One of my favorite materials is gold smalti: a chunk of glass plus a thin layer of gold and an even thinner layer of glass on top. This luscious dish of smalti was made by the Orsoni Factory in Italy, and I buy it by the ounce, even though I covet it by the ton. Someone asked me if this is the gold used in the ceiling of San Marco in Venice. I looked it up, and Orsoni has since its beginning in 1888, manufactured mosaics for the renovation of the Basilica. It supplied more than 1,000 ancient 24K gold plates that decorate the 8,000 square meters of the structure.
When I discovered dichroic glass and it was love at first sight! The name means “two colors” — layers of coating on the glass allows it to change hue depending the light. Originally created for the aerospace industry, fortunately it was recognized for its beauty and companies now sell it to artists. This new Moonflower Mandala Pendant shimmers between green and violet.
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.
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.
Tree of Life Collaboration with Suzi Beber
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.
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.
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.
What is your word of 2018? Why did you choose it?
Fashion Designer/Fiber Artist Denise Shardlow has invited Nutmeg Designs to be the feature artist at her Open Studio in Elkins Park. I will be there with mosaic pendants and a selection of other mosaics, and suncatchers by Stratoz. Her studio is an immersion in color with poppy red walls and anyone with an earthy orange living room is a Color Soul Sister! Denise has been busy making capes in a rainbow of colors out of scraps of melton wool.
Mark your calendars for Friday Evening August 18th, 2017 from 5:30-9:00. There will be wine from ONE Hope Wine with samples of their wines and a mission to benefit charities.
310 Sterling Road
Elkins Park, PA 19027
See Denise’s ERNSTdottir site for directions.
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.
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.
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.
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.