bus! “I needed a studio. I was driving down Hackett Road and saw a parked school bus and noticed that it had lots of windows - good for hanging glass. So I went to an auction to try to buy one but it was too expensive at around $8000. But there I met a man from Derby who had a school bus that he wanted to sell for $2000 - and he had already taken out all the seats.”
When I asked Ms. Szabo where she found the inspirations for her delicate glass mosaics and award-winning prints, she answered: “ I love rocks. Rocks and glass are the same thing so there’s a natural affinity. ‘Found’ objects also inspire me. But I don’t get ideas and then start working. It’s when I start working that I get ideas.”
To find out more about Marika Szabo or to view her artwork, visit her website at yellowbusstudio. com
Marika Szabo in her schoolbus studio – the perfect `vehicle` for displaying her stained glass creations.