Nat Moraga's El Parque de los Azulejos

Leading Community Mosaics with Natasha Moraga and Carrie Strope

CoExist In Kindness Mosaic Project, mosaic, Workshop

Leading Community Mosaics
August 17-21, 2021
Steelton, PA

Some experience with mosaics is helpful, but not necessary; all skill levels are welcome!

Nat Moraga’s “El Parque de los Azulejos” in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

In this 5 day workshop, learn the methods that Natasha Moraga uses for creating mosaics in her Tile Park “El Parque de los Azulejos” in Puerto Vallarta, as well as considerations for creating elements in advance to incorporate into your community mosaic. Learn how large-scale mosaics come together from brainstorming and design, materials acquisitions and selection, putting together a press release and organizing a culminating reception, leading a team of inexperienced hands, and methods for teaching tools and techniques to both adults and children.

Workshop participants in Nat’s three day workshops in Puerto Vallarta.

While brainstorming and discussing ideas for themes, we will begin by making components for the wall on mesh while we learn about how this mosaic came to be and design considerations of the commission and how a theme was chosen. Some of the components will be incorporated into your section of the wall, and some will go home with you to inspire your next installation.

Participants at Lincoln Maker Fair design and build a mosaic on mesh.

After sketching the design for your section of the wall, we will begin laying tile, mirror and glass and then working with community members, you’ll have your own team to lead in completing your portion of the wall. (We will work with you in leading the teams, so you won’t be alone!)

After the workshop, you are welcome to stay and continue working on the project and continue to practice leading small groups through the process while building your confidence in leading your own community mosaics.  We have a projected finish date of August 29-30.

Workshop participant leading community members in learning how to cut glass for the mosaic.

We will be working mainly outdoors and will have some tents for shade and rest, but you may want to bring a hat or sunscreen depending on weather.

Workshop participants finishing up a successful installation at the Tile Park!

What You Will Learn:

  • steps for facilitating a mosaic mural from start to finish
  • how to sketch out a cartoon and translate that to your substrate
  • how to cut glass, mirror and ceramic tiles
  • how to lead a group through a collaborative installation
  • materials sourcing, creating a budget and timeline
  • ideas for fundraising and budgeting tips, and finding a wall
  • considerations for proper substrate prep- how to economically mix your own grout from cement, sand and colorant (Learn a recipe for making your own cement grout that becomes just as structural as adhesive.)

Our host, Shawn Gold is famous for his hospitality and will be making sure we’re well fed with lunches, snacks, some libations and a couple dinners included. Make sure to let us know if you have any dietary restrictions, so we can plan for those.

Natasha Moraga‘s workshops are normally 3 day affairs in Puerto Vallarta, where students are led through the process of creating a mosaic on a public bench, table or pillar. She trained with Isaiah Zagar of Philadelphia Magic Gardens fame, and blossomed that technique into what is becoming a mosaic mural city of Puerto Vallarta.

Carrie Strope specializes in working with students K-12 from design to completion of collaborative projects that adorn their schools. She is a certified Integrated Learning Specialist on the roster of teaching artists for the Nebraska Arts Council Artists in Schools & Communities.

CoExist Gallery has a torchworking studio where students will get to see demonstrations of how some of the items that have been sent to us by flameworkers were created.

Workshop Cost: $725, includes lunches, snacks, some libations and a couple of dinners

Contact Us to Reserve Your Space!

Email coexistinkindness@gmail.com for more information or to reserve your spot.

CoExist in Kindness Global Mosaic Mural Project – Steelton, PA

CoExist In Kindness Mosaic Project, mosaic

My involvement with the CoExist in Kindness Global Mosaic Mural Project began in the Lobby Bar at the Society of American Mosaic Artists’ Annual conference. The hotel lobby bar is where all of the after hours chatter regarding the mounds of inspiration provided by the days’ classes, tours or lectures make social connections stronger. The networking is invaluable, and this year’s virtual conference was no different, except that more than just the usual suspects could be found hanging out after hours in the bar area at the conference venue.

Hosting the virtual Lobby Bar hangout at the end of the day…looks convincing, doesn’t it?!?

While it was mostly mosaic artists and conference attendees, there was a smattering of visitors who were curious about the notifications they received about a “Lobby Bar room.” It was specifically one of these chance encounters that spurred on an idea that began to come together in Shawn Gold’s mind. He had visited Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and encountered some public mosaics that caught his attention.  He tracked down Natasha Moraga, the local mosaic artist highly inspired by a trip to Barcelona where she witnessed works of art by Gaudi and her formative training experience with Isaiah Zagar (the Philadelphia mosaic artist responsible for Philly’s Magic Gardens).

Carrie at a two day intensive Isaiah Zagar workshop at the SAMA conference in Philadelphia, 2015.

Natasha’s work is community based, street art, meant to be accessible and enjoyable to all, largely funded by sponsors, and her goal is to add to the unique aesthetic of the community to beautify run-down public areas making them more attractive as not only tourist destinations, but as local gathering spaces.

Shawn Gold found Nat Moraga working at her mosaic park during a public workshop.

Nat’s latest project, El Parque de los Azulejos (https://www.tileparkpv.com/) is what caught Shawn’s eyes when he was visiting Puerto Vallarta. She explained her work and pricing for sponsorships, and Shawn’s enthusiastic vision kept growing.

He saw the mosaic bench spaces that were available and went back every night to look at benches, sitting and looking at the space multiple times. Nat’s work in the community convinced him that he wanted to play a larger part by sponsoring one of the larger monolithic sculptures that are part of Nat’s public mosaic workshops. Shawn connected deeply with the message “when we all work together, we make this a more beautiful place” and wanted to contribute to the work Nat is doing in her community.

Shawn adding tiles to a bench at El Parque de los Azulejos

Fast forward a few months to the chance encounter in the Lobby Bar. Shawn had been percolating this idea of bringing community mosaics closer to home, in the small town of Steelton, PA where he lives and owns a small business.

His business, the CoExist Glass Gallery is on the historical Front Street which has always been the town’s social center. He is opening a coffee shop soon, helping to organize a local farmer’s market in the lot across the street and hosting a Mardi Gras in July party before finishing the summer off with the installation of the CoExist in Kindness Global Mosaic Mural Project. Shawn endeavors to bring not only economic stimulus to the community, but community members closer together with the family friendly events that he hosts. The non-profit CoExist Alliance will also be sponsoring after school arts and mentoring programs in Steelton and other communities, and I’m excited to be a part of the team bringing the mosaic project to life!

CoExist in Kindness Global Mosaic Project Calyx Glass

The Coexist in Kindness Mosaic Mural is a collaborative, community project inviting glass and mosaic artists worldwide to submit a piece for inclusion. The goal of the project is to create a colorful and inviting space for the celebration of community, as well as a gathering place to exchange ideas and celebrate. This is the flagship project for the Coexist Alliance dedicated to empowering community through arts and education. This episode details the beginnings of the project and the details for submissions for anyone wanting to participate.

The installation of the project will occur in late August, but the initial stages of the collaboration have begun. We are putting out a call to artists who would like to be involved with the project by submitting a mosaic flower on mesh, fused glass flowers or garden themed items (think small bugs and garden creatures), or blown or sculpted glass objects for the magical mosaic garden that will live on the exterior of the gallery wall on Front Street.  

One of the flowers I have put together for the project already. There’s a flame-worked lensed, borosilicate eye cane in the middle of the cut stained glass mosaic on mesh.

We’ve started a facebook group, (and an instagram feed) if you’d like to join or follow to see the progress, share photos of your submissions, or learn more about the process.

Thank you for participating in the project! Please have your submissions in the mail by July 1, 2021.
Image source attribution: Abstract vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

Submission guidelines for flowers on mosaic mesh:
-any size up to about 8″-10″

Suitable materials are:
-glass and mirror are suitable for use

If using tile or ceramics, please remember that Steelton, PA is located in an area that gets winters, with a freeze/thaw cycle. Tile or ceramics should be high fire and pass the no water absorption test. (That’s my fancy term for it. If the unglazed tile surface absorbs water, then it isn’t suitable for outdoor applications in areas where it freezes.)

To do this test: Turn the tile over to the back side and put a drop of water on the unglazed surface. If the water beads up on the surface, the tile is suitable to use. If the water absorbs into the piece, then it will absorb water and possibly freeze and crumble after installation.

If you have questions as to whether something you want to include in your mosaic is suitable, ask in the comments section, and I’ll be happy to help you decide!

It will be easiest for you to pack and ship smaller pieces. We’re asking that you build your creation on fiberglass mesh, and there are two resource videos you can watch to get an idea of how you’d like to proceed in putting your piece together. (Remember that if you use transparent glass, the mesh will be visible behind the glass!)

Building on mesh without using thinset, and packaging your project for mailing: https://youtu.be/ZsslWNbV-O0

No Days Mosaic Mesh is a no mess way to make a mosaic submission. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked with the No Days Adhesives folks for 9 years before purchasing the product line in January, 2020. I really love the product, otherwise I wouldn’t support it, so thank you for your support of my small business!)

If you prefer to build your mosaic using mesh and thinset, Jennifer Kuhns has prepared a great video showing that process for a public mosaic project she is working on:

Submission guidelines for fused glass items:
-any size up to about 4″-6″
-theme: flowers, bugs or garden creatures

Fused glass flowers and cabochons will adhere to the wall if they have a flat back, if they are dimensional, they shouldn’t stick out from the wall more than one inch.

If you have questions about a design you’re thinking about or wondering if something fits the theme, feel free to ask in the comments below 🙂

Submission guidelines for blown and sculpted glass:
-any size up to about 4-6″
-theme: flowers and garden themed items

Let your imagination run wild,  BUT for ease of installation and to ensure the longevity of the mural, flat backed items work best.

If you would like to submit a marble, we can use it, but it will need to be cut or ground to have a flat bottom (if you don’t have access to the equipment, we will be able to make the adjustments on site, so if you have a particular idea, please make a note when you send in your submission)

3D objects should not be thicker than 1 inch for stability. If you have a marvelous idea and want some clarification or want to discuss how to incorporate it into the installation, please ask!

Thank you to everyone who is interested in participating! This will be a really dynamic mosaic mural with all different kinds of submissions bridging various techniques in the mosaic and glass communities. I’m incredibly excited to see it come together! Our installation day will be in late August, so we’re asking folks to please get your submissions in the mail by July 1, 2021 so there is plenty of time for them to arrive at the destination and for documentation and initial design considerations for pre-installation to occur.

Address the submissions to:
CoExist Mural Project
310 S Front St
Steelton, PA 17113 USA

purple candy heart xoxo

Candy Hearts Ring Dishes

Commission, fused glass
Candy Heart Ring Dishes, 4″ x 3″ x 1/2″, fused glass

Surprise your love with a special gift carrying a thoughtful and romantic proposal with a candy heart dish as to commemorate your special day.

Customized messages available for a 100% unique gift.

Let the candy heart dish speak for you with a concise and to the point message, or flirtatious suggestions.

Vegan, Cruelty Free and Gluten Free 😉
Won’t fade – all glass, easy to clean
Compact so it can be stored next to the sink, in the office or on the bedside nightstand to keep treasured mementos near to their heart.

Browse my etsy shop for available candy hearts, or get in touch for a heart dish specially made for you!

stained glass mosaic of flower

100 Moments in Mosaic – Season 3

mosaic

For Season three of the 100 Moment in Mosaics project, I decided to explore the strip technique that I used for the background of the flower pattern from last year’s submission. It is a slow and very tedious process involving first cutting the strips to the correct size with the mosaic nippers, and then grinding down each piece to get just the right angle for a proper fit. It’s definitely a technique I’d like to explore more.

stained glass mosaic of flower
“Paper Pieced Mosaic” stained glass and tinted mortar 6″ x 6″ 2019

I first remember being wow-ed by this way of laying stained glass strips while in Murano for the Glass Art Society conference. The lovely textile inspired and pillowy pieces beckoned to me from the walls of Berengo Gallery. I was so entranced, I must have missed the artist’s name. (I’m still searching and will update here when I discover the talented person behind these wonderful mosaics! UPDATE: With help from a friend on the island, I can credit the artist, Dusciana Bravura.)

From the SAMA website:

The One Hundred Moments in Mosaic project is a non-juried collection of work representing the full spectrum of SAMA’s diverse and richly creative membership. For a third season, an open call was issued to members to create a 6” x 6” mosaic, using materials of their choice and original design.

The work of seasoned professionals is displayed alongside enthusiastic newcomers to the mosaic making process, culminating in 100+ moments of life rendered in mosaic by artists from all over the world.

This collection was presented on October 31 – November 3, 2019, at the Sculpture Objects Functional Art & Design Expo in Chicago, Illinois at the famed Navy Pier.

The collection will be on view here on the SAMA Website with select works available for sale beginning December 1, 2019.  

The collection will also travel to Tucson, Arizona for installation in conjunction with the American Mosaic Summit, May 12 – 17, 2020.


My first season participating in the 100 Moments in Mosaic project was Season 2, which was on display at SOFA Chicago and the Parthenon Museum in Nashville, TN for the SOFA conference. “Applique Mosaic” is pictured below.

stained glass mosaic flower
“Applique Mosaic” stained glass and 24 kt gold paint 6″ x 6″ 2018
glass flowers and leaves

Girl Scouts artVenture 2019 GSAG Collaboration

fused glass, girl scouts

For the upcoming 2020 artVenture program, I was honored to be the featured artist for collaborations! I enjoy being a part of the artVenture program because I believe it helps girls learn how to work together collaboratively and creatively, helping to develop crucial skills for a quickly changing world. No matter what career choices the girls make, being able to creatively problem solve and communicate well with each other are important life lessons.

I have been working with a different group or groups of Girl Scouts going on nine years now, and I like to work on new and different projects when we meet at Architectural Glassarts. Some of the projects can be repeated with different results, but I like to challenge myself with new ways of evolving the process. This year, I decided to see how the girls would do at translating bouquets of flowers into glass. I had a personal goal of getting on the torch and using some new tools that I picked up in Murano during the Glass Art Society conference in 2018. The girls would create the fused glass focal flowers, and I would create the filler flowers and leaves. (Did I mention I also have a degree in Horticulture and took some Floriculture and flower arranging classes in college?)

Timelapse video from the collaboration day

It was a whirlwind two hours that we met, and I demonstrated how to safely work with glass, then the girls worked at cutting and piecing together flowers to go in the kiln for fusing several pieces into one.

After the flowers were fused for the first time, they had to go into the kiln a second time to take their shape. (The temperature at which glass melts together is higher than the temperature at which it starts to “slump” or fall around a ceramic mold to take a three dimensional form.)

Once the flowers are fused together and have taken shape, it’s time to build the armature for the sculpture and mount them. After a trip to multiple hardware stores to find just the right pieces and parts, I was able to solder the armature together and attach the flowers.

At this point, the flower sculptures look pretty naked. So, summoning my floral arranging days, I gathered some glass and hopped on the torch. While I was in Murano for the Glass Art Society conference in 2018, I picked up some tools from a famous and high quality glass tool maker shop, Carlo Dona; specifically a bell flower mold. (I love the shape of these flowers, which would make great jewelry, as well, which I think is what most folks actually use them for. )

After a couple of sessions on the torch, I had a collection of smaller leaves and flowers that I could arrange around the larger flowers to fill in the space and really make the fused glass flowers stand out! I can’t wait for the girls to see our bouquets hanging this spring for the only fundraising event for the Girl Scout Spirit of Nebraska. Proceeds from the event support statewide programming and a financial assistance fund to provide opportunities for more girls to participate in fun leadership activities, like artVenture!

I’m excited to share an interview I did with Renae about the glass projects I’ve worked on with the Girl Scouts during the artVenture program, and then Girl Scout Annaliese shares the highlights of her 6 years in various artVenture collaborations.

From the ArtVenture FAQs:

“artVenture is an annual event where small groups of girls are matched with artists in their communities. Together, they create a piece of art from conception to completion. Through this project, girls learn a new art medium or technique, work closely with an artist in their studio, and get to know other girls interested in the same art form. Girls also make a small piece of art to take home as a keepsake. Participating girls and their families are invited to a reception, where they can view the collaborations on display and celebrate their contribution.”

Lincoln Luminary Award

Commission, fused glass
Fused glass panel created for the Lincoln Luminary Award honorees.
Fused glass panel inspired by Jun Kaneko’s “Ascent” in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska

The Luminary Award was created with kiln formed glass. After drawing out the design and selecting glass colors, the glass was hand cut and pieced together in several layers and dammed and fired in the kiln. After firing, the piece was sandblasted and cold worked to recognize the award recipients.

The Lincoln Luminary Award is presented by the Mayor to one or two Lincoln residents recognized for their contributions to the community, folks who “who quietly do good work on a daily basis.

The award ceremony typically accompanies the Winter Lights festivities such as a tree lighting ceremony, a choir singing carols, cookies and hot chocolate, and sometimes Santa and Mrs. Claus drop in to visit.

“Winter Lights is an annual event to mark the change of seasons and to celebrate the people in our community who light up our lives and make our City a great place to live,” says former Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler in a news release on Nov 22, 2017.

City officials involved in the award selection process were hoping to echo the look of the Tower Square in downtown Lincoln, which was designed by internationally acclaimed, Omaha-based artist Jun Kaneko. The accent of the square is the glass tower, “Ascent”.

Jun Kaneko Studio shares a time lapse video of the Tower Square during construction, Oct 14, 2014

Past winners of the Luminary Award:
2016 Randy Hawthorne
2017 Dennis and Nancy Carlson
2018 Jim McKee and Linda Hillegass

Fused Glass Window

Girl Scouts artVenture 2016

girl scouts
Fused Glass Window
“Abduction Hour” 2016 12″ x 12″ Jessica, Megan & Rhianna

For this year’s artVenture workshops, I invited Daisies and Brownies to the studio for one session and Juniors and Cadets in for another session. During the studio visit, I like to bring them into Architectural Glassarts so they can see a real, working studio.

While we wait for everyone to arrive, I like to start a casual conversation with the girls that are there to find out where they go to school, how old they are, learn their names and hopefully open up the conversation so that they can make new friends and start getting comfortable with other girls that they may not already know. I’ve got a variety of ice breaker games that are derived from drama activities to help the start the fun and get the creative juices flowing.

Fused Glass Window
“Amazing Life of a Girl Scout” 2016 12″ x 12″ Kyleigh, Steph & Morgan

It’s important that they be comfortable enough with each other to be able to communicate and share their ideas because they need to collaborate on a piece of art that will go up for auction in a few months at the annual artVenture gala.

 In years past, I’ve brought in images of famous artwork for the girls to get inspired by and recreate in glass. This year, I brought in images for the older girls to look at and be inspired by. But, I asked them to put a name on what was inspiring them about the particular images they chose. Then, we divided into groups based on the images that everyone felt drawn to, and each group discussed the ideas that they had for subject matter for the collaborative fused glass art piece. Some groups were on exactly the same page, while others had a more give and take design process. The 12″ x 12″ pieces were made by the Juniors and Cadets.

Fused Glass Window
“Sunset Trio” 2016 12″ x 12″ Haylee, Carly & Hailey

With the Daisies and Brownies, we talked about symbols and their meanings instead of looking at artwork. Each group came up with a list of symbols that they wanted to work on. Once an symbol was agreed upon, they sketched out their ideas and then those sketches were blown up to fill a 12″ x 12″ paper.

Each group learned how to safely cut glass using mosaic nippers. Then, they learned how they needed to fill in their design and add bridges, making sure all the pieces overlapped so they would fuse together in the kiln.

Fused Glass Window
“Prairie Sunset” 2016 12″ x 12″ Abigail, Sierra & Faith

After making their collaborative pieces, I like to make sure that all the girls get to make something to keep that will remind them of their experience, generally this is a pendant or a suncatcher of some sort.

Stained Glass Window Nebraska Landscape

Nebraska Landscape Commissioned Lightbox Window

Commission, fused glass, mosaic, stained glass
Stained Glass Window Nebraska Landscape
Detail of fused glass hills, mosaic flowers, painted church and cloud

During my last visit to Flowing Stone Art Gallery in Beatrice, Nebraska, I was able to slip into the public library to see my piece installed. The remodeling of the library has taken a bit longer than planned, so the piece has been waiting to go up for awhile. It looks so great on the wall, all lit up in it’s own framed light box. I heard that the family who commissioned it was all really excited to see it and happy with how it turned out. It’s a memorial piece for their father, and they all agreed that he would have been very happy with it.

The window is a combination of techniques in glass. The whole thing is leaded together in the traditional leaded glass technique. The cloud and the church are painted on with stained glass paints that are fired in the kiln to be permanent. The flowers are glass on glass (GOG) mosaics, glued and grouted, then leaded into the panel. The landscape glass is all fused glass, with several bits of glass tacked together to make it layered and textured.

Stained Glass Window Nebraska Landscape
“Nebraska Landscape” Lightbox Stained Glass Window
mosaic, leaded glass, painted glass, fused glass
48″ x 48″ x 6″
2015

To view the window in person, visit the newly remodeled Beatrice Public Library.

Girl Scouts artVenture 2015

fused glass, girl scouts, mosaic
Beaded Fused Glass Suncatchers
2015 Fused Glass Suncatchers with Daisies & Brownies 6″ x 18″

This year’s projects were a bit of a departure from the norm, as I wanted to experiment with a few different techniques to see how the girls interpreted them. I was not left disappointed!

The Daisy and Brownies made fused glass flowers to be incorporated into fused glass sun catcher / windchime pieces, while the Juniors worked together to make glass on glass mosaics with the theme and title of their choosing. Below, the finished pieces are: “Love,” “Hope,” “Fire,” and “Fish.” Very elemental and encouraging!

Stained Glass Mosaic Windows
2015 Mosaic Windows 12″ round
Fused Glass Window in the style of Kandinsky

Girl Scouts artVenture 2014

fused glass, girl scouts
Alexandra, Cayleigh, Eliza and Eliza with Carrie at Architectural Glassarts for the Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska artVenture collaboration.

This year’s artVenture collaboration took place once again at Architectural Glassarts in Lincoln, Nebraska. For the collaborative pieces, the girls picked a master’s painting to interpret with fused glass. Check out this great article in L Magazine to read all about it and see more pictures!

Each year for the Girl Scouts artVenture collaborations, girls of all ages come to create together in a working studio using glass as a medium for a work of art that will be auctioned off during the annual fundraiser for the Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska.

For this year’s collaborations, the girls learned how to make their own custom frit blends by crushing glass to use as “paints.” After their collaborative pieces were ready for the kiln, each girl took time to design a piece for themselves. This year, the girls made a pendant and suncatcher to keep.