Niki in the Garden

Antonio Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona (see previous posts) has inspired many, including French-American artist Niki Saint Phalle, who created her own interactive gardens of art, combining both artistic and natural elements. Several years ago I took my daughters to see a traveling exhibit of her wonderfully whimsical mosaics at the Garfield Park Conservatory in Chicago. They enjoyed exploring and interacting with the sculptures, while identifying the wide array of textures and colorful materials, including ceramics, glass, mirrors and stones.

Currently, many of the works seen in Chicago are on display in the New York public art exhibit Niki de Saint Phalle on Park Avenue.


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Flowers of Park Güell

I visited Antoni Gaudi’s Park Güell twice while I was in Barcelona, so that I could have time to fully enjoy all aspects of its beauty.  The mosaics (see last post), architecture, and landscape of this park are amazing. Gaudi incorporated natural forms in all aspects of the design. Cascades of blossoms among the structures and a lush field of flowers are among the many natural treasures to enjoy while strolling the grounds.

Mosaics of Park Güell

Park Güell was the last private commission of Antoni Gaudi, which he worked on from 1900 -1914, prior to his beginning La Sagrada Familia (see last post). Eusebi Güell commissioned Gaudi  to design the entry and park grounds for an exclusive development for Barcelona’s aristocracy. Though the development failed, it is now a public park for all to enjoy. Here is  just a small sample of the variety of beautiful colorful mosaics I discovered on the grounds of Park Güell.


La Sagrada Familia – Color, Pattern and Texture

During my recent visit to Barcelona, I visited La Sagrada Familia, a cathedral and master piece of design and architecture. Designed by Antoni Gaudi in 1883 and funded solely by donations, La Sagrada Familia has had ongoing construction for over a hundred years (projected finish in 2026–100 years after Gaudi’s death). The beauty of the church is incredible; everywhere you look there is something to inspire. You can enjoy a virtual tour by visiting Sagrada Familia tour, but here are just a few of the images of the colors, patterns, and textures that captured my attention.


Patterns in the Walls of Time

My daughters have learned that when you travel with Mom you’re not only going to see major attractions, but a lot of little things that are off most people’s radars. Recently, I had the pleasure of experiencing the beauty, art, and architecture of Barcelona, Spain and the surrounding areas with my husband. Together, we discovered things beyond the usual tourist points of interest, including stone walls that have endured and merged over the centuries. The varied  textures, patterns, and history within these walls in the city of Gerona were among my finds.

Shop Local!

While the stones and minerals used in my work are from all over the world, my favorite place to purchase them is Dave’s Down to Earth Rock Shop in Evanston, Illinois. I discovered Dave’s years ago with my daughters. Not only did we find a wide range of beautiful stones, minerals, and fossils, but also the Prehistoric Life Museum in the basement.  Over the years, my daughters and I have introduced many of their friends to the wonders of Dave’s. I now have the pleasure of exciting my fellow mosaic enthusiasts with a visit to the museum and shopping the wonderful finds Dave’s has to offer.

Amethyst Stalactite slice from Brazil
Fossil Fish / Diplomystus dentatus from Green River Formation, Wyoming, USA
Pyrite specimen from Peru

Student Inspiration

As an instructor at The Art Center of Highland Park, I am able to share my love of mosaics with students with a wide range of experience. Some are brand new to art and others have fine arts degrees, though for most this is their first time working with mosaics. This art form has unlimited possibilities that we explore together, and it is wonderful to see the different directions taken.

One of my students, Cindy Robin, has helped me grow as both a teacher and an artist. Her creativity and talent amaze me.  Whenever I introduce new concepts or elements, Cindy jumps in and lets loose with her imagination, vast collection of materials, and skill. Below are just two samples of her wonderful work.

Offerings by Cindy Robin
Our Roots are in the Earth by Cindy Robin

Stone Paradise

I love to work with stones and have been encouraging my mosaic students at The Art Center of Highland Park to explore the wide variety of color, texture, and beauty found in this material. The 36th Annual Gem, Jewelry, Fossil, and Mineral Show and Sale, sponsored by the Chicagoland Gems and Minerals Association, provided a wonderful opportunity for us to spend time in stone paradise. Several hours and pounds of stone later, we left with our treasures. Black spinel, hessonite garnet, labradorite, iolite, carnelian, and tanzanite were among my finds for my mosaic jewelry. I also came away with quartz, chrysocolla, apatite, and fuchite for future fine art projects.

Chrysocolla, Peru
Fuchsite, Brazil



Suburban Gem

Yesterday, I visited the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art, a  small, wonderful museum in Elmhurst, outside of Chicago. I went with other mosaic enthusiasts to explore the museum’s gem and mineral collection. Not only did we enjoy viewing the raw and faceted stones, we were captivated by the extensive jade collection and other beautiful carved stone objects.  One of the highlights of the museum is this beautiful gold and gemstone castle.

Castle Lizzadro by Willliam Tolliday (18k gold, faceted diamonds, Brazilian agate slab, amethyst, malachite, azurite, and vanadium specimens)
Carved Chinese jadeite pitcher, early 20th Century