Betty Rosen has taught with Piece by Piece since its inception, over seven years ago. She facilitated our first community mural for Broadway Village, a location where we still teach today.
This mural, created by the residents of supportive housing, hangs in the lobby of Broadway Village II. Betty led the group from design to finishing.
Now, Betty leads our Skills-Development workshops. Every Wednesday afternoon at Star Apartments in Skid Row, she arrives before lunch to set up materials for her workshop and spends lunch time with participants and fellow staff. Thanks to her fun but focused teaching curriculum, more and more participants have advanced through our Certificate Program. Her teaching style consists of lecturing and demos followed by hands-on mosaic work. Betty is always open to supporting our participants through their most ambitious ideas. She also supports Piece by Piece by through donations of materials, and teaching at community events. Her thoughtful nature and devotion to teaching has made her an essential part of our program.
How did you come to mosaic art?
I had gotten to the most successful place I'd been in the Entertainment Industry, and it wasn't what I thought it would be. I guess I’m part of the universal story of redefining one’s own view of happiness and success.
I'd always loved art, beauty, glass, light, color. I'd been told that I had a unique view of the world. But, I thought being an artist was for other people. For years, I advocated for filmmakers and songwriters. That redefinition began as I spent my vacations experimenting… taking glassblowing, and flame-working classes at the Appalachian Center for Crafts in Tennessee and at Penland in North Carolina. I loved the magic of it, the orange glow, the immediacy and the camaraderie. Glassblowing demands that you are simultaneously collaborative, present, active, strong and graceful.
"Peacock" mailbox by Betty
I was running a music publishing company, a non-profit Film Music Workshop and commuting 2 days a week for glassblowing classes. I had one of those days in the hot shop where I hit the wall. I had too many other commitments to give the glass what is required to master something simple. A dear friend of mine and I spotted a weekend workshop to make mosaics. We decided to take Sherri Warner Hunter's class as a break from our busy music business schedules. We loved it and were hooked. Sherri laid out a cornucopia of materials, and resources and support, and we lapped it up.
Community mural co-facilitated by Betty, created by artists and members of the community in Lomita, now hangs in the emergency room lobby of Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Carson, CA
What do you like about the mosaic class?
Initially, like most newbies, I found the eye candy of mosaics most attractive. The possibilities are endless. It's exciting. Participating in mosaics is immediately accessible for anyone.
For my final in my Glassblowing Class with Curtiss Brock, I made a 3' x 5' mosaic with two colored grout and failed back lit cast glass pieces. Oh my God! What I thought might take me a few hours turned into a very long day I'll never forget. There were lessons learned that weekend that I still hope to pass along to my students. "Never Grout Alone."
"Catch a Plastic Wave" Surfboard mosaic in process. Betty used plastic trash and other recycled items.
When I got further into the craft, the technique, the ancient history of mosaics, I realized how time consuming it is, and how many different skills are required. I couldn't stay insulated and grow. I missed the collaborative nature of my previous careers. I like the back and forth of working solitary, and then in collaboration.
In this immediate gratification society, we are lucky we are making something that will outlive us. I believe that the wellness aspect to making art is compounded when it’s done collaboratively. Being tapped into one of the ancient art forms, and doing that together, offers a wellness component to our work. Builds community. Makes the work better. Offers opportunities for everyone to participate.
Betty taught at Sharefest service day with over 100 youth and seniors to create circle design garden pots for the Wilmington Senior Center.
What is your inspiration?
What isn't? Mostly it’s moments. Connections between people. And music.
From current events, to children's smiles, to autumn leaves, witnessing kindnesses between people, the crack of the ball on a baseball bat, a song being counted as the drum stick hits the edge of the drum, the smell of the Sees Candy Factory on La Cienega while I'm stuck in horrific traffic, my dog Otis wagging his tail, the light hitting the ocean.
Do you have a favorite artist who influences your work?
The artists that influence my work are mostly outside the mosaic world. I'm a dedicated music, radio and film fan. I spend a lot of time in the studio listening to all sorts of music and lectures.
Betty working on mosaic installation for exterior barbecue, private residence.
Some random selection of films I love and study…documentaries, classics, pop films GRANDMA PRISBY'S BOTTLE VILLAGE, MICHAEL CLAYTON, KEYS TO THE KINGDOM, THE FUGITIVE, DESK SET, FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, Stories of Underdogs and outliers succeeding.
Of late, I'm listening to KPFK, RAVI SHANKAR, TEDESCHI TRUCKS, GARY CLARK JR, RAY CHARLES, anything I can dance to, shake off the troubles of the world and get back to a positive focus. I'm exposing myself to music from other countries, opera, classical, lots of podcasts and lectures about new ways of living and working together. I'm curious and excited to learn new things.
Beginning mosaic workshop at Star Apartments.
What do you like about Piece by Piece?
Everything. Piece by Piece is all about second chances. We all get recycled, upcycled, and changed by making work together. I like that we create an environment where we share information and challenge each other and laugh a lot. I love that Piece by Piece invites other artists from all over the world to share their skills, talents and warmth. I was involved in the early stages of Piece by Piece, and then got distracted by life. I am grateful that Dawn Mendelson gave me a second chance to teach Beginning Mosaics here. I get to be a recruiter for fun, beauty, and collaboration.
Living Arts Fair, where residents of Skid Row participated in a variety of arts and health-related activities.
What do you see in the future for Piece by Piece?
People are attracted to Piece by Piece. We make stunning, thoughtful work that lasts a lifetime. It’s a grateful organization where everyone contributes. We enjoy our work, and we work hard.
I'd like to see Piece by Piece spread these good works by consulting with other well-intentioned organizations to be more effective. I think we excel at training volunteers and participants to learn the art and craft of mosaic-making to a high artistic standard; and even more importantly, how to treat each other with kindness and respect on a daily basis.
Want to learn more about Betty and her work? www.mosaicalchemy.carbonmade.com | FB: Mosaic Alchemy Interested in Volunteering for Betty's class? firstname.lastname@example.org | 323.863.5439