Don Macdonald is a master mosaicist. His work is extraordinary and the installations he’s created will bring tears to your eyes.
The interesting thing about his story is that he never wanted to be a mosaicist. In fact, he resisted it for years.
Thirty years ago Don returned from his service as a naval officer ready to start a new career, but unsure of what his next step was going to be. After spending years traveling the world, “regular” jobs didn’t hold much appeal. One job in particular sounded especially unappealing — laying tile.
His brother was doing it and suggested Don give it a try. Don really resisted his brother’s idea, but eventually took the job because he needed to pay the bills. He recalls the work as “tiring, uncomfortable, dirty, and not at all what I had in mind.”
Earlier this year, Don created this.
Don’s story is the classic Hero’s Journey.
He came back from service and needed to get a job. He started to lay tile and eventually worked his way onto big construction projects where he decided the last thing he wanted to be was a bathroom builder and mosaicist. However, he kept getting pulled into that direction. He eventually met an art dealer named Keith Murphy who represented two up-and-coming Aboriginal artists.
Together they formed a partnership that changed the trajectory of Don’s life.
Through this collaboration he felt and responded to the call of his soul.
Mosaics on their own didn’t hold meaning for him. However, if he could bring Australia’s First Nations art into large-scale public art, he felt he could make a worthy contribution. Which is exactly what he did.
How did Become Your Own Business Adviser help Don with this project?
When Don took Become Your Own Business Adviser he remembers having this clear feeling that things were going to move fast because of the energy Hiro holds. His wife had worked with Hiro previously so he know what could happen if he was fortunate enough for her to hold space for him at that point in his life. He said, “The space Hiro holds for people is so discernible and powerful. I just did the work week after week, knowing that when it was ready, my soul was going to respond.”
And it did in a big way. Don’s art is not just about beauty. There are a lot of people who produce artwork that is lovely to look at. But Don wants more. He has a burning desire to create pieces that are beautiful but that also carry a message for a community and culture to whom he feels deeply connected.
“Our country has never done a great job of honoring our Aboriginal people. I’ve been called to be a translator of their culture in a way that can be appreciated by everyone. I can teach people through my art because art is so disarming. Art allows you to get into someone’s psyche very subtly and change their perception of things.
That’s what I get to do through my mosaics. What I learned during BYOBA is that I’d been trying my whole life to express myself artistically, but always felt like I was falling short of the mark; however, once I had a clear mission and answered the call of my soul, my art was able to come to the forefront. I’m now owning my role as an artist and leading with it. I’m so grateful to Hiro for creating the space for all of this and my future work to come to life.”
Don and his business partner Keith have big projects on the horizon.
What’s so inspiring about these two is that they are both so keenly aware of how important their chance meeting was. They believe they were both given a gift and an opportunity to collaborate and they better do something important with it.
I’m blown away by the richness, complexity, scale and sheer gorgeousness of Don’s installation, and by the ways in which he blended traditional indigenous art into a thoroughly modern, intimately useable public artwork!