Amazingly Beautiful Mosaic Benches


My first mosaic bench class was a huge success! It was a big project and many of the students’ designs were very complex with regard to cutting the glass. The completed benches were stunning and everyone was so happy with their results. I will be scheduling another bench class in the future. If you are interested, send me an email to let me know you would like to be one of the first to be notified, as this class filled in a couple of days.


Marline Pallais’ very geometric and colorful bench.


Gina’s flower garden bench. She is getting so good at cutting glass.


Linda Bergen’s very whimsical flower garden. She was a beginner. Love the bright colors!



Fran Senchek and her sun and rainbow bench. Makes me happy.



Gwynne Henry’s beautiful koi bench. She likes little pieces and she cut every one of those little rectangles.


Mary Ann Theim and her whimsical fish bench. It was based on one of her drawings from long ago.


Nancy Okun’s beautiful koi bench. She worked on her skills cutting and laying glass using a style referred to as keystoning. It’s time consuming and difficult. She did a great job.

Chelsea’s gorgeous winged heart bench. She grouted hers later at home, in gray.


Wendy Graham completed her bench on Tuesday mornings in the studio. She created a very personal piece based on her love of gardening and her and her husband’s astronomical signs. They are stargazers and he has a gigantic telescope he built himself.




Mandalas at the Center for Creative Renewal

On April 21, & 22, I taught a class for creating mandalas at the Center for Creative Renewal in Encinitas. The owner, Ellen Speert, has lived here for almost forty years. She and her husband have lovingly poured their hearts into creating a very special place- not only to live, but for her art therapy, and for workshops – taught by herself or by other visiting artists. The mandalas created this year were all spectacular. These are some of the photos of the mandalas and of the garden.


This is the view from the patio where we work.


During the day, if you want to take a break and do a walking meditation, there is ample time to walk the labyrinth.


There are lovely seating areas throughout the garden for relaxing or for having your lunch.



Interesting sculptures are scattered throughout the garden.




The garden is on a slope and has many levels.




Next year I will be teaching mandalas again, March 9th & 10th. Come join in and treat yourself to a day in this magical place.


A Magical Week at Hacienda Mosaico in Puerto Vallarta


I have just returned from a magical week at Hacienda Mosaico in Puerto Vallarta. This walled paradise of art is owned and operated by Sam Leonard. She and her husband, Xenophon, are the most gracious hosts and provided everything we needed for a perfect week.

Sam’s collection of art over the years, her personal art work, and the work created by workshop leaders fills every corner, nook, and cranny. Wall murals,  painted floor cloths, hand blown lamps, tiled outdoor kitchen, mosaic sofa and chairs- it is a neverending feast for the eyes. Even on the last day we were there, we were still seeing things we had not seen all week.

The studio is an enormous, covered outdoor space, surrounded by palms, orchids, cactus, and succulents. Open twenty four hours a day, there were a actually a couple of days when we worked briefly after coming back from dinner in town. Complete with a very nice kiln, students were able to make, fire, and glaze tiles for their sculptural mosaic flowers which were completed in the weeklong workshop.

One of the things we all enjoyed most was the experience of being able to get up and mosaic all day with no other responsibilities. The kitchen staff, Jorge and Anna, provided a delicious breakfast and lunch every day, and we all looked forward to the bell inviting us to feast upon their creations. Even the food was art.

We all had such a great week of wonderful sharing of art, in community with other women, that we left feeling like we all wanted to come back. I have scheduled another week for March 2019. If you are interested, please join us. I promise you will love it.

Worshop participants- Dana Voskes, Pam Jara, Nancy Okun, myself, Gina Rubin, and Marline Pallais
















Mosaic Mandalas- My Current Obsession

I have enjoyed creating several mandalas over the last year and a half as well as teaching classes so that others could create and enjoy them also. I love the circle form, the symmetrical nature, and of course how I get to play with color.

I did a little research on mandalas and found the following two explanations meaningful and worthwhile reading. 

From the website http://www.whats-your-sign.com/meaning-of-mandala.html

The word “mandala” is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit.  Loosely translated to mean “circle”, a mandala is far more than a simple shape. It represents wholeness, and can be seen as a model for the organizational structure of life itself- a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.

Describing both material and non-material realities, the mandala appears in all aspects of life: the celestial circles we call earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family and community.

And from  http://www.mandalaproject.org/What/Main.html

Even though it may be dominated by squares or triangles, a mandala has a concentric structure. Mandalas offer balancing visual elements, symbolizing unity and harmony. The goal of the mandala is to serve as a tool on our spiritual journey as it symbolizes cosmic and psychic order.

Mandalas have been used by lots of cultures. From Buddhism to Hinduism, Aboriginal to Hopi…even ancient alchemy – to be sure, mandalas have served mankind for centuries. The famed Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Jung, employed the mandala in his work with clients. He felt when concentrated upon deeper human consciousness became elevated to an extent the conscious was able to receive revelation about the true potential and wholeness of the self.

Here are just a few examples of my student’s mandalas. Enjoy!

Mariann Keenan


Leslie Meehan

Fran Senchek

Pam Jara

Karen Okun

Jackie Chagala


My History in Tempered Glass Mosaics

Until 2004, I worked exclusively in clay. While attending a week long architectural ceramics class, I met a woman who was going to the Society of American Mosaic Artists’ Conference in San Francisco that year. She invited me to come, and on a whim I decided to join her. As a part of the conference, I took a class with the founder of the Tempered Glass technique, Ellen Blakeley. She is an amazingly talented artist. You can see her work here. www.ellenblakeley.com 

After that class, I was hooked and my first years creating in mosaics was all tempered glass. Most of the work combined clay in the piece in some way. What I love most about the technique, is how it makes your mosaic become almost three dimensional. It’s a layering process and all the color you see in the piece is mostly underneath clear glass. You can incorporate photos, paper, ribbon, fabric, leaves, and anything else that is perfectly flat.

Below are some photos of work I have created using tempered glass. Come join in for a super fun weekend of learning and creating.

Commission piece with a handmade ceramic dragonfly with tempered glass wings surrounded by a field of tempered glass with mirror tile accents.



This butterfly combines a ceramic butterfly that has tempered glass in the wings. It’s set amid a field of tempered glass with beautiful art papers incorporated. It measures 30″ x 30″ and was purchased by a gallery owner in Half Moon Bay who I was represented by.



This is my favorite piece I have made in tempered glass. The ceramic heart at the top was made after 9/11. I had a friend call and say she was having people over to build an altar and grieve together over what we had lost. I saved the heart and incorporated it into this piece. I really should never have sold it, as it held such special meaning for me.



This Tree of Life piece incorporates a ceramic tree, polymer clay birds and leaves, and real fern leaves. The dimensions are 32″ x 46″ and it was purchased by a collector in Auburn, CA.



I’ve created lots of ceramic dragonflies in my pieces using this technique. This was one of my first bigger tempered glass pieces and it incorporates ribbon, glass gems, foil, and real hosta leaves. This one was purchased by a collector in Nevada City, CA and is  24″ x 24″.


This tree frog and branch are ceramic and it are surrounded by a field of tempered glass with a border of glass gems. It was commissioned by a collector in Nevada City, CA and is 20″ x 20″.



This coffee table combines a slate center surrounded by tempered glass. It was a commission for a family in Grass Valley, CA and is 30″ x 48″.


This bowl is representative of what you can do in this two day class. This is one of my favorites and is 16″.

Sculptural 3D Mosaic Flowers

Rosie Eckberg

The weekend of August 4-6 was my first 3D Sculptural Mosaic class. I wanted to share some photos of the work done that weekend. The project was not meant to be completed in the two and half days, so some students took their projects home to complete and others are coming to Tuesday morning classes to finish. The results are all so different and all so beautiful. I have scheduled another class for October 27-29th for those who were unable to make it. Hope you’ll join us next time!

Mary Beth Casement

Pam Jara

Gina Rubin

Trina Johnson





A Passion for Dragonflies

A couple months ago I was so excited to unexpectedly get an email from a couple who live in Davis, CA. They had purchased two different pieces from me about ten years ago when I was living in northern California. Both were wall pieces of dragonflies and they have them hanging outside by their pool.  This time they wanted an orange dragonfly since they often have orange dragonflies flying around their pool. This is what I created for them. They were ecstatic.

If you are interested in learning how this is done, I will be teaching this technique in my studio September 16th and 17th.


Did you See That? Mosaics by Marsha Rafter in the News

After the San Diego Botanic Garden Sculpture Show opened on June 25th, one of my friends Kim Riha, mentioned that she thought that she had seen my work in the San Diego Union Tribune newspaper. Since I don’t receive the paper, I had no idea that they were choosing to use my mosaic mandala in their ad for the sculpture Show. I was pretty excited to say the least.


In addition, while at the show reception, the photographer from the Encinitas Advocate happened to come by and asked if I would be interested in having my picture taken with my art. Of course I said sure. This is the photo they used on the page published about the Sculpture Show. Fun to see myself and my work in print.

                                                         Artist Marsha Rafter with her creation “Mandala”

Mosaic Demonstration at the San Diego County Fair

On July 3, I enjoyed demonstrating mosaics in front of the Fine Arts Building at the San Diego County Fair. This was a really interesting and fun new experience for me.  I had four hours and was given a table with a mirror above it which allowed the audience to see my hands while I was working. There were so many questions asked about the process and the materials, and one couple sat for two hours chatting with me so that they could see the entire process of mosaicing the seahorse from start to finish. When I was mosaicing the dragonfly, I had a young boy come up and stand right in front of me to watch, and then he assisted for probably forty five minutes. He was so interested and he did a wonderful job. It made him so happy to learn how to cut the glass and then set the pieces on the sticky mesh and he stayed until he had completed all the gold around the outside of the dragonfly wings.

I hope they will give me the opportunity to demonstrate again next year. I love sharing my love of mosaics with the world!







A Hidden Gem in Encinitas

On June 17th, I had the pleasure of teaching at The Center for Creative Renewal in Encinitas, CA.  The owner, Ellen Speert, is an art therapist and has owned the three acre property for over forty years. From the street, you would never know what lies beyond the gate to her back garden. She and her partner have lovingly created an amazingly beautiful environment that is filled with art and includes a building for her art therapy, complete with a deck that looks out over the mountains. In addition, there is an outdoor deck for art classes as well as a new yoga deck. Ellen teaches classes herself, leads art therapy groups, and hosts visiting artists several times a year. You can visit her website at www.artretreats.com for more information and to see all of her classes and events. Taking a class here offers so much more than just the content of the class. The location is spectacular.

The class Ellen and I chose was Mosaic Mandalas, one of my current obsessions. The word mandala means circle, and represents wholeness and divine harmony.  It was the perfect project. Students created the mandalas on Wedi board, making them waterproof and suitable for hanging in a garden environment. I brought a huge selection of my own handmade tiles to offer as focal points as well as to radiate from the center. As you can see from the photos, everyone’s interpretation of the project was their own unique vision. The results were beautiful. Thanks to all of you for coming!

If you would like to create a mandala in Ellen’s beautiful garden, I will be teaching this class again in April of 2018.

Megan Hoopes with her piece incorporating my handmade tiles in a paisley design.

Rosemary Stark with her beautiful piece incorporating a center medallion and radiating “leaf tiles”.

Carol Denenberg with her piece primarily all in blues using only glass.

A unique piece that I do not remember the name of its creator. It is so beautiful and creative. Let me know if you were in the class and can identify who made this one.

A beautifully planned and executed piece with complimentary colors created by Gail Gerbie.

The lovely yellows in this piece by Mary Beth Casement are so happy. And Mary Beth learned how to add glass rods vertically in the center.

Love the blues and purples Ellen Speert chose. The pink and aqua add a nice contrast.

The chartreuse green tiles in Susan Pierce’s piece are my absolute favorite.I just love that color. She ended up changing this from black to white grout. That was beautiful as well.