Yuriy Akopov was born in former USSR. His career as a glass mosaic craftsman began in 1998 while working for an extraordinary artist, the internationally renown, Niki de Saint Phalle. He learned priceless skills from de Saint Phalle, refined the technique and created his own, unique work of art. Using a unique application process, employing precision craftsmanship and creative artistry, Yuriy transforms images and objects d’art into something magical and whimsical. Much of Yuriy’s artwork is on display at the San Diego Sculptors Guild in Spanish Village at Balboa Park, as well as at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Today Yuriy continues traveling throughout the world for the Niki de Saint Phalle Foundation to maintain the integrity of the famous artistic creations.

What were you like as a child?

As a child I liked to play soccer and fight. Breaking windows was a youthful amusement and I was enthralled by seeing all the broken glass scattering around. For me it was an inspiration for a lifetime, sparking a love for mosaic work.


How did you get involved with art?

When I immigrated to the US at the age of eighteen, from Baku (pronounced BahKOO)city located on the shore of Caspian Sea, I became involved with the Armenian community in San Diego. I was soon offered a job by Lech Juretko, the owner of Art Mosaic Inc, who brought me to the workshop of internationally renown artist, Niki De Saint Phalle.

When did your love for mosaic art formed?

I started as a fabricator and after ten years working my way from apprentice to master craftsman, I learned to express the fantastically creative ideas of Niki and bringing to life her mosaic sculptures which are featured internationally in major public and private art collections. My craftsmanship is seen in public artworks from the Pompidou in Paris to Queen Califia’s Magic Circle, in Escondido, California, as well as in collections in London, New York and Tokyo. Currently my artwork is available through the San Diego Sculptors Guild in Balboa Park’s Spanish Village.

What is the process like doing your artwork?

Cutting the fingers... When I work I see one picture and within that picture I see anoture and in the end I see another, totally different picture that is how my creative process unfolds. When I am creating the piece, it evolves into it’s own living artwork, that was not anything I was thinking before in the beginning of the process. To make the piece more whimsical I work with colors. A lot of times as I work with the glass, it evolves and becomes something else than what I had in mind. The funny part - whenever I work on a piece I always have my kids around because they are the most brilliant critics. And when they are around you, some things happen.

What themes do you pursue?

The inspiration for my body of work The Jesters Gestures started with The Joker. I made The Joker with the idea to become rich, but the joke was I become poor. The truth is, I created him for fun. Next came a chess board, inspired because my brother played chess… a soccer ball - because I used to play soccer… the elegant Madame in Bloom resulted from seeing lovely women blooming all day long like spring flowers. The Wine Bottle Throne came from a Russian tradition of drinking and was inspired by what else, getting drunk. FUN is definitely an inspiration for me. As a happily married, family man, I realized The Joker needed a girlfriend, and so The Joker got a beauty, Lady Luck. They needed a ride, so he created a glittering motorcycle for them. Then, of course, they needed a kid, so he created a boy, who is currently on display at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

I created a number of small pieces as joker toys so the kid can have toys to play with. And the Jester family grows. I realized they needed a dog, so I created a dog. Now they need a cat, I’ll have to create a cat and also need to work on creating the Grandmother & Grandfather. The family grows and glows in the sunshine of Yuriy’s 10 foot tall Tree of Wisdom, the perfect place for the Jester Family. FAMILY has been another great inspiration for me.

Have you worked closely with Niki de Saint Phalle? How did she inspire you?

My artistic mentor, Niki de Saint Phalle inspired and taught me many important lessons. Especially about collaboration.She was simple… Easy to work with. I learned to work simply. If you listen to what the artist wants, as a craftsman, you work to bring the artist’s vision to fruition. Working with Niki I learned how to collaborate… to discuss options… but when I want to do my own work I can listen to suggestions, but it always comes down to the personal choice of the artist to come up with their own creative solution.

What is next for Yuriy Akopov?

There is much excitement for my collaboration in an upcoming exhibition Sculptures On The Rocks opening in Escondido on Jan 25, 2017. Feel free to contact me for more information. I looks towards piecing together my future just like the brilliant colored facets of my fun-loving mosaic artwork, reflecting my hopes for more work more art more commissions more exhibitions and to see positive, happy people around me.

To see more of Yuriy’s work visit his website or contact him directly:

Available for commissions - all sizes from the smallest work of art to monumental public art. Enjoy and let your imagination run wild!

Images courtesy Yuriy Akopov

Text: Juliet Belkin


Summary Block
This is example content. Double-click here and select a page to feature its content. Learn more