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Mosaic Archway Workshop, August 2002


Laurel had come to Aba House in August 2001 to facilitate the decoration of a wall on our property. This mosaic depiction of the history of Nungua was our first workshop and was so successful that Laurel vowed to come back every year!

True to her word, she arrived again in August 2002 with her tile nippers and endless enthusiasm for our program.

We had already decided that for her second mosaic she would work on the archway entrance to Aba House. This would be a more free flowing design than the back wall. The neighborhood children had been waiting for her. All year they would ask me "when is Laurel coming back?" The children love her and she's not only a teacher, but a friend who gets involved in their lives.

Laurel arrived with tiles from San Francisco, beautiful colors and more lightweight than the ones used on the wall. She also had a donation of glass gems from Tina Ayres who owns Tile Seconds and Overruns in San Rafael, CA.

The children knew the routine by now-separate the tiles into color batches, cut them up, mix the tile set...they couldn't wait to get started. Laurel and I had to decide on the background color and words to go on the archway.

One side was to say CROSS CULTURAL COLLABORATIVE, INC. On the other side we have the house address and CREATIVITY IS UNIVERSAL. We discussed and eliminated a lot of phrases. I wanted to use an African proverb about creativity, but none came to mind. On one section of the arch it says "ART RULES". I seemed to be the only one who thought that was a nice touch, but since it's my archway, I ruled.

Along with the abstract theme, I asked Laurel to include some lizards in the design. Several of the children created the lizards and they look great. They must have also appealed to the real lizards who attached themselves to the archway.

Laurel and the children worked very fast. There were a few logistical problems, but they were solved and to put a positive spin on things, I will call them a learning experience. The workers had decided to use shells and smooth stones from the nearby oceanfront to decorate the pillars. The shells were plentiful, but the specific size needed for the stones made it difficult to find enough of them and then they could only be gathered at low tide. The problem was solved by Talk True, our house manager, who suggested paying per delivery. That gave collectors incentive to find more stones and to get their feet wet.

Because of the archways' height much of the work had to be done on a scaffold, thus limiting the number of people who could work at each session. One day the scaffolding collapsed (we got a different carpenter next time) but fortunately nobody was hurt.

Laurel felt that there was a different dynamic to the second mosaic project and she missed the social engagement of the first one. Because this was the second time around and because a lot of people couldn't work at one time, it did change the dynamics. But it was still exciting. An addition this time was the passersby. The first mosaic was done pretty much out of public view, but this one was right on the road and everyone stopped to admire the work and give their opinion.

Of course, Laurel will be back. We haven't decided on the next workshop, but we are leaning toward a memorial bench or sculpture in honor of my Ghanaian friends who helped me get started and who are now ancestors.
Not to worry, Laurel will never run out of ideas.

Laurel did take one day off from the archway to offer a mosaic workshop because so many people were interested in learning the technique. So far it was only the children who knew the technique and the adults wanted to catch up.

We decided that instead of letting the new students work on the archway we would give them some pillars near the house to learn on. Laurel began with a demonstration and then people got to work. The students learned fast and in one session decorated 2 pillars. They were invited to return in a few days to learn the grouting step and several of them did.

Laurel generously gave her tools to some of the participants so that they could continue making mosaics and one person, who is a sculptor had already decided to cover his cement sculptures with mosaic.

He and I are discussing offering a cement sculpture workshop. This is the fun part of our program. One thing leads to another to another and on and on. Laurel and I are also offering a combination cultural tour and mosaic work shop to be held in Ghana in 2004 so that more outsiders can come interact with the Ghanaians. By then the children will have moved up to the adult category and we'll look for a new crop of children to work with. Finding them won't be a problem.

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