USA mosaic trip – part three – Detroit

In Detroit my dear friend Miriam Engstrom, psychologist, singer and actor, who I met at our posting in Ankara, showed me around this incredible interesting city. Miriam is from a three generation Detroit family – so she took me to the place her grandmother worked in.

The red brick building is the Guardian building (built 1928-29), the so called “Cathedral of finance” – an art deco office tower in downtown Detroit.

Inside the Guardian Building – colorful tiled comb structured vaults by Rookhook Ceramics (later restored by Pewabic Pottery) and cast iron gateEdit

Miriam in the main public hall. The ceiling is not brick – its canvas made out of horse hair painted in order to keep the sound low in this bank hall.

Later we visited the Pewabic Pottery established by Mary Chase Perry Stratton in the early 1900 in Detroit. The pottery workshop is one of the few renowned ceramic manufacturers in the US until today.


The pottery developed in swing with the arts and crafts movement in America as in Europe at the beginning of the 20st century. As Mary C. Stratton Perry came from a fine art degree and a career in painting china, she started making vessels. Later she became more and more a ceramic artist and fabricant for ceramic tiles and mosaic style art for architectural surfaces. In Detroit there are eight public buildings that hold the work of Pewabic Pottery architectural art. One of it is the Guardian building described above. Not only is Pewabic Pottery known in Detroit. The Crypt in the Basilica of the Shrine in Washington DC, of its mosaics I wrote about in the previous blog, is decorated with Pewabic tile mosaic designed by Mary Stratton. This commission was carried out between 1925-31 and is seen as Mary Strattons pinnacle in her career as a ceramicist.

A visit to the studio of German Artist Birgit Huttemann – Holz provided for continuation in visiting female artists work in Detroit. Birgit works with encaustic painting and gave us a demonstration in her rather refined technique of encaustic printing. I was impressed by her work and her spacious studio which she rents for a rather cheap price in a former industrial building. This is Detroit for you!

And Detroit although still suffering from high unemployment, failing education and race related social problems is developing new cool urban areas with fine restaurants, bars, art and crafts shops. One is the Eastern Market area. There we found the real street art – not only in graffiti but also in mosaic!

USA Mosaic trip – part two – Washington DC

From New York I travelled with the bus to Washington DC. Washington is well known to me because it was my 4th visit. But so far I visited friends and museums in general. I never had a mosaic focus. This time next to seeing good old friends I dedicated two days to a mosaic focus. The first was on the cold and windy Monday April 15 to the Maverick Mosaic Studio of Bonnie Fitzgerald.

Bonnie and I in her garden

Bonnie received me in her studio, which is located in her house in the woods near Vienna, Fairfax County, Virginia. I was astonished that so much high quality and versatile work comes out of this relatively small studio. Next to the studio Bonnie showed me all her wonderful own mosaics and the rich collection of mosaics that she keeps in her house. We chatted and I was surprised that we easily spent two hours exchanging thoughts and information about the passion that connects us.

I departed with the advise to visit the catholic Basilica in DC and an invitation to observe Bonnies class at the Smithsonian Institute the next day.

So the next day I cycled with one of the metro bikes to the Basilica of the Shrine of the immaculate conception. It’s an amazing romanesque church built between 1920 – 1959 at the premises of the Catholic University in Washington DC.

The Basilica is filled with Mosaics! The bishop that oversaw the main decoration period of the shrine, Bishop Shahan, “sought a style that combined the symmetry and eloquence of the ancient basilica (romanesque) with the mystical language of the mosaic and the joy and triumph of the dome (byzantine).” source: the guide book of the basilica, page 8

The mosaic design of the Chancel, the golden mosaic in the dome above the altar, is by Max Ingrand, manufactured by Ravenna Mosaic Co. in 1968. There are 2500 different colors and 50 shades of gold in this mosaic.

Especially impressive are the many side chapels holding mosaics from different diaspora christians living in America.

I in particular liked the mosaic from Lithuania.

In the afternoon of this beautiful day I visited Bonnie in her mosaic tapestry class at the Smithsonian Institute at the Mall in DC. I thank her for this opportunity. It’s always interesting to see how others are teaching. Thank you Bonnie!

USA mosaic trip – part one – New York

Using my freedom in between postings ( my husband and I are in transition between Brazil and China) I am currently visiting friends and mosaics in the US before I will head to this years summit of the Association of American mosaic artists (SAMA) in Nashville /Tennessee. It’s a good time of the year spring everywhere, new beginning, opening, exploring….

Last week I was in New York visiting my cousin. She pointed out new mosaics in NY subway stations. So one afternoon I spent underground. Traditionally the subway stations in New Yorks Subway (which was opened in 1904) are tiled in white tiles with the station names and some ornaments that could count as mosaics made out of colored ceramic tiles.

There are many modern art works in mosaic techniques in several stations. I came across the following:

Houston Station, No 1 line, several mosaic panels entitled Platform Diving by Deborah Brown, installed in 1994.

More recently art works were commissioned by the subway authorities for the newly build Q – line. The so called Chuck Close mosaics (Large photograph like Portraits modeled in glass mosaic) at 86 Street, Jean Shin’s large street scenes in glass and ceramic mosaic at 63 Street and Vic Muniz live size figures in 72 street on the newly build Q- line where opened in 2017 and made many headlines. Because of my affinity with Brazi I visited 72 street station on the Qline with its very lively and colorful figures by brasilian artist Vic Muniz.

I was deeply impressed by the craftsmanship of the mosaics. Unfortunately I could not find out about the fabrication from the internet.

May 1, P.S. thanks to Lillian Sizemore whom I met at the SAMA conference in Nashville, I can amend that the well known glass and mosaic manufacture “Mayer of Munich” too created these protrait series “Perfect Strangers” of Vic Muniz.

This was different for the white marble mosaic at the new WOrld Trade Center/Cartland Av. Station. American Artist Ann Hamilton designed this fantastic composition in white marble, interweaving the Declaration of Independence with the declaration of human rights. The craftsmanship is extraordinary with the letters seemingly cut out of sheets of mosaic, that’s my guess. The Fabrication of this enormous mosaic was done by Mayer of Munich, a famous mosaic fabricating manufacturer.

Typografie by Hans Cogne

On my way back I was stared at from many eyes at Chamber Station R Train.

In the Internet I foundout about this project:

Oculus consists of 301 mosaic panels by artists Kristin Jones, Andrew Ginzel and Rinaldo Piras. The project presents the eyes of three hundred individual New Yorkers translated from a photographic study conducted by Jones/Ginzel into stone mosaic by the classically trained Piras. The centerpiece of the work is an elliptical glass and stone mosaic floor, with a magnificent micro mosaic eye at the center of an ultramarine vortex with the image of the City of New York woven into the picture. Source: italcultny.org.