2014 Artisans Road Trip artist Karen Ruddy has been busy this summer! Karen finished a commission over at the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, Iowa, contracting for work on the restoration of mosaics throughout the Grotto. The grant was for five weeks of work but ten weeks were spent working on in-place and new mosaic panels on the East Wall of the Courtyard.
Karen completed half (14 - foot long -mosaics) on one side of the pool around the statue of Michael the Arc Angel, and four 3x1 foot panels that will be implanted in the East Wall of the Courtyard when the leaks that blew out the hundred year old mosaic panels are found and repaired.
Ruddy says If you have never visited the Grotto, you might consider a trip there. It is a truly holy place. Father Dobberstein, the German priest that was stationed there in the early years of the twentieth century built it over his lifetime. There is a statue of him on the grounds and his work is known worldwide through the SAMA (Society of American Mosaic Artists) conferences. In fact, the last one Karen attended, the first presenter was a woman from France who studied mosaics all over the world and the first frame shown on the big screen was The West Bend Grotto in the middle of the U.S.A.
The tours are well worth a person's time as you learn things about Father's talent and ingenuity. For example, he made stones by melting children's crayons and glass during the war years when he could not obtain rocks, minerals, or Smalti glass for his grotto walls. You will find some in the base of the stations, along the way of the cross.
The web site is http://www.westbendgrotto.com/.
The Restoration Expert wanted Karen to harvest the old gold Smalti and use it instead of new. The artist had already started building the panels when he called from Wisconsin, so she finished the one with the new Smalti as an extra project and began grinding the cement off all sides of each small piece to prepare it for implanting into the newly restored substrait. The pool project was really difficult as Ruddy had to hammer and chisel each piece out of the original mosaic so that she could create an even surface for the new Smalti image. That was after she clambered over a three foot high metal fence, the only way to get to the work site.
The artist states that if she is still around next summer, she may get to complete the fourteen mosaics on the other side of the pool.
To find out more about the artist Karen Ruddy, read more about her at the Artisans Road Trip web site - http://www.artisansroadtrip.com/Dr%20Karen%20Ruddy.htm
And Remember - this year's Artisans Road Trip event will be held the second weekend of October on Saturday - October 11 from 9AM - 5PM and Sunday - October 12 from Noon - 5PM! See you then!