Artist Spotlights Series:
Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso

Encaustic Painter, Art Glass, Jeweler

Welcome to the Artist Spotlights Series, a collection of interviews with local artists. I am pleased to introduce you to Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, an artist currently living and working on San Juan Island Washington. Read on to learn about Yvonne's thoughts on making artwork, creativity, and artists she admires. Thanks for visiting!

Read more artist interviews here.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

(Click any image for a closer look.)


Born in Holland and raised in Canada, I have lived in all corners of the United States until settling on San Juan Island in 1990. Educated at University of Hawaii, I “came out” as a professional artist in 1980 by being juried into the Farmington Valley Art Center in Avon, Connecticut as the resident Glass Artist and later owning a Stained Glass studio in Hartford, Connecticut with my husband. I consider myself a multi-media artist as during the last three decades I have continued to educate myself and develop proficiency in several other mediums including working with metals and encaustic painting. If I have to answer the question as to how I got started as an artist I would have to say from the time I can remember. Being creative has always been a part of me. Even as a little girl I was bringing home tiles from construction sites, pieces of metal or shiny objects to assemble into sculptures or taking left over material from my mother’s sewing stash to hand sew clothes and decorate boxes. I don’t believe you “become” an artist, I believe you just are one.

Why do you do what you do?

I love working with my hands. I love putting things together in all kinds of new ways. I love alchemy. I love the creative process, period. I believe that with those former “loves” it is easy to cross over and be creative in whatever you are doing be it painting, drawing, cooking or gardening. The mental process is the same.

Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso at work in her studio.
Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso in her studio

Focusing on my artwork I believe that the element of heat looms very large in my choice of artistic medium and is the reason why I work in fused or kiln-fired glass, encaustic painting, and metal. By adding a heat source to my artistic endeavour, magic happens. The medium changes form; flows and bends and becomes alive in color or shape. The metamorphous that occurs is the attraction for me. Another thing that happens when the elements of glass or wax are fused together is an amazing three dimensional affect and transparency that is incredibly beautiful and intoxicating.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

What jobs have you done, other than being an artist?

Quite a few. Everything from being an Executive Secretary, Customer Representative, Teacher, Travel Agent, Airline Hostess, Bar Tender, Waitress as well as a Diving Instructor owning and operating a Dive Shop in Hawaii for several years. I’ve been very lucky to have so many opportunities to try out a lot of occupations, but like I said earlier, the artist was always there.

What role, if any, does an artist play in society?

Interesting question as I’ve thought of this many times and it has been a curmudgeon for me personally in that I have a strong desire to make art that has an important social connotation. However, I cannot do that if I plan to make a living with what I do in some of my work. Unfortunately, most people like to see social commentary in art hanging in museums, not in their living rooms. For example, Guernica by Picasso is a wonderful work, but not something you want to see each morning over toast and coffee when you understand what the painting represents.

It is difficult for me to make social statements in art glass for homes in that it is more of an architectural statement, or likewise, in jewelry, because it is personal adornment. In painting, social commentary is much more accessible and I plan on exploring this avenue further through this medium.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

In a worldly, non personal perspective, I believe the artist has an extremely important role to play in society. They are the canaries in the coalmine: the eyes that see beyond the norm so to speak. Their communication through visual, musical, written and performance arts speak a truth and offers up a message that many people are too busy or uninterested to research or go into depth about. The artist plays a role as the great teacher with views that need to be paid attention to. It’s a sad thing when something this important is always the first thing to fall from favor as in the loss of public funding for the arts or art programs in our schools.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

What do you like/dislike about the art world?

I like the vibrancy and surprises that occur in the art world. I like the sharing of ideas amongst artists and watching the “awakenings” when audiences view artworks or listen to music or watch plays or attend a gallery opening. I like the excitement personally of beginning new projects and exploring new possibilities. What I don’t like about the art world are all the politics involved with the gallery scene.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

What is “creativity”?

I believe that creativity is the manifestation of following through on an idea or thought. Inventors, musicians, business entrepreneurs are all creative and artists in their own arenas. In the visual arts creativity transfers an idea developed in your imagination to a form that can communicate those ideas or thoughts as in a painting or sculpture.

What motivates you to begin a new project, and what keeps you going?

I read a lot. I listen to radio or audio books when I’m in my studio. I take walks in nature, have conversations with friends, go sailing. There’s always some form of stimulation, and ideas and themes are always popping up for a new piece of artwork or series. Time is the biggest roadblock for me and if there was more of it, I would probably get more done. The bottom line is when you are working in your studio and the work is forming before you, and it “works”, it is an emotional “high”. It’s addicting. You want more. No problem with motivation.

I also enjoy working with people and creating a work of art that they can enjoy. It’s a different kind of motivation to create this way, rather than finishing a piece just for your self, but the creative process is still the same.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

How do you describe your style?

Tough question, as it really depends on what I am doing. My natural inclination is to work in abstraction simply because it allows me the freedom to go wherever the artwork leads me. There are fewer boundaries and rules with abstraction so you can push and work the medium to its fullest potential and beyond, something I have always done whether is was working in glass, constructing jewelry or painting. My work has been “classified” as organic neo-primitive with a watery element and lots of movement.

How much time do you spend doing your work every week?

If you just count physically working on my artwork every week, I would say about 30 hours. I wished it was more, but the “business” and “set up” time takes a lot of time as well. Mostly I like to work on my artwork during the wee hours of the morning or late at night … no interruptions and you can really concentrate.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

Has your work changed over time?  How?

Not a whole lot. My work has always had a “loose” style. I’m not the kind of artist that is into overly detailed imagery or spending months and years agonizing to finish one art piece. I also like things a bit on the “raw” side with a more expressionist kind of result so I find that I get that result when I don’t try to have total control over the material and just allow the material to tell me where to go. It’s a bit backward from the schooled approach, but I like what happens. In the various mediums that I choose to work with, the glass art is a bit more constricting than painting as one is limited in the former sense by the method of construction; i.e. each piece of glass in an art glass piece really does need to physically “fit” into your design, even if you are fusing or kiln firing glass; a method that has about a 20% margin of error in expectation of the final outcome. Jewelry is also methodical in that way, but I try and make even those pieces look more spontaneous by making the forming of the metal looking less machine-produced, more handmade. When it comes to encaustic painting, I have found that melted beeswax isn’t as predictable as using oils or acrylics. Hot wax has a mind of its own, but it is this very quality that I love and continue to explore.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

What artist(s) would you most like to be compared to?

I guess every artist would like to compare their work to some big name artist and if I had to choose I think I would most like to paint like Richard Deibenkorn or Franz Kline. Early on, while in college Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr were my heroines on canvas. Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, and Juan Miro influenced my jewelry during my jewelry era while Charles Rennie MacIntosh and Ludwig Schraffrath, my glass. Observers of my artwork in its various forms have suggested resemblances with the above mentioned artists in my creations and it just goes to reason that their influences would have been incorporated by me, albeit unconsciously.

If there was no chance of ever being paid, would you still do your work?

If I wasn’t going to be paid I would still do my work. I work on many pieces for my own enjoyment because I have a need to create. I feel lucky because I am able to make a living at what I do through commissioned art as well as being able to have the luxury of setting aside some time for creating just for me. It’s a nice balance. I’m constantly being inspired by things around me and would love to be in my studio all the time creating art without having to think about money, but it’s not my reality. That said, the bottom line is that if money were my only motivation, I certainly would have chosen another field.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Inventive Optimistic Determined

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I will still be making art in whatever form inspires me at that time which is no different than what has been my path for me in the last three plus decades. Retirement is not even a consideration. I don’t think it is for any artist and aren’t we are lucky to have that choice? Georgia O’Keefe is a role model in this sense as she was still painting in her nineties. If I make it that far I would love to follow in her shoes. My desire above all is to keep growing artistically and developing my artistic sensibility, keeping the results fresh and alive in whatever medium is the focus of the day be it glass, encaustic, or metal. If I can physically work till the end of my days, that would be my wish.

Any advice for aspiring artists?

If I were to be asked for advice from an inspiring artist I believe it would be that they should make up their own mind and decide about whether their artwork is successful or not. Art is one of the most subjective entities in the world and there are as many opinions as there are individuals. If an artist likes what they have done, they should have faith in that belief and stick by their guns. You can’t please everyone, and really, is that the point?

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

Artwork by Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, San Juan Island Artist.

This interview with Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso for the Artist Spotlights Series was completed on November 9, 2012. For more information about Yvonne and her work, please visit Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso -- Encaustic Painting and Glass Art.

Read more Artist Spotlights:
Robin Atkins, Patti Barker, Cinda Sue Dow, Beth Hetrick, Peggy Sue McRae, Jan Murphy, Kevin Roth, Tom Small, Lewis Spaulding, Nancy Spaulding, Margaret Thorson, Virginia Van Camp, Paula West.

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