ELWOOD — An artist at heart, Nicole Roberson of Elwood has always found ways to incorporate creativity into her life.
At Minooka Community High School, Roberson took every art class that was available, even having one of her drawings published in a magazine and winning an academic achievement award for art. She was also one of the artists who worked on the senior wall mural for MCHS’ Class of 2002.
In high school, Roberson was in the photography club and loved when she was able to do pottery in art class.
She was accepted to the Illinois State University art program, where she studied for a year, and then returned to live in Channahon and finished an associate’s degree at Joliet Junior College.
Over the years, Roberson has dabbled in many types of media, but it was by chance — or perhaps divine inspiration — that she found her most recent calling in the arts.
She and her husband moved into her grandparents’ older home in Elwood. The large flower and vegetable gardens were more than what Roberson could handle, so she opted to scale them down. What remained after the new landscaping were lots of concrete stepping stones from the garden.
“I had no idea what to do with all these stepping stones,” she said.
Roberson’s mother, LeAn Halweg of Channahon, sells vintage china and glass online. She’s also a potter, Roberson said.
“My mother offered to give me her chipped or broken pieces (of china) to mosaic the stones,” she said. “I had no idea how to (do) mosaic but thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll try it.’”
From that creative thought, Nicole Marie Artistry was born.
Her first shot at mosaic turned out pretty well, but it fell apart because it wasn’t sealed properly. Roberson kept at it, researching and teaching herself the proper way of the craft.
Using vintage plates, cups and bowls, she randomly placed and cemented the pieces into place.
“I got a little more artsy with the second one,” she said.
Eventually, Roberson began incorporating broken windshield glass and art glass into her pieces. Each one became more beautiful than the next.
She took special orders and personalized some of them. One customer collects lamas and wanted one incorporated into the design, another asked for an angel in memory of a loved one.
“Over five years later, all of my grandmothers’ stepping stones turned into beautiful mosaics, sold and are now adorning their owners’ gardens and homes,” Roberson said. “I’m sure my grandmother is looking down from heaven on all of the beautiful gardens her stepping stones have made a home in.”
Since then, Roberson has fine-tuned her technique and branched out into doing mosaics on furniture. She collects furniture pieces at garage sales and also looks for unique dishes.
“I like to use more recycling type of stuff,” she said, “turning trash into treasures.”
Each mosaic design is hand cut, hand laid and unique. The tops of a set of matching side tables, for instance, have been transformed into a tree. When used apart, each has half the trunk. Pushed together, they make the whole tree.
The glass pieces are cut by hand, using first a scoring tool and then glass nippers, Roberson said. So every piece she completes takes long hours and is one of a kind.
Besides garden stones and furniture, Roberson has also created mosaics on pottery, which her mother designs and makes, and dried gourds turned into bird houses.
She intends to try her hand at wall hangings as well.
“I’m the type of person that needs variety in life or I get bored,” she said.
When she’s not designing and creating, Roberson is an aesthetician at Naked Sun and Day Spa in Diamond. Besides performing body treatments and waxes, she is an expert at applying makeup for weddings and special occasions, which in itself is an artistic skill.
Roberson’s mosaic work can be viewed on Etsy, an online shopping site for artists, under Nicole Marie Artistry. Her inventory is low right now because so much has sold and each piece takes so much time to make, she said. But she welcomes custom orders.
“I put a lot of time, heart and effort into my work,” she said. “Aside from being a mother to my beautiful 2-year-old daughter, my art is my passion.”