The CoExist in Kindness Mosaic Mural Project in Steelton, PA has come to a close! CoExist Gallery owner Shawn Gold brought together lead artists Carrie Strope and Natasha Moraga to team up with the community and many volunteers who learned how to make mosaics. Here are some of the finished mural photos. If you look closely you can see the submissions sent by members of the global glass and mosaic community.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Update? We’re still accepting submissions! Installation begins August 16th!
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!)
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! We’re accepting submissions until we begin installation on August 16th!
Address the submissions to: CoExist Mural Project 310 S Front St Steelton, PA 17113USA
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?)
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.”
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.
This year’s artVenture took place once again at Architectural Glassarts in Lincoln, Nebraska. Thanks again to Rod Scott for his generosity in offering up his space! We started out talking about how glass is made, how it comes to the glass shop, how to cut it and what happens after it goes in the kiln. After the girls piece together the glass to create their design, the plates go into the kiln for an initial fusing that makes all the separate pieces into one. Then, the flat pieces go back in the kiln to get slumped into a mold. When, they come out of the kiln after the second firing, they have taken on the shape of the mold. Each group was given glass that was pre-cut to match the molds on their table. We broke into groups and started brainstorming themes for our pieces.
Kaity, Jessie and Hallie created “Cold Blaze,” a combination of an underwater scene under a blazing sunset. Can you see the fish, turtles and sea plants?
Belle, Emma and Carrie came up with a seasonal theme to go with the four molds they were presented. Clever, huh?
Paige, Anna and Hallie created an abstracted sunset for their piece…
…which leaves the last and largest group. This group of 6 were given glass blanks, but no mold. Generally, I coach the girls as they make their collaborative pieces which are donated to the artVenture auction. Additionally, I submit a piece of my work to be auctioned. This year, I wanted to try something different for the last piece. So, the girls made the blanks that would be cut up to become a larger panel that was pieced together and framed by me. I wasn’t sure how they would react to the suggestion that they would make something specifically so it could be cut apart again. However, I think the fact that they don’t get to keep the collaborative piece anyway really helps. (All the girls do get the chance to make fused glass pieces to take home. This year they all made 4″-6″ plates and jewelry pieces.)
I absolutely love how the panel turned out and once again all the girls made fantastic fused glass art!
This year’s group of Girl Scouts met me at Architectural GlassArts again for our fused glass collaborations. Girls age 8-16 years old participated, with most of the girls being in the 10-12 year old range.
After talking safety (how to cut glass, how to handle glass, wearing safety goggles while cutting), we discussed different ideas for themes of the plates. The girls divided into groups based on which mold they liked (and, of course, who their friends were), then began talking about the theme and colors they would be using. They dug through my scraps of glass to find pieces to cover the clear glass blanks that were cut to the size of the mold.
I didn’t give them any rules for constructing the plates, knowing that I may have to tweak the firing schedules a little. But, thankfully, three of the groups did two (glass) layer plates, which are easy-peasy to fire in the kiln.
And, as I had access to Architectural GlassArts big coffin kiln, I was able to fire all of the projects in one firing (except for “A Billion Sunsets” – read on). The “Big Kiln” measures approximately 30″ x 48″ and is able to accommodate a LOT of glass!
After the girls finished working on their collaborative pieces, they started making pendants & sun catchers that they get to keep. The collaborative pieces will be auctioned off on April 29, 2012 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska. (For tickets, contact Jenny Cardwell at 402.875.4345 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Most of the pieces were fired to 1440º F, which in my home kiln is a tack fuse, but in the “Big Kiln” is a full fuse. So the textures in the plates was a bit softer than I was going for, but not a big deal.
And then… I knew I was going to have issues when firing “A Billion Sunsets.” This piece was piled high with glass that was 3/8″ thick in some spots, but 1/2″ thick in others.
I wanted to full fuse the piece so that it had no more texture, but tons of depth! When you full fuse glass (to 1480º-1500º Fahrenheit), it spreads to become 1/4″ thick. That means that “A Billion Sunsets” would have spread out across the shelf to be bigger than our mold. The solution to that problem is to dam the glass in the shape that you want it. However…
I forgot to put ThinFire (special paper that doesn’t totally burn up in the kiln) down on the shelf, which means that air got trapped under the base piece of glass we built on. When the outer edges of the glass sealed shut against the kiln shelf, there was nowhere for that air to go but up and through the layers of glass above it. (Remember that air expands as it gets hotter, so that bubble may have started out really small, but as the kiln got hotter, so did the little bubble!) So, “A Billion Sunsets” will now have a brilliant sun where I fill in with some sparkly dichroic and some more glass…
Sometimes when you fuse glass together, you aren’t able to clean it thoroughly…this can lead to “devitrification.” Devit is a scummy, dirty looking fog that doesn’t clean off of the glass. There are a few things you can do to fix it. Here is how I’m fixing it: Sandblasting.
Notice the lovely mask and ear protection I’ve got going on. The mask is to prevent any silica carbide (the blasting media) from entering my lungs. Silica carbide is a black, shiny sand that eats away the surface of the glass.
After sandblasting the glass, it needs more attention. Now, it’s got a matte appearance that also absorbs fingerprints. So, next the pieces will go in the kiln for a “fire polish” and “slump.” A fire polish will turn the matte finish back to a shiny surface. The slump gives the flat piece of glass a 3-dimensional shape, turning our glass into functional plates.
During the month of February, I was able to participate in a program with the Homestead Girl Scouts in Lincoln. I was once a Homestead Girl Scout myself, and would have loved to participated in an art program like this one! I met with a group of sixteen girls on a Friday night. I explained the process of glass art, a bit about the considerations to keep in mind while working with glass, some safety information, and then they started working. Together, we made four different collaborative pieces for the auction, then each girl got the chance to make a sun catcher and fused glass pendant to take home!
From the application…”artVenture is an annual art auction fundraiser for the Girl Scouts-Spirit of Nebraska Council. A unique feature of the artVenture auction is the collaborative artwork created by local artists and area Girl Scouts working together. Girls learn a new skill, see how an artist works and collaborate with the artist and other Girl Scouts to create a piece of art for the auction. Artists get to demonstrate their skill and technique, expose future artists to a new medium, share what it means to be a working artist and have fun in the process!”