The New Dawn Finally Blooms!
Updated: May 20, 2022
Every mosaic I create has a story. And every mosaic I create is intertwined with my own personal story. The story of this mosaic began on a cold November day, 18 months ago, when I first met Judge Stormer. The seeds were planted that day, and with dedication, hard work and support from so many people, the flower now blooms.
This mosaic left my studio this week to become a part of the iconic Summit County Courthouse’s story. Over the many months it took to create this mosaic, my own personal story was not without challenges. Eight months ago I lost my father, 3 months ago I fractured my kneecap, and two months ago I lost my mother too. Then as if that wasn’t enough, our children and grandchildren gathered for the first time in two years for Passover and I got covid. You might think that all sounds awful, and it was. But I consider myself a very fortunate person because I had so many people who helped, supported and cared for me and made it possible to complete this mosaic.
I believe mosaic art is a metaphor for life. No one piece stands alone. Every piece is made more beautiful when it’s surrounded by others. Every piece is an integral part of the picture. Every piece becomes part of the story.
My task seemed daunting that day when I first toured the courthouse with Judge Stormer as she showed me some of the beautiful artwork that had been selected to provide inspiration and respite to everyone who enters the building. The Judge told me how the artwork had helped not only those who see it, but also those who created the art. I knew this was a very special project and I wanted to be a part of it.
To begin my design process, I searched for ways to instill a sense of place and purpose in the design. I wanted the artwork to be unique to this iconic building in Akron, Ohio and this specific time in history. The artworks’ purpose was to brighten this long dark corridor and provide an uplifting and hopeful message.
When I discovered the wildflower of Ohio was the trillium, I knew it was the perfect focal point. The trillium blooms in woodland areas in early spring and the flower represents the universal miracle of spring–renewal and rebirth and is found in every county in the state.
You cannot call 1-800 flowers and order a bouquet of trillium. You must make the effort to find them. You must go into the woods and look for their blooms. The striking, three-petalled blossom of the trillium evokes spiritual embodiment, elegance, grace, and recovery.
A few weeks after I began working on the design, I heard Amanda Gorman's poem, “The Hill We Climb” and when I heard the final lines of the poem, I knew I had to find a way to integrate her words into the artwork.
Lisa Mansfield suggested having APS students participate in making the art and we were both excited about the possibility of collaboration. Our discussions about the learning opportunities gave way to the reality of covid though, and our big ideas were scaled back to include 3 high school art classes who would create the border tiles for the design. I researched the historic techniques of Ohio potteries in 1908 , the year that the courthouse was built, and that became the lesson plan and starting point for the students’ designs. Exactly one year from the start of the project, when I opened the boxes of the students’ unglazed bisque fired tiles, I was thrilled with the students’ work. I used every one of their tiles.
The mosaic came together over many months using thousands of hand-cut pieces of luminous glass tile, recycled glass tile, handmade stained glass, and handmade ceramic tile. Emanating from the flower’s center, the six yellow stamens swirl in all directions and continue their trajectory as golden ribbons spreading throughout the mosaic. The burst of sunlight at the top of the design captures the trillium’s springtime emergence and the reminder of new life after a cold season.
The pieces of glass were cut and placed next to each other, and the colors flowed along the leaves and petals from one end of the 17 ft design to the other. I worked on one edge one week and went to the other edge the next week. Always checking, always adjusting, and always cognizant of the fact that every piece must relate to the piece next to it .Every piece is part of the story.
As I tiled my way to the edges of the design, I mixed glazes to match the glass mosaics and brushed them onto the students’ ceramic tiles. Some border tiles were moved around and fired 2 , 3 and even 4 times to compliment the glass tiles that flowed to the artwork’s borders. As the mosaic progressed, so too did the beauty and details of the students’ individual tiles. One day I came down to my studio and I saw the whole piece in a new light. The students’ tiles had emerged as a beautiful border just as the trillium emerges from its winter slumber to reveal every exquisitely fresh detail. The APS students and teachers and administrators were brave enough to see it and to make it happen even though they didn’t know what the end result would be.
I’m humbled and grateful to have had the opportunity to make a mark in this historic building, in this city, that is at the heart of my own personal story. Judge Stormers’ vision and the generosity of all the donors made it possible for this flower to bloom.
It was a pleasure to work with Lisa Mansfield who is an incredibly competent, creative, and kind person. She was always willing to listen, always willing to do the hard work and always brave enough to be a facilitator and bring people together.
I can walk slowly and carefully now, and I’ve even been able to take a walk in the woods to look for trillium. I’m so grateful for all those people who supported and helped me, literally, every step of the way. Every single person made a difference just as every single tile helped complete the picture.
May this artwork inspire all who see it to spread the light and hope that Amanda Gorman’s words convey. “The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there’s always light , if only were brave enough to see it. If only were brave enough to be it.”
Dedication Ceremony with Judge Stormer to thank the Donors
Here are photos of the first time the students got a chance to see their work!
I was excited to finally meet the students! Thank you to the Akron Public Schools administrators, students and teachers from North, Firestone and Buchtel High Schools.
Thank you to the generous donors:
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation ,Tzangas|Plakas|Mannos Ltd.
Akron Public Schools, Summit County Probate Court, Bowman Foundation
Orr Foundation, GAR Foundation ,Curated Courthouse, Dianne Newman
Beverly Rose, Elinore Marsh Stormer, Lisa Zeno Carano
Jeffery T. Heinz, Marc Merklin, Irving Sugarman