"Friendship, a piece at a timeA mosaic club forms."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:40 PM
"The Mosaic Club has formed, and Dave Berfield, Bev Smith, Emma Stockemer, Betty Dunaway and Gayle Barker are the charter members.Their first joint project - Finch Place spelled out in bits of colored tile, each letter on a 16x16-foot concrete square - rests on a raised bed of cedar bark, outside the women's home at Finch Place Apartments.I've always loved mosaic so I wanted to start a club, an opportunity for people interested in mosaics to get together, Berfield said. I offered a class at the senior center, and we evolved into the club.The group coalesced in the course of the year-long project. They also became friends. Barker, who is also the building's manager, claims creative credit.It was my idea, she said. I thought it would be nice to have it spelled out, but I didn't know how to get there. To-scale drawings of the letters were left on tables on Finch Place's covered verandah, and whenever someone felt like placing a few pieces of tile, they did. Smith confesses:Yes, and then we'd move all the tiles when peoples' backs were turned.What is this 'we'? Barker and the others laugh. The women became more adept as the year passed. Their progress is discernible in changes from the first letter to the last. The spaces between the tile fragments close; the forms become streamlined.The women accepted the learning process. They laugh at their former ineptitude. We learned with each stone, one said. They're like snowflakes; no two are alike. The mosaic process is relatively straightforward, Berfield said - easy, compared to throwing a pot.Perhaps it is, for him. Berfield studied art at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, and ceramics at the University of Hawaii. In Seattle he learned enameling techniques. He is a consummate professional, a technician. He has collaborated with painter Jacob Lawrence on a half-dozen large-scale public murals, affixing enamel images to porcelain. The Lawrence enamels in the Kingdome were Berfield's work.I'm glad to say they were moved to the Seattle Convention Center when the dome came down, Berfield said.When Lawrence, in search of a less shiny surface, changed to mosaic tile, Berfield was glad. He'd always been attracted to mosaic. Berfield enjoyed guiding the four women through the process.They learned to work with the detail first, and lay the background in afterwards, because, as Berfield says, the detail is what you want to have right. The women describe how they got to the last letter - and then Stockemer made a mistake, laying on a section of tiles so that one didn't quite fit. The others tease her about it and she shrugs, I've got broad shoulders - it's OK. Stockemer solved the dilemma by painting the offending tile white, to match the others. No one minds. They even approve. That's art - you use your mistakes; it's all good. I feel really great about that out there, Barker says, pointing to the project. We did a bang-up job - especially for amateurs.The others said that contributing to the building in this way makes the place feel even more like home. When we started the mosaic I'd just moved here, Smith said. Whenever I felt lonesome, I'd just go and place some tiles. Now that the project is wrapped up, Berfield and his family travel in a few weeks to Ravenna, Italy - to look at mosaics.The Mosaic Club meets every Thursday evening at Camp Hopkins from 7-9 p.m. For information, call 842-6210. "