As a young girl, Manila Clough lived in Puerto Rico surrounded by natural beauty that inspired her creatively. Her parents recognized early-on that Manila needed outlets for her energy and creativity, though her interests were not just in drawing and painting but the literary arts as well (especially poetry). So Manila took classes to nurture her talents. She finished high school in Puerto Rico then completed her B.A. at Florida State University.
After college, Manila met and married a dashing young military officer who swept her off her feet – literally – by taking her all over the world on his many assignments. One of his early posts was in Gulfport, Mississippi, so that was an opportunity for Manila to obtain her graduate degree at Tulane in New Orleans. Foreign assignments soon began, many associated with NATO in Brussels, but Manila never missed a beat in pursuing her own art career while raising a family. She became very much in demand for her fine renditions of beautiful European historical properties.
The military assignments came to an end in 1994, and it was time to find a place to settle down. While on a visit to Florida, they came across St Augustine, where they fell in love with the flora, the beautiful bodies of water, and the lovely Spanish-influenced historical structures. They built a home on Anastasia Island, and Manila joined the faculty at Flagler College. She loved the students and the ambience of downtown St. Augustine.
Teaching English Literature didn’t give Manila enough time, however, to devote to her applied arts. It was time to begin negotiations with her husband for a studio. He recalls the words being, “Either divorce me, shoot me, or give me an art studio to work in.” He certainly didn’t want an unhappy wife, so he relented and built a studio where she could lock the door and work for hours overlooking the Matanzas River, which serves as a primary inspiration for her art.
In 2005, Manila was commissioned to do a large mosaic for the exterior of a home. Manila was game, but now she had to deal with a large unwieldy installation that was going to hang vertically but was created horizontally. Lots of gritty wet grout was trekked through her house! Over time, experience gave her a knack for it. And serendipitously, another mosaic form presented itself. One of Manila’s neighbors was an accomplished stained glass artist. She then began to cut stained glass to create large very unique mosaics.
Soon, commissions arrived, not just for private homes but also public spaces. You can now find her work in many schools, Flagler Hospital, and private clubs and churches throughout the state. To the thousands of people who pass by or reflect on Manila’s mosaics, they project serenity, joy, peace, and a great love of nature.