begin by looking within

Begin by looking within

During my month in Los Angeles, I had the honor and joy to be invited as Visiting Artist Instructor at Piece by Piece organization. I offered a 2-session Mind’s Eye class and we explored mandalas, color theory, and techniques for creating color effects in mosaics. This was new information for many, and it was enthusiastically received.

A happy childhood dream filled this circle

A happy childhood dream collected

We began with my favorite exercise: mandala drawing. This is done first by centering the breath and calming your mind. We then start to draw without thinking or planning, being attracted by whatever colors, shapes or ideas may come to mind. It’s like free association drawing, while working with the circle as a “container.” In fact, one interpretation of the Mandala can translate as Mind Container or Essence Container.

People were surprised with their work. Even those who resisted the idea of drawing at first, ended up loving it!


Founder, Sophie Alpert’s idea for Piece by Piece was inspired by successful micro-finance models used in South Africa. Piece by Piece offers free training in mosaic art and hosts several shows a year, allowing a venue for these new artists to sell their work, if they choose. For every sale of mosaic art, artists keep a percentage and part goes to continue the program. Participants earn much needed income while gaining a skill and lifting their self-esteem.

Eutiquio gets inspiration from crop circle geometry

Eutiquio gathers inspiration from crop circle geometry

Many of the participants have been formerly homeless and are very low income individuals who are battling any variety of problems from mental health issues, to domestic abuse, to unemployment. The program services on average 30-40 people per class period, twice a week. The 2-year old non-profit is rapidly gaining momentum and they soon hope to raise enough funds to find a permanent studio.

Lillian explains the Color Wheel as Luz translates into Spanish

Lillian explains the Color Wheel as Luz translates into Spanish

The glowing embers at the core of the program are Artistic Director Dawn Mendelson; glass mosaic master, Luz Mack-Durini, who was my awesome translator; and Leigh Adams, colorful glass and installation artist.  Together, with a group of dedicated bi-lingual volunteers, they create a classroom that is an open, safe and supportive environment in which to create art.  The Piece by Piece artwork is of high quality and available for sale.

Dawn with a Piece by Piece artist

Dawn jokes with a Piece by Piece artist


Check out their website and Flickr page for what’s new and support this project – Art Saves Lives!

More photos of this class here.

A Return Visit in Feb. 2010 here.



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