What's new at Institute of Mosaic Art! IMA Blog. News. Updates. Special Events. Announcements.

Follow Your Bliss

“Follow your bliss.”

It’s been a California cliche since the 60s, at least. The phrase lies in wait for everyone, ready to assert its truth at personal crossroads, crises, and milestone moments. It certainly came to my mind this summer, when I found myself at what felt like a turning point in my journalism career. I reflected on all the things I had done for a living - newspapers, online media, communications, teaching -- and on the things I had done in my leisure. One source of pleasure for the past dozen years or so has been making mosaics. It was a way to exercise another side of my brain (and often to test the endurance of my body). It was an escape from All Things Computer -- grounding me in the physical. As for many mosaic artists, the activity is also meditative.  That’s just for starters.

So when the opportunity arose for me to take on the role of general manager of IMA, my personal “happy place” since before its move from Fruitvale to Berkeley, I realized that this was “it” -- the thing I most wanted to do next. It seemed a Major Signal from the Universe, as it were.

Joseph Campbell, who may not  have been the one who coined the phrase, describes the phenomenon:

“If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.”  

So, hi. My name is Laura Paull and I am so happy to be joining Ilse and Sophia Cordoni, owners of the Institute of Mosaic Art, and all the other teachers and makers and sellers who keep 805 Allston Way the buzzing hive of creative activity that it is. What I love more than anything is looking around during mosaic workshops and seeing all the diverse individuals gathered from all walks of life, pursuing their visions and honing their skills, to the tink of tile and crackle of glass. The intensity -- the contentment! A whole roomful of people following their bliss.

In the coming months I’ll be learning the business and am especially excited to contribute to the IMA blog and newsletters, hopefully making it one of your go-to places for reading about the mosaic arts. I’ve previously published profiles of some renowned international mosaic artists such as Lilian Broca and Ilana Shafir, and would love your suggestions for future stories or short blog posts and ideas for building our mosaic community.

Come to think of it, it might have been the ancient Chinese sage Confucius who got us all eager to follow our bliss. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” he said.

Well, not exactly. I expect I’ll be working hard, but loving every day of it. I’ve come through the crossroads and know the way.

--Laura Paull, General Manager, IMA

Contemporary Mosaic Artists Summit

Contemporary Mosaic Artists is holding its second Contemporary Mosaic Art Summit in Ashland Oregon on October 1st through 4th.  This is a great opportunity to network with mosaic artists from all over the world, to take a workshop, work on a group mosaic and more. 

In addition to workshops by Internationally renowned mosaic art instructors - Laura Rendlen, John Sollinger, Carole Choucair Oueijan, Susan Wechsler, Karen Rycheck and Mireille Swinnen the summit includes a mosaicathon that will benefit the Ashland Artwalk, a mosaic exhibit and silent auction at Belle Fiore Winery, and an Invitational Mosaic Art Exhibition.  

Keynote speaker Brooks Tower will speak on “Philosophical Conundrums in The Practice of Mosaic”, Dawn Mendelson will give a talk about creating community, Sue Springer, will present a talk on “Moving to The Next Level; Professionalism And Presentation”, Kelley Knickerbocker will help us figure out what happens to our creativity.   A very special evening with Lilian Broca who will present her Documentary “Return to Byzantium: The Art And Life of Lilian Broca”. 

There will be lots of relaxed time at meals and pub runs to meet and enjoy other artists passionate about mosaics. and much more!  

 All the details and registration are on the Summit Website,


In Memory of Celeste Howell, by Laurel True


The world lost a special soul on Saturday, March 7th.

Celeste Howell, beloved artist and former Director of the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland, CA, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking on the sidewalk near her studio in Oakland.

Celeste truly was the backbone of IMA, and the blossoming, growth and sustainability of IMA would not have been possible without her. She was my friend, my colleague and a trusted fellow renegade in the creative life. She was brilliant, smart and funny, as well as being serious and steadfast. She held me up when my knees were buckling.... her strength and no-nonsense style helped to lift my wings and keep me flying many times. Our work running IMA was challenging and required multi-faceted strength, creativity and patience. Celeste, my business partner Julia and I formed the core of an awesome team which allowed IMA maintain its integrity and solidity, and to be able to support the many mosaic artists who found community, friendship and inspiration at IMA.

Celeste was a talented artist and creative thinker extraordinaire.. hyper intelligent. She also helped make manifest my crazy ideas. She was my firewall, my bodyguard, my defender, my compadre. I will always have so much respect for her tender fierceness. We laughed so much together. And cried. and bitched, and disagreed, and laughed some more. We washed a lot of buckets.

She tirelessly supported the work I did in Haiti… helping to raise money for the mosaics in Mirebalais Hospital with Partners In Health by organizing exhibits and fundraisers through IMA. She traveled to Haiti with me to help install the dozens of mosaic birds and butterflies that artists from IMA made for the walls of the pediatric ward. She worked alongside my Haitian team creating mosaics for sick kids to look at for decades to come. She supported me when I had a broken heart, led us in morning boot camp exercises and worked with me to teach others how to create beauty in the world. Celeste was a beauty.

Her role in promoting and supporting mosaic education was huge, and after IMA was sold to the Cordonis, she made manifest her own dreams and created a beautiful studio for her own work in West Oakland. The exquisite jewelry she created embodied her style in the world, straightforward, elegant, graceful and strong.

I am grief stricken and in shock that she is gone. Her spirit will live on. People always say that.. but it’s true. 

I will miss you Celeste. I honor you. I respect you, and I will always, without doubt, remember how you were.. loving, caring, fierce, straightforward and honest. I wish I could have gathered up all these thoughts and words and offered them to you in person. 

I can’t believe it, as soon as I break out of the weird zombie shock, I feel the waves of sadness and lose it. How is it that a person is a person one day and then becomes a picture in your mind. It’s not fair. I feel the knots in my throat making it hard to swallow.  

I will remember you laughing and smiling and drinking your tea. 
You were such a bad ass.

~ Laurel


Highlights from 'Color, Texture, Bling!' class with Kelley Knickerbocker

Students got a blast of bling in Kelley Knickerbocker's special 'Color, Texture, Bling!' class on August 16-17. They learned how to create mosaics using glass on mirror with a special UV adhesive, how to do tricks with a ring saw, how to work with the amazing epoxy grout - and so much more! The student artwork was sparkling, beaming and glowing with light and color! These pictures can't replicate the light radiance of the mosaics.