I'm always drawn to the sparkly bits!I’ve gone only twice, but I’m beginning to love those Wednesday mornings. It’s a perfect loop: artistic creativity, getting to know an ever-expanding circle of women, an ample nosh, and best of all the knowledge that each of our creations will be sold to help those in need. The site of this wonderful Mobius strip of goodness is the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley, Michigan. More on the Institute in a moment.

So what are these Wednesday mornings all about? Making glass mosaic tiles, something I’ve never done before.  I love it.

I love the bits of color and figuring out how to fit the various shapes into some semblance of visual cohesion. I love hearing the stories of the other women at the tables—the kind of intimate clothesline talk of kids and family, stories about work and relatives. And faith. I learn about Mary’s Mantle, “a safe haven for expectant mothers,” where one of the women at my table works.

Mary Smith (l.) and Claire Horton (r.) assure me that "grout is forgiving."

Marlene Smith (l.) and Claire Horton (r.) assure me that “grout is forgiving.”

“Grout is forgiving,” someone assured me my first day when I murmured that I wasn’t sure how my first tile was going to come out.

This led to a conversation about forgiveness—and how great it is to be involved in a kind of art making that comes with its own forgiveness!

And, they were right! When I saw my first finished tile, all those disparate shapes hugged together by dark grey grout, it did look pretty good.

I haven’t yet tried anything representational, choosing to stay within the safety of abstract  and more linear designs. Long-shelved quilt patterns return to me, eager for a second act.

A log cabin quilt pattern translated into glass mosaic,

A log cabin quilt pattern translated into glass mosaic.

Meanwhile, the veterans of these mosaic gatherings are creating hummingbirds that shimmer in flight above mosaic trumpet flowers, delightful butterflies, vases filled with flowers, sailboats, teapots and more. See more on Song and Spirit’s Art in Action page. 

There are mosaic tiles featuring crosses and Shabbat candlesticks, maize “M’s” on fields of blue and white “S’s”set off by green. From the same humble materials—glass bits, glue, tile cutter, paintbrush—jewels begin to rise to the surface, no two the same, just like snowflakes, fingerprints, human beings. 

And it’s the needs of human beings that lie at the center of this entire venture. The tiles are sold to help support the mission of the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace, which is dedicated to promoting greater understanding among people of diverse religions, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

The center and its many programs are run by three extraordinary individuals:  Jewish troubadour, Maggid Steve Klaper, a professional musician; Brother Al Mascia, OFM, a Franciscan Friar whose Care’avan is a lifeline for parents and their children living at or below the poverty line; and Mary Gilhuly, Song & Spirit’s co-founder and Art Director who runs the Art-in-Action tile program. That’s the brief rundown. The longer and more deserving story merits more words than I can use here, so please please please, do your heart and soul a favor visit the Song and Spirit website and learn all that they do

Attending a weekend conference, Mary heard a recitation of a human being’s basic psychological needs: love and belonging; power and competence; freedom and choice; fun. She turned to her seat mate and said, “That’s what we do at Song and Spirit!  That’s what our tiles do for people!” She was exactly right.

I can’t wait for next Wednesday to get here.