The first time I made a mosaic, I was on vacation in Door County, Wisconsin. I found a drop-in center that offered a variety of art activities. I was instantly drawn to the mosaics corner. I selected a small, flower shaped table as my substrate, received brief instructions from the staff on how to make the mosaic, and set to work. I was consumed by the process and loved every moment of the creation experience. For four hours, I didn’t eat or drink or think of anything other than what I was creating.
Seven months later, back at work, I found myself spent and exhausted, and realized I needed bring some fun back into my life. I remembered the joy I felt the prior year working on that mosaic, and looked for a mosaics class near me. That’s when I found the Chicago Mosaic School, and my life began to change.
The first evening I walked into the school, I felt I had come home. I eagerly absorbed everything my instructor shared about how to cut glass and tiles and use various materials to create mosaics. I learned that the tesserae (pieces used to create mosaics) and substrates (surfaces that could be mosaicked) were limitless. Overnight, I began to see the possibilities around me. Everywhere I went, I saw opportunities to recreate surfaces with mosaics.
Walking my dogs in the rain one morning a few days after my first class, I saw an empty wooden wine case that a neighbor had discarded. I thought it could be fun to mosaic the box. I opened it and found it was filled with stained glass pieces. It was as if the universe was telling me, yes, I was on the right path. Several months later, having received a book on making mosaics from reclaimed objects, I saw a project centered on mosaicking a bowling ball. The next morning, a bowling ball was set out with the trash by someone who lived down the block from me. Another affirmation! I began to scavenge the alleys of Chicago looking for items to mosaic. My garage and basement soon filled up with old windows and tables and picture frames, all offering surfaces that could be covered in mosaic.
Initially, I used cut bits of china and stained glass and tile to make patterns and cover surfaces. Then I took more classes, and I began to incorporate beads and polymer clay, millefiori, sea glass and discarded costume jewelry into my work. I joined the Society of American Mosaic Artists and I began to meet and learn from other artists at national conferences. I saw beautiful works of art at the annual Mosaic Arts International juried event and toured mosaic installations in the cities I visited.
Probably the most powerful thing I have experienced since I have started down this path of making mosaics, is that my art helps me express myself in ways that words and actions cannot. Most of the time, I create in a spirit of joy and playfulness. Sometimes, I create out of love. Other times, my anger and range and frustration with the world comes through in my work. Regardless of the motivation of the moment, I have found that if I am honest in my creation process, someone, somewhere, will connect with it. It may not be everyone, and sometimes it may take a few years before the “right” person encounters my work. But when they do, it is as if I created my art for them without even realizing it. That indeed is a gift.