I’m consistently amazed at the quality of artists the foothills area attracts. From elegant glass blowers, playful potters, whimsical scrap paper artisans to abstract master painters and beyond, there is no shortage of creativity in these mountain parts. I am pleased to announce a new addition to this cornucopia of artistic talent: mixed media mosaicist Susan Wechsler.
While Susan is new to Evergreen, she has lived in Colorado, by way of Boulder and Denver, for over 20 years. Her new studio, Mosaics by Susan, is on Meadow Drive, across from the EChO building in Evergreen. It’s a working studio where she will host classes and create her own mosaics. Susan welcomed me with a warm smile and a happiness indicative of someone who has found her forever home. Several of her mosaic pieces adorned the walls, and I was stunned by the extraordinary detail of each. Upon closer inspection, these mosaics included shells, flowers, beads, china pieces, crystals and glass. It is obvious Susan is not the traditional mosaicist, hence her title, mixed-media mosaicist. Over the years, she has learned to manipulate the medium to keep up with her wildly creative mind.
She credits her mother for fostering her artistic talent at an early age. While a homemaker, Susan’s mother was also a creative individual with a sharp eye for design. She would regularly gather her daughters (Susan and sister) to create art projects around the kitchen table. In doing so, both siblings latched onto art and never let go. It is a part of who they are. Susan mentions, “I lived the life my mother always dreamed of.”
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Susan had many opportunities to explore various artistic mediums. Once she hit her stride at a private high school, the sky was the limit for the tenacious teen. Her art teacher, Kevin O’Malley, was her mentor, cheerleader, and support system. Under his wing, Susan elevated her artistic game and felt she could do anything. “When you have a mentor who believes in you, you want to give back to them. You don’t want to disappoint,” Susan says. During her senior year, Susan fundraised, designed, organized and created a billboard art project that included work from children in her community and support from her peers. It was 1979 and she was fearless. “I don’t know where I got my moxie, but I just had it,” Susan laughs. For that project, she actually received the Key to the City of Cincinnati from then-Governor Jerry Springer!
Post high school for Susan included a short stint at Sarah Lawrence College, then a degree in art from the University of Michigan. With her mother’s encouragement, she spent the bulk of her time at U of M working in the theater department creating costumes and set design. Once graduated, she moved to her dream city, New York, to work on her master’s degree in theater design through NYU-Tisch School of the Arts. She met her husband during these years, and once married, they moved to San Francisco where Susan tried her hand at retail design.
Before long, Susan was pregnant with her first son and the young couple decided to move back to Ohio for familial support. A few years after her second son was born, they realized Ohio was no longer where they wanted to be, so they moved to Boulder, Colorado. Right before they moved, Susan’s grandmother passed away and all of her beautiful Sunday dinner China was being dispersed amongst family members. Susan knew she wanted to create something from delicate pieces, but really didn’t know what just yet. In the meantime, she was raising her kids, painting and selling cottage industry, handpainted furniture and designing murals.
Susan finally revisited her grandmother’s China when she was inspired to begin mosaicking “spirit houses.” Spirit houses were birdhouse-looking pieces of various sizes that Susan invented. They represented the nine different energies of Feng Shui. Each house told a visual story and the idea was to put a positive intent into the house and display it somewhere as a reminder. The houses were wonderfully successful and Susan’s career as a mosaicist took flight. Over the years, she’s explored different substrates to assemble her mosaics. For example, there were several intricately mosaicked deer heads on the wall, small dress forms that tell a story, and some exquisite mandala-like pieces, as well as large and small wooden substrates covered with ornate glass. All of them are a feast for the eyes! Each piece conveys emotion through thousands of intentionally placed jewels, beads, shells, glass, and more.
Once her mosaic career took off, she was requested to teach some workshops. Susan enjoyed instructing so much that she began developing more and more types of classes. What she learned was how very much she was positively influencing her students. Susan’s main population of students is women and she’s noticed how, at a certain point in life, a woman can feel directionless and empty, especially once children leave the home. She states, “I feel fortunate that I get to follow my creative calling every single day, so I enjoy empowering women to find their own creative voice. Also, I love seeing how accomplished they feel when they walk away with their unique piece of art that was started and finished in one day.” It’s no wonder her students come back time and again!
We are fortunate that Susan Wechsler has brought her enchanting medium to our mountain town! If you are interested in joining a class, or getting a group of friends together to dabble in mosaics, check out her website at mosaicsbysusan.com. Her website also has an extensive gallery of her work to view and purchase.