Friends Reunite after 40 years

By Robyn Abrams, Old Tappan, New Jersey and
Carol Rydel, Garnet Valley, PA hippeychicktiles 

Robyn’s Story

My artistic journey has taken me down a long and winding road of different mediums, but first and foremost I painted…..faux finishes, murals, acrylic and oils on canvas. Mosaics always captured my imagination and held such fascination that I knew someday, somehow my path would lead me to this ancient art form with its rich history and diverse materials. Mosaic was the artistic carrot dangling before my eyes.

Five years ago at Unicorn Studio in NYC, I held a nipper in my hand for the first time and learned how to break china plates and glass. Yakov and Angele Hanasen’s ( yes, Yulia’s parents) studio was crammed with 11 large panels being prepared for Penn Station in NYC. Numerous pique-assiette mirrors and tables lined the walls. My dear friend, Joy Gropper and I attended classes each week for nearly a year learning the basics and then some! We truly fell in love with this art form. The materials, so rich in color and texture provided lots of opportunities for creative expression.

Robyn Abrams

Robyn Abrams

Soon a home studio space was set aside and my friend and I would meet each Monday to work on mosaics. There was so much more to learn……and then I heard about SAMA. To say that the rest is history might sound a bit cliche, but it’s the truth. Four years ago I attended my first SAMA conference attending workshops with Laurel Skye and Emma Biggs, and WOW were my creative juices flowing. Each spring SAMA has become a pilgrimage for myself and those who feel passionate about this art form and want to learn as much as they can. At the conference, the best and most innovative mosaic artists offer up their secrets in workshops. Bonds are formed, friendships are made and our yearly conference has become an annual reunion.

This year the SAMA conference was more than an annual reunion for me, it was a reunion that was 40 years in the making. Way back in 1972 (YIKES!) I graduated high school, moved on and lost touch with many old friends. Last summer our graduating class held a reunion and I was unable to attend, but was lucky enough to get a list of the attendees so that I could reach out to old friends……and there she was, Carol Mowbray Rydel whose email name was hippiechicktiles. My heart started beating so fast. Could she possible be a mosaic artist, too???

Emails were exchanged and soon we were on the phone catching up, sharing our stories, and marveling at the parallels in our lives. And yes, Carol makes tiles and creates mosaics! I told her all about the wonderful world of SAMA, hoping that she would come to a conference, but never believing that it would ever come to pass. But miracles do happen and here we are reunited after 40 years at SAMA Tacoma 2013.

Carol’s Story

I came to mosaics through an artist-in-residence who came to the school where I teach art. We took on a very ambitious project that resulted in four murals that were composed of student created clay tiles. The murals surround the four water fountains at my school. By the time we finished the murals, I was hooked on mosaics! We now have seven mosaic murals with plans for another one next year.

Carol Rydel

Carol Rydel

After that project, I put mosaic tiles on the back splash in my kitchen, a bar top, a bathroom cabinet, an outside deck wall and…you get the picture! Everything I saw had the potential to become a surface for mosaic.
Most of what I learned was through books, talking to other artists and viewing mosaic works. I got to the point where I felt I needed some instruction and inspiration. Enter SAMA.

How I got there is a story in itself. Robyn was a dear friend in high school. Always friendly, welcoming and fun. We lost touch as we headed off to college, going to different schools with different majors. I thought about her a lot whenever I had memories of high school. I wondered if she was doing artwork, if she had a family, how her life went. Fast forward forty years to our high school reunion. I was hoping she would be there, but sadly she was not. I asked a mutual friend if she still kept in touch and was glad to hear she did! Barb got Robyn and I in touch and boy, what a reunion that was! So much in common, starting with mosaics.

She mentioned SAMA and the conference. I told her I’d think about it. She didn’t think I would go, but was pleasantly surprised when I did. I was more than pleasantly surprised with what SAMA and the conference had to offer. Quality workshops, great tours to view mosaics, a Salon of work that was mind-boggling, and a fabulous show at the Museum of Glass. What SAMA means to me is the beginning of a new focus in my art, a friendship renewed, and many friendships begun.