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The Story

Eastwood Mall
Warren Ohio

Equarium Project

The Eastwood Mall in Warren, Ohio had undergone major renovations and built three large aquariums as an attraction for their center court. The aquariums were to contain numerous tropical fish and sea life with a living coral reef. The center tank was to feature large fish that included Mornay Eel, Stingrays, and Sharks. Owner Phyllis Cafaro wanted signage that was equivalent to "museum quality art". When I thought about what material would best represent water, the first thing that came to mind was glass. I presented a shimmering collection of colors from The Sicis 5/8" Italian Iridian Glass Tile Collection to Phyllis and she loved it. After determining the size and shape I designed an underwater scene and the adventure began. The tiles were so exquisite that I loved every minute and thrilled every time I completed a shape. The overall dimension was 18'w x 4'h. I only had 2 months until the grand opening so it was quite a challenge with many 12 hour days to complete the project on time. With help from my daughter, Leigh Jaffer, friend Anna Marie Newman, and Eastwood Mall volunteers, I was able to meet the deadline just in time.

With underwater imagery inspired by the movie "Finding Nemo", I designed an underwater scene and printed it out lifesize on paper. I was given a large empty storeroom at the Mall to work in. We set up three 8' tables with 3 pieces of 8' plywood. I made it as flat as I could and layed out my pattern and my sheets of assorted 5/8" x 5/8" colored tiles. The total dimension of the mosaic was to be 18' wide by 4' high.

The hardest part of the project was peeling the tiles off the fiberglass backing that they were securely glued on to. Luckily I was assisted with hard working volunteers.


FAB Volunteers

Missy Ford & Bryce Carson

Anna Marie Newman

It was so exciting as each shape began to take form. It was a challenge and a thrill each time I began a new shape using new colors and a new tiling design. I became more and more skillful and creative as I went and the pieces of glass became smaller and smaller in my designs. I recruited my dear friend and fellow artist Anna Marie Newman to help.

Anna discovered that soaking the tiles in water helped greatly to peel them off. What a relief! We are getting closer and closer!
Leigh Jaffer

My daughter, Leigh, helps with the finishing touches. All of the tiles are laying loose on the table. It is now time to cover the entire composition with a special tacky tape.
Once the mosaic was secured with the tape, it was time to cut it apart into approximately 12" x 12" sections. We delicately cut between the tiles, flipped it over, relaced any tiles that fell out, slid each section between two cardboard sheets, and numbered them.
We were now ready to transport the mosaic sections to the Equarium location.
Norm Barron was the master tile layer and hired to install the mosaic but this was "my baby" so I climbed the scaffold and got in on the act. It turned out to be neccessary as many of the tiny pieces of tile fell as we tilted the sections up to apply them to the thinset. Only I was familiar enough with the designs to know where to replace them. It was tedious & stressful but so exciting as each piece was painstakingly put into place.
We started installing at 9pm when the mall closed and worked until 3am for 3 nights. We finished on a Sunday starting at 6pm until 12pm. I was so thrilled that my son Joshua, who lives in Los Angeles, was able to see the installation. He climbed the scaffold and took my picture as I put my signature on the mosaic.
Wow! My mosaic was whole again safe and securely glued down. What a relief and what a thrill! Once the letters were installed the project was complete. The colorful iridescent glass was spectacular as it shimmered in the light of the center court for all to admire on their visit to The Eastwood Mall Equarium.