The first time that I attempted one of my medal mosaics, I bought the supplies, laid them out on my dining room table, and took a deep breath. I’m not an artist or master crafter so I had doubts about how my project would turn out.
Since then, I’ve made over a dozen of them, and each time, the results have brought forth admirers. The medals themselves have great meaning to Catholics, so fitting them all together around a crucifix, cross, or holy image brings beauty and inspiration together
The idea for the mosaic came during a visit to a private chapel in Taylor, Michigan dedicated to Rose Marie Ferron, nick-named "Little Rose”. Rose was born in Quebec in 1902 to a large, working-class family, according to the Mystics of the Church website. In her mid-teens, she was stricken with a mysterious illness which confined her to bed. In 1925, the family moved to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where Rose spent the remainder of her life partially paralyzed, yet accepting her illness as her vocation to suffer with Christ for the conversion of sinners. In 1926 and 1927, Rose is reported to have received the stigmata or wounds resembling those of Our Lord. Often, her family heard her asking Our Lord to spare others and to give her their miseries and sufferings. She died on May 11,1936 at the age of 33.
My sister Colleen had heard about the chapel and brought me to it during one of my visits home. We were both drawn to a framed crucifix surrounded by medals. It was unusual and striking. We studied it and wondered if we could duplicate some semblance of it. A couple years later, I attempted it.
|Original Art from "Little Rose Chapel|
My creations came out more as mosaics. I have made many as wedding gifts—something special that is not going to show up on a wedding registry. However, I only give them to couples whom I know will appreciate it. I have also made a few for friends.
|Wedding gift for daughter, Teresa|
The pictures (more below) speak for themselves, but I will offer some tips. I use clear adhesive, E6000 which bonds to everything from metal, to paper, and wood. Initially, I made a couple by sewing the medals to black velvet and framing it. That was very time consuming and I was not satisfied with the look. I knew that the original creation in the chapel had been glued, yet I was reluctant, feeling that medals should be kept intact. An artist friend, however, pointed out that it was a work of art and not something that people were going to be using.
From that point on, I’ve been gluing the medals. I also sometimes add small mosaic stones to fill in spaces or very small rhinestones for a little sparkle. The medals are often purchased but are also collected from friends and acquaintances. Some churches have a drop-off area where people can place religious items they no longer want. Elderly relatives also sometimes have a drawer full of old medals that find their way to me.
Many of the frames came from thrift stores or rummage sales although a few have been purchased new. The centerpiece is usually something bought specifically for the gift. When selecting a centerpiece, make sure it will fit under the glass in the frame. I’ve made a couple without glass over them, but then it requires dusting.
When my mother died, Colleen asked me to make a mosaic for her using my mother’s rosary and a white plastic crucifix with a silver corpus identical to one we had in our home during the 1960s and 70s. Those medals were all purchased by Colleen who had selected many saints special to her.
Once the piece is completed, I am use glass cleaner on both sides of the glass and check carefully for any spots before sealing it up. I will often ask a priest to bless it before gift-wrapping it. While at the rectory or waiting for a priest after Mass, people who see it typically express great enthusiasm and want to just stare at it for a while. The priest usually does too.
I’ve thought about writing about this for years and finally did it after my friend Susan posted a picture to the Facebook page, Catholic Modern Farmhouse Decor Inspiration of one that I gave to her daughter, (my Goddaughter) Maria. After 2 days, it had almost 800 likes and a number of questions about how to make them.
I shared my own initial lack of confidence so that if you are interested in making one, you will not be afraid. You can even make it a religious experience by asking each saint on the medals to pray for you and if you are gifting it, for that person too.