Category Archives: Abstract

Artist Watch: Cynthia Monica

I’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Monica. Her mosaics are so vastly different to what I think I could ever do – a lot of texture using a combination of natural materials, found objects, glass… Love it! Here’s her story:

“I am 58 (hard to believe), and I was born and raised in the West Los Angeles/Santa Monica area of California.  I think my first inkling of being an artist was as a child.  I loved to color in coloring books, and my claim to fame was being the “best colorer” on my block, along with being the best handball player in school, I should add.   I always loved choosing beautiful colors, and of course the pages in my coloring book were very neat and I never went outside the lines.  I adored my art teacher, Mrs. Shubue, in elementary school and loved to make things in her class. My first job at 16 was working at Pacific Ocean Park (POP) on the old Ocean Park Pier, that subsequently burned down.  It was a great adventure.  I had a blast working at the paint pots, squirting plastic bottles of paint onto whirling paper. When folks were finished, I matted their “masterpieces” in cardboard frames.  On my breaks I rode the rickety old wooden roller coaster, and I saw Sonny & Cher perform live when they were still wearing fur vests.  I think there were all of about 30 or 40 people watching them on that typical sunny Southern California day, standing on an outdoor stage right in front of the roller coaster.  I am definitely a child of the 60’s, as I went to “Love-Ins” and wore flowers in my hair.  I saw Jim Morrison and the Doors at After Hours on the Sunset Strip; Jimmy Hendrix at the Forum, and many other famous musicians of the 60’s.  What a “trip”.  I became a bit rebellious, cutting school and experimenting with drugs a bit, after all, it was the 60’s.  I expressed myself by making collages on my bedroom door, painting the inside of my closet purple, and putting my mattress on the floor.  My family always thought of my creative endeavors as “weird”, a label that still sticks with me to this day.  In high school my major was art and I started out in college as an art major.  I loved every medium I was introduced to; ceramics, print making, graphic design, painting, drawing, etc.  I just couldn’t get enough.  At that time I wanted to be a graphic designer.  I always had a fascination with logos and lettering and design.  I had a graphic design class and next to me sat a very talented young man, who had amazing drawing skills, and one day while we were in class he produced the most incredible drawing I had ever seen.  I looked at his work, and thought “I could never be that good”, and that turned out to be a very pivotal moment in my life, because there and then, I gave up my dream of becoming a graphic designer.  I ended up as a Philosophy major, and graduated from UCLA with a BA.  A lot of good that did me, as I did not want to teach, or pursue a career in academia which is about it, as far as philosophy goes.  So I floundered around for many years, working different jobs, in advertising, interior design, real estate, and others, searching for something, but not really knowing what.  I was always taking ceramics, or drawing or painting, interior design, graphic design, computer design, or any art class I could get my hands on in the evenings.  As I got older I decided I needed a “proper career”.  I was always interested in the psyche and the human experience, so off I went to USC for graduate school and I became a psychotherapist.  I worked in that field for about 10 years, but it always seemed like something was missing.  During that time I met my husband, Corbett, and after living in California for all our lives, we moved to Portland, Oregon, practically on a whim.  We have now been here for 11 years, and for the last 4 years, we have lived out in the country, on the Sandy River.  We have a couple of acres, and feel blessed to live in the midst of such splendor and beauty.  With the support of Corbett, I left my career, and through his encouragement began pursuing my long lost dream, to be an artist.   I started with crockery and taught myself how to mosaic through trial and error.  I graduated to glass and became enthralled with vitreous, smalti, and now mixed media.  I am still trying to find my “voice” it seems, but it is the journey, I have learned to love.  I am fascinated by the process of each piece, as well as the outcome.  Sometimes I paint, or work in collage and other mediums, as I love them all.  I am happiest when I am creating, and feel a bit lost when I am not.  As of late, I am trying develop my online skills and presence, joining various social networking sites.  It is a big learning curve for me, but I’m getting more knowledgeable, slow and steady.  I spend hours on  flickr, as I love to see the mosaics created by others.  I have also started a blog, titled “Outside the Lines”, which serves as a reminder that I don’t have to stay inside the lines anymore, I can even scribble if I want.  I have met some amazing people online, and feel blessed to a part of the virtual group of mosaic artists on flickr and CMA, for they are some of the most kind and generous people around. For a time, I had a hard time thinking of myself as an artist, although I have studied many art mediums through the years, and have always had the inclination.  But, finally, I just became used to the idea.  Yes, I am an artist, and I’m not sure where I’m going from here, but I know I will be fulfilled as long as I continue to pursue my passion – art.”

I know I say it over and over, but really! People are soooooo interesting. Thanks Cynthia for sharing your amazing story. Now for the visual feast:


Urban Relics

Emerge #4 – detail

Emerge # 2

Taj Mahal Birdhouse

Finally, meet the Artiste – 🙂




Filed under Abstract, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Cynthia Monica, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Inspiration, Mosaic, Mosaic Materials, Recycled, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Artist Watch: Ilona Fried

I’ve always been quite fascinated with Ilona and her work and I was excited that she agreed to be a part of this series. I’m deviating from the norm this time around – here’s her story, in her own words…

Although I used to do a lot of drawing as a child, I did not consider myself an artist for most of my adult life; periodically I would dabble in some art form or another, usually ceramics and photography, while working in various professions…I won’t bore you with the list!  I was drawn to art but was also a bit apprehensive about pursuing it – in fact, about 10 years ago one of my photography instructors pulled me aside and said, “I think you really want to be an artist.”  I felt as if he had revealed some deep secret and
although I did not pursue photography as an art form his words stayed with me.

Fast forward to 2001 when I was working as a management consultant and traveling a lot. When 9/11 happened I really woke up to the fact that life is short and that I no longer wanted to be doing a stressful job that I did not enjoy. To quell my anxiety about the future I started designing jewelry and months later worked up the nerve to resign and start a jewelry design business.  I loved combining color, shape and texture in my jewelry and finding new materials to use, but after awhile I felt limited by the jewelry format as a means of self-expression.  I wanted to work with color, shape and pattern on a larger scale and to create fine art. Although I had taken a few painting classes over the years, the medium did not grab me.  Mosaics seemed like the natural next step in my creative path, allowing me to continue working with my hands and with a wide variety of tesserae – beads, ceramic, glass, stone and more.

I took my first mosaic class in 2006 in a community education program – the instructor showed us how to cut and what adhesive to use, and that was about it.  Not completely satisfied, I decided to study with the experts and in the spring of 2007 went to the Mosaic School in Ravenna, Italy.  There I was very surprised to discover that even I could cut teeny tiny pieces with a hammer and hardie!  When I returned to the US I saw a call for an all-mosaic exhibit in the Boston area, where I was living at the time.   Back then I had only made a handful of mosaics and two were accepted.  I was thrilled! One of them sold after the show ended.  That helped me take my mosaic making a bit more seriously. And having one of my pieces published in Brit Hammer’s “Mosaic: Finding Your Own Voice” inspired me to keep going, as have all the many wonderful mosaic artists I’ve met at SAMA conferences and online. I really enjoy using an ancient medium to express contemporary themes and being part of an international community of artists; I’ve traveled to two dozen countries and lived overseas a few times – in Hungary, Ecuador, and Mexico – and so I welcome any mosaic-related opportunity to get on an airplane.

About a year ago I thought about relocating to Colorado where I could pursue another passion: hiking.  The “Art Gods” were on my side – I found a terrific studio in an artist building during one of my exploratory trips to Denver.  So I packed up and moved here.  Being outdoors in stunning scenery helps me recharge and gives me ideas for mosaics. Some of my abstract pieces are inspired by mountains and how I feel when I’m at high altitude – completely at peace with myself and deeply connected to the world. Sometimes I am able to experience that same feeling when I am deeply engrossed in making a mosaic. Life doesn’t get much better than that!

Family Outing


New Directions

Shades of Memory

Salmon Maki

My Analogous Self

Just love this portrait, everything about it is so great!

Ilona’s website is a treat: clean, organised and well presented, do check it out. It’s everything I love in a website, especially the art! 🙂 If you’re on Facebook, become a fan of her work!

Finally meet Ilona –




Filed under Abstract, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Ilona Fried, Inspiration, Mosaic, Portraiture, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Mosaic in Film: In A Dream

Hoping that this will be screened here in Australia at some point in the near future… Australia has a thing for being really behind.

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Filed under Abstract, Art, Artists, Inspiration, Isaiah Zagar, Mosaic, Mosaic in Film, Public Art, Uncategorized, Urban

Artist Watch: Gila Rayberg

I’ve been looking forward to writing this post – Gila is such an interesting and amazing person and I just got goosebumps when I read over the info she sent me about herself. And then of course there are her mosaics!
As the youngest of 6 kids, most of whom are artists and/or musicians, Gila was exposed to art and music at an early age. She counts her sister, renowned mosaic artist in her own right Elizabeth Raybee, as being one of her earliest influences. “By the time I was cognizant”, says Gila, “there was already plenty of music & art around. I remember my bedroom as a little girl, painted (by Elizabeth & perhaps some of her friends) chartreuse & covered with jungle animals and trees. On another wall was this bony woman with long skinny arms & poky fingers. Even though she looked kind of scary, I always thought she was way cool.”

The summer prior to her graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, she spent that time with Elizabeth in San Francisco. She was taking a couple of art and geology electives at SF State to complete some requirements before graduating in ’89 (BA in Music). It was at this time that Elizabeth was just beginning in her mosaic adventures and it was in her studio that Gila got her start in mosaics; grouting Elizabeths’s first mosaic no less! Gila’s first actual mosaic was a table that she made in 1990.

After earning her Masters Degree (MM, Trombone Performance) Gila spent a year traveling around the world solo, followed by several years of teaching & more travel throughout SE Asia. One of the most memorable & life altering adventures of her life was spending time on the remote Indonesian Island of Siberut with the Mentawai people. Her time there is often a source of inspiration, both figuratively & in the abstract. Here’s a picture of her host & medicine man, Tarason, the inspiration for one of her first attempts at mosaic portraiture.

One of the more interesting positions Gila found herself in was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where she was helping to organize a National Marching Band. Here she is directing the trombone choir during one of their music camp concerts. (1992)

After that experience, Gila joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Malaysia, Sarawak (Kuching, Borneo) where she taught instrumental (winds & brass) music & directed the orchestra. Throughout all her travels & adventures, she had an image in her mind of one day owning a place of her own where she could mosaic everything in sight. It was a very strong feeling & persistent.

In 1999 Gila returned to the USA & settled in New Orleans, where not long after, she met her partner Mark. It was for his birthday that she decided to make him a mosaic table. Gila had no tools, no materials & hadn’t made a mosaic in at least 6 years. “It wasn’t easy getting everything together without him knowing! When I gave it to him, he was speechless!! Believe me, that’s a rarity!”, she states.

That table really started her on her current path. Mark is way beyond supportive of her mosaic mania. Plus, he REALLY loves her work. There is rarely a piece that he wants her to sell. He prefers, & Gila concurs, it would be great to win the lottery so they could have a spacious gallery for her mosaics and the artwork they’ve collected over the years. Don’t we all?! I love how supportive her partner is. It’s a base that I certainly need in order for my creativity to really flourish, so I really admire them for this.

Gila goes on to say, “I feel as though through mosaics I’ve finally found my improvisational voice while continuing on of my life’s adventures; exploring materials & continually experimenting keeps me fully engaged with plenty of space for spontaneity.”

Gila teaches workshops between other projects, on an irregular basis. She usually holds 4-6 workshops a year with up to 6 participants. She has always been passionate about teaching & enjoys discovering the similarities between music & mosaic in the process. “I guess, since I love to learn, it makes sense that I love to teach!”

“It’s my aim for each participant to leave equipped to do something similar on their own. Among other things, we discuss tools, materials, design & inspiration.” One thing that everyone loves is the wide range of materials in her studio, from which they can choose to create their mosaic.

If you are interested in the classes, email Gila and you should check out her website as well as her Flickr account. Her portfolio is so huge that I can’t possibly really show it off here to its fullest potential… But here are some of my faves:

details of her kitchen window… it’s just stunning!!!

Finally, meet Gila 🙂


Filed under Abstract, Architectural Installations, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Gila Rayberg, Glass on Glass, Indigenous, Mosaic, Portraiture, Sculpture, Uncategorized

Disneyland Mosaics

While in CA, we took the kids to Disneyland. Their first time and my 1st time as a parent… It’s an odd place I tells ya. I had a load of fun, but it’s an odd place! Of course what I did notice all over everywhere were the mosaics. In Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure Park and Downtown Disney. See?! It is an odd place. It’s like a city all it’s own! I was rather taken aback at the money spinner that it is. Here we are with global poverty, shortages on basic foods and then here in the West there’s Disneyland, where I don’t know how many tens of thousands of dollars get turned over in a day. Kinda crazy. But that’s not the point of this post… “The Happiest Place on Earth”, perhaps. But something about that slogan makes me feel uneasy. I have to say thank goodness the ride known as “It’s a Small World After All” was closed for construction. That ride is trippy! Don’t know if I could have done that one all over again… lol!

It was pretty awe inspiring just how much detail in everything there is. First of all it’s really clean. I mean like really clean. People that worked there were friendly. Everything just ran really well. The amount of organisation that must go into creating and maintaining something like that is, in itself, quite remarkable. And to top it all off, every night they had fireworks that far surpass the New Year’s Fireworks we get here!!! Every night! Certainly alot of fun to be had. We went with extended family, and it’s definitely a lot more enjoyable in a large group 🙂 Makes all that waiting around doable…

There were some beautiful mosaics. I have no idea who made any of them so this post will just be a bit of a visual feast. Plenty more in my Disney Mosaics Flickr set… There are some hardcore families who seem to go a lot. I don’t know if that’s me, in fact I know it’s not!!! By the third day (of all of us looking out for 6 young kids) I was holding L’s hand and suddenly looked around, panicked, blood drained from my face and I screamed out “Where’s L!!!?”. I knew it was time to leave. 😉

Waterlily Fountain

Something Silver Mosaic
Such a perfect use of mirror!!! This mosaic quite literally sparkled…

Naples Pizza Mosaic Floor
The floor entrance to Naples Pizza, in Downtown Disney.

Sunflower Fountain
Detail shot of the Sunflower Fountain at the entrance of Disneyland.

Mosaic Benches

Sun Fountain

Catalina Casino Mosaic

Disney Mosaic

Disney Mosaic

Disney Mosaic - floor detail

Disney's California Adventure Park Mosaic Mural

Disney's California Adventure Park Mosaic Mural
Gorgeous hand made tiles it seems… This mountainous mural flanked both sides of the entrance to Disney’s CA Adventure Park. It depicted everything that CA is famous for… Really a fantastic mural!

Aladdin's Mosaic
The mosaic on the floor to Aladdin’s theatre in Disneyland. Didn’t go in to see the performance but this mosaic certainly caught my eye…

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Filed under Abstract, Architectural Installations, Art, Building, Cafe, Flickr, Floor, Flowers, Fountains, Garden Mosaics, Inspiration, Kids, Kids' Projects, Mosaic, Murals, Park, Pavement, Pools, Public Art, Round the World, Signage, Sunflower, Travel, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging

Seoul Subway Mosaics & Glass Art

Just thought I’d finally post the remaining pictures of the mosaics I found in the Seoul subway system – I have to say a very pristine and efficient one in my opinion! And one that is so much more pleasing to the eye with the addition of mosaic murals!!! Gotta love how Seoulites embrace public art.

Seoul Subway Mosaics
I really quite likes this one because it deviated from the “norm” – most of the mosaics I saw on the subway there were worked in the grid style, opus regulatum.

Seoul Subway Mosaics
This is one of the bathrooms (!!!) at Itaewon station…

Seocho Subway Station
At Seocho station – thought this was funky!

Seoul Subway Mosaics
I wonder if this is the same artist as the first one above…

Kkot Gil - Flower Road
This mural was titled “Kkot Gil” which means “Flower Road”. Can be found at Gosok Terminal.

Tongdaemun Station Mosaic Artwork
This was at Tongdaemun Station –  a huge transfer point.

Tongdaemun Station Mosaic Artwork
Also at Tongdaemun…

Stained Glass Ceiling
A stained glass ceiling at Tongdaemun Station. Just so lovely!!! Look up as you go up or down the looooong escalators…

Seoul Subway Glasswork
Also at Itaewon Station…

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Filed under Abstract, Animals, Architectural Installations, Art, Birds, Flickr, Flowers, gridwork, Misc. Design Concepts, Mosaic, Murals, Nature, Public Art, Round the World, Seoul, South Korea, Subway, Travel, Uncategorized, Urban

Artist Watch: Heather Hancock

One of my all-time favourite mosaic artists is Heather Hancock. I also discovered her work through Flickr (that’s sounding a little boring now – I think I need to branch out!) and she goes by the acronym hhmosaics. Not only are her mosaics amazing, she’s amazing.

I instantly fell in love with what she has been creating. Very original, very unique and very precise, in my humble opinion… I don’t know if I would necessarily say she was an emerging artist, after all she’s really starting to make a name for herself. Nevertheless the desire to include her in this series was overwhelming and I’ve been not only looking forward to writing something but also mulling it over in my mind so as to do her rightful justice!

Heather’s professional background is in communication disorders. She worked as a speech language pathologist for the most part of her career. Whilst travelling in the mid ’90s Heather had a total epiphany. She had visited Italica, the Roman ruins just outside Seville, Spain and Nora, in Sardinia as well as St Mark’s Basilica, Venice, to name but a few. It was this experience that began her mosaic career. She instantly made a connection with the mosaics she saw and felt the need to work with the medium. Heather dabbled in making mosaics alongside her career in healthcare from ’97 till 2003, when a turning point in her life made her reassess what was important to her. She decided to quit her day job and stay at home with her two children, which also gave her the opportunity to see where she could go with her mosaic work.

In the Spring of 2005 (Northern Hemisphere Spring, of course) she participated in the Orsoni course in Venice, Italy. As this has been her only formal instruction, it made her realise to what extent her work deviates from the traditional “grammar” of mosaics.

In the past year, Heather has in a sense reclaimed her professional roots in cognition and communication through her mosaics. Heather believes that communication and cognition are at the very core of who we are as humans, and her experiences of working with people whose ability to communicate or even think was altered by strokes, head injury or dementia, was very intense. She is very interested in how a sense of self or identity is dependent on communication and how that self-identity is shaped by every social interaction that we are a part of. The fact that we are constantly “creating” ourselves: modifying our emphasis to highlight new or different things, depending on the context, has been the basis of all her ungrouted work over the last year.

She articulates this so eloquently in her formal artist statement:

“I am irresistibly drawn to the processes that create a continuous sense of self. Trillions of synapses collaborate fluidly through unimaginably complex interactions allowing us to achieve narrative coherence, an autobiographical self, complete with freedom, responsibility and imagination.

As a speech-language pathologist, my work with adults following brain injuries gave me insight into the grim reality of a fragmented conscious experience. Amazingly even the severely injured displayed a relentless drive to re-organize and make sense of this disconnected or inexpressible existence.

My recent ungrouted work considers the significance of ‘noticing’ as an organizing force in mental life. These moments of noticing take place within contexts—the internal contexts of personal history and world knowledge, and the external or social contexts to which we are so keenly attuned.”

Her work is mostly featured in the Chicago, IL area. Her next big ‘do’ is the Artist Project which is a satellite show for Art Chicago 2008, which begins April 25. Go to her website or her Flickr site to see more of her work. That’s an order! She’s amazing, and her portfolio is so prolific I simply cannot include everything here…

The following Focus Series explores the notion of moments of clarity and insight in the midst of the blur of life.

Focus4 detail , originally uploaded by hhmosaics

Focus2 detail, originally uploaded by hhmosaics, originally uploaded by hhmosaics

Bend is inspired by the gorgeous, dynamic patterns created by light refracted through undulating glass (think glass blocks). From another angle, ‘bend’ is about our unique and surprising individual narratives, shaped by both perception and integration within a particular context.

detail Bend sketch (2008), originally uploaded by hhmosaics

In the bathrooms at Uncommon Ground restaurant on Devon in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood:

UG bthrm1 angle3, originally uploaded by hhmosaics

UG bthrm2 angle4, originally uploaded by hhmosaics

For the Recall series Heather states, “Episodic memory, or recall of personally relevant events or experiences, is central to our sense of who we are. Helping adults access those memories and express their narratives was my work in my earlier career in healthcare as a speech-language pathologist. Now, in the Recall series, my passion for cognition and communication as central to our humanity is connected with my work in mosaics.”

Recall 6, originally uploaded by hhmosaics

Recall7, originally uploaded by hhmosaics

From the Glimpse Series:

Glimpsev2.1, originally uploaded by hhmosaics

detail Glimpse v2.2 (2008), originally uploaded by hhmosaics

Finally, meet Heather…



Filed under Abstract, Architectural Installations, Art, Artist Watch Series, Artists, Emerging, Female, Flickr, Heather Hancock, Inspiration, Mosaic, Uncategorized, Wall Hanging