Mosaic Portfolio 1.0

Recently I applied for an arts fellowship grant. During a conversation with the granting organization they recommended that I apply in two fellowship categories, “Craft” & “Visual Arts.” I had to supply 10 images from each medium that best represented my work.  It was an interesting process choosing “craft” pieces vs “visual arts” works. Craft works, for these grants, are classic/flat surface mosaics: back splashes, stepping-stones, signs. Visual art works are 2D and 3D pieces using a variety of mediums: bottles, jewelry, found and upcycled items. I chose considering size, range, materials and tools used to create the works.

The slide show below is a combination of those portfolios, first is “Craft” followed by “Visual Arts.” Enjoy!

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99 Bottles of Beer

Long time no post. Blogs are a funny thing. They are at times a necessary evil, other times a great way to tell a short story, others a PR effort. Long story short I have been spending a lot of time in the studio making mosaics so I have been remiss in keeping current here.

My latest, and largest project to date has been installed: 99 Bottles of Beer. It lives in a new Restaurant + Bar  here in Mount Pleasant, The Shelter. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I’ll hit y’all up with about 12,000…

One of the fun things about this pieces is that all of the green bottles and many of the brown ones are filled with “little stories.” Because we all know that there is a story in the bottom of every bottle of beer.
The SInging Nun and Candle Monkey
Mr. Roboto goes Disco
C3PO on Vacation with an Armless Mermaid
Mr. Sushi Butt Eyeing His Odds
A Spoonful of Psycho
Prince O’ Bling
Bacchus Coin Gets a Lucky 7
Lucky Bling Belt Buckle
So if you get a chance head down to The Shelter and check it out. If you would like one for your bar or restaurant drop me a line!

The VW Art Cars Project

Guest photo-blog by Mark McKinney

In 2002, Steve was asked to take part in the VW Art Cars Exhibit for Piccolo Spoleto in Charleston, SC. The artists involved were each given a vintage VW to turn into a piece of art. Steve’s blank canvas came in the form of a 1965 Sundial Camper. His budget was $100 and it took 75 hours to complete.

This is the “making of” Lowcountry Camouflage:

Before & After – Our driveway became an art studio for a couple of weeks.

Materials: Cut up sponges and nine colors of exterior enamel paint

Lowcountry Camouflage was inspired by morning bike & kayak rides to the beach

Photo shoot on the marsh!

An homage to living near the water

The VW Art Cars Project was a part of Piccolo Spoleto 2002 in Charleston, SC

Three weeks of hard work, sponges, determination and paint!

Yes, he painted the top too

The van’s owners, Mr. & Mrs. John Wright of Columbia, South Carolina, were very excited to drive their newly painted VW Sundial camper back home!

Granny’s Wonderland Orb

A garden globe made of found objects

© 2012 Steve Lepre

NOTE: This is not the same Granny from “Granny’s Pot”.

My long, lost friend Lynne (AKA Granny) inspired Granny’s Wonderland Orb. I first met Lynne and her husband, Steve, over 20 years ago. Lynne and Steve owned a vintage store in Charleston, SC called Granny’s Goodies. Over the years their store on King Street grew into a leading resource for vintage clothing, jewelry, accessories – well, just about everything! Today, Lynne manages an online shop on Etsy.

After seeing photos of my mosaics, Lynne messaged me that she had a box of old china pieces and asked if I would be interested in making something with them. This wasn’t your typical china. Lynne had collected the pieces from an excavation/construction site just behind her store on King Street many years ago. Some of the china is pre-civil war.

So, Granny washed the china and shipped me a box. When the box was delivered, I felt like it was Christmas in June! There were all sorts of china goodies to work with.

©2012 Steve Lepre

Granny’s Wonderland Orb evolved into a mash-up many items: An old croquet ball for the base, Lynne’s china, gears from a 1940’s wall clock I had in my shop, mirrors, beads, glass gems and a copper pipe to stake it in the ground. Viola! Granny’s Wonderland Orb was born!

©2012 Steve Lepre

Granny’s box of china opened my eyes to the world of pique assiette, a style of mosaic that incorporates pieces of broken ceramics—plates, dishes, cups, tiles—and other found objects. The father of pique assiette was Raymonde Isidore (1938-1964), known as the Picasso of Plates. Isidore built an entire house and garden covered with intricate mosaics of broken crockery, painting and sculpture.

©2012 Steve Lerpe

I have more pique assiette pieces in the works, including china orbs. “Three Villas” is another pique assiette garden orb of mine. You can read the story of the orb on my new online Etsy store.

©2012 Steve Lepre

Granny shipped Box #2 to me last week. This time, the contents were not china. The box was filled with a wilderness of inspiration! There were even five more croquet balls to make orbs. To top it off I got a message from Granny the other night that Box #3 is coming soon. With Lynne in my life, inspiration can come at any time in a USPS Flat Rate Box.

Blue Heron One Done

©2012 Steve Lepre

Blue Heron One is my largest stepping stone to date – 2 ft. x 2 ft. It is also my first bird. I’m lucky to have spent quite a bit of time observing these magnificent creatures around the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Blue Heron One is also another birthday commission! The choice of materials was based on the ultimate location of the work – porcelain and marble being very outdoor friendly. There was also the added advantage of being able to make finer cuts with the porcelain – especially the eye area and feathers.

©2012 Steve Lepre

Grout time. A very quick procedure. Here I am working on sealing the sides of the stone with grout.

©2012 Steve Lepre

Grout drying. What a difference grout makes. The piece totally changes when it is filled in with a lighter color. Fortunately I’ve gotten much better about cleaning the piece as I go along so that the post grout cleaning has become a very quick task.

©2012 Steve Lepre

Blue Heron One complete. Note the signature in the lower left corner. I am often asked if I sign my works – usually not, space being a factor. With this project I felt the signature worked with the style. And – fingers crossed – this is the first in a series of four bird stepping stones. The remaining I will hide my signature like Al Hirshfield!

©2012 Steve Lepre

Blue Heron One installed in it’s new garden home.

Thank you Jill for the commission ~ Happy Birthday, Patty!

2012 Cuts: This and That

I’m working on four different pieces at the moment: The Folly Foyer (a color change and minor design expansion have kept this project on the work bench.)

Pool Stone #1 – Blue Heron (2′ x 2′) This is the first bird I have cut. I am working in porcelain using a wet saw and nippers.
©2012 Steve Lepre

©2012 Steve Lepre
©2012 Steve Lepre
©2012 Steve Lepre
Granny’s Garden Orb #1 – My old friend Lynn sent me a box of china bits to create with. I had a set of old wooden croquet balls and a drill press to get a hole into to them ~ Viola!
©2012 Steve Lepre
©2012 Steve Lepre
Palmetto Blues – While I was installing “Somewhere Hot” Valerie and Terry gave me some blue bottles! Finally a chance to make some blue bottle palms. It’s a bit of a challenge working on night time pieces. This is my second.
©2012 Steve Lepre

Somewhere Hot


©2012 Steve Lepre

Approx. 7’ x 2’
Beach house sign
Porcelain, ceramic and glass tiles

Birthday commissions add a special layer of fun to a project. Creating a gift with another person allows a give and take until we have that “hit it” moment. Then elements arrive to place themselves in the story of the mosaic. A boat, porpoises, a palm tree and the sun. There is also an element of working in secret until all the pieces are in place (for the most part.)

Somewhere Hot is a cousin of Palmfoolery. My friend Valerie fell in love with Palmfoolery and began thinking about where she would like to have a mosaic. She decided that a sign for her and her husband’s house in the Florida Keys would become the newest addition to their eclectic beach house collection.

Perhaps the most pleasure I have is watching the clients view their mosaic. First,  laid out on saw horses. Second, installed in it’s permanent location. Then, if the mosaic is outdoors, there is that magic-time when the light changes and the tiles start to twinkle and smiles of wonder break out on the faces of all involved.

Thank you Valerie, and Happy Birthday Terry!