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The Group of Seven’s J.E.H. MacDonald: His Mosaic Connection

DTD_0924r 1922 J E H MacDonald Mountain Ash (Rowanberries)
J.E.H. MacDonald Mountain Ash (Rowanberries), 1922, via Chris Robart on Flickr.

The Group of Seven was a revelation to me as a girl in grade one, in Canada, with an art teacher who showed us the brushstrokes, the colors and shapes distinguishing each of the painters in the group.  The Group of Seven wanted to paint their own country rather than looking to England.  I recognized the Mountain Ash in this painting by J.E.H. Macdonald, because there were several on my street in Edmonton.  I admired the red-orange berries, and the narrow finger-like groups of leaves.  The berries weren’t for humans to eat, but the Cedar Waxwings would come in the winter, ravenously hungry and swarm the Mountain Ash until the berries were gone.

Toronto Art Deco
Mosaic by J.E.H. MacDonald. Toronto Art Deco at the Concourse Building(1928), Toronto, via Sandra Cohen-Rose on Flickr.

As a mosaic artist, I had a bit of excitement in discovering that J.E.H. MacDonald designed a mosaic mural for the Concourse Building in Toronto.  The building is being demolished by new owners, but the mosaics are being preserved.  I am partial to mosaic rainbows, and loved seeing one in MacDonald’s mural.

From the Attic: Peace and Happiness from my Grade 1 Teacher

Dear Margaret: Encouragement from my Grade 1 TeacherPeace and Happiness

My grade 1 teacher, Mrs. Peggy Juchli, wrote this message at the end of the 1973 school year.   I have a memory of Mrs. Juchli encouraging me to make art, but reading her words, when I found this journal in the attic a few weeks ago, was a revelation.   Mrs. Juchli introduced me to the Group of Seven, and taught me how to observe the brushstrokes, and all the magic that artists can create with paint.

Everyday we would write in our journals, in Edmonton Public Shools Practice Books.  My first grade entries begin with crayon drawings and then I began to add words, and Mrs. Juchli would leave comments and answer my questions.  My love of drawing continued into grade 2 and 3, because all my entries had illustrations.   When in later grades I didn’t have a journal anymore, art was redefined by teachers who wanted me to trace things, and I was not good at tracing.  By Grade 7, when art class was an option, it never occurred to me that I could choose to take it.  I believed I wasn’t good at art.

But I still loved art.  I took the bus to the Edmonton Art Gallery in 1982 to see an exhibit of Sybil Andrews‘ Linocuts.  I was 15, and mesmerized by the prints, by yet another way to observe the world.  I am grateful that I had Mrs. Juchli’s exhortation to love art, and enjoy it as I did then.  It was over 30 years before I searched for an art medium that I could practice, and with it has come peace and happiness.  Thank you Mrs. Juchli.

Who would you like to thank for encouragement?


25 Random Art Things About Me


A Custom House Number Inspired by Totem Poles and Emily Carr

Blue Green House Number by Nutmeg Designs
Custom Mosaic House Number 1670 in Teal and Rusty Red by Nutmeg Designs, 12×8″ on slate.

I am grateful for clients who ask for colors in such a vivd and detailed way, and then set me loose to translate this into glass mosaic. Stratoz’s Flickr friend Ghir commissioned a house number for a Christmas gift for her sister.  She described the house and her vision:

It is a bluish grey with darker charcoal grey roof, with dark teal and white trim. Inside, they’ve decorated with many items from Alaska trips, so the colors on the outside of their house remind me of weathered totem poles. I was thinking white numbers on a dark teal or teal and blue mixed field, maybe with contrasting details of dull red or yellow for the totem pole idea. . .

This made me think of one of my favorite artists, the Canadian Emily Carr(1871-1945), and some paintings from Emily Carr: An Introduction to her Life and Work by Anne Newlands.  Emily Carr made totem poles a central part of her art, and in 1912 visited over 15 coastal First Nations villages in Northern British Columbia, drawing and painting the carvings.  The watercolor that I remembered from Newlands’ book was House Post, Tsatsinuchomi, BC, with the weathered blue-green and bits of red.  Working on this house number commission was a delight, and several other clients have asked to have those colors in their signs.

Emily Carr, House Posts, Tsatsinuchomi, B.C., 1912 watercolour and graphite on paper 55.4 cm x 76.6 cm National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Purchased 1928 3542
Emily Carr, House Posts, Tsatsinuchomi, B.C., 1912
watercolour and graphite on paper
55.4 cm x 76.6 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Purchased 1928


Order your House Number here at Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop.

Emily Carr, Group of Seven and Canadian Art Love Pinterest Board

25 Random Art Things About Me


The 25 Random Things Meme has been circulating, and I decided it would be fun to share one about my art:

  1. In the first grade I wanted to be an artist, but in the third grade, the teacher’s idea of art was to trace things, and I wasn’t good at tracing and decided I couldn’t be an artist.
  2. I took the bus to the Edmonton Art Musuem at age 14, and saw the block prints of Sybil Andrews and fell in love with the marks that wood cuts make.
  3. The social studies teacher in Jr. High was also the art teacher, and I sat in social studies class, wishing I could make art, but never thinking I could.
  4.  I taught myself to draw with Betty Edwards Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and was amazed, because I always one of those “I can’t draw” people.
  5. From the first time I saw a mosaic up close at the Wernersville Jesuit Retreat Center, by Hildreth Meiere, I knew I wanted to make them, but I lived in an apartment.  I made collages in the dining room, but bits of glass are different than bits of paper.
  6. When we bought a house 5 years ago, I got a room all to myself as a studio.  I never had my own room before!
  7. I love little tiny pieces of glass, and save off-cuts in candy tins, sorted by color.
  8. My husband makes original stained glass and between the two of us, we can’t have bare feet in the house.  It’s hard at times to attribute the blame as to who tracked a glass fragment into the hallway, but we always try.
  9. Orange is my favorite color, which surprises me, since I never liked in the past.
  10. I took a workshop on Composition and Design with Nita Leland on Long Beach Island in NJ in 2004, and it was the first time I’d ever driven that far, or taken an overnight art class.  It was adventure!
  11. I found a bowling ball at a yard sale in my neighborhood and brought it home to mosaic. Boy was it heavy walking those few blocks and then up the stairs to my studio.
  12. I like making abstract pieces, or those inspired by patterns like fabric, flowers, paisley, quilts.
  13. I spend far more time in hardware stores than I ever imagined–grout, glue, gloves.
  14. I went to Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program, for a week long class on Mosaic making.  It was like a paradise summer camp for artists, with food cooked by a restaurant chef.
  15. I love to go to quilt shows for inspiration.  People ask if I’m a quilter because I use quilt patterns in my work, and I tell them no, but my husband is!  That usually throws them.
  16. My mother sent me some dishes that belonged to my great grandmother that had broken in transit, and I was thrilled to be able to transform the fragments into a whole.  I am named Margaret after my great grandmother.
  17. Almost every window in our house has stained glass suncatchers made by my husband, and we also collect art tiles and paper cut art.
  18. For my 40th birthday, I went to the Roycroft Inn, site of the original Roycrofters artisan guild, and took tours of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and checked out the Louis Sullivan
  19. architecture in Buffalo, NY, a true “art geek” birthday.
  20. I live less than 1/2 hour from Henry Chapman Mercer’s Moravian Tileworks and his fabulous tile filled concrete castle of a house in Doylestown, Fonthill.
  21. I keep my tesserae in deli containers, stacked in drawers of an Ikea closet organizer.  I call it my “tower of tesserae.”
  22. I had to start selling my work, or there would’ve been mosaics up to the ceiling.
  23. I tried many mediums before finding mosaic: ceramics, drawing, watercolor, collage, and an unforunate experience with cake decorating.
  24. I had a 1st grade teacher who brought reproductions of art by the Canadian Group of Seven into the classroom, and I was fascinated by how different brushstrokes could make leaves or snow.
  25. I order Weldbond Glue–a spage age adhesive and Canadian too!–by the gallon
  26. I am incredibly blessed to be able to do something I love, and make art.

Related Posts:

Pilgrimage to Walls Speak:  The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meire

The Ignatian Spirit and the Mosaics of Hildreth Meiere

Weldbond:  A Mosaic Artist’s Friend


What is your earliest art memory?

Lawren Harris 1

I was 6 years old, and my first grade teacher Mrs. Juchli, brought rental art prints from the Edmonton Art Gallery for us to see.  The prints were from paintings by the Group of Seven, some of the first Canadian artists to actually paint Canada, their own landscape.  I was fascinated by the different forms the paint could take, that Lawren Harris’ Mount Lefroy embodied smoothness, while Tom Thomson’s trees were alive with leaves of dabbed paint.  This was a new sensation, this visual language reaching in through my eyes and into my heart.

What is your first memory of encountering art?