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