Blessed Be the Piece Maker
For Daniel Sebille, life is more than a colorful mosaic
By Waynette Goodson • Photograph by Amy Freeman
You’ve probably never heard the name Daniel Sebille, but if you’re a Winston-Salem resident, you may have experienced his art.
Ever tossed back a cold one at Foothills Brewing? You’re sure to have noticed the large Foothills sign in concrete on brick — that’s Sebille. The signs at Milner’s and Finnigan’s Wake? Also Sebille.
What about the abstract pineapple mosaic at Bar Piña? That’s Sebille, too.
Or perhaps a friend recently refurbished his kitchen with new cabinetry and a slate floor. Yes, that could be this self-described Bohemian businessman.
From custom tile work to painting, from restoring furniture to Venetian plaster, from Italian stucco to mural and fountain design, Sebille prides himself on the breadth of his business, Sebille Custom Designs.
“I always like to see things, and I’m framing them and cropping them and seeing colors and shapes,” says the Buenos Aires native. “My grandfather was a tailor — an art — and he used to play instruments. And my godfather was an architect. It’s in my genes.”
If Sebille’s chiseled chin, salt-and-pepper hair and piercing hazel eyes seem familiar, he possesses yet another talent — acting. In Argentina, he got a job in a Pond’s Cold Cream commercial, one of three rugged gentlemen surrounding a fair-skinned lady, and he found his first calling.
“I loved when we shot that commercial,” he remembers. “That was the trigger for me. There’s always a moment that ignites you to do something.”
Sebille can easily rattle off his favorite gigs: Ford (a couple driving a car through the Granada mountains), Wrangler and Levi’s (commercials in Argentina), Cinzano (billboards in Brazil), even a role as the “bad brother” in a Buenos Aires soap opera, which got him recognized on the streets. That was all back in the 1980s.
Today he’s still with Marilyn’s Agency, and he does pro bono acting for short films at the UNC School of the Arts.
“When it comes to acting, I’m a little shy to tell it,” Sebille says sheepishly. “I’m down-to-earth. I don’t want to come off as arrogant.”
And he doesn’t, especially when he’s in the role of proud father talking about his daughter, Kalila. Like her dad, she’s also traveled full circle to return to school at UNC Wilmington.
“She’s my universe. She’s my muse. She’s my everything. She’s very special in my life,” Dad gushes. “After she was born in Wilmington in 1996, we went to Argentina to introduce Kalila to my mother, Rose, and my family. I have Italian blood, and we’re a huge family.”
He recalls his early days as a young newlywed while living in Madrid: “It was hard in the beginning, to be living in another country.” At the time he was making enough money from modeling to go to all the museums, take pictures and explore. It was here that he discovered his love of art and working with concrete.
During a vacation in Italy, he found his passion for mosaics, which he later began trying for himself during a stint acting in Wilmington.
“I got up and went to the tile store and started doing them,” Sebille says matter-of-factly. “I’d listen to music and cut the pieces. I don’t know where I got the patience. When you’re working with little pieces of mosaic, you have to go into such intricate detail; it’s not like the broad brush strokes of painting.”
Italy has also kindled his clients. “We had recently returned from a trip, which inspired me to paint several pieces of art,” says Judi Russell, a juried artist with Associated Artists of Winston-Salem. “Sebille’s name was given to me as someone who could add a feeling of Italy to our kitchen. So I met with him, hoping to get a few ideas so we could make some decisions and move forward.
“Instead of getting a few ideas, he was able to create my new kitchen,” she says. “It’s a reminder of the trip, and it feels like a personalized piece of art. We still enjoy the vibrant colors, and we continue to receive compliments.”
While the former actor attended an industrial technical school, this “folk artist” is proudly self-taught, learning through trial and error. Some of his more intricate mosaics can take up to a month to complete. “I remember when I started my second mosaic, I thought, ‘I can’t handle this!’” Sebille exclaims. “But when I feel weak, it’s as if a big hand is pushing me . . . I have this extra thing that pushes me forward.”
The Renaissance man not only finds inspiration from his travels. He’s also inspired by ancient Egyptian civilization, and he likes bringing back classic tile designs from the Byzantine period. He’s completed two mosaic reproductions of portraits of Simonetta Vespucci and Emperor Justinian I, recreating these masterpieces in his own style.
While he has lived in the United States for about two decades, Sebille still speaks with a Spanish accent and tosses in lines like a philosopher poet: “I’ve had a long life . . . full of many things.” And . . . “Sometimes in your life, it’s good to do things for others without expecting anything back.” And . . . “I’m a believer; I believe in Jesus.” And . . . “Life is like an ocean with lots of waves, and then sometimes it’s quiet.”
What is his goal now? Simple. To work. That includes charitable work for Kaleideum, formerly the Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem, and Habitat for Humanity.
“I enjoy what I do, and the outcome makes me happy,” Sebille says. “Also, I feel good when my clients are happy, too.”
Whether it’s contract or residential work, he likes helping them take risks. “Sometimes you need that touch of color,” he says, noting the current white-on-white Scandinavian influence. “Everyone has different tastes and different points of view, and some are picky and they won’t change for nothing, and then some say, ‘Paint this table pink.’
“In the end, this is not my house, and I tell them, ‘It’s your house and you’ll be living here.’”
In an ongoing project, he’s working with Cindy Hodnett, director of public relations for the International Market Centers, to renovate her 1957 Winston-Salem dream home.
“Sebille is helping me transform the house I bought two years ago,” Hodnett says, explaining that he has done everything from installing Italian tile floors in the sunroom and kitchen to painting kitchen cabinetry and refinishing key furniture pieces.
“He came up with creative ideas that totally changed the entire aesthetic of every room and that takes each project from ordinary to extraordinary, she says. “My house has gone from dark and heavy to light, cheerful and unique, and Sebille’s artistic sense combined with his craftsman talents made it possible.”
Waynette Goodson is the editor-in-chief of Casual Living magazine and a frequent contributor to Seasons.
Contact: Daniel Sebille Designs, (336) 782-2256, Facebook.com/SebilleDesigns, firstname.lastname@example.org. Free consultation.