Twelve years ago, Fred and Donnell Pasion were contemplating what to do with a ho-hum oak dining table, when they began eyeing their large collection of antique china plates languishing, unappreciated, in a cabinet.
The first swing of the hammer was a tough one, they said. But those dishes eventually found new purpose as an intricately patterned mosaic tabletop that would catch the eye of a local designer and lead them to their new career as mosaic artists with their company, Passiflora Mosaics.
The couple handles commissions on custom projects and also sells their work at shops like The Gallery at the Network in San Luis Obispo and The Garden Shed in Cambria. They offer classes at their home studio, as well as retreats at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria.
Part of what keeps the duo inspired is the endless variations that mosaic art can yield. Materials can range from standard tile and glass to found objects such as keys, chunks of old pottery, costume jewelry and shells. They once created a garden bench for a client that incorporated pieces of a beloved coffee mug and collectible figurines the Pasions carefully sawed in half.
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“We try to involve the client as much as possible and make it really personal for them,” said Fred.
Patterns are another variable. They can be utterly random or premeditated. The Pasions create striking abstracts, as well as stunning landscapes and florals. One of their most charming motifs involves creating caricatures of a client’s family members on a wall fountain.
The potential receptacles for mosaics are equally varied. The Pasions are called upon by clients to jazz up fireplace surrounds, floors, backsplashes, furniture, clocks, birdbaths and pottery. They have turned an entire patio wall into a larger-than-life blooming mosaic garden.
Sculpture is a current popular application for mosaics. The process includes carving a piece of Styrofoam, covering it with fiber mesh and acrylic concrete, then applying mosaics. The couple has become known for whimsical pieces such as Louise the Snail, who is covered in mirrored and iridized glass along with brass and copper accents.
The Pasions find their inspiration in the most unlikely places. When their driveway developed a network of cracks, they transformed them into slithering snakes in which are embedded marbles, found objects, china and glass, as well as pieces of a favorite Bailey’s mug.
When on a fishing trip to Lopez Lake in 2002, Fred got the idea to turn an old galvanized garbage can into a hanging fish sculpture. He now sells these sculptures at garden shops and recycled art shows. While not exactly mosaic, they resonate with the couple’s fondness for found objects, as well as their keen sense of humor.
“People smile and laugh when they see it,” said Donnell.
The Pasions share their enthusiasm for mosaics at their workshops and retreats, which are geared toward both beginners and experienced mosaic hobbyists. For a full class schedule, visit www.passifloramosaics.com.
The Passiflora Mosaics studio is at 330 N. 10th St. in Grover Beach, 489-8860.