WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Nov. 4, 2018 — West Liberty University student Elaine Klar is creating a public art mosaic entirely made from colorful pieces of Fiestaware.
Fiesta is produced by Homer Laughlin of Newell, W.Va. and is considered America’s favorite dinnerware. Introduced by Homer Laughlin China in January 1936, it was an immediate hit and is know for its colorful designs. Collectors enjoy searching for early pieces in the original colors, which include: red, yellow, cobalt blue, green and ivory. Turquoise was added early in 1937. Modern colors have been added too, like marigold and lemongrass.
Klar is a talented student who wanted to help her hometown and use her skills.
“I was looking for something to do in the art field and discovered this project last spring when I went to a planning meeting for the first annual Gate 5 Industrial Art Festival,” Klar explained. A junior majoring in Creative Arts Therapy, she plans to go on to earn a master’s in art therapy after graduating from WLU in 2020.
The Gate 5 Festival took place on Oct. 20 and celebrated the skills gained and materials crafted during the peak of manufacturing in Northern West Virginia. It took place at the Weirton Event Center and showcased art created using metal, clay, glass and repurposed scrap. It was chaired by community leader Alecia Ford, who also is a graduate student at WLU.
“First I made the design for the mosaic which was to show the history of Holliday’s Cove (Weirton neighborhood). It’s like a visual timeline that goes from the 1700s to today,” she said.
Actually founded in 1793, Holliday’s Cove was the earliest permanent white settlement in what was then Brooke County, Va., later becoming Hancock County, West Virginia. Weirton accepted the Holliday Cove area into city limits in 1947.
“I drew the mosaic design on the wall surface (concrete board mounted on the actual wall), used chalk and went back with a giant Sharpie to make it permanent because of the threat of rain.” The mosaic measures 3 feet x 40 feet and is not yet complete.
“Elaine was a delight as a volunteer. No one had done something like this before and she took it on, doing an incredible job with it. She took a lot of initiative and I’m grateful for her work,” said Ford who was relieved that the young artist shows determination at getting the job done.
“Our next meeting is Nov. 5 and we’ll find out when we might work on it again,” she added. Right now, the artwork is on display at Cove Commons Park, a small pocket park in downtown Weirton, at the intersection of Main St. and Cove Rd.
As far as how many plates were used to create the colorful Fiestaware mosaic, Klar said Homer Laughlin brought them a dump truck full of dishes that were not able to be sold due to imperfections.
“We held a plate breaking event in Steubenville to get the plate-chips into the right size and shape and people paid a dollar a plate to break the dishes. All of the dishes were headed to the trash heap anyhow,” Klar said.
Fiesta colors like turquoise, cobalt, grey, brown, red, white, and more were collected and mortared in spot by the public during the festival as they created this imaginative public artwork.
“Homer Laughlin was awesome to work with and everyone enjoyed playing a part in this mosaic. I’m anxious to get it done.”
One of the people that worked on the mosaic was her father, Scott, who is retired from the Weirton water plant and now works in Ambridge, Pa. as a water plant operator. He also introduced her to art and urban sketching.
Klar is enjoying this project and knows it will help her in her final goal of becoming a professional art therapist.
Art therapy is a field of psychology that relies on art and creativity to explore trauma and seek healing for a wide range of individuals. The College of Arts and Communication is home to the Bachelor of Science in Creative Arts Therapy and students interested in enrolling in the program should contact Dr. Susan Ridley, assistant professor of art therapy by email at [email protected]