Sophia Othman Mosaics

Custom Mosaic Art & Sculpture

Posts from the “tree of life” Category

Marin Community Built School Mosaic Mural Installed!!

“Our Oak” Finally Installed

Oak Tree & Native California Animals School Mosaic Mural

Third Grade Students Work in Teams to Piece a Mosaic Mule Deer for School Mural

Well, it is finally up on the LRC (Learning Resource Center) wall!!  The Oak Tree of Life Mosaic Mural is installed and ready for students to come back to school in September and see their gorgeous and epic handiwork.  You can really see in the mosaic that an entire school participated in it’s creation.  The handmade ceramic tiles all look unique and you can tell each was the creative effort of one student.

Brief Backstory

The mosaic mural is a parting gift dedicated in honor of the school’s retiring Head Of School, Lucinda Lee Katz.  We estimate that over 600 students (Kindergarten to Eighth Grade) and staff were involved directly in the making of the mosaic.  The project started in December, 2017 and was permanently installed on a wall of the Learning Resource Center building (LRC) on August 2nd, 2018.    For more about how we designed the mosaic and which grades created which mosaic design elements read this post. 

Here are some photos from the installation process recently completed.  

Marin School Oak Tree Of Life Mosaic Mural Installed On Library Exterior Wall includes california native animals poppies butterflies mule deer doe fawns quail gray fox gray squirrel barn owl red tailed hawk opossum hare rabbit moths bees

Oak Tree California Native Animals Mosaic School Mural 10’x10’8″

Mosaic Mural Completed Installation in August 2018

These photos of the installation process showing the progression from bare cement board frame and how we install one mosaic fiberglass section at at time like a giant puzzle.  The metal frame and cement board backing was fabricated by Don Carlson, who has been incredibly supportive during the installation process.  


The Library building with the mosaic frame ready to go

A blank canvas ready for mosaic fiberglass sections. We are going to build a mosaic puzzle.

The first two mosaic sections are up!

The third mosaic section is up, only 31 more to go.

Notice that all three sections of the mosaic Mule Deer Doe are now installed.

The bottom third of the mosaic is installed.

This scaffold, loaned to us by Don Carlson, was essential to getting the job done.

Hanging around with an opossum halfway up a mosaic tree

The last two sections are left to be installed. I love the soaring red tailed hawk.

One last “keystone” fiberglass section to install with Carol Bevilacqua and Siram.

school mosaic mural installation images from beginning to finished product showing fiberglass mesh mosaic sections

The install team is tired but happy. Siram and Carol Bevilacqua helping. Grout is next!

school mosaic mural installation images from beginning to finished product showing fiberglass mesh mosaic sections

School Mosaic Mural Grouted – Install Completed – Library Building

school mosaic mural installation images from beginning to finished product showing fiberglass mesh mosaic sections

School Mosaic Mural Installation Process – Grouting All Done – One Happy Mosaic Artist!


Read more about the design process and our inspiration for this mosaic.


Installation team included Siram and Carol Bevilacqua.  Mosaic production assistance by Siram.  

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Collaborating With The Art Team

image of Marin Community Built School Mosaic Mural -Oak Tree Of Life with California Native Wildlife mule deer doe fawns barn owl gray squirrel red squirrel opossum gray fox sleeping in tree red tailed hawk hare rabbit quail hen and quail cock butterflies moths california poppies oak leaves bees hummingbirds

Marin Community Built School Mosaic Mural -Oak Tree Of Life with California Native Wildlife

It was an Epic mosaic project!

Lucinda Lee Katz, beloved head of school at Marin Country Day School, was to retire in June 2017 after 14 years of outstanding service to the school.  The school administrators and staff wanted to create a special going away gift in appreciation of her many years of dynamic service to the school.  They decided to create a mosaic mural in her honor.  I had the privilege of collaborating with them and facilitating this gorgeous community built mosaic mural.  All the staff and students had an opportunity to be involved in the creation of the mosaic.  We estimate that over 600 students (Kindergarten to Eighth Grade) and staff were involved directly in the making of the mosaic.  The project started in December, 2017 and was permanently installed on a wall of the Learning Resource Center building (LRC) on August 2nd, 2018.  See photos of the installation process here.

The Oak Tree Mosaic Mural was a challenging and hugely fun project.  I got to work with an entire K-8 school!  I worked closely with the school’s Art Team to collaborate on the themes for the design and how to logistically include over 600 students to contribute to the mosaic mural.  

Collaborative Context Based Design

I worked with the Art Team to collaborate on a context-based design that included values, symbols, and experiences shared by Lucinda and staff and students.  The design elements came from the school’s cherished beautiful natural setting and the many wild animals living there.  This was to be a community built mosaic so they wanted to give every student an opportunity (during art class) to contribute to the making of the mosaic mural.  

Because the mosaic mural was to be a parting gift dedicated in honor of Lucinda Lee Katz, this gave us the foundational idea for the design.  We started with a central design element inspired from the school’s logo which is a stylized oak tree.  We also borrowed from the idea of a Tree Of Life.  Choosing a large tree as the main design element had the advantage of providing hundreds of students with a chance to create handmade ceramic tile oak leaves and acorns to be included in the enormous canopy.

MCDS logo Oak Tree

MCDS Playground Live Oak Tree

Sketch of Early Design Iteration with Oak, poppies, and quail.

Illustration of Final Design

Installed Mosaic Mural shows the work of over 600 Kindergarten through 8th Grade students

Installed Oak Tree of Life Mosaic Mural shows the work of over 600 Kindergarten through 8th Grade students

Mosaic Design For Community Engagement

The overall inspiration for the design is California grassland with a Valley Oak and native animals.  I was told that Lucinda loves the deer that show up on campus, often with fawns in tow in Spring and Summer. So we included the Mule Deer doe and two fawns as a major element in the design.   The Art Team wanted students to be able to create art that reflected classroom work studying local native animals, insects, and plants.   So we included gray foxes, a red tailed hawk, gray squirrels, opossum, quail, a hare, a Barn owl, butterflies, California poppies, moths, humming birds, and bees. We chose so many animals for several reasons:

  • they are present and loved by staff and students in the natural setting of the school
  • they reflect subject matter students had explored in class and already felt a connection to
  • we needed manydiscrete small design elements so that 600+ participants (staff and all students) could have an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the mural
  • the variety allowed us to optimally leverage each grade’s skill level from kindergarten to eighth grade
  • some grades could piece large mosaic animals – students could work cooperatively in small teams piecing large mosaic elements for the mural
  • some grades created handmade ceramic tile – allowing hundreds of students to create one tile each as their unique contribution to the mural
  • some grades pieced small individual mosaic elements to be included in the tree trunk
Designing Mosaics for Large Groups

It is always a challenge when designing for a large group of people to make an opportunity for each individual to contribute to the project and still be able to express individuality in the creative process.  School kids like to be able to point at the final mosaic mural and say, “look! i made that butterfly !!!”  Balancing the need for the work of many hands with the desire to honor individual creative energy is one of the challenges in community built art.  

Including many many discrete design elements has the risk of looking too busy and crowded and confusing in the final art work.  Luckily, we had a large canvas on which to compose our design efforts so there was room enough  to include the variety and sheer number of each creature in the mural.  We had more than 80 butterflies, about 21 moths, hundreds of oak leaves, over 20 bees, two humming birds, about 30 acorns, over 60 California poppies, about 20 bark tiles, over 30 diamond-shaped mosaic tree bark tessellations, and over 10 ladybugs.  

Small Hands Big Mosaics

Groups of students worked as teams to piece the larger animal mosaics and their work also had a distinctly individual quality to it in the final outcome, different groups of students had different approaches to their own animal mosaic.  You can see that in the final mosaic animals in the mural.  The third graders mosaiced a Mule Deer Doe and two fawns, a Red Tailed Hawk, and a Barn Owl.  Because these animals were larger ones in our design that allowed these younger students the ability to piece the animal mosaics using larger pieces of tile, making it easier for them to produce beautiful work without the need for exacting precision.  The more detailed work in the larger animals was pieced by third grade students who felt confident in their ability to do so.  We let them make decisions about color mixes, how to piece color transitions, and to negotiate how they would piece the animals as a team.

Big Hands Small Mosaics

The smaller animal mosaics were pieced by the 7th grade.  We chose older students to piece smaller animals because their motor skills and past art making experience would help them succeed in making mosaic in small spaces with no prior experience.  The 7th graders worked in small groups, 2 or 3 students per mosaic team, each team piecing one of the small mosaic animal designs.  The 7th grade pieced the mosaic opossum, hare, two quails, two gray squirrels, a sleeping gray fox, a gray fox in a tree, and a Barn Owl.  

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Art Day!! Live Mosaic Art by Elementary School Students

tree of life in all its glorious swirliness

tree of life in all its glorious swirliness

Robert Semple Elementary hosts an annual Art Day where artists are invited to visit the school, show and tell about their art, and offer hands-on experiences in making mosaic art.  The students in Ms Masters’ classroom and Ms MacIntosh all participated in piecing the glass gem circles for the Tree of Life design I brought for them to play mosaic with. They also pieced the trunk of the tree with browns, reds, copper, and golden colored glass in many shapes resulting in a very pleasing texture and color combination for the trunk of the tree.

The event attracted many Solano County-based artists and it had a very joyful ambiance.  The school had a lot of student-created art permanently installed on it’s walls and in the school garden.  Adrienne Rockwell coordinated the epic event with grace and aplomb, juggling a thousand details and bringing order to chaos to facilitate a delightful and enriching experience for students, staff, and guest artists alike.


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Mosaic Mural for Vallejo Art Windows

This five part mosaic mural was installed at 420 Virginia Stree, Vallejo, Ca, as part of the Vallejo Art Windows project which fills empty retail windows with fine art.  This mosaic mural was created with the help of many community residents of all ages who helped create individual small mosaics of fish, birds, stars, and moons, which were then incorporated into this cohesive larger design which now graces the recently beautifully renovated Virginia Street, a Historic Downtown Vallejo gem.

6:30-8:30PM  Saturday October 5th was the  kick off celebration of all the installations and I celebrated with other art lovers in front of this location with music  and inflatable lights from my brilliant friend Stan who makes Gigantic Inflatable Lighted Lamps.
We were Dancing in the street!
 The Vallejo Art Windows project kick off celebration included an art window walk, food, wine, and music and a fundraiser for Vallejo Children’s Summer Art Camp.
Here are some photos of that night’s celebration….

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Triptych Mosaic Mural

three part mosaic mural of a tree of life with sun and moons and stars

triptych mosaic mural tree of life

This mosaic is in three parts, each 36″x60″, for a total dimension of 9feet wide by 5feet high. The scale of the tree is large enough that once it is installed on a wall it gives the feeling that one is sitting in the shade and splendor of a real tree in bloom – living art.

The tree is a spirit portrait of my friend, Koko Jaeger, who died at age 44 last November. The principles used to represent her essence were based on Five Element Theory from Traditional Chinese Medicine and also on more whimsical input like what here favorite color was – purple. Metal Wood with Fire loves Purple would be the most accurate way to name this piece.  Koko had a mix of Wood Element and Metal Element and just enough Fire element to know how to have fun.  The tree and the green trunk and leaves all represent Wood Element.  The white flowers and moons represent Metal Element and also point to the very reverent way Koko lived her life. The red stars and sun represent her Fire Element. Overall this is a nature-based design which also represents Koko for she was very connected to the earth and plants and animals. She loved purple so the background was done in mixed purple tile.

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Mosaic Spirit Portrait

A personality and energetic portrait of my friend Koko who passed away recently at age 44

Spirit Portrait Mosaic MuralOne of my closest friends died rather suddenly just before Thanksgiving, her name is Koko. I have been working on a portrait of her rendered in mosaic.  The archetypes and themes i used to represent her personality and her energy come from the Five Elements Model (Traditional Chinese Medicine).  This mosaic mural is being shown at the South Bay Home and Garden Show in Santa Clara, CA,  this weekend.   I will post an in-depth explanation of the design themes and how they relate to the Five Elements Model.  Koko was Metal and Wood Elements, and had a dash of Fire Element.

It is finally finished and I love the colors and scale of this piece.  A fitting tribute to a fabulous soul.  Rest in peace, Koko, and my your spirit continue on many more extraordinary adventures and find much love.

More photos of the process of creating this mosaic art piece.  I had much help from friends and beloveds of Koko.

Mosaic Planters Community Participation

Mosaic Planters Tree of Life Napa River Waves Sun Moon Butterfly

Community Mosaic

In 2012 a group of community leaders and volunteers spearheaded an effort to decorate some of the Historic Downtown Vallejo planters with mosaic.  They collected donated tile and organized various volunteer groups from the community to help in the effort.  Several months after they had completed their project I was able to contribute mosaic work on three bare planters.  I had a few friends help me piece, install, and grout the trio of mosaic planters.

Mosaic Design

We designed the images to be large and bold,  easy for beginners (my volunteer friends!) to render in mosaic.  The design is context based and has a geomorphologic and natural history framework based on the beautiful nature surrounding Vallejo.  We wanted to tell a visual story of the natural beauty that surrounds Vallejo.  We also wanted to imbue the mosaic with imagery of joy, hope, and prosperity for the future.  The three planters have a circular cross section so the design elements circle the pots and lend themselves to a linear storytelling approach for the design.  The design elements flow one to the other other in a natural way.

Beginning with an abstract mosaic representing the Napa River, the mosaic blends in to a mosaic of sailboats on blue wavy water.


planters mosaic sailboats napa river waves water public art community art

Mosaic Planters – Napa River & Sailboats

As you walk around the planter, the land of the city of Vallejo is represented by a Tree Of Life with a Blue Bird of Happiness,  evoking the ideas of hope and prosperity.

Mosaic Planters Tree of Life & Blue Bird of Happiness

The soil under the tree becomes a shore against more water. The mosaic word “Vallejo’ is of course floating on blue wavy mosaic water, since the town is surrounded by three major bodies of water.  The Carquinez Straight to the East, the San Pablo Bay to the South and West, and the Napa River to the West.  The mosaic continues on the next smaller planter with the watery theme as larger mosaic waves in blue tile, representing the bigger water of the San Francisco Bay.

Mosaic Planters with Blue Waves & Vallejo City Name

The next design element is a yellow mosaic sun/sunset, followed by a mosaic moon, mirror mosaic stars, and swirls.  The mosaic’s thematic movement goes from land to water, to sky and the heavens.

Mosaic Planters with Waves Sunset Moon Stars

The next design element is an abstracted Monarch Butterfly, which soars high above the moon and star, representing transformation.

Mosaic Planters with Monarch Butterfly Sunset & Moon

A Glimpse in the Mosaic Studio

We pieced the mosaic in the studio on fiberglass mesh.

Fiberglass Mesh Mosaic Section in Progress in Artis’s Studio

The mosaic sections fit together like a puzzle.  Here is an image of how they look before we install them in a cement mortar bed applied to the planter’s vertical surface.

Fiberglass Mesh Mosaic Sections Ready to Install – Napa River Sailboats

Mosaic Sections Before Install – Making sure they all fit – Tree of Life

Fiberglass Mesh Mosaic Sections Ready to Install  – Sun Moon Stars Swirl

Fiberglass Mesh Mosaic Sections Ready to Install on Planters – Butterfly

The rims of the planters were pieced on site in the direct method with glass gems, flat round glass pieces. During the installation many children passing by with their families were able to add a few glass gems to the rim.  I loved this impromptu contribution of joyful youthful energy and enthusiasm to the mosaic planters.

Glass Gems for Mosaic Planter Rims – Children in the community helped

The glass gem rims turned out beautifully!

Mosaic Planters Sun Moon Stars Monarch Butterfly

Mosaic Credits

Production of these three mosaic planters was entirely volunteer driven.  Production assistance by Siram, Koko Yaeger, Kathy Vinson, Theo Reynolds, and Kemper Stone.



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