South Bend Tribune piece on Nathan Smith

Author: Heidi Prescott, South Bend Tribune

Check out the following piece about our recent MFA Nathan Smith in the South Bend Tribune:

Nathan Winship Smith picked up a jagged piece of gray tile from a bucket and held it up to the pillar.

He placed it several different places, turning it around as if trying to put together a puzzle. Using a hand-held cutter, Smith decided to break the tile in half to fit the Mediterranean-inspired mosaic he was working on.

He carefully glued it into place, as he had done with several hundred other tiles of different shapes and sizes before this one, and stepped back a couple of feet to look at his work.

“It’s a balance of color and shade and size. Do you see these pieces here and the way they form a line?” he asks, showing an upward slope of several pieces of tile. “I didn’t want this to feel static, I wanted it to move. So some form lines and other tiles flow off the line and give the piece energy.”

The pillar is shaping up to be exactly what Carol and Terry Meehan had in mind when they commissioned Smith to do the project inside Tapastrie, the new South Bend restaurant they are working on at 103 E. Colfax Ave.

Actually, it’s better than they ever imagined.

They had no idea that Smith, who recently received his master’s in fine arts from the University of Notre Dame, would be willing to fire and hand-paint the terracotta tiles for the project. Smith has spent the past two months making tiles amidst the construction dust.

“For it to be special, I wanted to personalize each tile,” Smith says, explaining how he looked at reproductions of medieval tapestries to replicate the color palette for his first restaurant mosaic.

“I’m OCD enough to like this type of work,” he says with a smile. “But the sheer volume of tiles was daunting. Next time, I probably wouldn’t make some of the pieces so small.”

Smith quickly calculates that the pillar, which will be completed by the end of the week, will be composed of more than 2,000 individual tiles.

Excerpt from Heidi Prescott's story in the South Bend Tribune.