By Lillian Cox
CARLSBAD — Heidi Grosshart of Shards & Recollections understands the occupational hazards that come with being a mosaic artist. Things like flying shards, bloody fingers — and striking fear into the hearts of hostesses when she compliments them on their dishes. Grosshart’s mosaics are made of broken china.
“I’ll visit a friend’s home and say, ‘You have the most beautiful china!’” she explained. The hostess will issue a warning. “She’ll say, “Don’t even think about it, Heidi.” I’ll reply, ‘Well, if you ever drop a plate … ’”
Grosshart never considered herself particularly artistic until 10 years ago when a friend from work gave her a mosaic stepping stone made of china for her birthday. When she expressed her admiration for the present the friend gave her an even bigger gift.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you take my tools, grout and plates and see how you like it,’” Grosshart recalls. “So it went from there. All the books tell you to start with a flower pot. Mine turned out crooked, so I threw it away.”
Eventually she started making gifts for friends. They, in turn, began giving her plates. She also began doing the rounds at stores like Tuesday Morning and Home Goods as well as garage sales and thrift stores looking for old plates that struck her fancy and silver platters.
“People don’t realize the value of what they have, so I’d buy them and run,” Grosshart said, adding that she’d tell sellers not to worry about carefully wrapping the plates because she was only going to take them home and break them.
“They were flabbergasted and would say, ‘What?’”
Grosshart’s creative process begins by “obsessing and visualizing” about a particular plate, silver platter or piece of furniture.
When she’s ready to create, she retreats to a tiny cottage her husband, Joe Grosshart, built in the backyard that serves as her studio. After inserting a disc of the HBO series “Six Feet Under” into a DVD player, she puts on her goggles, picks up her tile cutters and nippers and goes to work. The most difficult part of her process is compensating for the varying thicknesses of china, which she does by using adhesive or stained glass to build up the height beneath the china until the top surfaces are even. It helps if the silver platter or table has a lip that can serve as an outside border.
Instead of working on consignment, Grosshart asks for a flat amount and leaves it up to the merchant to establish a retail price. She began developing confidence in her art when she found that retailers were commanding much higher prices for her art than she expected.
In time, Grosshart began expanding her offerings to include a “favorite things” line of mosaics inspired by small specialty tiles she found on eBay of her mother’s “favorite things” including a can of tomato soup, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, photo of Elvis and a miniature poster of “Gone with the Wind.”
It was also on eBay that she found used silverware that she flattens at home with a towel, rubber mallet and vice and incorporates into a mosaic table such as one of four place settings currently on display at the Carlsbad Danish Bakery. The bakery has also commissioned her to create a mosaic table of a wedding cake design, which she’ll decorate with shards, jewelry and keepsakes.
“I love it when there is a story and it means something,” she said.
Cathy Patrick of Encinitas has become a friend and collector of Grosshart’s art.
“I met Heidi at an open house several years ago and went to her home where I saw her work,” Patrick remembers. “Her art is very sweet and peaceful. She destroys something, then creates something beautiful out of it.”
Several years ago, in a contemplative moment, Grosshart asked her husband what he was going to do when they retired.
“He said, ‘I don’t know … what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘Break plates.’”
For more information about Shards & Recollections, call (760) 803-4015 or e-mail [email protected] In addition to the Carlsbad Danish Bakery, Grosshart’s work can be seen at the Aubrey Rose Tea Room in La Mesa.