Tahoe City woman taking mosaic art form to new cultural levels
Special to the Sun
TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Laboring over countless bits and pieces of glass tiles, Tahoe City-based mosaic artist Emily Brewster transforms the colorful stockpile of glass, rock and other assorted materials into eye-catching works of art.
“It can be tedious work, but I love it — it’s like my therapy and I go off into my own world,” Brewster said. “I’ve been doing it for 10 years so it’s a second nature for me now.”
Mosaic art has been used as a form of cultural expression for centuries and decorates different types of architecture around the world — from the sides of buildings and altars in churches to three-dimensional sculptures and interior wall art.
“I like to recycle all sorts of things and reuse different materials in my work,” said Brewster, who typically hand-cuts the glass tiles, glues the pieces one-by-one, then coats the final product in a strengthening resin, giving it a glossy finish that is distinctive in mosaic art.
It was in Rochester, N.Y., where the then-16-year-old budding artist received a few tips from a friend about working with glass tiles and began making her first collection of mosaic pieces.
Among her earliest works were large-scale, custom Grateful Dead pieces she made for friends, which ultimately led her to pursue undergraduate studies in fine arts.
“When I started school, I knew I wanted to do something with art, but I wasn’t sure if mosaic was going to be my thing or if I wanted to be in art management and start my own gallery or something,” Brewster said.
Continually gravitating toward mosaics, Brewster ultimately decided to take her artistry to the next level by moving west to California.
“I had a friend moving to Auburn and I decided to take the chance to move when I had it, so I used Auburn as a sort-of starting point,” Brewster said, her New York accent faintly hanging on to select words. “I knew I wasn’t a Southern California person and I knew I was more of a lake-and-mountain-town kind of person, so it only made sense that I found my way to Tahoe.”
Bouncing back and forth between the foothills and the lake for nearly three years, Brewster finally relocated to North Lake Tahoe a few months ago.
It was a move further cultivated by her passion for outdoor recreation, a long-term relationship, plus the opportunity to boost retail sales of her handmade mosaic collection at the Trunk Show in Tahoe City’s Cobblestone Center.
“Auburn doesn’t get any snow and I really missed it, I missed the seasons,” the born-and-raised east-coaster said. “I realized how much I love winter and how much I need it in my life, because without it, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas and fall isn’t really fall — the seasons just don’t exist the way I had always known them to.”
PIECE BY PIECE
Every time Brewster changed her residence, she noticed her style of mosaics would change as well, evolving from the Grateful Dead-inspired pieces of large-scale wall art that colored her beginning as a mosaic artist, to the smaller, more functional pieces that adorn the walls of the Trunk Show, as well as her personal Etsy and Instagram web pages.
“Jaclyn has really pushed me to try so many other things, and working a few days a week at the Trunk Show also inspires me, like all the dream catchers in here, that’s where my idea to make the mosaic dream catcher came from,” Brewster said, taking stock of the array of locally-made artwork in the store.
During one particular artist-block of sorts, Brewster came up with the idea to make recycled-coffee cup planters by cutting old, broken coffee mugs in half and mounting them on a mosaic wall hanging.
“Everyone comes to me with their favorite, old coffee cup that they thought was ruined because they dropped it by accident, and then I’m able to turn something they love into a functional planter that hangs on the wall,” she said. “It makes them smile, and that’s really the best part about making art.”
Jenny Goldsmith is a North Tahoe-based freelance writer and a former reporter for the Sierra Sun newspaper. Have an idea for a merchant to feature? Email her at email@example.com.
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