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Art, engagement, action: Connecting with the community, creating change

I am beyond thrilled to finally be able to tell you that I have been selected as the City of Kitchener’s Artist in Residence for 2017 (media release here). I’ve known for a few months now, but it has only recently been approved by city council, so now it is officially official.

This is the first time we have a mosaic artist as our artist in residence. We’re thrilled Sperling will bring the community together to open a discussion about an important topic that touches all citizens who can get involved and share their efforts through visually stunning mosaic art.

Silvia DiDonato, manager, arts and creative industries

Through my art, I will be engaging Kitchener residents in a dialogue about concrete actions they can take on the path to sustainability. To start, I’ll be creating a few mosaics to spark this dialogue. The themes I’m planning to tackle are energy, food, transportation, and natural stormwater management (or perhaps just green space more generally).

Then it’ll be time to engage the community. This is perhaps what I’m most excited about, as it’s an opportunity to connect my art more directly with advocacy and action. So, using these mosaics as a backdrop, and in collaboration with municipal departments and community partners, I’ll be running a series of workshops where Kitchener residents can come learn about environmental solutions through art and conversation. Participants will also have the opportunity to make a small mosaic symbolizing their commitment to taking one practical action (in one of the four theme areas) to reduce their environmental footprint.

The final piece of the puzzle will be to use these small community-made mosaics to create a larger mosaic symbolizing Kitchener’s collective commitment to taking environmental action. The mosaics created over the course of the residency will be on display in Kitchener City Hall during two exhibitions: an interim show in August and a final show in December.

So, if you live in the Kitchener area, stay tuned over the next couple of months. I’ll be reporting on my progress and announcing events and workshops here on my website and on my social media channels. I’d love to see you there!

julie sperling kitchener artist in residence

Who’s excited to be Artist in Residence? This gal!!!


Getting prepped for my first Urban Craft appearance

urban craft - march 15

I’ve been making a number of smaller mosaics lately in preparation for my first Urban Craft appearance (March 15, 10am-3pm at the Glebe Community Centre). It’s been fun to use up some bits of material that have been hanging around my shelves for way too long and and also to tinker with styles I don’t usually use. But while there’s a certain satisfaction to being able to complete one of these little mosaics in a single sitting, I will admit that I am itching to really sink my teeth into a bigger project now.

The materials used in these little pieces are quite varied. There’s unglazed porcelain, smalti, bits of skateboard, a typeset letter, sea pottery (or at least I assume that’s what it is) that friends brought back from Bermuda for me, marble, bits of one of my favourite plates dating back to my student days (the green stuff), ceramic tiles, local stone (of course!), a chunk of glass courtesy of the local glassblowing workshop‘s discard pile, and even rocks rescued from one of those zen fountains that was destined for the trash.

It’s been interesting to hear what people see in some of them. The one with the salmon-coloured tile has reminded people of waterfowl, aquatic dinosaurs, bacon (!), muscle, and a seam in the earth. The one with the bits of skateboard has elicited comparisons to a roadmap / crossroads, chromosomes, and neurons. Someone saw a guitar in the one with the glass chunk, and people who commented on the one with the green ceramic have unanimously said it reminds them of seaweed.

Not much else to say about these pieces, so just enjoy the pictures below! And come to Urban Craft if you’re in Ottawa on March 15!


Transitions Exhibition at Ciel Gallery

ciel transitions postcardIn case any of you are curious, photos of the full line-up of mosaics in Ciel Gallery‘s Transitions Exhibition are now available both on Ciel’s website and their Facebook page. And if you fall in love with any of the mosaics, you can buy them via the website (there’s a handy Paypal link for each mosaic).

I really enjoyed checking out the other mosaics in the show, and especially being able to read the artist statements that accompanied each piece. There are some really fantastic pieces and I’m proud to be part of this show.


My work’s in a real store!

So guess what? A few of my mosaics are now in a real life brick and mortar store! Harvest, Thaw, Pulse, and Fault line are all now available at The Studio : Boutique in Carleton Place. So if you’re in the neighbourhood, check it out! It’s a totally cute little space and owner Laura does a fantastic job curating the products she carries.

Here they all are, on display for the world to see (and even buy)!  Photo courtesy of Laura Norris

Here they all are, on display for the world to see (and even buy)! Clockwise from top: Pulse, Thaw, Harvest, Fault line
Photo courtesy of Laura Norris


Huzzah! My first juried show!

Good news, friends! This week I found out that “Punctuated Equilibrium I” was accepted into the Transitions show at Ciel Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina. I’m super super excited, because this is my first show ever (let alone a juried one!). I will admit, however, that the initial excitement has worn off a wee bit as I’ve begun trying to figure out how to ship the piece there and back. Ugh.

But let’s ignore those details for now and just enjoy the moment (and some gratuitous cute dog photos).

The furriest member of my cheering section

The furriest member of my cheering section


WIP Wednesday: End of the line

When I set my goals in January, I thought posting a WIP shot each week would be a good way to keep me motivated. While it has more or less worked, I’m finding that it’s cluttering up my blog and obscuring the real content, which is something I couldn’t have known at the outset. So, this is the end of the line for WIP Wednesday. I’ll post various work-in-progress shots (and other goodies!) over on my Facebook page (though not weekly), which I think is a more appropriate venue for that sort of stuff. The blog will be reserved for writing, mostly. So if you’re interested and haven’t already done so, hop on over to my Facebook page and give it a “like”!


Moving sale!

So as some of you know, we’re moving apartments soonish. This explains why I haven’t been doing any mosaic work over the last little while, as well as why my ever-scintillating blog posts have kind of dried up.

But I wanted to let you all know that I’m temporarily re-opening my Etsy store in order to hold a big MOVING SALE (otherwise known as an “I don’t want to take it with me” sale).

If you’ve been contemplating buying one of my mosaics, this is the perfect excuse! The sale runs until July 15, so head on over and see if anything catches your eye. I’ll be adding more items over the next few days, so check back often.


California on my mind

Some of you might be aware of the fact that my partner and I are in our third year of living apart. (Short story: She had to go to California for work, but I couldn’t follow because of immigration laws – you know, the whole same-sex thing – so I stayed back here in Ottawa. There are no jobs for her in Canada and none for me in California. Hence, we live apart.) Anyway, what you really need to know is this: living apart sucks. End of story.

When it became clear that we’d be doing the long distance thing for a third year, I knew I’d probably go nuts (a stolen week here and there is not really enough, you know?) so, as a pre-emptive strike, I decided to ask for a three-month leave from my job. And my boss (and her boss) – bless their souls – agreed.

Which brings us to today: the day I fly down to California and begin my three months of actually having a semi-normal life with the person I love. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I’ve been giddy for weeks and right now I’m grinning from ear to ear despite the fact that I was up way before the sun this morning.

You may be thinking: But Julie, what does this have to do with mosaics? Ahhhh, allow me to explain. Because my partner will be working while I’m down in California, I’ll need something to occupy a good chunk of my time. And what better way to keep myself busy than to make mosaics? It’s always been my fantasy to do this stuff full time and now I have three months to live that dream.

I’ve got a few ideas for pieces that I want to do (stay tuned!), and I’m going to try to experiment with some materials that I haven’t used much before (no stained glass for me…at least not for 3 months!). I’ve also signed up to take two courses up in Oakland at the Institute of Mosaic Art. And get this: one of them is with one of my mosaic idols, Sonia King! I was so happy when I found out that her workshop would coincide with my time in California!

Anyway, I should probably go stretch my legs a bit before boarding the plane. Next stop, Long Beach, California!

Soaking up some inspiration (and some sun!) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla


Not just a one-trick pony

Just a quick note to let you all know that I’m not just a one-trick pony (the one trick being mosaics). A few months ago my partner and I decided to start up a blog to chronicle our adventures in curbside scavenging and upcycling. It sat idle for almost a year, but it has now been resurrected and we’re trying to post stuff to it more regularly.

So, without further ado, I give you … <drumroll please> …

Poubelle Chic!


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