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Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mosaic Gives the Past a Future

Art can help us heal. I was reminded of this truth when my friend Gladys gave her late mom’s jewelry to the mosaic workshop I led recently.

The mosaic lessons were part of a local art camp organized by our friend Veronica. It was at the church where I participated in the community garden for a number of years. It’s where my kids did preschool. So I have positive feelings about the place, and immediately agreed when Veronica asked if I would teach the kids to make mosaic stepping stones.

We brainstormed about what to ask people to donate for the stepping stones. With mosaic, you can mix and match, and the components don’t have to be expensive. (This is a great way to repurpose things you may have kept for sentimental reasons—a single earring, a broken necklace, old keys. This is also an excellent way to bring whimsy to your garden—because mosaic can involve things as random as hard plastic toys, extra scrabble tiles or almost anything made of a hard material that can stand up to outdoor elements like rain, wind and sun.)

The camp was possible because lots of volunteers came together to make it happen. Gladys was there every day, helping. After the kids finished their stepping stones I learned that some of the bracelets and necklaces we used in our mosaic pieces belonged to Gladys’ mom, Ida. Ida passed away recently, and Gladys has been sorting through her mom’s possessions. The timing coincided with our need for donations for mosaic projects. Gladys told me that it was more meaningful for her to give the necklaces to the camp rather than to donate them to a thrift store. She liked that she would know some of the kids who created something unique from Ida’s jewelry.

I divided the items into groups so that each camper would get a variety of items.

I love that Gladys wanted to give new life to her mom’s jewelry by giving it to the kids for art. In their grief, some people cannot bear to part with a parent’s things, and I’m not judging that because we all grieve differently. But I think that Gladys saw the potential for a little bit of healing in donating Ida’s jewelry to the kids. These items are from Ida’s past but they now have a future. Since I cut the necklaces up, the beads went into more than forty different mosaic pieces. Maybe it is because Gladys and I knew each other through the community garden, but I feel like turning those necklaces into dozens of art pieces is similar to how gardening works. You take one seed and it becomes a plant, which makes seeds, which turn into many plants.

The campers had fun making their stepping stones. (It led me to want to make some for our place, which I began doing a few days later. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this mosaic theme.) The kids had different approaches to their mosaic art: some were meticulous, and formed symmetrical, detailed designs. Others placed the pieces randomly, and finished in minutes. But they all created a stepping stone. Some kids may not have back yards for keeping a stepping stone, but these mosaic pieces can be a colorful welcome at the front door to an apartment. Each stepping stone is unique, just like the kids who made them.

And now Ida’s jewelry pieces are in stepping stones throughout San Diego, twinkling in the summer sun. Scattered seeds. And Ida shines on.


  1. Rachel was at the camp and had a wonderful time with the project! We are about to place the stepping stone into our front yard. Loved the story of Gladys' mom's jewelry getting used in such a beautiful way - paying forward!!

    1. Thanks, Debby! All the kids had fun, and it's great to have something creative to show for the effort.

  2. We just had a similar conversation at knitting group...what good are the things we get when others pass on if they're just going to sit in a box stored away somewhere...better to give to someone who will enjoy it.

  3. I love that you make everyday things look beautiful.