This coming October I’ll be launching my month-long art exhibition, “Mojave Mosaics.” I’ve spent the better part of the year lovingly toiling away on my stained glass mosaics and am excited that the date is finally approaching!
My mosaics for this exhibit are all desert-themed, with a focus on southern Nevada, my former home.
Some were created for hanging in windows while others were made for wall-hanging. All artworks will be for sale with a cut of the profits going towards the museum.
It will be held at the Lost City Museum in Overton, Nevada, just outside Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead. I exhibited at this very museum just two years ago and am thrilled that they asked me back! The museum itself is amazing — built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps to house artifacts from prehistoric archaeological sites that were uncovered or destroyed in the construction of nearby Hoover Dam.
This beautiful pueblo-style building on the National Register of Historic Places is sprawling and even has outdoor exhibits, such as a Native American Pit House. There’s much to see!
The museum is located about an hour’s drive from Vegas but it’s right off Interstate 15, so it makes a fun detour if you’re heading out to Zion or Bryce Canyon. And if you’re going to Valley of Fire State Park then you have no excuse not to check it out, as it’s quite literally mere minutes away!
Here’s the low down;
When: October 1st – 31st
Where: Lost City Museum, 721 S Moapa Blvd, Overton, NV
Cost: $5 for adults & seniors but free for children under 18
In 2007, I was living in Charlottesville, Virginia and developed a hankering to explore a new artistic outlet of some kind. While walking through a Michael’s craft store, I spotted a DIY mosaic candle kit, purchased it, took it home, worked on it and was immediately hooked. Bells and whistles sounded in my brain. Ding ding ding! We had a winner!
I proceeded to buy books on how to mosaic and to amass different kinds of glass tiles. My first pieces done without a kit were clunky, awkward mirrors. Using handmade Italian glass called smalti, I made my 1st real fine art work, an image of a lighthouse. I found it impossible, backbreaking, exacting work. I got 3/4’s of the way through and felt so frustrated with it that I shelved it for 6 months and went back to working on mirrors. I told my then-husband that I thought it was bad and was going to chuck it, but he talked me into finishing it. So I completed it and wound up selling it a couple years later for around several hundred dollars. A vocation was born.
For the next 6 years, mosaic art became my main pursuit and passion. I enjoyed the glass; love lots of bold, exuberant color in my pieces.
In 2009 I began exhibiting around Charlottesville. During that time I went through a cordial divorce then moved back to my native SoCal in 2010. While living in my hometown of Huntington Beach, California, I continued pursuing mosaic art full-time. I exhibited in a number of art walks, street festivals, restaurants and in an exhibition at the Huntington Beach Art Center.
Finding the rent too darn high and wanting to stretch out my savings, I moved to the SoCal mountain town of Big Bear Lake, California the following year. I’d vacationed there many times over the course of my life and wanted to see if I had it in me to live there full-time, to be a real mountain woman. I leased a rustic, hundred-year old, 2 bedroom cabin on the outskirts of town and turned one of the rooms into a studio. There, at 7000 feet, I hoped the peace and quiet and idyllic surroundings would spur me on to artistic excellence. Instead, I crashed and burned. Gosh, but you wouldn’t believe how much work is involved in maintaining an old cabin in the woods, especially one with no garbage disposal, no central heating, no dishwasher, no washing machine, etc. From having to keep the fireplace going non-stop after the snows came to having to shovel it around the perimeter of the house to having to strain for breath at that altitude to schlepping laundry back and forth to the laundromat to blah blah blah…I had nothing left over to make art! And I was lonely. Many of the homes nearby me sat vacant most of the time, were vacation rentals, mainly occupied on weekends. Most shopkeepers in town lived “off the hill,” as they’d say, down in San Bernardino. Needless to say, I got very little done, mosaic-wise, in the year that I lived in Big Bear. I had to admit to myself that it wasn’t working out, I didn’t have what it took to be a mountain woman, at least not by myself in that old house. So I pulled up stakes and moved to Henderson, Nevada, to thaw out.
There in Henderson, I had a ridiculously ginormous walk-in closet, 1/ 2 of which I converted into a studio. I managed to pump out a few mosaics and get back into exhibiting for awhile. But something was wrong. I was feeling uninspired. My ideas had dried up. The work I was turning out was meh at best. I figured, “why fight it?” and got a full-time office job instead. I spent the next four years on mosaic hiatus, turning my artistic sights towards photographing the Nevada desert, publishing my poetry and performing the odd gig now and again in Las Vegas.
In June of 2016, personal circumstances forced me to leave lovely Nevada and move in with my mom in her house in Torrance, California. With her blessing, I converted the old pool room into a studio. Having a nice, big dedicated space in which to cut glass inspired me once again. I’d also inherited boxes and boxes of beautiful stained-glass from my late grandma, herself a stained-glass artist. Ideas started burbling up. The passion rekindled. I’m back in the mosaic game once again.
It’s important to me to love what I do. I feel that it shows in my work if the heart isn’t there. Art is about emotion. And if there’s no emotion there behind it, then it becomes disingenuous and lackluster. I’m not interested in phoning it in, in anything I do in my life.
It looked like a simple, easy-peasy project. I’d read that all you do is cut up your old compact discs then glue them to a surface and voila! You got yourself a fabulous, shiny new table and conversation piece.
Reality is often messier and harder than people make it out to be.
First, I gathered up my old CDs to be sacrificed for the table. I amassed a pile of around thirty.
Next, I cut them up. Or attempted to, anyway. This is the part no one tells you about, how difficult it is to cut a CD. Don’t believe me? Go try it yourself! I’ll wait… see how hard that is???
I found a sturdier pair of scissors that could maneuver through the plastic. There are 2 kinds of CDs – blank ones for recording on, that have a foil backing and ones that were manufactured in a music plant that have a label. I found that the blanks were the worst, with the foil crumbling off at the slightest provocation. The pre-recorded CDs were easier to cut, but sometimes the label would slough off or curl off as I cut, taking with it all the shine that makes the piece interesting. Older CDs, those over 15 years old, turned out to be too brittle to cut. They’d fracture the instant I began to cut them. Out of my pile of thirty CDs, only 1/2 turned out to be useable.
So I rooted around the house and found about 25 more CDs. Because the process of cutting them is such a delicate procedure, it was hard to shape the pieces. Not to mention that I was worried that I wouldn’t have enough to finish the project. I didn’t want to have to buy a stack more, that would defeat the whole upcycley purpose of the project!
I’d purchased a used computer desk off a nice man from the internet, for the whopping sum of $5. Then I removed the bottom pull-out shelf, as I didn’t need it and removed all the tracking hardware. This would become my tabletop.
I slathered all sides of the tabletop in black paint, let that dry. Meanwhile, I painstakingly cut CDs while listening to music or watching videos.
A Google showed not more than a handful of mosaic tables in existence. I thought this was odd, considering CDs have been around for more than a couple decades. It was only after I started cutting and realized the difficulty of it all that it occurred to me that there are probably many half-finished CD tables out there, started with good intentions, abandoned in frustration.
I had a tube of Liquid Nails on me and began gluing down pieces. I realized some white glue was showing and that it was inevitable some glue would appear here and there, and realized I’d have to change glues, since the LN dries white. I switched to Weldbond, my trusty brand I’ve been loyal to all the years I’ve been making mosaics. Weldbond dries clear.
Slowly, the tabletop started to take shape. Still the occasional CD would fracture in my hands or the label would fall off after I’d spent minutes carefully shaping it, causing me to throw the remaining piece across the garage while hurling invectives. As a mosaic artist, I’m not accustomed to working with materials that crumble in my hands, though I am accustomed to angrily hurling pieces that won’t conform to my will.
A month later and I finally had all the pieces glued on, with no more CDs to spare. I let a day go by for the glue to set, then whipped up a batch of some epoxy resin that comes in a box with scary warnings about inhaling the fumes or all the horrible things that might happen to you from exposure to the liquid, like cancer or disfigurement. I bravely soldiered on.
The next day I inspected the final table and found that the resin had reacted with the labels on the underside of the pieces, causing a swirly, psychedelic effect I hadn’t anticipated. A nice surprise.
So that’s how you make a mosaic tabletop from your old CDs. In the event you don’t want to go through the aforementioned process, you’re welcome to purchase mine over at my Etsy shop. If you want me to make a custom one for you, I’d be happy to do so, so long as you provide the CDs. Though if one of those CDs has some cool music on it, I can’t guarantee I won’t swipe it for myself!