All posts by Elizabeth

At The Union Trust Building Again

I am back at it again. With the restoration of the Union Trust building underway I have been asked to lend my expertise. This time we are tackling the damage that has occurred over the decades to the mosaic at the Grant St. entrance.

With plastic surrounding the scaffolding and a shower.
My office, with plastic surrounding the scaffolding and a shower.
glass mosaic, ceiling, mosaic ceiling, restoration, ceiling restoration, Union Trust building, old artwork Pittsburgh
The first section of the ceiling to come down. It was a bit nerve wracking. Don from Bristoll was in charge of dismantling the ceiling. Spring jacks are in place surrounding each section to prevent the weight of the mosaic from pulling the ceiling down.







Spring jacks holding up the mosaic on the ceiling
Spring jacks holding up the mosaic on the ceiling.
The way the mosaic ceiling is attached and hung is a puzzle, and a bit hard to explain. The mosaic itself is hung on a gridwork of metal bars that are suspended off of yet another gridwork of metal bars via suspension rods. At different places the two gridworks vary from 2 feet to 4 inches away from each other.
A closer look at the ceiling: The way the mosaic ceiling is attached and hung is a puzzle, and a bit hard to explain. The mosaic itself is hung on a gridwork of metal bars that are suspended off of yet another gridwork of metal bars via suspension rods. At different places the two gridworks vary from 2 feet to 4 inches away from each other.
The large bucket on the right contains the large chunks, these are moved from bin to bin, cleaned and the glass is removed from the backing. The middle bin is almost completely black! Years of soot from Pittsburgh's industry of the past.
Decades of coal dust: The large bucket on the right contains the large chunks, these are moved from bin to bin, cleaned and the glass is removed from the backing. The middle bin is almost completely black! Years of soot from Pittsburgh’s industry of the past.
We have been able to save a large quantity of glass. Here it is drying out before it is sorted.
Sparkling clean glass. We have been able to save a large quantity of glass. Here it is drying out before it is sorted.




Union Trust Mosaic Restoration Part Three

The mosaic is finished! All that is left to do is the installation.


Here is the finished mosaic on my workbench.  I adhered it to mesh that I will cut up and install in smaller sections.


Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

This is the stairway that leads up into the top of the scaffolding.

P1000784This is about half way through the installation. Sections were adhered up using a variety of guidelines. One of my biggest challenges was making sure that the design was in line with the existing mosaic. As you can see here it was successful!

P1000786Here is a view showing the “work area”

P1000790An nice photo of Rick and I pressing a section up into place

P1000792Here Rick and I inspect the edges of the mosaic after we put up the plexiglas to add extra pressure as the thinset cured.

P1000793 P1000815 P1000813All the jacks we used to hold up the plexiglas. They we so useful for so many parts of this project.

P1000832 P1000835Grouting over head! I love this palette that Rick brought. He said it was his grandfathers. We are working out a trade for one of my palette knives for this great tool!


Tessa would follow me as we worked our way back and forth across the ceiling. She would wipe off as I laid on grout. I had so many people during the course of this installation that helped. Tessa saved me from hours of overhead work!

P1000847Staining the new grout to match the rest of the ceiling.

The completed ceiling!

P1000865Tessa took this photo looking down out of the scaffolding. At the time Bryn Contracting had put a proposal to the new owner of the Union Trust Build for us to repair the rest of the ceiling. The proposal was accepted and we have completed this section of ceiling. We are now in the process of inspecting the rest of the mosaics in the building to repair and clean them! I’ve been enjoying my trips to the city to work and am looking forward to more trips this summer!



Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration Part 2

The second phase of the restoration began with the sizing and resizing of the template prints that Tim Danehy created for me.

Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

To recreate the mosaic pattern we used CAD to overlay the hole with the intact mosaic and lined them up. With the printouts in hand we tweaked the templates to fit as close to perfectly as we could.

Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

By overlaying the hole with the original behind on another layer Tim was able to print out a template that was almost the correct size. We then took this to the actual damaged mosaic and resized it to the mosaic.

Matching the glass was also a great challenge.

Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

To recreate a hundred year old mosaic can be tricky. The glass that was originally used is not all still around. I took a trip down to Youghiogheny Glass in Connellsville, PA to try and find good matches to the glass. I also sent off samples to Delphi Glass and they were able to help me out with obtaining the glass I could not find at Youghiogheny Glass.
Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

Here is one of the isles of glass sheets Youghiogheny Glass. With the help of the owner , Tristan Triggs, I was able to find much of the glass that I needed to recreate the original mosaic. I brought samples of the original mosaic and laid them out. Tristan was great, he would take a look at what I had and dash off to different parts of the warehouse and find glass that would have taken me hours to find.

Now with the groundwork done I could really begin making the mosaic. Adhering glass to a mesh backing that will be cut up and installed on the ceiling began. I started with the heraldic shield, sometimes with the help of my critters. The design was made up of fleur de lis and green diagonal stripes in four compartments.

Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration

The newly created mosaic adhered to mesh will then be transferred and installed to the ceiling at the Union Trust building. I always have one of my helpers on hand. This is Bobby, sunning herself as I work.

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Union Trust Building Mosaic Restoration






It’s a fun piece to create with swirls in gold  and lots of white rectangles and squares with a border along the wall. I put to use a great little straight cutter that made making the hundreds of squares and rectangles so much easier and more precise.



​Union Trust Mosaic Restoration Project

This spring I was contacted to take a look at a damaged mosaic in the Union Trust Building.


A section of one of the entryway ceiling mosaics had been damaged and was in need of repair. The scope of the project will require people with different skill sets. After a bit of time, a team was put together. Harry “the plaster”, Tim Danehy doing the CAD work, and Justin Steiner doing the photography, Tessa Klevens researching the history. With their help, I will be able to recreate a mosaic in the entryway of the Union Trust building!


Here is us up in the “work area” up on scaffolding three stories high.


 Justin Steiner photographing the mosaic

Matching the design and creating a template will be our first task. Tim and Justin will collaborate to make a layout for me to work off of.

Union Trust Restoration Elizabeth Klevens and Tim Dam Danehy under mosaic to be repaired

 Tim Danehy and I discussing the project. Photo by Justin Steiner.

The ceiling arch is divided into four sections with a mirrored image of a Heraldic Shield in each quadrant.  

This is one of the entry ways that is not damaged. Each entryway has a large domed mosaic. This is the William Penn Place entrance.


  This is one of the entry ways that is not damaged. Each entryway has a large domed mosaic. This is the William Penn Place entrance.

The mosaic to be repaired is on the Oliver Ave. side. The scaffolding was only accessible by a ladder until a few weeks ago.

P1000885 P1000886 P1000817

 Now, access is thru a window which has been removed and a stairway that leads into the enclosed space just under the mosaic.


“Stretch” Yoga Lady Mosaic

After finishing up a few smaller pieces, I was finally ready to get started on some larger sculptures. I began taking yoga this past January at a local place called V3 and have thoroughly enjoyed it! Some of the poses can be so elegant, and this became my inspiration to create a life sized sculpture of a yoga pose. Searching the internet for images, I kept coming back to one dramatic pose. It is a "seated pose", which would be perfect so that I wouldn't have to deal with the balancing of a standing figure for my first large sculpture.

My Yoga instructor, Leigh Ann said the pose is called: “Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, which translates as, One-Legged King Pigeon Posture. It is also sometimes called Royal Pigeon or Queen Pigeon”. I started the sculpture before I had seen the pose done in real life. I found I needed a model to look at because the photos on the web were of only one or two angles. So I asked for Leigh Ann to let me take photos of her to use for reference.

I used the same techniques I have used in the past to make my smaller pieces. I made a core out of foam, coated it, mosaiced it, and then grouted it. Armed with saws, hot wire cutting tools, rasps, and a ventilation mask, I built up a large piece of foam and then began to carve it with Hot wire tools. I started the project in the middle of winter in our unheated garage. I was all bundled up and looked like the Michelin Man in a ventilation mask. It must have been quite a silly sight 🙂

The carving process took two about months; surprisingly with only a few difficulties. She has no internal frame, so I wanted all the skinnier and delicate parts of her to attach to the main body of the sculpture. If you look at it, you will see how her hands are attached to her hair and her foot, making her structurally sound. When the foam was all cut, carved, and coated, I was all ready for the mosaic to begin!

At first, I really had no set plan for the colors or patterning on her, so it was a new challenge most every day! So much fun to create. I finally decided on a tattoo style with a Maori theme. The surface area of a piece this size is deceivingly big and I ended up using an incredible amount of glass to cover her up! However, I really love how this piece came out.

photo by Justin Steiner

More photos here,

Butterfly Mosaic Mirror

Butterfly Mirror Mosaic

I am so excited about this new mosaic. It is my first attempt to create a 3D mosaic with the base structure of foam.  I  have mosaiced a 3D form before but it was a pre existing piece. A glass head that I got at a holiday exchange from my friend Adam, but I knew it he missed it. I decided to make it into a mosaic.  Adam got married to another good friend Judy this New Years day and I wanted to give it him and Judy (my web designer). This was not easy! But here it is. Adam put a light in it and it is even better now.

I wanted to try starting relatively small this mirror and frame seemed a nice place to begin. If all went well I would then be ready to make bigger ones. I never can keep things simple though and a simple mosaic became complicated and almost ended up in the trash a few times. I put it together backwards as I found out later. I cut out a  "frame" of esp foam with my new hot wire tools.

Using the left over mirror from the bicycle tire mosaic as a center I created a round flat frame to build up on. I'm not sure the reason but this became a butterfly with flowers. Carving out the wings and body was fun and gluing it together was straight forward. I ended up skewering the swings into the body to provide stability. I was worried that the wings would break off because the wing attachment was very narrow and the weight of the thinset glass and grout would be very heavy. To adhere the glass to the foam the foam had to be coated with a hardener, I used a product called foam coat that created a concrete like coating on the foam. Flowers leaves vines and the  butterfly all  done and coated I stared to mosaic the frame. Definitely more difficult than a flat surface. By the time I had finished I realized my mistake, the frame was flimsy and delicate at this point. Moving it any where was creating cracks I had yet to adhere it to the mirror and to a wooden backing and hanger hardware. This all should have been done at the beginning! In the end I had the mosaic assembled, there were a few moments where it almost ended up in the trash! I grouted it in multi colors; blue back ground, green for for the foliage, white for the flowers and the Butterfly with black. Grouting was a tricky business and took three days to do. I am very happy with the out come. Check it out…


House of 1000 Beers Mosaic

The House of 1000 Beers (formally Six and save) is a unusual little bar, it is locatd in New Kensingston Pa. With a feeling of”Cheers” and its incredible selection of beers (draft and bottles) the “House” has become a regular stomping ground for us. Scott and Wally, two ofbartenders x wanted to do something special for the owner Dave for Christmas. He and Wally had seen some of my work and asked if I could make a sign with the logo for them to give to him.  With only 6 days before Christmas I really had to hurry! One of our biggest hurdles is having the right equipment to make the wooden boxes that house the lights and hold the mosiac. We set about our appointed tasks Lee making the frame and wiring up the lighting with a new piece of equipment, a Laser compound miter saw! Once I had the design blown up to 20×20 I set about cutting and adhearing glass with every free moment I had. We cut this one close but on Christmas eve we had the mosaic assembled! I grouted it in the morning and called Scott at 2:30 just cleaning it up. He said that Dave was leaving  and Scott was leaving at 3.I asked him to stall, we loaded it up (i kept working in the back seat on it) What fun delivering to Dave , everyone was soo pleased Scott, Wally, Bob,  all had chipped in to give the mosaic to Dave for a Christmas present.

Dragon Garden Sphere – Gazing ball


Dragon Garden Sphere
Taking mosaics to the next level!  Three dimensional mosaics have always been intriguing to me.  The first large installation I did was on a big garage wall. In the corner of the space where I was working, there was a chunk of concrete that I had to work around and incorporate into the piece. This presented a bit of a challenge, but in the end it became a Wisteria root stretching out of the wall. I loved the way it added dimensionality to the piece but I have not known how to go about reproducing this. Recently, I have begun a quest to be able to add this 3D aspect to my mosaics. There are many ways of sculpting using clay, wire forms covered in concrete, shaping foam, forming glass in the kiln, using found objects, all of which can be covered with a mosaic. My first attempt was to be a rubber ball which I had found on the side of the road. This ball is a cheap purple beach type ball. By layering concrete and small squares of fiberglass mesh on the ball I created a solid ball to make a mosaic on. During the first layer I ran out of mesh and decided not to worry about it and just cover the rest of the exposed rubber with the concrete. Big mistake! As it dried the areas with the mesh were fine but the places I neglected to use it in cracked and fell apart. I was then left with a bit of a mess. Repairing the hole was not really all that hard but the whole process took much longer than it needed to. I'm always learning! I covered the ball with 2 more layers of mesh/concrete and it was finally ready to mosaic (not perfectly round but not a bad first attempt!) There are so many ways I could have gone with this, but since I had been wanting to do a dragon for a long time, the decision was easy. My daughter Jessica is a fantastic artist and very talented at drawing dragons. I gave her a marker and a general idea of what I wanted, 5 minutes later and voila, a Chinese dragon was wrapped around my ball. Jessica has educated me on the difference between Chinese and European dragons. To put it simply, the European types have a much horsier look to it where the Chinese dragons have a dog/cat like look to them. There is a lot more to it than that, but that's the basic idea. Here is picture of it after I laid the glass and before grouting.

The glass was adhered to the ball using thin-set a type of concrete adhesive. Grouting this piece is going to be a challenge but I'm sure I will learn something new.

Hollywood Gardens new signs!

Oh boy oh boy this was an exciting project … because I have an excuse to visit my friend's bar and sample his incredible selection of beer! Hollywood Gardens is a bar that has been the cornerstone of this Rochester community for many years. Recently it exchanged hands from father to son. Frank is now in charge and is really made the space his own. An avid beer lover, music connoisseur and all round great guy, who loves being with people, this is sure to be an incredible space. He is a friend originating from our mutual love of bike riding. When he asked me to work on these signs for him I was happy to be part of his creation of the bar, but I secretly was excited to get to come up and visit to sample his beer!

Frank asked for two signs. The first will be his new logo; it will go behind the bar. Hollywood Gardens has 12 beers on tap plus there is a hall with a wall lined with coolers, called the "Beer Cave." It is filled with a huge selection of over 300 bottled beers! This hallway needed a new sign too. Frank wanted something warmer than the neon sign that currently gives directions to the "Beer Cave." Frank had already designed a logo for behind the bar so I just needed to blow that up to size. Then I had to create, mostly following the old sign, a new beer cave sign. I liked the old sign and its basic design. The directions have to be clear and easy to understand. I am going to put a few either cut lengthwise beer bottles on the sign or a mosaic of beer bottles as a central point.

One of the cool to this job is that Lee and I are working on creating a frame that will back light the sign.  I have wanted to have a design to make framed mosaics to offer as an option for potential customers. Lee has be researching LED light strips, framing options and how to support the mosaic artwork. Hopefully, by the end  of this project will have a template that will be easy to reproduce!


More, more, more good stuff!

We are creating an amazing  frame and lighting for the signs. They are going to be amazing. Back lite with energy saving LEDs, a diffuser to spread the light, a beautiful piece of art, framed by an oak frame hung behind one of the best bars I know!


Little lag in information, but I have been busy working on multiple mosaics!

The sign with the Hollywood logo is 36" by 30" and is laid out as you can see above behind the plexi-glass. The biggest challenge with this particular mosaic is the thin lines running through the circle. I spent a great deal of time with tweezers and LITTLE pink pieces of glass creating the lines and cross hatching. Filling the space in between with the brown glass was micro glass work also!

Here is it while during this process…

The rest of the sign went together quickly and I am really happy with the results!

The Beer Cave sign was basically laid out, but colors and any "extras" were still up in the air. Frank is great to work with; I run everything by him but he mostly wants to allow me to make the decisions.  He wanted a fun sign but I wanted it to be clear  and not too crowded. Frank provided the lengthwise cut beer bottles for the beer cave sign. He went to some local places in the Beaver area and finally found a man who took the project on as more of a challenge than any thing else! Cutting a bottle this way is extremely difficult because the glass wants to fracture and break. Frank delivered them ceremoniously in Philly cream cheese boxes! We collaborated back and forth on color and placement. I really like a blue background and the arrow in red.

Because I have never lit a mosaic up with LEDs in a "box" frame, I was not sure how I would like them to be grouted. The choices are liquid acrylic or traditional grout. To try out both ways, I made up some sample pieces to show as examples of what the diferences would be between the two method. I will post them once they are done. 🙂

Here is the beer cave sign as it stands today…

The Hollywood signs are all mosaiced up and awaiting their frames.

Wedding present for Mt Bikers


While I was traveling these last two weeks I have been trying to do some work. Not an easy task with so many distractions happening but I was able to keep up with emails and do some drawing for projects that are in the process. I  have made a few tire mosaics , they seem to be a popular item and are a unique and fun expression of cycling.  Well I received a request from Steve for for his sister's wedding present. The couple are Mt Bikers. What a great idea. He had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted " two riders, side by side, riding into a sunrise" OK I can do that. One of the fun parts of drawing up this piece is I was traveling by rail with my sister and father down the coast of England to Cornwall. My sister is a fantastic artist and it was fun to bounce ideas off of her.

Here's what we came up with


Back home and ready to start. Plexi glas was cut today and will be installed in the frame tomorrow.  I use Lexan a high grade  acrylic that has a uv protection on it. One of the stumbling block I have with these Bicycle tire mosaic is I have been using the rims and tires from old mirrors made by Ikea. They do not make them anymore so I have to find them on Ebay or any other resale site. The only part of the mirror I need is the rim. It is made from  hard rubber with W shape to it. I have not been able to find it anywhere! So any order that I get is dependent on me finding these mirrors! Right now I have two and Steve's order  used one and I have another one that will become the cruiser with the streamers. Gotta find another to have on hand!

Ok so a big lag in information on this particular mosaic. I had a major disaster putting this one together. One of the appeals to these tire mosaics is the transparent effect that pouring the liquid acrylic as the grout.To adhere the glass  to the plexiglas I have been using E6000 a great adhesive but has very toxic fumes. I have wanted to find something wasn't so strong. I tried a new glue, I should have tried it on a small piece first! The edges of the  glue dried but the center was sealed and would not dry the glue was still opaque I was not sure if it would dry for a long time or ever. I decided to start over.Taking the almost finished mosaic apart removing ALL the glass pieces and cleaning  off all the glue. It was a dark day in the studio! Lee came home that evening having discovered a new bar, House of 1000 Beer that carried my favorite beer, Stone's Sublimely Self Rightous Ale. Mmm that made the day much better. A few days later and I was able to recreat the mosaic and now it is ready for liquid acryic! Always something to learn!


Steve gave it to his Sister and new Brother-n-law at the wedding. Here they are after receiving it …