Mural taking shape, piece by piece

Dorri Partain
Northeast News

Scritch, scritch, SNAP! The jarring sound of breaking tiles is the first part of the constructive process taking place at Back Door Pottery.

Last May, clay artist Rebecca Koop opened the doors of her studio at 3922 St. John Ave. to anyone who wanted to learn the art of tile mosaics. Creative and curious participants from Northeast and beyond have spent a few hours a week breaking a colorful array of tiles into small shards, re-shaping them into a design that, once completed, will overtake the front facade of Koop’s building.

Back in 2005, Koop made a simple sketch that grew into a multi-year project, just to prepare for the undertaking. She bought and stored odd lots of tiles, calculating the amounts and colors needed. Once she had refined the design concept, her daughter used her graphic art skills to blend the design with a photo of the facade.

The project stalled from time to time, since Koop also devotes her time and talents to organizing events sponsored by Northeast Arts KC, such as the annual Summer Dusk concerts and Chalk Walk. The biggest hurdle was finding a contractor that could repair the building’s cracked and broken stucco, so the mosaic tiles would have a clean and solid surface to adhere to.

Once that was completed in 2017, Koop broke down the design into a grid of one foot segments, and numbered them in sequence of arrangement. Then the building front was marked with grids and the design was outlined, revealing the shapes of the earth: ocean, wind, sky, land, phases of the moon, and shades of a sunset. As tiles are created, different shades and finishes of the tiles are being worked into the design to create some surprise elements as well.

As Koop sees the project, she said, “I’m not just enhancing my building, I’m place-making in the community.”

With thanks to those who have attended the mosaic-making sessions, 62 square feet of the design has been completed and seamed together. Once installed, those tiles will cover an area of the building’s lower corner on the east side.

Koop acknowledges she is indebted to the volunteers assisting with the project.

“This was planned as a community project because I wanted the mosaic to be a benchmark for the community,” Koop said. “And it’s been a good way to meet new neighbors; one even brought over home-baked banana bread to share.”

Once the first section is installed, Koop envisions the colder, winter months will be a good time to create more tile sections. While she does not have a timeline for completion yet, she does plan to have an “unveiling” party to celebrate what has been completed on Earth Day, April 22, 2019.

Anyone interested in the project can attend the mosaic crafting sessions on Wednesdays from 6-9 p.m. at Back Door Pottery.

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