Nfld. & Labrador

In case of emergency, break glass: N.L. woman creates mosaic art

A woman in Corner Brook creates mosaic art from broken glass during the long winter months and, now, to help pass the time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corner Brook woman says it's a therapeutic activity, especially now

Karin Galliott O'Keeffe says her art studio in her home is her happy place. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

It seems a number of people are trying new things to help pass all the time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But a Corner Brook woman is keeping calm and carrying on with a pastime that's served her well for several years now.

Karin Galliott O'Keeffe is known to many on the west coast as the former manager of the Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook, a position from which she retired in March 2014.

Now, instead of bringing someone else's art to the stage, she's creating her own, in the form of mosaics made from glass and tile.

"I think mosaics are a little bit like us. They're little pieces that come together," she said.

Galliott O'Keeffe creates most of her mosaic art as gifts for friends or by special request. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

Galliott O'Keeffe said her interest in mosaics began at the beach.

She'd pick up bits of beach glass and arrange them to form shapes such as flowers, which she then glued onto wood to create pictures.

Art that sprouts up

Galliott O'Keeffe is an avid gardener, an activity she can enjoy outdoors for only part of the year in Newfoundland.

So mosaic art gives her a way to work on her garden even in the winter, as she's made a bird bath and designs on patio stones. 

"I did one that was a teapot, for my mom, who loved her cup of tea," said Galliott O'Keeffe.

"And then I did another one with the masks, comedy and tragedy. So a nod to my work at the [Arts and Culture] Centre."

Her latest project for the garden is an old window frame, which has a different Alice in Wonderland-inspired mosaic in each pane of glass.

One person's trash

Galliott O'Keeffe said making mosaics is also a chance to repurpose things that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill.

An old teacup or a few spare tiles will never go astray in her studio.

"I upcycle old dishes that I find at yard sales and in thrift stores, or people give them to me because they don't need them anymore," said Galliott O'Keeffe.

Galliott O'Keeffe also sometimes creates 3D glass art by repurposing old glassware. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

Good therapy

Galliott O'Keeffe suggests it's not just the process of creating something new that can be helpful.

She said breaking apart her found items of glassware and tile can be beneficial, too, in a cathartic sort of way.

"Breaking dishes is very therapeutic, I can tell you," she said. "And then you can cut them into the pieces that you need."

Even now, during COVID-19, Galliott O'Keeffe goes for a walk outdoors on most days but, early on in her retirement, she found the winters long, and she needed something out of the weather to help occupy her time.

This window pane mosaic based on Alice in Wonderland is one of Galliott O'Keeffe's latest creations. It will be placed in her garden this summer. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

"I'm not a cold-weather person. I love being inside, being cosy," she said.

"So when the sun is not shining and it's grey, which it is here most of the time in the winter, I'm here in my studio, where it's warm, and I'm clicking away."

She said it's not unusual for her to go to her studio to work on a project, and then come out hours later, not realizing how much time had passed.

"It's like there's some sort of different time zone in this room, and I love it," she said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Bernice Hillier is a host of CBC Newfoundland Morning, which airs weekday mornings across western and central Newfoundland, as well as southern Labrador.

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