"Entangled Bank" - Mural Created for Irvine Valley College's New Life Science Building

Piece by Piece participant artists, instructors and volunteers recently completed a five-foot by fifteen foot, five panel mural for Irvine Valley College's new Life Sciences Building. The given theme was "chaos to order."

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Piece by Piece artists work on transferring design to the five 3 ft x 5 ft panels.

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Program Director Dawn Mendelson with Piece by Piece artists reviewing materials.

Throughout the process, we had guest artists share their talents. Visiting Artist Matt Doolin, who works with handmade tile and mosaic, worked with our artists to create sculpted shapes and creatures for the "primordial soup".

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Visiting artist Matt Doolin working with Piece by Piece artists to create clay creatures.

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Primordial soup

We received some excellent donations of recycled materials for this project, including rejected pieces from Xiem Clay Center and a local ceramic artist, as well as broken stained glass from various sources.

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We used glaze-testing tubes, both round and square, as elements in the mural.

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In the last panel, which had elements representing mankind,we used tools and other metal parts including springs, a saw blade, gears and keys.

 Throughout the fabrication of this project, our artists worked together to refine the original design conceived by Dawn Mendelson. Each participating artist contributed his or her individual vision and talent. We used all types of materials, requiring us to learn new skills to shape them. In addition to the good old-fashioned hammer and standard nippers, we made use of the excellent new Revolution XT saw received as a very kind donation from Gemini Saw.

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Instructor Leigh Adams worked with Piece by Piece artist Juan, cutting a section of a ceramic bowl for the mural.

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Piece by Piece artists Juan and Jose work on panel 2.

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Assistant instructor Bea Jones with Piece by Piece artists Guadalupe and Deborah.

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We are grateful for our fantastic volunteers who also contributed to this mural. Shown: (top) Piece by Piece artist Guadalupe with volunteer Julie Williams. (bottom) Volunteer Gale Sorenson with Assistant Instructor Bea Jones. Not shown: volunteer Mireille Swinnen.

When the mural was complete, it made the journey down to Irvine for installation.

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Lead instructor Luz Mack Durini on installation day.

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In March, Piece by Piece was invited to attend the dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting of the new building. Our artists received Certificates of Completion and enjoyed the moment.

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Thank you to the office of the President at Irvine Valley College and the School of Life Sciences and Technology faculty for their kind support!

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Meet the Artist: Donald Taylor

Piece by Piece artist Donald Taylor has been coming to our workshops for seven years. He comes every week with his family. All three of them have worked on projects and enjoy being a part of the Piece by Piece family.

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When asked about himself, Donald says: "I'm a father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I'm married to Linda and attend Ward AME church weekly. I worked at Toyota Motors for 34 years. I sing in the choir and the male-only choir at the church. I bowl every Monday, so I do keep myself busy.

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Donald in Piece by Piece mosaic heart workshop.

This is the first time Donald has tried any type of art. We asked him a few questions about his experiences with Piece by Piece and mosaic:

What do you like about the program Piece by Piece?

The teachers are great. I have learned how to use glass. We have learned how to cut it, use the grinder on it. I like being with the people. We have become a family...we know what each one likes."

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Donald with one of his first pieces.

What materials do you like to use?

Mostly glass, that's what I use.

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Donald's favorite mosaic so far.

What is your favorite mosaic you have made?

One was a cat, and the one I am working on now, a mosaic of Martin Luther King, Jr..

What would you like to learn more about?

I'll need help with some of the work on the Martin Luther King, Jr. piece.

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Donald and Linda Taylor enjoying workshop time with fellow artist Wacola and Piece by Piece assistant instructor Bea Jones.

What is the most important thing you have learned in the workshops?

For me, it would be cutting glass since I do so much of it. I also cut glass very small. However, on this MLK piece, I've had to learn to use the grinder, too.

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Donald and Linda Taylor at City Hall. Piece by Piece received a Certificate of Commendation from former Councilwoman Jan Perry's office in 2013.

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Donald with granddaughter Brandi at our most recent field trip to the Craft and Folk Art Museum. Brandi attends Piece by Piece workshops when she's not in school.

How has Piece by Piece helped you?

First off, it has given me and my wife somewhere to go and share doing artwork together. We share this time learning and sometimes Brandi is with us, but most of the time we are together. We always stop to get something to eat, then come to class. We get there early to help set up. This is something we like to do. Being a part of the whole part of Piece by Piece means a lot to us. From set up to the learning to making the projects, to the wonderful teachers--all are friends. That makes us want to get up each Friday and come to class.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Featured Piece by Piece Artist: Hugo S.

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Hugo has been a participant artist with Piece by Piece for four years. Throughout the years, he has developed his skills and found his voice through geometric design. He has an eye for preciseness and enjoys working out complex designs. When he first came to our workshops, he had no design or art experience.

Hugo was born and grew up in Guatemala City, which is located in Central America. He worked and studied there, graduating as an accountant. He attended the University of San Carlos from Guatemala for 2 years, and came to the United States in 1990. Hugo has excelled in English classes at two local learning centers and has found employment as a cook assistant and a cashier. He considers himself a helpful and joyful person, and we agree.

Piece by Piece Instructor Leigh Adams says of Hugo: "Hugo is continually improving his skills and actively seeks new information to incorporate into his work. His sense of color and design is delightful and his sense of humor creates ongoing smiles in the classroom."

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Hugo attends workshops regularly, and has contributed to the Villas at Gower public art project as well as several other large commissions.

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"What I like about the program is how the teachers teach us the techniques and methods to work the different projects of mosaic; furthermore, the skills and experience that each teacher has. What I like about the program is what I learn in each project of mosaic. The program has helped me emotionally and economically."

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"I like to work with different materials, and I like free style but I prefer geometric style."

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"My favorite mosaic I have made was my geometric vase, and I have other favorite mosaics as well."

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Hugo's goals are to learn more about techniques and methods to make his projects better.

"The most important things I have learned is how to use the mosaic tools; moreover, I have learned the different kinds of cut on the glass; the color of the grout I use in each project; how to mix paint colors; and what andamento to use in each project."

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Commissions: Unique Artwork and Team Building

As our Piece by Piece artists become more skilled in the art of mosaic, they seek projects that challenge. They are inspired by the quality of their work and the realization that mosaic can enhance an environment or commemorate an event. Their ever-increasing skills have led to many commissions. From smaller, more personal, works involving precious china, to larger pieces that make a statement about a specific location, these projects give great pleasure and beauty to those who commission them. They also allow our artists to shine both individually and as a team.

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Centerpieces created for Universal Studios event.

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Piece by Piece artists working on large commission.

Private Commissions

Mosaic has a very personal component that can incorporate history through the pieces, be it china, special glass or re-purposed ceramics. One of our commissions was to create a set of tables using shards of blue and white china found on a beach in New York. The clients commissioned two Piece by Piece artists to create these tables that are now a part of their home and tell a special story of the history of a hotel in Long Island.

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One of two tables created using found china shards.

Our artists have also created several special mirror commissions to match the decor of clients' homes or offices.

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Mirrors created for private clients by Piece by Piece artists.

Large-Scale Projects

On a larger scale, we have worked as a team to create several big projects. Below is a photo of a three-panel mural for U.S. Container Corporation, which now hangs in their conference room.

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This abstract mural has recycled ceramic and glass and is 15 feet by 3 feet.

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Just recently, our artist team also completed a series of five geometric circles for a private residence in the Hollywood Hills (seen below).

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Recycled ceramics and glass were used to create these geometric circles, which range in size from 2-foot diameter to 6-foot diameter. Each artist worked on individual sections using different andamenti, demonstrating their unique styles.

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The circles were created on mesh and installed by a professional contractor.

Group Commissions

Commissions for events are another way for our artists to express their individual talents in collective projects. From wedding favors to centerpieces to corporate gifts, Piece by Piece has distinguished itself with our artists' far-reaching creativity.

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A series of small garden pot wedding favors created by team of Piece by Piece artists. 

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Centerpiece vases created for a non-profit organization's fund raising event.

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Wine stoppers created as gifts for a local company.

There are many ways our artists can add to either the decor of a home or a special event. In doing so, they not only earn funds and elevate their technical skills, but they enrich their lives through giving back. Commissions elicit a sense of belonging and purpose. Working together as a team to create something is even more enriching. Our goals through these types of projects are to build confidence, encourage entrepreneurship, and contribute something meaningful to our community.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Featured Piece by Piece artist: Guadalupe G.

Although Guadalupe joined our program only little over one year ago, she has quickly become an enthusiastic participant in every workshop, and is working as a qualified artist on one of our large commission projects. Since her first days at Piece by Piece, Guadalupe has joined in, lending a hand wherever necessary and challenging herself with every mosaic piece she creates. She always greets everyone with a warm smile. Guadalupe graduated as a medical assistant in 2004, and calls herself a very active person. She has also faced some major health issues: she was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, and feels fortunate to now be in remission. Her bright and courageous spirit is a great benefit to the Piece by Piece family.

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Have you done another type of artwork? I took some painting classes, but not for long. I enjoyed it.

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Guadalupe in Visiting Artist Jolino Beserra's mosaic lamp workshop.

How long have you been taking workshops with Piece by Piece? I have taken workshops with Piece by Piece since June 2012, when Juan Carlos, my case manager, told me about the program, and I have liked it a lot.

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 Guadalupe with Visiting Artist Charles Dickson at the Watts Towers

What do you like about the program? I like it because I have learned new things, and they treat me like family and I enjoy the classes a lot.

What materials do you like to use? I have enjoyed all the material that I have used until now,  but I find glass the most fun because of the varied colors and textures.

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Hummingbird

What is your favorite mosaic you have made? Sunflowers and the hummingbird. I have enjoyed all of them, but those are the best so far. I liked them a lot. I don't think they're the greatest, but I hope to improve with each passing day.

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Guadalupe's first small commission.

What would you like to learn more about? I would like to improve each thing that I learn to do every day and that I do different things and I learn something new…I like that.

What is the most important thing you have learned in the workshops? I have tried to put into practice what I have learned, such as andamento for example, and using the colors and textures of the materials.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Meet Our Instructors: Luz Mack Durini

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When Luz Mack Durini first learned of Piece by Piece, she had no idea she would find herself teaching mosaic art, working with an incredible group of inner-city artists, and leading large public art projects. Luz started working with Piece by Piece almost six years ago, and she has become an integral part of the organization's instructor team. Her technical prowess in all things mosaic combined with her keen sense of detail keep all of our artists and instructors alike striving to raise the bar in their personal and community work.

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Red Borealis by Luz Mack Durini

Luz started out working in stained glass. From the beginnings of a small votive to refined mirrors to exquisite fine art, Luz has always pushed the envelope in this medium. Her education is extensive and she is always taking workshops to improve her work and expand her vision.

This drive for excellence is an inspiration to many of our participant artists. At every workshop, artist are always asking her advice on grout color, adhesives, or design. She is tough, they all know, but she is honest and she truly cares about helping our artists become the best they can be.

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Recently, Piece by Piece was awarded a public art project through the Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency and A Community of Friends. Luz and Dawn Mendelson collaborated on unique design for Villas at Gower, a permanent supportive housing development for homeless, at-risk of homelessness or families dealing with mental illness. The entire Piece by Piece team including founder Sophie Alpert, our instructors and participant artists all worked for almost two years to complete this amazing project. It was a wonderful accomplishment that has led to many other large opportunities.

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Dawn Mendelson and Luz Mack Durini with leaf from Villas at Gower public art project.

We asked Luz a few questions about her relationship with mosaic and with Piece by Piece:

How did you come to mosaic art?

 I bought a mosaic candle holder that I lit during the night.  It gave me such joy to look at the shapes, the colors and the reflections bouncing on the wall! Soon enough, I found myself trying to make a mosaic...that was more than 15 years ago and I haven't stop since then.

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Oro Blanco by Luz Mack Durini

What do you like about it?

Mosaic is an amazingly flexible and approachable media that I can do at my own pace. It does not require a big or a special fitted space, it can be done with the simplest of tools and it can be made with practically every single material available that is new, recycled or repurposed. Mosaics can be functional, non-functional, flat, tridimensional, kinetic, can be used for dry or wet applications, can be created for indoor and outdoor spaces,  private or public locations. Mosaics offer unlimited possibilities that inspire me, give me  comfort, fuel my passion and keep me connected.

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by Luz Mack Durini

What is your inspiration? 

Materials, textures, shapes, colors, music, architecture, beauty, nature, art.

Do you have a favorite artist who influences your work?

I am moved by a lot of artists and artistic expressions.  I feel all the interactions in life influence my work.

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What do you like about

Piece by Piece

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It's an amazing organization that through art gives the opportunity for growth to all who are involved.  It provides a nourishing environment to develop confidence, creativity, and teamwork; it promotes connections and creates friendships. The instructors are people that I respect, love and consider my family.

What do you see in the future for

Piece by Piece

?

I see Piece by Piece continuing its growth, embracing more participants and representing a strong art mosaic force in Los Angeles.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Open Workshops Offer More Than Mosaic

In addition to our directed studies and visiting artist workshops, Piece by Piece has a weekly Open Workshop. These classes are designed to provide a venue for both new and experienced participants to come together to learn, find inspiration, share ideas, and get one-on-one time with instructors.  On any given week, there are 25 to 30 artists in attendance.

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Instructor Luz Mack Durini works with a young artist (L). Instructor Ivan DeAvy advises artist (R).

Everyone works at a difference pace and at different levels. Here, participants can grout their pieces and finish them by polishing, painting and adding hanging hardware.

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Participant artists Juan and Guadalupe grout their pieces.

Every workshop is filled with high energy and enthusiasm as participant artists work on their projects and show their finished pieces. Sharing techniques and ideas, artists are in a nurturing environment that fosters camaraderie.

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Young artist Brandi shares her finished piece, and artists Donald, Linda and Wacola work on projects.

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Instructor Bea Jones shares some of her work.

We also have some very young talent:

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Our workshops could not function without our amazing volunteers, who help with everything from preparing materials to advising artists on their artwork to set-up and clean-up tasks.

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 The wonderful Belinda gives a bright smile to everyone she sees. Her energy is inspiring!

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Volunteer Gale advises artist Jose M. on materials. Her kindness and supportive nature is welcoming.

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Volunteer Chris (on right) helps sort donated glass with participant artist Ninive. We are grateful for her time and generosity.

The workshops are also an opportunity for participants to give back and volunteer their time. Recently, we received a large donation from Lighthouse Stained Glass in Los Angeles. Everyone jumped in to wash and sort the materials.

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Instructor Leigh Adams sorting donation.

Piece by Piece is a micro-enterprise, and once participants have completed a series of classes, we offer them the opportunity to sell their work. But, it is also a community, full of support for all things mosaic and more. We share our stories, talk about our families, our triumphs and our tragedies, at these workshops. It is where we learn from each other, listen to ideas and collaborate. It is a time for everyone to come together, and the reason we have come to call ourselves the Piece by Piece family.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Villas at Gower Public Art Project, Part Two: Installation and Celebration

Installation The daunting task of installing Piece by Piece's first public art project fell into the very capable hands of L.A. ProPoint, a company that has done some incredible and large installations at the Hollywood Bowl, Universal Studios and the National World War II Museum.

The attachment points for each leaf and the vine were installed by the construction crew a year before the installation, as they needed to be embedded in the construct of the building. Once the building and the artwork were completed, L.A. ProPoint arrived to attach the artwork. Because the pieces were large and so high up (the highest pieces were at five stories), they brought in a mobile crane. The installation team rode in the basket and carried each piece of the artwork individually.

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The crane was positioned outside the building, and installers were lowered into the courtyard.

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The vine was attached first.

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The leaves went next.

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All pieces were carefully matched to the attachment points.

Each leaf and vine had a series of extended bolts, which fit into the plates in the building. We were pleased and impressed with L.A. ProPoint's team of installers and their expertise.

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Trio of leaves
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Celebration

With the installation at last complete, there was a call to celebrate!  At the unveiling of the project, Piece by Piece artists were recognized for their hard work, dedication and talents.

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(photo by Jose Morales)

Founder Sophie Alpert (R) with Artist Instructors Luz Mack Durini and Dawn Mendelson presented the Piece by Piece artists with a certificate of achievement and an award.

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Above: Piece by Piece artists and instructors. Below: Piece by Piece artists Jose, Jaime and Deborah with their awards.

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And, of course, there was a delicious cake!

Congratulations to everyone involved!

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Villas at Gower Public Art Project

When Piece by Piece was founded by Sophie Alpert, the goal was to provide a much-needed source of supplemental income to recently homeless and very low income residents of inner city Los Angeles. It quickly became much more. Under the tutelage of a team of professional artists, participants’ skills in the medium far exceeded expectations. Many individuals arrived already teeming with untapped creativity. Others, with little or no artistic experience, came full of enthusiasm and learned quickly. The result: an incredible group of talented new artists, eager to engage not only in the creation of their own artistic expressions, but to participate in projects that contribute to the greater community.

As these participant artists experienced the empowerment of selling their artwork, they also developed a strong alliance with each other. They shared knowledge and found themselves looking past the immediate and into what was possible through the strength of teamwork. Several smaller group projects made it evident these Piece by Piece artists were ready for something big. When the opportunity presented itself to apply for a public art project, Sophie Alpert took it.

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Founder Sophie Alpert (center) with Piece by Piece instructor artists Dawn Mendelson (L) and Luz Mack Durini (R)

The public art process, as some may know, is no easy task. There are many requirements to meet, technical aspects to master, and paperwork to process. It took almost a year before we even started the actual mosaic. Part way through, the California Redevelopment Agency--the project's main funding source-- shut down, and the project was at risk of not being completed. It took the effort and enthusiasm of  everyone involved to push the project forward. Throughout the process, Piece by Piece worked closely with the construction crew, the architects, fabrication artists, and those who would be involved in the final installation of the artwork. The building, Villas at Gower, would be new permanent supportive housing for homeless, at-risk of homelessness or families dealing with mental illness.

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Drawing of Villas at Gower leaves

Piece by Piece instructor artists Luz Mack Durini and Dawn Mendelson collaborated on the original design concept. Inspired by the garden and its abundant sense of wonder and beauty in nature, they developed a series of ten leaves, each its own oasis of inspiration. Every leaf features a flower symbolizing a human quality we aspire to in our everyday lives. The rose, for example, symbolizes love; the chrysanthemum, optimism; the magnolia, dignity.

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Piece by Piece instructor team (L to R): Luz Mack Durini, Dawn Mendelson, Bea Jones, Leigh Adams

Throughout the process, the team of artist instructors worked together to fine-tune the design. Piece by Piece instructor Leigh Adams added both her experience in the garden as artist in residence at the L.A. Arboretum and her technical prowess in cutting skills. Bea Jones was a steady force, working on every aspect of the project.

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Piece by Piece artists, instructors and volunteers on grout day.

But it was the Piece by Piece participant artists who gave their best work, their dedication, and their enthusiasm to make the project move forward. They worked together twice a week as a team and inspired not only each other, but the whole Piece by Piece family.

The Construction

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Three of the leaves have a branch attached directly. There are two larger vines hosting the other leaves.

The fabrication of this project was the result of a huge team of artists, volunteers and technical experts. The realistic vine was created by Lucas Look Designs, a company that creates scenery for Hollywood and Disney. It was sculpted from an epoxy base and rivals the trees in our own backyard in beauty.

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Piece by Piece participating artists cut high-density foam and covered it in two layers of mesh and concrete.

To begin the process of fabricating the leaves themselves, Piece by Piece enlisted the technical and artistic experience of renowned sculptor Sherri Warner Hunter. Her unique foam construction technique was the basis for the leaves. High density foam was shaped, reinforced with a skeleton, and covered in a series of layers of concrete and fiberglass mesh.

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Artist Sherri Warner Hunter works with Piece by Piece artists on the fabrication of the leaf forms.

Beyond the technical, Sherri worked with our artists to see in 3D and understand shape and form. Her down-to-earth manner and her way of communicating with our artists helped them not only to master the foam, but to transfer this vision to their own work.

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 After the fabrication of the forms, the design was transferred to the leaves.

The Fabrication

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The unique clay flowers were handmade by our participants, under the guidance of artist Matt Doolin of Topanga Art Tile. Matt taught our artists the subtlety of coaxing the clay into the delicate petals of our flowers. They were sculpted from high-fire clay and formed to the contours of the leaves.

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Artist Matt Doolin worked with Piece by Piece artists to form the clay flowers.

The mosaic background was fabricated entirely by our team of participant artists, instructors, and volunteers. Over 15,000 pieces were hand cut and placed.

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Piece by Piece artists working on mosaic.

The grouting process was completed in two days.

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The Results

When the leaves were completed, there was a great sense of accomplishment by all. Our artists demonstrated true teamwork, showing anything can be achieved if we work together. This public art project became more than making some extra money. It became a sense of pride, a feeling of belonging, a drive to succeed.

The vine can be seen as unfurling our hopes and dreams. The roots are constructed from teamwork, individual creativity, and the desire to give back to the community. The leaves are a testimony to the human spirit. With new skills and renewed vision, our Piece by Piece artists have created something unique for the residents of Villas at Gower. It something to be proud of. And that is what we do with every piece of art at Piece by Piece: foster the love for what we do, embrace optimism, and build dignity.

Stay tuned for Part Two: the Installation.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.

Meet Our Instructors: Leigh Adams

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When you visit a Piece by Piece open workshop, you will often see a group of participants surrounding a purple-haired woman. Leigh Adams, an instructor with Piece by Piece for five years, is known for her kindness and candid but supportive coaching--on mosaic and life skills in general. Her background of teaching for 30 years, both in the classroom and in different venues, gives her a depth of experience to pull from. She has taught internationally in China, East Africa, Mexico and Central America, working with a variety of populations.

Her experience doesn’t stop at teaching--she is also a renowned artist, specializing in glass. She is the Artist in Residence at the L.A. Arboretum, and most recently curated their most successful exhibit ever: Forces of Nature. Several of our instructors and one of our participant artists were accepted into this show. Her own work can be found in various galleries, public sites and private residences.

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Chinese Mosaic by Leigh Adams

At Piece by Piece, Leigh teaches beginning workshops, cutting techniques, finishing techniques, and supports our larger commissions with her talents in cutting, clay forming and other specialties. She has a wonderful way of encouraging creativity, helping our participant artists to free themselves from inhibitions, and explore and develop their talents. She is also bilingual, and her fluent Spanish relaxes many of our ESL artists, who can express themselves more articulately through their own language.

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Leigh talking with participant artist at a workshop

We asked Leigh a few questions about her relationship with Piece by Piece, and art in general:

You have a wide range of experience in art. What are some of the other mediums you’ve worked with? I put myself through school by sewing stage clothes for rock stars, making pillows, recovering furniture and decorating houses. Then came many years of giant soft sculpture monsters, embroidery, quilting, crocheting, basketry, gourd art and toy design. All accompanied by garden design, hot, warm and cold glass work, jewelry design and doing art with children.

How did you come to mosaic art? My love of mosaic comes from coveting the Fiestaware dishes of a favorite aunt. I took enormous pleasure in getting a bowl or plate in the colors that I love. When I had my own plates and my own children shattered them, I couldn’t bear to throw the beloved dishes away. I learned to imbed them in concrete and create colorful patterns.

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Rainbow Dream Snake as seen from above, at L.A. Arboretum, by Leigh Adams

What do you like about it? What I like most about mosaic is its versatility, its infinite variety and its beautiful recycled colors!

What is your inspiration? My own art is a part of a long running dialogue with nature and the universe. I was inspired by the broken dishes generated by my own children and the joy of turning something shattered into something positive and beautiful. It is a paradigm shift worth pursuing for everyone!

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Leigh's mosaic throne in the garden

Do you have a favorite artist who influences your work? I am most inspired by the colors of nature and the beauty of folk art by indigenous peoples.

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Instructors Luz Mack Durini and Leigh Adams at recent workshop

‘What do you like about Piece by Piece? What I like most about Piece by Piece are the people! The teachers, the participants, the volunteers…all are incredible human beings. I love that we get to see people grow and develop in their art and style while we are immersed in the joy and color of mosaic.

Leigh and Hilda2

What do you see in the future for Piece by Piece? I see us doing larger and larger projects and developing more artists and supporting them in creating their own careers.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.