State News

Woman breaks plates to form carport mosaic

Posted September 5

— "Sorry, Jesus," Sara Williams says as she takes a small hammer to a plate with his face haloed over the Lord's Prayer.

She'll piece it back together with thin-set mortar next to a clay cherub the size of a football — the newest addition to the mosaic project that encompasses nearly every wooden beam of the carport at her Graham home.

"I have a friend from Taiwan, and her American husband is an art teacher in a public school, and he knew how much I love mosaics, and I started collecting plates and tchotchkes from Goodwill and Habitat, and I had driven to Charlotte a couple of years ago to a mosaic class, . so he says, 'Sara, you ought to go and do your carport beams,'" Williams said.

Three years later, the project is an eclectic mix of souvenir plates, fine china, mirror shards, figurines, dice, tiles and mugs.

Williams draws her inspiration from other artists like Antoni Gaudi, a 19th century Spanish architect, and Isaiah Zagar, a Philadelphia mosaic artist born in 1939 who's known for his murals around the city's South Street — though Williams doesn't take it all quite as seriously.

"The fun is just going to these thrift stores: Goodwill and Salvation Army and Habitat. One of my best friends from childhood, who is a china collector and finds stuff, she was getting livid seeing that I had paid nothing for these (dishes). She'll say, 'I can't believe this! Did you know this is French? You're going to break it?'" Williams said.

Since she usually doesn't plan what will go on each beam ahead of time, you'll find religious symbols mixed with skeletons, topped with a painted seashell from Topsail Beach. There are tiles boasting "One martini, two martini, three martini, floor" below a metallic depiction of the Last Supper.

"You have to have the humor," Williams says.

Some pieces bear wisdom from other countries, like a Spanish tea saucer that says, "La mujer y el viento cambian en un momento" — "Women and the wind change in a moment."

Others, like a commemorative plate showing Shirley Temple hugging Col. Sanders that reminds her of a family member, represent memories.

"There are certain areas on the posts. I do a little homage to my son, to me and (my husband), to my daughter, to mom. My mom died in '09 and it's been a long eight years for dad without her, and I had started collecting some things for him, so I'll kind of work on some area like that next," she said.

Her father, Alfred Hill, who was an optometrist for 51 years and a championship golfer, died July 16. Williams has saved golf balls and other tchotchkes to commemorate his life.

Everything combined forms a beautiful tapestry of memories, favorite colors, family trips, hobbies, interests and spiritual beliefs that represent Williams' life, which is what she loves most about the art form.

Her Christmas card from 2016 is inscribed with a quote from a disabled mosaic artist named Laura Harris: "Today, the world can appear fragmented and its people disconnected. Mosaics allow me to fuse the pieces together to create something cohesive and beautiful, what I wish the world could be."

"That's one of the reasons I do this: From brokenness, you can create beauty," Williams said.

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