Handmade: Mosaicist pieces together signature style

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Joan Schwartz of Huntington Woods has traveled the world, discovering ways to sharpen her skills as a mosaic artist while working alongside internationally known instructors in Australia, Italy and Spain in addition to some throughout the U.S. Her enriched knowledge is reflected in each of her unique and colorful assemblages, many of which are relief or three-dimensional.

Mosaic artist Joan Schwartz works on a piece in her basement studio inside her Huntington Woods home, where she conducts workshops a couple times a year.

“Once I started, I started taking classes from world-renowned instructors. I joined several mosaic groups (including) the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA). They have a yearly convention where they have workshops and lectures, and I started going to that not long after I began mosaic,” she said.

Her awe-inspiring work is heavily influenced by her surroundings, love of color and movement. “I see patterns in everything. I work in an unusual manner. I don’t really draw or paint a sketch. Many mosaic artists are painters, and much of their work reflects that. I just think about a subject and what color combination I want to do, and then I pull out my materials in those colors and start eliminating. Sometimes my work takes a detour from my initial vision, and will come out totally different. I kind of design as I go.”

As a “mixed media mosaic” artist, Schwartz, 71, incorporates items into her pieces from her “personal stash of stuff” to help create her signature style. She said, “I can be shopping some place and see something that triggers a thought. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, (but) these things are filed in the back of my head until I find a way to use them.”

This asymetrical mosaic mask was created by Schwartz, who says masks and faces are among her favorite pieces to design.

Her piece titled “Breaking Out In Style,” a whimsical mosaic sculpture of a just-hatched chicken embellished with glass, clay beads and pieces of metal, was recently “purchased by a mosaic collector who has a mosaic museum in Santa Ana, CA,” something she considers to be a “huge” accomplishment in her career.

The retired pediatric nurse is an active member of Mosaic Artists of Michigan (MAM), for which she just completed a two-year term as vice president. She said, “We have 40 members from all over the state, (and) three to four shows around Michigan, and other states, every year.”

To acquaint and educate others about what has been her livilihood and chosen art medium for the past 12 years, Schwartz spent four years putting a group of 300 mosaic artists together for the 2017 SAMA Conference, held in Detroit in May. For her efforts, the group named her volunteer of the year. A piece created by members during the five-day conference was donated to the new wing of Children’s Hospital in Detroit.

She sells her work under the name “Joan Schwartz Mixed Media Mosaics,” and prices start around $500, depending on size, detail and how long she’s had the piece. “There are a lot of variables in how you price your work. If I’m doing a commissioned piece, that’s a different algebraic problem,” she said. She describes her customers as having a sense of humor and an appreciation for the sense of humor that comes across in her work.

Schwartz is currently putting her amazing skills to work on a piece to be featured in the Sculpture Objects Functional Art and Design Fair, set for November in Chicago. She’ll also have a piece at the Muskegon Museum of Art 89th Regional Exhibition (Sept. 28-Nov. 8).

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or


Contact Joan Schwartz Mixed Media Mosaics at (248) 542-5893, or