Green Crafters, Part VII: Paul Pearman’s New School Mosaics

Knowing Paul like I do (all of two and a half hours we spent together at the ACC show in St. Paul with my mom and his lovely wife Michele), I know he’s going to give me a hard time for taking so long to write this darned post. After all, we met (more than) a month ago. And yet like Paul, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. With his keen sense of color, painstakingly precise handiwork and glistening drops of humour, wit, sarcasm and—dare I say—wisdom, I wanted to get this one right.

Making our final rounds at the show, my mom and I came across the New School Mosaics booth, and had the pleasure to meet Paul and Michele Pearman. Paul is a master mosaics artist and his canvas are belt buckles. Yes, belt buckles. But trust me: these are not your grandfather’s belt buckles—unless of course your grandfather happens to be Keith Richards or Steven Tyler!

Looking at Paul’s booth is mesmerizing. He creates one-of-a-kind belt buckles combining an exciting and exacting palette of colors, textures and patterns. I was at first too shy to approach Paul about his work. Not because he’s rude or aloof (as many artists tend to be). On the contrary: Paul is the friendliest and most down-to-earth person I’ve met in a long time. I was shy because his work is really outstanding. It’s creative, unique and a real show-stopper. Wearing one of Paul’s buckles is like wearing the key to Paris around your hips.

My mom finally asked: “Is your art green?” He looked at us like we had two heads. “By green, do you mean eco-friendly?” he said in his deliberate yet laid-back, urban-southern drawl. Quickly, I explained about Green Design in Mind. “Green design, huh? Well, now that’s an interesting spin on it. That’s different and I like different, right baby?” His wife Michele, who was rearranging the booth, looked up and smiled warmly, “Yes you do honey.”

It didn’t take long before Paul opened a bottle of wine for the four of us. “Y’all need to help us finish this fine wine. We wouldn’t want to waste it, because that wouldn’t be very green of us. And we like you,” he said as he poured some cabernet sauvignon. We talked about everything: life, politics, religion, art, his two dachshunds, the new studio he’s opening close to his home in Augusta, Georgia, and his obsession with emeralds. When he found out my mom was from Brazil, he poured more wine! “I would love to go to Brazil and check out all those mines you got. Let me know the next time you go, Michele and I would love to join you!”

We were the only people in the whole place having a good time! Laughing, joking, and intensely volleying our conversation back and forth in a doubles-tennis match of wit and humor (or could it have been the wine?), Paul and Michele are lovely to talk with. People in the booths around us were enviously looking in our direction. And by the looks of the people passing us by, everyone must have thought we were famous or something.

But you see, that’s just who Paul and Michele are. When you’re in their company, they make you feel like a million bucks. They treat everyone they meet like an old friend. Evidence of this can be seen on Paul’s website , where his clients are prominently displayed. On his Facebook page, Paul responds to each post personally, eventhough it may take him a while. Yes—Paul has many high-brow clients (Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Steven Tyler, Cameron Diaz). But he knows and has admitted outright, money doesn’t bring him happiness, fashion is fickle, and one day he’ll be a has-been (not anytime soon, my friend).

Now I don’t say this often, or lightly… but I felt a connection with Paul (again, could have been the wine). He speaks his mind and isn’t ashamed of what others think of his opinions (although I admit his opinions are pretty well-researched and formulated). He has an old-time southern-charm, with a hint of bad-boy outlaw sprinkled in the mix. He’s an accomplished artist with many tricks up his sleeves. He’s well-traveled and well-versed in history, politics, current affairs and the occasional dirty joke. He rubs elbows with the rich and famous and yet is very humble and sincere. And well all else fails, his lovely wife Michele is there is keep him grounded.

A few words on Michele: stoic, heroic and stunning. Stoic, for putting up with Paul’s ego. Heroic, for putting up with Paul’s ego. And stunning both for her inner—and yes—outer beauty, which shine as deeply and multi-facetedly as the opals that Paul is so wont to use in his designs. A few weeks ago, my mom and I received a lovely hand-written note from Michele, thanking us for purchasing our very own Paul Pearman belt buckle (signed and dated by the man himself). She also mentioned what a great time she and Paul had meeting us at the show and hopes to see us again soon. That, ladies and gentleman, is what I call customer service. No—scratch that: you can buy customer service.  You can’t buy genuine charm: that’s Michele. Charming and genuine.

Alright, let’s get back to Paul:

“If you ask me, this whole business of going green is just a fad. It’s cool to be green. I don’t do things to be cool. I do them because they make sense. You see, even vanity is recycled. There is a fine line between being green and staying warm. Heck, even recycling is recycled.”

Paul’s been recycling—and recycling people’s vanities—for years. He scours construction lots, old buildings, excavation sites, and antique and garage sales for some of his baubles. Take for instance, this heart buckle. The key hole and key are antiques: unnecessary discarded pieces of metal in today’s world of key fobs. And much of his stained glass comes from old churches or abandoned buildings.

“As a mosaic artist, you’re only as good as your collection. The art of combining as many textures and materials in a piece of art is a fine line and can quickly become chaos.”

He also uses vintage brooches and jewelry, fossils, bones, shark teeth, shells, and precious and semi-precious stones in his buckles. The shark teeth are quite impressive, and some of his fossils are hundreds of years old. Other than being in a museum or an old shoe box, what can you do with a shark’s tooth?

Paul tells me that incorporating natural (ie: green) elements into his work is not something new [for him], nor will it be something that he stops doing in the future. The mix of old and new, and recycled and reused is what gives Paul an edge to his art. Sure, there are others that make belt buckles. And there are others who have resurrected the fine art of mosaics. But none have come close to Paul’s mastery of combining the two. Paul also mentioned that the metal in his belt buckles is 100% recycled. These business practices are inlaid in his work ethic, which he says is largely trial and error (“except I already made my mistakes”).

Each buckle is named, signed and dated by Paul. No two are exactly alike. Since his work can take up to 400 hours to complete, he averages about 300 belt buckles a year. Displayed in prominent galleries across the US and on the hips of many celebrities, Paul’s work is a testament to creativity, passion, persistence and recycling. After we purchased our belt buckle, Paul turned to us and said with a slight twinkle in his eye: “Now there’s nothing greener than sharing!”

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Photos taken and used with permission from Paul Pearman, New School Mosaics.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2 Responses to “Green Crafters, Part VII: Paul Pearman’s New School Mosaics”
  1. cam mozaik says:

    Thanks a lot! I am just learning Information of Subject.
    Php and this was very easy to follow and helped a lot.
    You really took time to explain every little bit.
    Thanks again…

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