The best vacations are those that combine your interests with a chance to see a new city or a different part of the world. Even when your passion is mosaics, this is a possibility: through mosaic art retreats. With so many on offer from a number of different artists, it is easy to find one in a place that you’ll enjoy visiting during dates that suit you.
Carol Shelkin Worldwide Mosaic Art Workshops
Students who want to create glass mosaics will not find a more qualified teacher than Carol Shelkin. A visual artist who focuses on stained-glass mosaics, she creates pieces depicting portraits and other scenes in great detail.
To pass on her skills, Carol offers a number of retreats every year. These cover areas including tempered glass, stained glass, impressionism, and realism and are held within the US as well as abroad, such as in Costa Rica. Some of her retreats run for just one day, whereas others last for as much as one week.
Todos Santos Mosaic Art Retreat
Tami Macala is the founding artist of the Santa Barbara School of Mosaic Art. Around twice a year, she holds the Todos Santos Mosaic Art Retreat in a town in Baja California just one hour from Cabo San Lucas. It’s an idyllic setting by an undeveloped beach — perfect for relaxing while you work on your art.
Attendees have the choice of using Mexican smalti, stained glass, and other tesserae in their mosaics. Beginners can ask for advice finding the best materials for their ideas, whereas intermediate and advanced students can benefit from the opportunity to seek support for ongoing projects.
Mosaic Garden Art Retreat
Designed for mosaic artists of all degrees of skill and experience, the Mosaic Garden Art Retreat is available as a three-day or four-day workshop. It is held in Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, California, which has its own large collection of mosaics — these are excellent for providing students with inspiration.
The retreat is led by mosaic artists Fred and Donnell Pasion, who own the school Passiflora Mosaics. Students are invited to find a project to try from the instructors’ website or, with prior approval, they can bring their own project.
Over the course of the workshop, attendees create a piece of art for the garden (like a stepping stone, terracotta pot, or birdbath), or for the home (such as a mirror, lazy Susan, or table lamp) made out of various tessera. Students are encouraged to bring any interesting materials they want to include in their own project or that they would like to share with others.
Luna Mosaic Arts
For retreats with a specific end goal, Luna Mosaic Arts has some excellent options. Artist Donna Van Hooser uses her workshops to take students through the procedures to create portraits, mandalas, or ornaments.
Each of the retreats takes place over one, two, or three days and many are designed for a particular skill level. Depending on the course, students learn things like the use of color, choosing materials, and precision cutting techniques for glass. In some workshops, attendees end the retreat with a finished project. In others, the projects require more time, but students can feel confident that they have the knowledge they need to finish their art in their own time.
At this five-day intensive retreat, students learn the Ravenna method, which is an ancient technique for laying tesserae and restoring mosaics. It involves setting materials in a lime paste or clay that stays moist for weeks or even months. This allows the artist to keep moving the materials over a long period of time. Once the design is complete, the artist moves the materials to a permanent mortar. The method is still common in Italian mosaics today.
The retreat takes place at di Mosaico school in Tucson, Arizona with instructor Michael Kruzich from MK Mosaics. Michael studied at the Mosaic Art School in Ravenna, Italy, and now specializes in fine art. Although the workshop is open to all skill levels, it is designed just for serious students who want to learn classical principles and plan to continue making mosaics after the workshop.
Award-winning artist Shelly Hamill offers three different mosaic retreats, all of which are aimed at enhancing the mind, body, and spirit of students as they develop their mosaic skills.
The first is a weeklong workshop in the Aspen, Colorado, called Mosaics in the Mountains. The location is used as a basis for students’ artwork: attendees take photos in the Rocky Mountains and use their favorite to create a 12 by 12 mosaic. The retreat also involves other activities, chosen according to the time of year. In the summer, students take hikes to places like Maroon Bells, the most photographed place in the country. In the winter, they can choose between cross-country and downhill skiing — no experience is necessary.
Breaking in Bermuda is also a weeklong workshop. Students use the beach setting to create a 12 by 12 mosaic, even incorporating pieces of glass that they find on the shore into their artwork. During the retreat, attendees have plenty of chances to explore the island, visiting places like St. George’s, Hamilton, and the Royal Naval Dockyard.
Lastly, Shelly offers God’s Perfect Mosaic, a retreat that combines mosaic classes with bible study. Students learn ancient mosaic making techniques and use art to explore their religion.
Most of these workshops are about students creating their own mosaic project to take home after the retreat. Something completely different to that is Go Big! with Laurel True. During a five-day retreat in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, students join together to create a large mural and install it in the facilities of Hacienda Mosaico. There is no need to have any experience, although it is useful to know some basics before arriving.
In addition to practice, attendees of the retreat receive instruction on using a variety of materials, including ceramic, mirror, and glass. They also learn how to use precision tools, construction techniques for murals, and how to design a mosaic. All these skills are valuable if you want to return home and create a mural in your community.
Students who want to create their own small mosaic to take home do still have the opportunity. The workshop is open 24 hours a day and they are welcome to visit any time when they are not working on the mural.
Choosing a Retreat
To make the most of your vacation time, choose a retreat that focuses on the style of mosaic art you practice or want to learn more about. If you have a project you would like help with, choose a flexible workshop. On the other hand, if you are stuck for ideas, pick a retreat that offers more direction.
It is also a good idea to research the artists and check out their art — find someone who inspires you or whose work you would like to emulate. Finally, make sure that you choose the right skill level. Intermediate and advanced workshops will expect you to have a good working knowledge of mosaic techniques. If you’re concerned about keeping up, enroll in a few classes or a course beforehand to sharpen your skills.