Sunday, November 1, 2015

Going Back to Work

Eight years ago today I took a big leap and quit my day job to become a full time artist. I had been building up to it with my side business as a mural artist and my growing love of mosaics, but it was very scary to walk away from the safety net of a regular paycheck. The first year was great- I landed the biggest job (still) of my career~ The Peppermill pools, 1200sf of mosaic mural. Then the economy took a dive and I diversified. I love to cook and had a great opportunity to cook for a wonderful family, two dinners a week for a couple of years (Thank you Tammy, that little bit of income helped us to eat in lean times!). Those first few years, I didn't turn down any painting or faux finish job. I participated in every craft fair I could get into, sometimes even multiple events in a day. I worked harder than I ever have in my life but enjoyed every moment of it. There was just no way I could ever go to "work" for someone else! In the meantime, I completed all three levels of Reiki and became a Reiki Master, then got my Yoga Teacher certification, not sure how these would play into the big picture. The last 3 years or so have been flowing pretty amazingly. I have found a nice groove of mosaics, workshops, painting, yoga and underlying everything was Reiki.

About this time last year, ready for the next chapter, I put out the intention of having a community space for arts and healing. I didn't really think much more about it because I wasn't able to wrap my head around how it could actually happen. January came around and I had an amazing opportunity to buy my friend's online mosaic supply company. Step one in that direction. Then I acquired the inventory of another friend's stained glass store. Another step in the retail direction. Then over the summer I had a friend who was thinking about letting go of part of her space in Midtown and I thought, great space but no room for yoga and I had an investor that was looking to buy a building, so I wasn't looking to rent. Coincidentally, I was there meeting a friend for breakfast so that she could give me keys to the yoga studio next door where I was going to start teaching. But it didn't hit me until I was eating breakfast there again Labor Day weekend that this, in fact, would be the ideal location for my new studio. On one side, an excellent restaurant to partner with for catering during my workshops, and on the other side, the yoga studio where I happen to rent space as I need it. Kind of perfect, don't you think?  Oh and my favorite little pocket of Midtown, direct neighbors being Creme Cafe, The Yoga Center, Reno Public House, Neverender, Chuy's, Wedge, Dreamers and Macbeth Theater. And we would be renting, but better to rent for a few years while we figure out what our permanent place needs to be AND get to be in the heart of the artsy, fun place to be in Reno right now.

Soooo the Big Announcement~

Future home of Copper Cat Studio & Tessera Glass

In January we will be moving the studio to Midtown on St Lawrence St, next to Creme Cafe. This is the same spot that launched the popular Picasso and Wine. My working studio will be there, which means I will be there full time Tuesday through Saturday. There will be a retail section including mosaic tile, mosaic supplies, tools, books, mdf shapes, stained glass, and more. We will have gift items featuring several of my local artist friends. We will have workshops that can accommodate groups of 16+, including our ever popular Mosaic 101.  There will be shorter workshops for those who have experience with mosaics and are ready to dive in and we will extend our Full Day Retreats with Sage Spirit to include two yoga sessions, breakfast and lunch catered by Creme Cafe. And for those who have been asking- we finally will have room for OPEN STUDIO! There are so many ideas for workshops and we will even be hosting guest artists to learn other mediums. We are hoping to partner with Creme Cafe in not only catering during workshops and private parties, but to host a rotating lineup of artists that will adorn their walls and will coordinate to teach workshops in our space. A tentative Grand Opening party is planned late January to coincide with Creme Cafe's Fifth Anniversary. We are so excited we can hardly stand it!

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Smalti. For most mosaic artists, it's the creme of the crop as far as tesserae goes. The first time I was introduced to smalti, although I did not know what it was called at the time, was in my parent's church St Charles Borromeo in Oklahoma City. The walls are covered with amazing smalti murals. The first time I used smalti was in 2004 in a week long course at the Mosaic Art School in Ravenna, Italy, taught by renowned mosaic artist Luciana Noturni. I have to say the whole process of creating a mosaic in the double reverse method and using hammer and hardy, the way it was done in ancient times, was very intimidating and very time consuming. It was awesome to learn the process but at that time in my mosaic career, smalti seemed a little out of reach to experiment with, as it is very expensive. 

Fast forward to 2013 and I met a couple who have become one of my favorite repeat clients. They have lived the most interesting life of art and adventure, traveling the world over and literally roadtripping from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica.  You can read more of their journey at From Polar Bears to Penguins. They came to me with a commission for a bathroom countertop and the design to be inspired by a book of drawings that they had gotten on their travels. The one they liked the best was a drawing of a tree with all kinds of creatures intertwined and coming out of the branches and roots. As an artist, this is just the thing that gets you excited for a custom project! 

Inspiration for the Smalti Mosaic
They had insisted on smalti and I tried to discourage them, as last I had checked, smalti was ridiculously expensive. As I researched, however, I found that since I had worked with smalti in Italy, there were several vendors that offered smalti here in the US and even some that imported it from Mexico. I chose the latter and when I ordered samples I was very impressed with the quality. Still pricier than glass tiles, but more affordable than I had anticipated. The only way I can describe smalti is that it is yummy. The colors and variations are luscious and it cuts like butter. The texture smalti creates in a mosaic is unlike anything you can create with vitreous glass tile (...says the owner of a mosaic glass tile company). 

So we were all set and began the design process~


...And Complete!

Several months ago, they contacted me to create another smalti mosaic.  This time for their garden. The subject was St Francis and I was very excited because from childhood, he had always been my favorite saint. Of course we went the non-traditional route and used a folk-art drawing as the inspiration and it turned out just perfect for their garden.

In Process

Installed on a boulder in my client's garden

As I was writing this blog, I got an email from my clients asking when we can get started on adding more animals and birds throughout the garden. It's looking like more smalti is in my near future!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Serendipity.  It seems to be the word of the day.  Word of the past few months come to think of it. In my last blog post in October I talked about finding my groove.  Well, it just seems to be getting better.  And taking turns that I couldn't have anticipated.  Really good turns, but we will get to that....

Those of you who know me well, know that I have a gift of manifesting things that are important to me. Almost to uncanny levels of detail.  We got our last two houses this way, so I turned my attention to my work life.  First, let me say that I already feel like I have it all.  I get to work from home, creating works of art that bring pleasure to hundreds (maybe even thousands at this point).  I attract the most amazing people to my classes and workshops. Basically I get to play mosaics all day every day and get paid for it. Not bad, right? I guess you could say that things were getting a little too comfortable and I was ready for the next chapter.  So I put it out to the Universe that I was ready. Ready for whatever it is that is going to take me to that next level.  My dream is to have a community arts center where I can hold larger workshops, have a retail mosaic supply, have visiting artists of all mediums hold workshops and who knows, maybe even a space for yoga and Reiki, the other two loves of my life. I had no idea how this was going to happen (and still don't fully), but something was presented to me that I just couldn't pass up. Something that is a huge step into fulfilling my dream.

Seven years ago I was shopping for mosaics online at a place called (soon after it would be renamed Tessera Glass). As I was placing an order, I realized the company was in Reno. I called them up, picked up the order and we began chatting, totally hitting it off and that was how I got started teaching mosaics. I taught at their warehouse on Dickerson, then followed them over to their new location on Wonder Street. As I grew and expanded Copper Cat Studio, Don and I moved to a home that had a fabulous studio behind the house and there was finally a space that I could teach in of my own. Vernon and Andrea, the owners of Tessera Glass, were totally supportive of me going on my own and we have remained close and continued to send business each other's way over the years.  When the economy took a dive a few years ago they were hard hit but managed to hold on. They started another business in the meantime, Reno Screen Repair, and it has been a great success. As 2014 was coming to a close, they made the very difficult decision to let go of Tessera Glass and concentrate solely on the screen repair business. That's when it hit them that if anyone could take this on maybe it would be me.... It seemed like a no-brainer to me, a fully functioning online mosaic supply store with built in-clients, enough stock to keep me going for quite a while, and all of the support I need from people selling me the business, who want to see me succeed.  I'm excited to be keeping Tessera Glass alive and hope to make them proud by making it bigger and better!

So that Universe, I tell ya.  I asked for it. I knew something big was coming for the last few months. It was even giving me enough anxiety that I had to call in help from my Reiki Master Teacher and friend Denise.  She helped me work through it and the only condition I gave to the Universe was to get me through the holidays, give me some down time (which I didn't get because of another amazing surprise...and blog for another time) and to bring it on after the first of the year.  I got the call on January 2nd. As of Monday, the 2nd of February, I am the official owner of Tessera Glass!  It will remain an online store for the time being, but I'm hoping to have a storefront with larger workshop space within the year. Maybe go back to our roots on Dickerson?  It was our dream that Dickerson would someday be the artist enclave that it has now become.  It wasn't our time then, but maybe now it is....

So back to Serendipity. It seems to be happening on a minute to minute basis lately.  One particularly cool thing was the day that we made the "handshake deal", I went to teach a yoga class that afternoon and one of my very first mosaic students ever, from the Dickerson days was in my class. Just happened to be trying yoga for the first time and ended up in my class. I believe in signs. Serendipity.