Cool Art in Philadelphia and Reflections on High School Art Class

1983.  High school Art class in suburban New Jersey.  Tile Mosaic 101.  Glass cutters, tile cutters, glue, and grout, plus lots of glass and tile pieces and shards.

My teacher said to lay out and draw a sketch of the finished product before starting with the tiles…..OR… let the finished product develop as you work.  “Find your own process,” she said.

My classmates made brightly colored symmetrical designs on wall plaques that now make me think of ancient courtyards.  Or they made intricate patterns on functional items like serving trays or table tops, making me think of the funky and cool coffee shops that I now love so.

I, however, chose to create a portrait…..a portrait within a winter scene, with a minimalist color scheme of blacks, whites, and greyscales only.  It was an icy tundra…..and my subject was……a penguin……a penguin that ended up looking quite a bit like the 60s cartoon Chilly Willy.  (Gimme a break…..I was a 17 year old girl…..cartoon penguins were cool).

Mosaics can be a great upcycling or repurposing project.  Old tiles and broken plates or cups or glass can be made into something new and beautiful.  But all mosaics, whether they are patterns or pictures, or both….they take A LOT of time…….and unless you want to create a cartoon penguin, they take more than a little bit of vision.

So what if you were a talented mosaic artist…..and you had the time……..and  you had a whole lot of space…..AND you had vision?  What would you do?

Check out the work of Isaiah Zagar…..Philadelphia’s resident master mosaic artist.











Zagar uses glass, mirrors, ceramic tiles, and then adds in whole dinner plates, and teacups, and glass bottles and even the occasional bicycle wheel.   He uses the written word and hand-drawn images.  The Magical Gardens, on South Street in Philadelphia, is two stories of winding walkways, staircases, courtyards, and  eye-opening WOW!

Here’s Jake and Joe taking it all in on a rainy weekend day…..








Zagar also has other mosaics all over the greater Philadelphia area.

Local art….Local artist…..Enjoy it…..Support it.

These photos were taken on a very rainy day with a pretty crappy camera by a not-so-great photographer (me).  But you can still see how amazing this place is, right?    If you are from the area…..go see it!

You can find Philadelphia’s Magical Gardens here:

About Lisa

Lisa has two active blogs on Wordpress. Views from the RoofTop started as a blog space to share about crafting and using repurposed materials to make useful housewares and about my craft shop's mascot, RoofTop Chalie, the repurposed racing greyhound. It has evolved into a space to also share about the things in life that intrigue and inspire me. GAMES GAMES GAMES started because people asked Lisa to share many of the silly and fun games that are staples at her holiday parties.
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5 Responses to Cool Art in Philadelphia and Reflections on High School Art Class

  1. I was just HERE on Saturday…what a coincidence! I absolutely love this place…go every time I’m on South Street and I find more and more treasures each time!

    • That’s so cool Erin!…I love coincidences (or serendipity)! We went today during a “lull” in the weather and then on our drive it got really yucky. So we went to lunch at Supper, a restaurant a few blocks down South Street. The service was really slow, but we tried not to mind, since it was still raining. When we finally got to the Gardens, we found out that they had been closed because it was so slippery on the tiles floors and they had just re-opened. So our slow lunch service was to our benefit!

  2. Truly one of Philadelphia’s treasures!

  3. rotvm says:

    What a beautiful public space.

  4. I have to go through that place. I get to South St. so rarely anymore…

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