A handy aspect of mosaic is that its basic elements are available pretty much anywhere. Where there’s a construction trade, there’s some version of cement mortar and substrates. And since anything that’s not nailed down can be processed into tesserae, where there’s a thrift shop, a beach, or a gravel parking lot, there’s material. Why then, for the love of dog, do I have a month’s worth of personal belongings strapped to my back so that I can check 50lbs of mosaic gear through to Ireland this morning for my residency in Listowel?

Because that 50lbs of gear is my security blanket. Because as much as I embrace and grow from (notice I don’t say “totally dig”) the exciting unknowns of working away from home, this girl needs her some knowns.

First off, the tool roll I mentioned in my last post. Seriously, if you dropped me anywhere on the globe with my Montolits and steel spatula, I could happily take care of business, but in the same way flick lighters get you to fire a lot quicker than two sticks rubbed together, it’s easier to have tweezers, a chisel, china markers, brushes, glass nippers, a martelina, and a screw-in hardie as well.

Of course Ireland has cement mortar, but such is the blessing and curse of 14 years of experimentation that I feel I’ve hit on the holy grail of mortars (Mapei’s Adisilex P10, for you mo geeks), and would rather hump 18lbs of it - and a couple liters of Keraply admix - halfway around the world than risk not having it or spending valuable studio time foraging for it. Then of course there’s the black pigment and some super colors; Ireland may inspire vividness!

And speaking of holy grails, 1/8” Wedi is just that for an easy-cut, rigid lightweight substrate when there’s no time for (or desire to spend mortar on) building them from mesh and mortar.  It isn’t as readily available as the thicker versions, so in went five or six square feet of that. Oh what the hell, let’s throw in some mesh yardage just in case...and a bunch of hanging hardware...

Thats how it started.  The vital basics. Then I got to thinking about continuing the experimentations I’ve been doing with epoxy putty, oil paints, and gilder’s paste wax, and in went several pounds of that. 

Quite a quantity of knowns, this. It’ll be a bitch to haul on and off the bus in Ireland, especially with that other 25lbs on my back (there will be no video) but it’s the foundation that’ll have me up and running as soon as I’ve nicked some gravel from the carpark behind St. Mary’s.



This week I’m packing for a month-long June residency at the Olive Stack Gallery in Listowell, Ireland. A crucial prep step is assembling my portable toolkit, without which I feel off balance, and with which I feel ready for anything, anywhere. I love the tool roll concept: each instrument carefully nestled into its own snug channel, then rolled together into an efficient unit that’s easily stashed and unfurled studio-ready wherever I land.

Along with my tools, this roll carries a legacy of kindness and inspiration that makes me smile with gratitude each time I tie its bow. Its original owner was JeanAnn Dabb, mosaic artist and historian, who succumbed to cancer in 2015, and it was gifted to me after her passing by her dear friend and mine, mosaic artist Sophie Druin. I didn’t know JeanAnn well, but I was lucky enough to have several conversations with her over the years at SAMA conferences, sharing our love of unique materials and abstract design. Jean was a brilliant academic and a gentle, soft-spoken, curious and thoughtful artist and human being. I came away from each of our conversations with a much larger view of the evolution of mosaic as well as a renewed inspiration to find deeper and more meaningful connections between materials and ideas.

Considered and meticulous as she was, I can imagine JeanAnn carefully selecting and placing her travel tools just as I’m doing today. I love that mine go all over the world wrapped in her sensibilities and Sophie’s generosity, both of which have made me readier for whatever comes my way.

For more on JeanAnn: A lovely look at several of JeanAnn’s works. A 4-minute audio interview that gives you a glimpse into JeanAnn’s beautiful mind. A short note on JeanAnn’s lasting contributions to the Society of American Mosaic Artists.



Pair Bonding, 2015
23” x 19”           
China, wire, glass, mortar, pigment

Pair Bonding, built completely from my paternal grandmother’s late 1930’s wedding china, has its roots in a contemplation of how the institution of marriage – human pair bonding – has evolved in the generations between her marriage (1937) and mine (1984) and beyond.  The changes have been significant: today we’re free to marry whomever we wish at whatever age/status we wish – or not marry at all – without (for the most part) risking ostracism, being fired from a job, or being thought defective. But what hasn’t seemed to change is our tendency to choose partners (whether we marry them or not) who are different from us, whose metaphorical knees and elbows hit us at odd places and require adjustment, attuning, a learned alignment.

All the pieces in this mosaic are paired and bound together with wire. In selecting the pairs, I looked for pieces that didn’t spoon together identically. It would have been much easier and less time consuming if each pair hadn’t required accommodation of one anothers’ “knees and elbows,” but perfect fits probably wouldn’t exhibit the hard-won grace that each of these unique pairs do.


Don’t Fence Me In

One of the things I love about using space as a framing device around mosaic is that it allows each line to meander out to an organic end. Don’t get me wrong, the constraint of a hard boundary can have lovely creative implications, but for the moment I’m reveling in the frayed edges of the wide open.


Detail of Primordia, my submission to Prix Picassiette 2018 (Chartres, October)

New and on view in Seattle through 4/30/18: Four Bars

My latest series, Four Bars, made solely of recycled glass from our local Bedrock Industries, is on view at the Bounty coffeehouse/bar at 45th & Stone Way N in Seattle through 4/30. Sip, savor, see.

Four Bars (details)   Each 40” x 9”   Recycled glass, wire, mortar, pigment  

Four Bars (details) 

Each 40” x 9” 

Recycled glass, wire, mortar, pigment  


The Pause that Refreshes


As a one-woman shop, my To-Do list is always longer than my day. I'm a multitasking machine, and triage is often my resting state. Yesterday was no exception, but I gave in to the temptation to park the yapping world outside the studio door, pick up my most recently acquired materials (blown glass salvage from Bedrock Industries!), and with no particular plan in mind make them quickly do something interesting.  I find this sort of exercise both freeing and challenging; it's refreshing but also sharpening my intuition, perception, skill. My Sudoku, as it were.



After 12 years, a facelift. Smoother, tighter, no stitches at the hairline.

Thank you Shannon Spires for pointing me to Squarespace and getting me started, and thank you whizbang millenials at Squarespace who've simplified the tech enough that a techtard like me can design an attractive, functional, maintainable website start to finish and still have all my hair and fingernails intact. Not even any eyeroll whiplash!

Perhaps technology *will* save us...


My colleagues and friends in the Northwest Mosaic Arts Alliance are at it again. Come join us this Saturday 4-7pm for the opening, or come on by during the run to see this diverse yet cohesive exhibition.