Recently Tilghman Island’s Post Office building enjoyed a makeover in the form of a 52-foot-wide mosaic. Created by over 45 volunteers during a six-month period, the work was inspired by Nadine Sachs, a mosaic artist who wanted to “add a little color and sparkle to Tilghman Island.” The following story, by guest writer Mary McCarthy, chronicles the project.
Beautifying a building just for the sake of beauty
During the last six months, it’s been my privilege to play a small role in a beautiful project. My friend and neighbor Nadine Sachs, who’s a talented mosaic artist, initiated a community art project in which she’d install a large-scale glass tile mosaic on the island post office. Her art studio is adjacent to my island writing cottage, so whenever I’ve been in town and available, I walked over to help. Nadine, a former professional ballerina, and current professional organizer, is 55 and an inspiration and good friend. She taught me how to mosaic, though my skills are rudimentary.
I have very little artistic ability, and certainly didn’t help place any of the tiles into the whimsical marine life shapes, but enjoyed watching as colorful jellyfish, plant life and other underwater magic appeared. I was a low-level tile gluer and grouter, and she assured me that these roles were important as well. I also contributed sea glass and pottery I’d found both on the island and in the case of a fishtail or two, in a Victorian dumpsite outside Washington, D.C.
The six-month project was undertaken by over 45 volunteers and installers, mainly over-55 community members though some younger community members participated as well (I was thrilled to have my daughter visiting before she left for veterinary school one day) and the atmosphere was always delightful, especially because one neighbor always brought homemade cookies. 250 pounds of grout were used over six months on the 52-foot long project mosaic that was laid out over 17 separate tile boards.
Nadine scoured home improvement stores and construction sites for donations of leftover tile for the project, even scavenging leftover mirrors and cutting them down into small, however-sharp pieces that could be used in the artwork. Band-aids were handy! If she couldn’t find a color she needed for one area, she spray-painted plain glass.
My favorite part of watching the project unfold was seeing how happy the community was to come together for the common effort and for the idea of Nadine’s inspiration, which was simply to create something to make the island more beautiful, not for money, recognition or advancement in any arena. As it was being installed, so many people went by and smiled, took photos, and appreciated the new central island source of beauty, that now exists simply because Nadine worked this hard to provide something for her community to make it a nicer place to live.
I made a YouTube video of the process of placing the tiles to create the mosaic and hanging the artwork. I am no videographer- the video is too long because I used an app I had never used and didn’t know how to shorten the video clips once I’d added them. I could only use music I’d purchased, and for some reason, only certain songs were available to choose, though of course, I love the songs I’ve bought so I don’t mind the mix (hello, soft hits of the 70s!). If you have a free 17 minutes (!) and like mosaic-making videos, you’ll love it I suppose.
I sat with Nadine on her back porch overlooking the beautiful colors of the Chesapeake on a fall day this weekend after the project was complete, and she said these colors, these sounds of nature were her inspiration and what she wanted to bring to the project. It’s nice for the community to be able to share that sense of peace and wonder the Chesapeake has to offer.
Mary McCarthy is the author of a number of books, most recently the children’s book I SEA, A Beachcombing Treasure Hunt. Her 25-year professional journalism career includes editing and writing for many newspapers, magazines, and websites. She served as an elected official on the Centreville Town Council and serves on the Board of Directors of the North American Sea Glass Association where she is also Education Chair.