By Kerrie Mullany
Special to the Rappahannock News
Many know Candace Clough as an estate gardener in Rappahannock. She also happens to be a creative mosaic artist, who teaches popular mosaic art workshops at the Mullany Art Studio’s The Studio School in Flint Hill.
Now, after many months of research and development — designing, redesigning, and problem solving with industrial designers and manufacturers alike — Candace can add “tool designer” to her resume.
“The Breda” (pronounced Bree-da and named after her young daughter) — an essential nipper tool for anyone who is cutting glass and working in mosaic as an art form — is now a reality, and so far it’s getting rave reviews.
The process began more than two years ago. When they need a tool, most folks just head on over to the local hardware store. For Candace it didn’t quite work that way. Being in the estate gardening business, Candace is quite comfortable and knowledgeable about the use of all manner of tools, from garden pliers to backhoes, and because of her years of experience she can’t help but notice when a tool isn’t really optimum.
It was no different with the tools she used for her mosaic art. “Over time it dawned on me that the majority of tools mosaic artists were using were simply adapted from the tiling industry” says Candace. “An installer may do hundreds of square feet of tile, using a pair of nippers for just 5 minutes to cut around a shower head or electric outlet, perhaps once in a day of work. They have no need for comfort and ease because they don’t rely on these tools for hours at a time.”
Mosaic artists use the same tool but might use it for hours on end. This can cause a shortened work time due to fatigue or even injury for some. Candace noticed this about the nipper cutter, felt frustrated, and knew there had to be a better design.
“I set out every plier type tool in my possession, testing the fit of each in my hand. I weighed and measured each one, noting the pivot and spring types. I tested my grip strength in different positions and carved models that felt good in my hands. I questioned artists at length over every detail I could think of to gain insight into how we use tools.”
Through testing and redesign she was not only able to make the grip more comfortable but by adjusting the angle of the grip she was able to increase the leverage to the extent engineers determined it to have five times the force of other nippers that exist on the market today. Her quest for a more comfortable tool ended with a revolutionary new nipper tool for mosaic artists.
These days when she’s not out working her garden business you might catch Candace at the Flint Hill Post Office prepping a multitude of boxes for mailing, fulfilling all the pre-orders for her tool that were made over the last year while the manufacturing process was honed.
The Breda is now officially on its way to mosaic artists across the states, Canada, and as far away as Australia. It’s been a long process but the wait is over, and it has been incredibly exciting and rewarding to see the tool that started out as a simple pencil sketch come to life in real form.
She’s just been to Nashville to attend SAMA, the annual convention for The Society of American Mosaic Artists, where she demonstrated and promoted her new tool. Over the next months she will continue to introduce the Breda to more mosaic artists through national conventions, Mosaic Mentoring groups, and her website.