By Marcy Stamper
Creative folks from age 6 to 90 have marshaled their imagination to make mosaics that will adorn a retaining wall in the garden at Jamie’s Place Adult Family Homes.
The brainchild of Methow Valley mosaic and glass artist Laura Ruud, the mosaic project is ambitious — Ruud hopes to cover a 66-foot-long, 2-foot-high concrete wall with multi-hued, nature-themed mosaics at the assisted-living facility in Winthrop.
In early June, Ruud and two helpers installed the first three panels, one made by kids in the after-school program at Methow Valley Elementary School and two made by Ruud and her 5-year-old grandson on a recent camping trip.
Last week Ruud worked with three residents at Jamie’s Place on another trio of panels depicting a butterfly, a heart and a bird.
Ruud has been involved with Jamie’s Place since her mother lived there during the last six years of her life. “It was just a blessing to have her with me, just down the street,” said Ruud. After her mother died, Ruud became a volunteer at Jamie’s Place.
“That’s where my heart is, so I joined the board,” said Ruud. Among other things, Ruud coordinates music and art activities for the elders.
Connecting young and old
In addition to beautifying the garden, Ruud sees the mosaic project as a way of connecting children and elders. Younger people often live far from the elders in their lives, or may not understand dementia or other health issues, she said.
“Elders have such a wisdom of experience to share. I like the idea of connecting kids in the community with elders so they learn how to grow old gracefully,” said Ruud.
With an inherently mixed-and-matched quality, mosaics are a particularly flexible art form. People sketch a design on mesh backing and then glue tiles to the mesh, which is ultimately adhered to the wall and filled in with mortar.
Ruud drew a flower for the elementary-school kids to work on. To break the tile into pieces small enough for the panel, the kids whacked tiles, which had been wrapped in a towel, with a hammer. “The little boys think it’s the greatest thing in the world — they get to destroy something,” said Ruud.
People can select their own color scheme and design, and can position tiles randomly or more intentionally. As he worked on a bird mosaic last week, Jamie’s Place resident Jim Sims was clearly in the latter group. “He’s a perfectionist,” said Ruud. Sims shrugged, saying he hadn’t been an engineer but liked the pieces to fit together meticulously. Ruud complied by snipping tile into small fragments that Sims could use for delicate tail feathers.
Resident Ruth Wilson, who teamed up with nurse Kylee Knox on a flower, preferred a variety of colors for the petals and background, while Ray Anderson made a red-and-yellow heart mosaic.
The wall will be a regular part of the lives of Jamie’s Place residents, who often spend time in the garden, either sitting, doing exercises, or tending to plants and weeding.
“Because the wall is so long, it needs to be a community thing,” said Ruud. “The idea is that eventually it will get filled up.” She envisions a patchwork design that can accommodate mosaic panels of different sizes. She’ll fill in the spaces with a mosaic border. Her husband, Casey, will construct an awning to protect the tiles from moisture.
Ruud has been a glass artist for more than 20 years. She started with stained glass and began making mosaics 15 years ago to use the scraps of glass that piled up. Mosaics became her favorite medium, although she often incorporates other glass art.
While many locals are expected to make panels, Ruud has also sent out a global call for mosaics, encouraging experienced glass artists — or anyone who wants to create a panel — to send panels to Winthrop for the wall.
People enjoy being part of these projects even if they don’t have a personal connection, said Ruud. There are many people like her who no longer make art professionally but want to do a project they can share with others, she said.
“Some people are looking for an excuse to have a meaningful way of making art,” said Ruud.
People are drawn to this sort of theme, she said. “Everyone can relate to elders. There’s a bond between elders and kids, and people want a means to connect,” said Ruud.
To contribute a mosaic panel:
Mosaics should have a nature theme, such as flowers, bugs, trees or leaves — “basically anything garden-ish,” said project organizer Laura Ruud. Panels should be a maximum of 20-by-20 inches. People shipping panels from other areas are encouraged to make smaller panels of 5-by-8, 10-by-12, or 10-by-20 inches.
Because the mosaics will be outside, they need to be made from opaque glass or high-fired tile. High-fired tile is generally dark on the back (not chalky like the tile used in bathrooms and kitchens, which is too soft to withstand temperature changes).
Ruud is available to help individuals or groups get going with their mosaic projects, or to advise people who want to make panels on their own.
Contact Ruud at 996-3973 for more information.
Names of contributing artists will be included on the wall.