Sharmagne Leland-St. John
Several years ago I was taking the shortcut to Laurel Canyon via Nichols Canyon. At some point I noticed 4 huge cinderblocks on the roadside next to the trash bins.
I said to the person in the car with me, “Should I stop and pick those up”? She replied, “No, you have too much stuff.” So I pulled over anyway and hefted them into the trunk of my car.
They sat on my patio for 4 years. During the second year I slid them under a table I was recycling from a play about Janis Joplin. The table had an array of geranium pots on it; and there the cinderblocks remained until one day my new tenants in the guest house came down to tell me the decomposed granite in the hillside behind the cottage was trickling down and they couldn’t stop it.
I went up to inspect and told them I had just the thing. We went down to my patio, retrieved the oversized cinderblocks and carted them up almost 50 stairs. We set them into the hillside next to the pipe-and-plank retaining wall that was doing a very poor job of retaining.
The next day I came to check up on the blocks. They had stopped the flow of the granite, but they were so ugly!
The following day I was searching in a kitchen drawer for something, and I ran across 6 “compo” medallions. What a find! I knew exactly what to do with them. I raced up the stairs to the cottage and glued them onto the sides and ends of the ugly cinderblocks that I had already filled with potting soil and sown with snapdragon seeds.
They were still unsightly!
People are constantly giving me things to recycle….
I was going through the clutter up on my verandah hoping to organise some of it when I noticed a five-gallon plastic paint container. Inside I discovered a plethora of blue tiles in 4 different shapes. My friend Gary had given them to me after finishing construction on an apartment building he owned.
Once again I climbed the stairs to the cottage, and I began to adhere the tiles in a pattern on the sides and ends and tops of the cinderblocks. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they looked. The next day I grouted them and that was the beginning of my foray into the world of mosaic art.
In 2016 I purchased a vacation home/writer’s retreat in Taos, New Mexico. My first summer there I bought 10 cinderblocks and began to create mosaic pictures on them using broken dishes and damaged Mexican tiles I got for free from the Vargas sisters in Ranchos. I put them inside a fenced-in above-ground garden where I grow tomatoes and herbs and lettuces. I grew herbs in the new “planters”.
Thus began my true love for mosaic art.
When we moved to Tuscany we needed a way to conceal our compost from the rest of our neatly planted garden, so Victor and I bought cinderblocks and used bits of tile I had collected on a beach in the Canary Islands during our first winter overseas. We began to search in earnest for broken ceramics and tiles in our neighborhood. We each tiled three blocks and then planted herbs in the very deep holes created by stacking them two high. They were beautiful, and when the mint and herbs grew they further camouflaged the kitchen scraps we were composting.
The cinderblock planters can be set right onto the concrete or on a patch of soil or grass.
My signature seems to be flowers, especially daisies and sunflowers.