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Mosaic Interpretation of Suzi Beber's Tree of Life by Nutmeg Designs

Bringing Suzi Beber’s Tree of Life into Mosaic Unfurling

Tree of Life Mosaic by Nutmeg Designs
Tree of Life Mosaic by Nutmeg Designs based on a drawing by our client, glass, millefiori, gold smalti on slate, 10×14 inches.

Our first collaboration with Suzi Beber was translating her Tree of Life drawing into glass mosaic, from Suzi’s series : “. . . one of a kind, and are only the size of a hockey trading card. Each represents a precious person or pet whose life has been touched by cancer. “Cancer Breaks” are miniature worlds done in pen and ink and are sacred spaces where hope is the medicine and love is the cure for cancer.”

Suzi wanted us to include the blue she loves, and for which her foundation The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund, is named, “Long live Blue Skies, where Hope is a kite, and dreams really do come true.”

Read more about Suzi’s support of the human-animal bond.

 

Suzi Beber, Tree of Life Drawing.
Fantasy Bird Collaboration with Nutmeg Designs and Suzi Beber

Bringing Suzi Beber’s Miniature Worlds into Mosaic: Fantasy Bird Heart Song

Heart Song: Fantasy Bird Collaboration with Nutmeg Designs and Suzi Beber
Heart Song: Fantasy Bird Collaboration with Nutmeg Designs and Suzi Beber, glass and millefiori on slate, 9.5×14 inches.

 

This bird is winging its way to Canada! A creative and compassionate client, Suzi Beber of Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund, commissioned us to create a mosaic interpretation of her drawing. This is from Suzi’s series of Cancer Breaks: “. . . one of a kind, and are only the size of a hockey trading card. Each represents a precious person or pet whose life has been touched by cancer. “Cancer Breaks” are miniature worlds done in pen and ink and are sacred spaces where hope is the medicine and love is the cure for cancer.”

Stratoz did the initial bird pieces and left spaces open for me to create texture and sparkle. HMB Studios beads and Italian millefiori beads helped capture the intricate details in Suzi’s work. It is an honor to be entrusted with someone’s creative expression, and an expansion of my own imagination.

Fantasy Bird Drawing by Suzi Beber
Fantasy Bird Drawing by Suzi Beber

Tree of Life Collaboration with Suzi Beber

NCSA Plaque for Mosaic Browser

Not that Kind of Mosaic: 25th Anniversary of the Web Browser

Mosaic Browser 25th Anniversary
Mosaic Browser 25th Anniversary

April 22, 1993: Mosaic Browser Lights Up Web With Color, Creativity.

Quite a title from a Wired Article. I was a graduate student in Library Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign when the NCSA(also at UIUC) Mosaic browser was added to the computer lab. I remember looking up chocolate, and a photo appearing of cacao pods, in color, inline on the same page. The links to other pages were in underlined in light blue. You could just click on them instead of typing things into the command line.

I didn’t understand how profoundly this would change my experience as a librarian. Web pages aspired to look like magazine or book pages and they eventually did. When I graduated, the Mosaic Browser was not yet everywhere. As a librarian, I was the mediator, the travel agent of information, because library patrons couldn’t get to all of it themselves. Slowly the browsers encompassed more and more of my job.

And in 2003, I discovered another form of Mosaic: the art form, while on a silent retreat at the Wernersville Jesuit Center, in the chapel with a mosaic mural designed by Hildreth Meière. As I learned to make mosaics, and started Nutmeg Designs in 2007, the Mosaic Browser had ceded to Google, and my librarian job ceded as well in 2010.

Mosaic is everywhere as a metaphor, as a name for companies, software, apps, training programs. Canada, where I grew up, favors the Cultural Mosaic metaphor vs the US Melting Pot metaphor. Stratoz teaches science and horticulture, so he knows about the mosaic virus causing a mottled pattern on plants. It can be frustrating to have a focus on mosaic art and wade through the 69 million results on Google, though I did come across Mosaic Records, restorer of jazz albums, which reminds me of the serendipity that comes with web browsing.

The Mosaic Records Jazz Gazette clued me into another anniversary this month, the 75th of the premiere of Duke Ellington’s Black Brown and Beige jazz symphony. Take a jazz break with Come Sunday from the 1958 recording with Mahalia Jackson, and then a coloring break with the National Center for Supercomputing  Applications 30th Anniversary Coloring Book.

Word for 2018: Tend

Word of 2018: Tend
Word of 2018: Tend

My #oneword for 2018 is Tend: to pay attention, direct energies, to stretch toward my life and take care of the things that matter. Stratoz kindly colored the background orange for me. I have it in my studio where I can see it every time I walk by.

Choosing a word as a touchstone for the year began for me in 2016, when someone commissioned Nutmeg Designs to make a mosaic sign of the word Create because it was her word of the year. I realized this was a word that inspired me as well, because when I am creating, rather than consuming, I am rejuvenated.

Nutmeg Designs Create Sign in Mosaic
Word of the Year 2016: Create, by Nutmeg Designs. Glass on slate, 12×6 inches.

The word I chose for 2017 was Up. I had made a sign with that particular word because of my experience with Alexander Technique lessons and the concept of feet rooted on the ground, and the head up, as if with the help of invisible threads. I also was inspired by all the aspects of up: Show up. Speak up. Stand up. Rest up. Get up.

Up in Mosaic by Nutmeg Designs
Up in Mosaic by Nutmeg Designs, glass on slate, 8×8 inches.

What is your word of 2018? Why did you choose it?

Stained Glass Project

Margaret’s Fundraiser for her 50th: The Stained Glass Project for Philadelphia High School Students

Stained Glass Project
Fundraiser for The Stained Glass Project: Windows that Open Doors in Philadelphia.

 

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive. (Howard Thurman)

On July 29th, 2017, I celebrate my 50th birthday.

 

To mark this occasion, I want to raise $1000 for The Stained Glass Project(SGP) in the month of July.

 

Making glass art transformed my life, and I want to pass that gift of transformation onward.

 

Artmaking has enlivened me, as has the sustaining love people have shown me in my life.

 

The Stained Glass Project is a manifestation of other artists, Paula Mandel and Joan Myerson Shrager, who took the enlivening power of art and the power of love in action, and started this extraordinary program in 2007 for Philadelphia public high school students to make stained glass and gift it to schools around the world.

 

In an overcrowded room, teens, many who never took an art class, create serious minded artwork, often for the first time. Students are surprised by their own creativity. In many cases it is their first experience allowing independent decision-making and self-expression through art. . .Each semester there is an amazing collaboration between volunteer adult mentors, who devote about three hours every week, and the teen stained glass artists. This time is often the only one where students can have a sustained one-to-one relationship with an adult. The SGP is a diverse group of Muslims, Christians, Jews, old, young, varying economic backgrounds, artists, designers and students working with sharp-edged glass, blue-flamed torches and protective goggles to create original stained glass artwork that becomes a part of the lives of children throughout the United States and the world. This SGP cultural community that has developed has been life changing for all. (The Stained Glass Project FB page)

Over the next weeks, I will be sharing stories and work from the Stained Glass Project on my GoFundMe page. You can make a difference by donating $5.00 or more by July 31st, 2017.

NOTE:

The words of Howard Thurman circulate throughout inspirational quote pages, and looking for the source, I discovered it is from the introduction of a 1995 book by theologian Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. Bailie was interviewing seeking the advice of Howard Thurman and talking to him at some length about what needed to be done in the world, and Thurman interrupted him with, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have alive.”

Thank you to Unitarian minister Chip Roush sharing the source, and the important context of this quote. Dr. Howard Thurman was an African-American mystic and theologian, spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, and co-founder in 1944,  of the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco, the nation’s first intentionally interracial, interdenominational church.

Related:

Read about how I first stumbled across a display of work by students from the SGP in 2010 when I missed my train and walked to Love Park, and found an exhibit of their stained glass windows at the Welcome Center. The windows were for a school in South Africa.

The Shared World: Naomi Shihab Nye and Tasting Inclusion

Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye
Excerpt from Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye from her book Honeybee.

Getting ready for our Nutmeg Designs 2017 Open Studio and Food Drive for Manna on Main Street, I thought of this poem, Gate A-4 by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Nye tells the story of being at the airport and hearing an announcement asking if anyone spoke Arabic, and she goes to Gate A-4 where a woman in Palestinian dress is crumpled on the floor. Nye talks with her, and we are all transported to the shared sacrament of mamool cookies that the woman pulls from her bag.

Our show is an occasion to bring food for Manna on Main Street, which began with the vision, “That everyone one might be fed,” for those simply in need of a good meal and company. Our visitors brought an estimated 450 food items, and heartened me with their generosity.

Take a minute to listen to Naomi Shihab Nye read the whole poem. It is wonderful. This is the world I want to live in, the one where hearts open rather than break.

 

Luminous Beauty by Nutmeg Designs

You are required to make something beautiful: A Conversation with Shawna Lemay

Luminous Beauty by Nutmeg Designs
Luminous Beauty by Nutmeg Designs. Glass and Mother of Pearl on wood, 12×6 inches. $215.

Author Shawna Lemay invited me into conversation about beauty on her blog Transactions With Beauty. I was curious where the title Transactions with Beauty originated, and then I read the quote on Shawna’s About page. The phrase comes from Rumi, the 13th Century Muslim poet from Persia.

I feel an affinity for Shawna. She is from my hometown of Edmonton, AB, a poet, art lover and photographer, and in search of beauty. You are required to make something beautiful.

I repeat, you are required to make something beautiful. Even if it’s a single line in your diary, a photograph, a row of knitting, or an arrangement of flowers on the windowsill. Clarice Lispector writes in her book, A Breath of Life, “Sometimes writing a single line is enough to save your own heart.” And what’s interesting is that reading her line has the same effect, as in, it has the power to save the reader’s heart, to save mine. For who can read what is so simple and true without feeling as though one’s own heart has been saved? (Shawna Lemay)

I started the conversation with Shawna’s questions, finding what I had written about beauty on my blog to have something on the page rather than the uncertainty of where to begin. I discovered that seeking beauty is a thread throughout my writing. As I continued to consider Shawna’s questions, I slowly eased out the copied text and into my answers. Beauty is not always immediately apparent. Sometimes it is revealed bit by bit.

Read the interview here: Margaret Almon – A Mosaic is a Conversation.

Luminous Beauty on Etsy for purchase

Spring into Color: Holi Festival

The Holi Festival by onthegotours
The Holi Festival by onthegotours via Flickr

Color has its own festival in India, Holi, celebrated by Hindus as the end of winter, the triumph of good over evil.  One of my favorite people on Instagram is Bhavna from Just a Girl from Aamchi Mumbai.  She writes the exuberance of throwing color at aunts and uncles and other children of the neighborhood, and how wanting some of that where she lives now in Australia.  Go check out her blog for the recipe for pannacotta with raspberry sauce and garnished with flowers that she made to satisfy her desire for color amongst the gray days.

Dyeing eggs was a Spring tradition I loved as a girl, though it hardly felt like Spring, the bright colors in contrast to the lingering winter of my Canadian home.  My mother filled mugs with hot water and white vinegar and drops of food coloring.  My sister and I would dip the eggs balanced on spoons, and I was mesmerized by dipping an egg into yellow and then into red and coming out orange. I remember taking some sort of intelligence test in school, and one of the questions was how to know if an egg was rotten.  I knew the answer because of watching a dozen eggs boiling for Easter, and my mother scooping out the one that floated.  I was happy I knew the answer but the strangeness of this being on the test stayed with me.  What if I hadn’t been there to watch the boiling eggs?

Shine: Beauty in Imperfection

Perfection is not a Prerequisite for Beauty

Glacier Cross by Margaret Almon
Glacier Cross by Margaret Almon. Glass on slate, with HMB Studios bead in the center, $221.

Do you plan to listen to something and then put it off?  I listen to podcasts in the studio, and I have meditation teacher Tara Brach on my list, and yet don’t get around to listening.  But I couldn’t resist the title of this episode, Relating Wisely with Imperfection. She describes how we react to imperfection in ourselves with anxiety and aversion, and how this creates a trance of unworthiness.  I am well acquainted with this trance, and how hard it is to break free of it.

Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.  ~Danna Faulds

Tara Brach read this line of poetry and it resonated.  Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.  I have many years of believing that perfection is the prerequisite for everything.  The talk begins with a story from Ed Brown, Buddhist and baker, about his struggle to make perfect biscuits.  He realized that he was attempting to recreate biscuits from a can or a mix, that if he actually tasted his own recipe, the biscuits were delicious. What should our lives be like?  I believed I needed to have a book of poems published by the time I was 30.   In my 30’s I believed I should have a “real career” rather than being a part time librarian.  I believed that not having children meant I was outside the human story, even though I never felt called to have children. In making mosaics in my 40’s, I realized that this was my delicious life, and it was my own.

The chunks of glass in the photo are factory seconds of gold smalti.  They are hard to come by since the factory strives to produce glass with the gold evenly applied, but these are my favorite because of the variations in texture.  Beauty in imperfection.

Shine: Beauty in Imperfection

Glacier Cross on Etsy