Northside artist Linda Wallen is offering one final class on Mosaic Sculpture this Saturday, July 13 at Museum Lab.

Story and photo by Amanda Andrews 

The Museum Lab just opened at the end of April, but events for children are already in full swing. The third 10+ Workshop: Mosaic Sculpture with Linda Wallen was hosted at the Museum Lab on June 29. Four children were in attendance to learn the basics of mosaics and to make their own creations. 

Mosaics are made by arranging small pieces of hard materials such as stone, tile or glass, to form a larger image or pattern. Styrofoam, hot wire, and adhesive were the tools provided to the participants to shape their sculptures. Wallen first demonstrated the technique using a giant styrofoam block. She drew red lines on it as guidelines for cutting. The children delighted in carving out chunks in the foam under the careful supervision of adults. 

Once they had a chance to try out the craft themselves, the children chose smaller foam sculptures to add stones and pieces onto. 

Wallen used a creative analogy to explain how to apply the adhesive to the foam:

“It’s like putting icing on a cupcake,” she said. 

10+ Workshops are meant exclusively for children to adolescents, and Wallen has found there is a distinct difference between working with children and working with adults. 

“Kids ask fewer questions. They’re a little more open to experimenting. They don’t have to tell me their stories to explain their level of expertise,” she said.  

This difference, Wallen remarked, speaks of an insecurity that seems to develop between childhood and adulthood: a need to prove credibility. 

The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh reached out to Wallen two years ago about this project, but it wasn’t until the spring that they were able to organize the event. 

Wallen learned how to build mosaics while building theater props in France in the 1990s. Still, she said that this activity was a “real stretch” for her both figuratively and literally. Wallen had never worked on a sculpture taller than her before this project. Through her knowledge of mosaics, Wallen taught and instructed the children participating in the workshops to collectively contribute to the giant styrofoam mosaic block. 

“I wanted to give them the experience of touching and cutting,” Wallen said. “[I wanted them] to get a feeling for the basics of mosaics.” 

The Museum Lab is attempting to curate children’s creations to add to their collaborative mosaic project.

“Ultimately, I hope it will be [a community effort],” said Wallen. 

Sign up for Saturday’s class on the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh website.