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Joy is a Way of Living

Yellow and Green Mosaic Frame by Margaret Almon for an original painting by Charles Sheely.

This month,
Remember that joy is more
than just “staying positive.”
Joy is a way of living.
A way of looking for Light in the midst of it all.
Joy is transformational and contagious.
Joy can be shared through action. (Morgan Harper Nichols)

This commission has layers of creativity, and I was thrilled to see the finished piece! The client created the painting, with a vase from Turning True Studios, and a daffodil, the favorite flower of the recipient. I hadn’t made a frame for an original painting before, and it was an honor. The client wanted yellow and greens and for me to just “do my thing and enjoy.”

This was daunting at first, but focusing on the painting and responding to it guided me much better than listening to doubts. Joy being shared through action. There is much in 2020 to scatter focus, or to conversely hyperfocus. Uncertainty is painful for human beings.

More from Morgan Harper Nichols:

This month,
Even if it’s in a small way,
find freedom in letting go.
Dare to trust there is room for courage, surrender, and change,
no matter what is still unknown.

Word of the Year 2020: Movement

Movement Collage: Word of the Year 2020I was searching for my Word for 2020, most likely in bed, I realized that once I got on Instagram, I could lay there indefinitely. I decided if I wanted to be on Instagram, I had to lay on the floor. My time on my gadget plummeted. And as I looked for information about how to get back up off the floor, I discovered the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman, particularly her books Move Your DNA and Dynamic Aging.

I was the child who read all the time, and adult who sits a lot. Fortunately, Bowman argues movement and exercise are not the same thing, and any time you move an under-moved part of yourself, no matter how tiny, you nourish your cells. One to practice right now: looking into the distance, either out the window or on walks, because those eye muscles are seldom used when we spend time on computers, reading or inside. Fortunately, my studio has windows and looking away from my close up work refreshes me and my view of what I am creating!



Breathing in the Light

Breathe Mosaic Word Sign
Breathe Mosaic in Pink and Tie-Dye by Nutmeg Designs. Glass on slate, 12×6 inches.

Consider this question from Shawna Lemay, Is it possible, even, that the light of the world, carefully observed, enters us, enters our breathing, and even our souls?

With this Breathe sign, I discovered that my new lamp was not illuminating enough of my work table, focusing light in a small area, and creating glare in its path and shadows all around. Light is meant to be shared.

But even without the right lamp, the intersection of light and breath is still strong when the light catches the iridescence and the shimmer makes me happy.

Breathing in the light is a way to come into your own being, a reminder that you belong to yourself, to the light, that you exist in the light, and because of light. And once you have drawn it into you, and I’m talking about the real light you observe and are warmed by, as well as a more spiritual type of light, you are able to share this with those who are struggling, you can inspire others who might be inhabiting a darker, more shadowy place. (Shawna Lemay, Transactions with Beauty)

This Breathe went across the street to our neighbors this week. They have commissioned pieces over the years, starting with their house number when they were able to move back in after a fire. This was a classic Christmas story, where they both asked us to make a house number as a surprise gift.

Commission your Breathe

Glorious Contrast: Quiltmaker’s Color Workshop Meets Mosaic

Around the Square by Margaret Almon, glass and ceramic on wood, 8×8 inches.
I remember reading that color gets all the glory but contrast does the heavy lifting! This mosaic was inspired by a pattern from The Quiltmaker’s Color Workshop from Weeks Ringle and incorporates some broken dishes from my great grandmother Margaret’s china—the feathery white and amber pattern. My mother was so pleased that I could use the broken pieces in my art. This one hangs in my studio.
Striped Pendants from Margaret Almon

Color as Motivation

Rainbow Tracker and Colorful Pendants
Rainbow Tracker and Colorful Pendants by Margaret Almon.

I am very partial to orange, but really I never met color I didn’t like in art making. I noticed as I had these pendants sitting on my bullet journal tracker that there was definitely a similarity! I am highly color motivated, and getting to color a square after doing a task helps me get things done. The narrow striped pendants are a new shape for me, and I will be bringing a new crop to the North Penn Holiday Market November 17th, 2018. Just 1/2 inch wide, and 2 inches long and full of color. Send me a message if you want to know when they will be in the Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop.

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.

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.