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The art of transition

By Denise Jacobs | | Photos by Lisa Loth

Mosaic artist Elizabeth Veglia is best known for her award-winning public mosaic projects — extraordinary pieces of public art. Now she’s focusing her artistic energies on smaller scale works of art-to-wear.

Like many of us of a certain age, Veglia has been transitioning and downsizing.

She is best known for her mosaic installations on the Gulf Coast, and her work can be seen at Stennis Space Center’s museum, in the lobby at Hancock Medical Center, alongside the Ocean Springs’ bridge, at the entrance to the Bay St. Louis Library, and at the Waveland City Hall complex.

She has numerous other mosaics in schools, churches, and public buildings throughout Mississippi and in New Orleans and has worked with an international group of artists on installations in New York City and in Barcelona, Spain.

About five years ago, Veglia decided to transition into a creative genre more lightweight than mosaics. “Mosaics make for heavy work,” she explains. “And they require cement, tiles, saws — things that weigh a lot and require a lot of space.”

In the past, Veglia stood to assemble the mosaics for a project, then in the installation phase, she worked in the hot sun, on her knees, elbow deep in a bucket of mortar. In the present, she sits in her studio, a spare bedroom shared as an office area with Billy, her long-term life partner.

And in this small space, the magic happens. Here Veglia meticulously designs unique hand wrought jewelry using semi-precious stones, silver, and bronze—small materials, small storage space and small tools.

“At this time, all my mosaic supplies and tools are in storage,” she says, “And making jewelry is a welcome and lightweight creative counterpart to making mosaics—wonderful for now! And painting, I have always painted, and it doesn’t have to take up a lot of room.”

Most recently, Veglia has been spinning and twisting silver and bronze wire around semi-precious stones like labradorite, apatite, agate and amethyst in the process of creating necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Listening to the stones and feeling their energies results in a blending of her creativity and the stone’s attributes.

One collection is heavily influenced by the fluid, watery Caribbean blues of aquamarine, amazonite, Chalcedony, lapis lazuli and jade. At the other end of the spectrum, the Primal Collection features contrasting blacks and whites. Veglia also works with crystals. “I am so glad that crystals are popular now,” she says. “I love the sparkle.”

As to the transition in art forms, Veglia possessed many “transferable skills to work with.” She taught herself what she needed to know, beginning with beading, and moving on to wire creations. She plans to eventually learn to solder and set stones.

At this time, her creative space has transitioned from the 700-square-feet studio in a Bay St. Louis property she and Billy sold in June, to a small house. Earlier in the year, the couple sold a home on Rotten Bayou that they had lived in for 13 years, a place that included a 1,600-square-foot studio.

Veglia says that downsizing feels good. “We have a living room, a kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms. My part of our shared space is perhaps 50 square feet.” She laughs and says the move has been a test of their long-standing relationship.

“Could we share a bathroom? Yes, we could.”

“Could we work together in one room, this jeweler and her contractor/realtor partner? Yes, we could. Sharing a small space is a testament to our relationship.”

And, as to the art, life in transition has offered Veglia the opportunity to focus on the solitary artistic mode of a jeweler and sometimes painter. It suits her.

Veglia’s collections went on sale at Bay Life Gifts in celebration of its grand opening at The Shops of Century Hall in February.

Plan to be dazzled.