Video about my new installation!


This installation is so special to me because it’s the crowning jewel of a nearly 20 year friendship, with a man who (like my own personal Medici) quickly became one of my greatest supporters in being an artist— Dean Banowetz.  A little background— Around the time of the new millennium (you remember Y2K, don’t you?), our mutual friend Jackie McDougall bought a mosaic from me as a gift for Dean… Next thing you know, Dean and I started working together.  It was a match made in heaven— I loved having my hair done, and Dean loved mosaics!  Dean started ordering pieces from me as gifts, and soon enough we started to mosaic his beautiful home in the Hollywood Hills.  His kitchen backsplash, his waterfall, his shower, his fireplace, his fire pit….  But it was all just a prelude to the day Dean said, “Let’s mosaic this wall!”

When I’m creating a piece for someone, especially an installation, I like to not only think about the space that it’s going in— finding a style and a color palette that fit’s it organically— but I also like to think about the person, or people, or family that’s getting it.  Who they are, what they love and are passionate about. What their story is.  One of the reason’s I love mosaics (as a medium) is that you are weaving together actual objects, not just paint or ink— but physical objects.  Usually those objects are tile or glass, but I like to also incorporate personal artifacts of the client’s, and objects that symbolize who or what the mosaic is about— in a personal way.  So I’m always looking for opportunities in the design where those kinds of mosaic pieces can be utilized.

With Dean’s wall I started with the idea of a tree, with a Buddha sitting underneath it.  But then I thought, “the viewer should be the Buddha!”  I wanted to make a tree that would envelop you.  That you could sit under and read a book— or lay down underneath and make wishes up into it and the sky.  Not to mention, trees have such rich and beautiful symbolism in and of themselves— the Tree of Life or sacred tree shows up in just about all of the worlds mythologies and religions.  Also, family being such an important part of who Dean is (#deweydecimalfamily) that I started playing with the idea of a family tree.

Another consideration was that the wall’s ceiling line was at a pretty steep angle (because of the design of the house), making the mosaic more of a trapezoid then a rectangle.  I didn’t want this to make the tree look unbalanced so I decided to make the tree fluid, so there is no exact end, like the tree could go on infinitely.  To achieve this, I made the branches spirals, with each spiral representing one of the 15 children of Dean’s family.  The trunk has in it’s heart his parent’s wedding photo.

And then there were the “Kirstals”….  One of the greatest things about art is that the creative process asks you to be open hearted and opened minded— often your biggest breakthroughs come in unexpected ways.  If you’re open to it, the thing you’re working on tells you what it wants to be.  After finding gorgeous sheets of multi-stained glass in my color palette, to form the body of the tree with, Dean’s friend and client Kirstie Alley generously offered him a large cache of faceted, clear glass crystals— which we affectionately dubbed “Kirstals,” in her honor.  They were stunningly beautiful, but how to incorporate them?  They posed two challenges— first off they were considerably thicker than the stained glass that the rest of the mosaic would be made from (potentially making the transition between thick and thin pieces in the mosaic creatively problematic).   And, they were clear.  Clear is tricky, not only because I love color, but also you would see the fiberglass mesh and adhesive though them…. So I decided take advantage of their thickness and texture, and make the tree out of them.  This would make the tree physically pop out of the sky, and give the entire mosaic a sensual texture, like the magic etherial version of bark.  But in order for this idea to work, I had to paint the back of every Kirstal… And if I was going to do all the work of painting it, I obviously had to also add sparkle to that paint surface, even though it was under the glass, so I systematically glittered and painted thousands of Kirstals, re-creating my color palette for the tree.  Another side benefit of this idea, was that the added thickness gave more room for the hundreds of personal and symbolic objects I embedded in the trunk, branches and leaves of the tree.

I have to take a moment here to give a shout out to my dear friends, Joe Chaffee and Andrew Luka, who demanded I take over their huge, air conditioned garage so that I would have a space big enough to construct Dean’s Family Tree.  Can’t thank them enough for such a tremendous gift!

Scavenger Hunt:

Besides personal items from Dean’s life, photographs under glass, and meaningful jewelry, the objects hidden throughout are symbols of hope, prosperity, love, earth, animals, and all things to hold dear.  There are also, my favorite, several “Li’l Deans” scattered through out.  And of course, if you know Dean and his love of Christmas, there are as you might expect, wrapped gifts, reindeer, and hooks on each branch to hang an ornament from.  If you happen to see Dean’s Tree in person, or watch the doc (above) we put together showing some of it’s construction and installation, please sign the guest book below with anything you find in the mosaic— we’ll see how long it takes to find everything!

Here is a partial list, just to get you started:

What can you find?
Soldiers, birds, sea shells, Li’l Dean’s, Dean photographs, flowers, leaves, hearts, words of encouragement, pennies, nickels, peace signs, dollar signs, Kirstals, Mother Marys, skulls, reindeer, Christmas gifts,  lions, unicorns, seahorses, hippos, turtles, crowns, numbers, mustaches, combs, brushes, purses, giraffes, Jesus, kings, airplanes, palm trees, fleur de lis, tigers, trains, QR code, butterflies, mardi gras masks, Tiffany Miller Mosaics logo, suns, faces, diva heart, beads, buddhas, stars, clocks, millefiori, amber, gemstones, Iowa pins, bottle caps, sand castles, scissors, beach, bears, flip flops, fish, dolphins, lips, high heels, hooks, candy, keys, buttons, dogs, owls, people, jewelry, angels, playing cards, guitars, cars, pictographs, and dragons….

Easter Eggs!

There’s two bonus discoveries embedded in this mosaic— one of which you can only see in the video….  Partially inspired by Dr. Masaru Emoto’s book, The Hidden Messages in Water (and partially just for fun because I can’t help myself), all of the adhesive was drawn on in patterns in between the two layers of backing I used.  The patterns encrypt each panel with secret messages of love and prosperity.  And finally, each night once it’s dark, the tree glows.  I outlined the entire tree and it’s leaves in blue and green glow in the dark glass tile.

Guest Book:

“We Step Into the Light” Pilot Project



WE STEP INTO THE LIGHT is a continuous global art exhibition that encourages artists from all mediums of art to capture the beauty and strength of those who have survived the trauma of abuse and tragedy and have built thriving lives. The origin of the exhibition comes from the experiences and triumphs of a thriving sexual assault survivor Dr. Desmonette Hazly. Dr. Hazly wanted to have a life centered on her dreams, goals and aspirations and not allow the trauma of rape to be the defining moment of her identity. After writing a creative sensual cookbook to address issues of intimacy and body image, Dr. Hazly recognized the power of art to inspire those who have suffered emotional and physical trauma of abuse to see their beauty and find their strength to live the lives they have always wanted.

WE STEP INTO THE LIGHT partners volunteer artists with survivors who are thriving in their lives despite the pain they have suffered. The artists get to know and understand the thriving models and create an image that represents the growth and uniqueness of the people who triumph over tragedy. Each model that is immortalized in a piece of art writes a brief narrative celebrating their survival and highlighting their will to thrive and be successful in their lives.

On April 16The Rape Crisis Center of the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles had their first annual Thriving Awards dinner. The event was inspired by Dr. Desmonette Hazly and celebrates thriving individuals who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence and have gone on to build incredible meaningful lives. The YWCA, as part of the evening’s celebration, hosted the first We Step Into the Light art exhibition.  Dr. Hazly volunteered with the YWCA’s Compton Rape Crisis Center when she began her social work career over 16 years ago and felt it was befitting to have the agency host the first art exhibition. A staggering one third of all women globally have been raped or abused in their lifetimes. Many women suffer in silence and do not have the opportunity to rebuild their lives after the trauma. WE STEP INTO THE LIGHT looks to use the power of Art, to shed light on the issue and gives hope by highlighting the lives and beauty of thriving survivors.

“We Step Into the Light” Pilot Project…

artistsandmodelsds.jpg Ten Los Angeles area survivors were depicted in artwork by community artists and advanced art students at Cal State Dominguez Hills for the premier of the art exhibition. The artists created portraits of the survivors depicting them in a way that shows their strength. The artwork was displayed on April 16th and then shown at various public buildings throughout Los Angeles. Mickey Melton, Director of the Rape Crisis Center at the YWCA, said the “We Step Into the Light Program” has by itself changed the association’s rape crisis strategies from here forward. 

Meet Korlah pt 1

korlah-ywca-02.jpgCreated as part of the “We Step Into The Light” art exhibit, I had the honor of meeting and mosaicing, Korlah. I brought a list of questions, that I thought might be a good springboard for getting to know her better.  The questions ranged from simply, “what is your favorite color” to questions like, “what brings you peace”.  Not sure how open Korlah would be to sharing these intimate parts of her life, I was blown away by the insightful and inspiring answers she responded with.  Immediately I felt connected with her and knew that my biggest challenge was going to be trying to capture Korlah in just a single piece!  

Meet Korlah pt 2


What to say?

korlah-ywca-34.jpg My deepest desire was to express in this portrait, Korlah’s indomitable spirit. I also wanted to do justice to her incredible, radiant beauty. Over the course of our meetings and correspondence I tried to learn about her interests and passions, in the hopes of incorporating them, in some way, into the piece.



korlah-ywca-14.jpgTo create “Korlah” I knew I would use her favorite colors, but I wanted to hand paint bisque tiles so that I could create natural variation and shading within each color. I also hand sculpted many different images that corresponded with various aspects of her life and dreams. I like to use images like this in unexpected ways, to elaborate on her story. Once all sculpting, glazing, and firings, were complete I was ready to mosaic!





Exhibit Premier!

korlah-show.jpg With much anticipation and the portraits finally complete, all of the models and artist came together for a wonderful evening of empowerment through art. The survivors saw their portraits for the first time.