Meet the artist: Juan Is Dead
Posted on June 24 2016
Juan Is Dead - a world where you can find collectables from the afterlife!
Creator, Leah Reeves, studied Fine Art at Nottingham University and worked for several years in Fashion and Advertising. After discovering mosaic quite by chance, she fell in love with the medium and uses mosaic to create contemporary one-off pieces of art and illustrations, featuring the curiously cheerful characters of Juan Is Dead.
Inside Juan Is Dead:
Where it all started:
"I had always viewed mosaic as something quite twee until my sister had a spare ticket to a mosaic workshop. After that I was hooked and abandoned my paint brushes and pencils for cutter and glass. Now I love the graphic style and boldness of shapes that mosaic can bring to an artwork. They're wall art, but also sculpture, the light reflects off each hand-cut piece and when you hold one, you know you're in possession of something special."
Above: Jorge the Poker Player
"The characters from Juan Is Dead paint the afterlife as one hell of a party, they enjoy everything from their living life, but without guilt, hangovers, constraints or worry."
Above: The main man himself! Juan Is Dead
Above: Eduardo is Dead
Leah's love of mischief and otherworldliness is influenced by her Spanish ancestry, love of Mexico and the Mexican celebration Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.
"It probably isn't surprising to hear that Jose Guadalupe Posdada and Fridha Kahlo are among my favourite artists, but I'm also a massive fan of Beryl Cook. If a painting or picture can make you laugh I think that's an amazing achievement. The facial expressions that she captures are so insightful and I often find myself chuckling at a scene. This is something I strive for and I think sometimes people are surprised that they find my work amusing when ultimately it is depicting skeletons and death."
"One of my weirder but also incredible moving experiences was a visit to the curandera, a Mexican healer, in a tiny hut in the mountains of Oaxaca. I had a cleansing or limpia which involved the healer brushing me with a herbal bouquet of basil, rosemary, piru leaves, then rolling an egg over my body. At the end of the cleansing, the curandera broke the egg into water to make a diagnosis and tell me what had been drawn out of my body. Whatever really happened in that hut I can't say but I left feeling much lighter, relaxed and mentally calm."
Made in the UK:
All Leah's products are designed and made in the UK. The mosaics are made by Leah in her studio in Brixton.
"My favourite place to hang out on a weekend is Brixton. The village has a great atmosphere and my favourite shop for a rummage is Brixi, a curiosity shop selling old and new oddities, followed by a classic margarita and authentic Mexican meal in the restaurant Casa Morita. I love spicy food and chillis go in everything. So much so that I grow my own, with some success and my boyfriend and I make our own hot sauce, so if this mosaic thing doesn't work out…. dragon's den here we come!"
Above: Dolores plays the Tambourine
"I often base the characters on people I know and this elegant lady is inspired by my Nan-in-law. She was one-of-a-kind, a real character. Impeccably dressed with a song for every occasion, famously knocking back flaming Sambucas on her 80th birthday. She was not only always up for a party but often the centre of it. She was an inspiration about how you choose to live your life and how growing old doesn't need to hold you back."
"This print was inspired after a trip to Mexico - I wanted to do something on a bigger scale and after seeing the Mariachi bands in the cemeteries on Dias De Los Muertos, they seemed the perfect choice. Instead of a cemetery, I opted for a street scene as it was a new challenge and I wanted to do something that showed off the beautiful pastel palette of the buildings I had seen."
"This is my favourite coaster set. I find it really cheerful and it reminds me of summer and festivals - dancing outdoors at night without a care in the world. I also like the way the guitarist and maraca player appear to have a cheeky flirtation going on."