A new original local artwork is in … a bathroom?
A new original local artwork is in … a bathroom?
Would you believe that one of the newest pieces of original artwork in Hammonton—a colorful mosaic mural called “Medley of Masters Mural”—is located on the wall of a bathroom space measuring only five feet by five feet?
The bathroom can be found at Piney Hollow Arts Studio, located at 19B Central Avenue, within the Hammonton Art District. So it does make sense in terms of being located inside an arts studio.
But why a bathroom?
Intrigued by how the beautiful mosaic mural piece came to appear on the portion of the wall over the sink of the bathroom, I sat down at Piney Hollow Arts Studio to interview Jeannie Bell of Mosaic Made, who collaborated with Paula Farrar, the owner of the studio, on the project. The three of us sat at the large table in the middle of the studio, just steps from the bathroom that now houses the mural.
The project began as a lot of art does: out of necessity.
“I just did not want the plaster in there. It had holes and everything. I was going to cover it with an ugly plastic. I see almost everything like a blank canvas. I thought, ‘I really want something whimsical in here.’ I was going to tile it. Then I thought of Jeannie and a mosaic,” Farrar said.
While Bell, who describes herself as a “self-taught” artist had worked with mosaics for years, this would be her first mural. Farrar said she loved Vincent van Gogh and “Starry Night” so elements of that painting were incorporated into the mural.
“I usually do organic designs that are not planned. This is the first one I planned,” Bell said.
Bell said as the creative process moved forward, she asked for more ideas.
“I was like, ‘give me some more people,’” Bell said.
“I told her, ‘Think about me and who I am,’” Farrar said.
As the mosaic, which used both flat and 3D items made from ceramic tile, glass, mirror, crockery, stone and other items, began to take shape, some of the other people appeared in the five-foot by eight-foot artwork. Sunflowers continued the Van Gogh theme, and a skull represents Paul Cezanne, Farrar and Bell said. Another famous artist was blended into the painting to help ground a floating 3D ceramic watering can that was hovering by itself in the middle of the artwork.
“We had this watering can, and we were debating about who would hold it or not. I saw Salvador Dali’s face online and we put him into it, holding the watering can over the sunflowers,” Farrar said.
The project took months to complete, and during that time, it became an inspiration to Farrar, Bell and Farrar’s students.
“It was challenging because it was upright … It was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever done. The excitement of coming up here to the studio and looking at her paintings, her students’ paintings and the books was inspiring,” Bell said.
Farrar said her students would keep walking into the bathroom to see how the mural had been updated.
“Every time I would come in and my students would come in, we would look to see what was done with the mural. Each time I go in there I find something new in it. There are a lot of words in there. When it was finished, I was like, ‘Look what was created.’ I’m sure she’s like, ‘Look what I created,’” Farrar said.
But what do people think about the mural’s home inside a bathroom?
“We tell people, ‘Don’t mind Salvador watching you.’ I wanted something a little bit fun, a little bit creative,’” Farrar said, laughing.
Bell said the bathroom space made it easier in case the artwork didn’t go well.
“It was an awesome learning experience for me for murals. I figured if it didn’t work out, it was in a bathroom anyway, so who would see it? Go big or go home,” Bell said.
“I never had any doubts,” Farrar said.
Now, as all artists do, Farrar and Bell are moving on to other projects, both separate and together. One of the joint projects is a second mosaic mural, this time on the side of a bookcase at the studio. Students ranging in age from 7 to 15 are working to create tiles for the new mural, they said.
Using their imaginations to create a new artwork in the bathroom made the process exciting and fun.
“For me it was every time I came up here. Paula is a wonderful person and very talented in her own right,” Bell said.
When asked what she enjoyed about the process of creating the mosaic mural, Farrar said:
“The whole process, right from the very first brainchild to brainstorming until the time it was done. I am in awe of it—but then it was done. It was great to see the growth in the students and Jeannie and everyone. It was great to see the epiphany, of the birth of creativity, the spark, the light, the feeling of seeing a person ‘get it.’ … They are still excited. It’s been done for quite a while. I keep finding things in it. It’s a real conversation piece,” Farrar said.
Piney Hollow Arts Studio and its bathroom—and the beautiful mosaic mural that has been created to adorn one of its walls are unlike anything in town. How the artwork was created for the unique space is a testament to both Farrar and Bell’s creativity and ingenuity.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.