A brief interview with Lesley Rattner-Provenzano, President of Mixed Up Mosaics Commercial
Q: What kind of products do you specialize in?
A: Mixed Up Mosaics Commercial is a full service designer and manufacturer of mosaic tiles. All of our work is hand made by artists in New York.
Q: Where are you located?
A: 450 West 31st Street in Manhattan. We’ve been here for about 2 years.
Q: What materials do you work with?
A: We primarily work with stained glass. Sometimes we’ll work with ceramic tile. And our equipment is as simple as it gets – just a weighted glass cutter that our employees use by hand. I primarily use glass from Spectrum which is based in Washington DC. They make some really beautiful LEED certified glass – there are thousands of glass companies that I could buy from, but this company offers the best colors. The glass is then taped together and sent directly to the contractors that will install it.
Q: What’s your target market?
A: We work in hotels, bars, restaurants, casinos and retail spaces in NYC and all over the world. In the United States, there’s a huge market for us in Las Vegas.
Q: How did you get started?
A: In 1993, I started the business making mosaics out of my apartment in the West Village. I made photo frames, planters and some larger pieces of furniture, like table tops. A friend of mine owned a Mexican restaurant on Park Avenue and bought some of my tables, and I would sell my tables out of the restaurant. Back then, no one was really doing that kind of work with stained glass in NYC. About 3 or 5 years later, I was invited to participate in my very first architectural show at the Javitz center. At that show, the President of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center came up to me and ordered 30 tables, which is when it really got started. At that point, it was just me and one business partner working out of a small studio on 37th street. We made the tables and delivered them successfully, and at that point I knew we had something special. At first I wanted to focus on the retail market, because that was the world I knew. But once I interacted with architects, I realized that they were my true clients. Since then, I’ve worked directly with architects.
Q: When were you able to start increasing the size of your business?
A: About 7 years after we got started, we moved from 37th street to 17th Street to a 900 sq ft space. And at that point we were able to start hiring employees. Employees were mostly taking our designs and producing larger projects. But at a certain point, I fazed myself out of production and started working primarily on the operations side.
Q: Tell me about your employees here at Mixed Up Mosaic.
A: We have two part time and two full time employees. One of our part-time employees works as a designer, and makes samples for our clients. Two full-time employees and one part time employee work in production. Our production employees are artists as well; some of them are really very incredible. They come from different backgrounds, like for instance, one of our employees is an experienced glass blower. These artists and production employees are amazing, and they know what they’re doing. Some of them have worked with me for over 10 years – I can leave them for months with glass and projects, and I can trust that the projects will be done when I get back.
Q: Do many of your employees have experience working with glass?
A: No, not always. I teach them how to cut glass when their hired, and a lot of on-the-job training. When you’re doing this work every day, you get very good at it.
Q: How has your industry changed since you got started in 1993?
A: When I started in this business, no one was really working with mosaic glass like this. Someone once told me that Mixed Up Mosaics made glass tile couture. But today, everyone is working with stained glass. And most of our competitors are overseas, working at lower rates.
Q: How have you been able to adapt to these changes?
A: I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I am my business and I have a good reputation in the industry. I’m not really worried about my competition, because I provide great customer service.
Q: What are the challenges of working in NYC?
A: It’s expensive! It’s expensive to rent space and pay employees.
Q: What’s next?
A: I’m really interested in working on three dimensional art and mosaic sculptures. I’ve done huge projects in the past, including life-size horse sculptures. We also plan to hire some new sales representatives to help build the business.
For more information about Mixed Up Mosaics Commercial, visit: http://madeinnyc.org/mixed-up-mosaics-commercial/