Fitzgerald with her Trees of Life (2015) mosaic. One of her “Legacy Program” projects for Hunters Woods Elementary School, Reston, VA USA. H 6’ X W 20’. Hand-built ceramic (by 6th-graders), vitreous glass tiles, ceramic. Photo: Kim Wozniak

 

Above: Bonnie Fitzgerald stands in front of her mural, Heavenly Waters (2015). H 1.5’ W 24’ D .75’. Location: Bethesda, MD, USA. Stained glass, smalti, vitreous glass tiles, glass fusions. Photo: Kenneth Fitzgerald

It all began with a call for volunteers. The SAMA conference was coming to my town, Washington, D.C., and they needed help. Little did I know that meeting would change my life.

Fitzgerald working with students on one of her “Legacy Program” projects. Hunters Woods Elementary School, Reston, VA, USA (2015). Photo: Kenneth Fitzgerald

To this day, I have friends who I met as a consequence of that volunteer call. I remember walking into the exhibition and seeing all that amazing mosaic artwork in one place and my heart skipped a beat. I fell in love. The short story, I went on to become a Board member and have attended more conferences than not. The gifts of SAMA are priceless. I have crossed paths with countless mentors, learned the art and craft of mosaic from some of the greatest artists of the medium, and as a consequence of that first meeting, built a business making and teaching mosaics. Saying “yes” to that initial volunteer opportunity changed my life.

Empty Vessels: Floating to the Surface by Bonnie Fitzgerald (2014). H 13” W 14” D 1”. Handcrafted and glazed ceramic, Mexican smalti, 24kt copper-colored gold smalti, electroplated quartz and shells, handcrafted substrate. Photo: Bonnie Fitzgerald

Serving as a board member, my learning of the art form was accelerated. JeanAnn Dabb, a charter SAMA member, enlightened me to the historical context of mosaic. She actually taught mosaics at a university! As the child of factory workers in Philadelphia, I had no knowledge of the European tradition of mosaic-making, much less did I understand mosaics graced almost every corner of the world in one form or another. In just a few years I met mosaic art icons I admired and had only read about: Ilana Shafir, Sonia King, George Fishman, Laurel Skye. 

Evolution (2013) by Bonnie Fitzgerald. H 10” x W 16”. Hand built ceramic, pebbles, shells, marble, unglazed porcelain, slate roof tile. “The figure on the far right is an image I’ve been making all of my adult life. Evolution shows how we began as something else and over time evolved into sophisticated beings.” Photo: Bonnie Fitzgerald

I met true lovers of mosaic art—folks who have carried the art form of mosaic to exciting places and shared their knowledge. Bill Buckingham, the creator of Mosaic Art Now magazines introduced me to a book publisher. That singular opportunity, which eventually led to two book deals, altered the direction of my mosaic life.

Fitzgerald’s Maverick Travel group after living and creating for a day as Cro-magnum beings. Castle Merle, Dordogne region of France (2015). Photo: Cro-magnum man volunteer

SAMA’s stated mission has always been one of education and raising the art form to new heights. Their unstated value is so much more. SAMA is a community of like-minded people: we share a common language, we have a love of the art form and a desire to explore it from historical perspectives to innovative and cutting-edge expressions, to social commentary and more. It is an exciting time to be a part of the mosaic world.

Tres Amigos (2015) by Bonnie Fitzgerald. H 6’ X W 10’. Stained glass, ceramic, vitreous tiles, hand-built dimensional substrates. Created along with students at Fitzgerald’s workshop “Architectural Mosaics and Community Project” held annually at Hacienda Mosaico in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo: Kenneth Fitzgerald

Like the recipient of an Academy Award, I hear the playoff music beginning, and the list of all those I wish to thank is too long for this short space. Suffice it to say, my world would not be what it is without the support of my SAMA family and I am honored to be a part of the SAMA sphere.

One parting word of advice—volunteer! Support SAMA with your time and talent. Even if you can’t go to conferences, there are lots of jobs to be done. Spend time with the SAMA tribe—who knows what doors will open.

Fitzgerald finishing a panel for Art Icons (2016). H 3’ X W 33’ X D .10’. Location: Drew Model School, Arlington, VA USA. Stained glass, vitreous glass tiles. The project consisted of 12 individual works depicting the history of art, set in an elementary school “art garden.” Photo: Kenneth Fitzgerald

Bonnie Fitzgerald is an artist, teacher, and author. She teaches workshops throughout North America, including the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and leads study tours to destinations in Europe and North America. She is the author of Guide to Mosaic Techniques (2015) and 300+ Mosaic Tips, Techniques, Templates and Trade Secrets (2012), which has been translated into five languages.

To learn more about workshops, visit maverickmosaics.com.

Bonnie’s portfolio can be viewed at bonniefitzgeraldart.com.