Heart of Glass


Mary Hong Studio Gallery

There’s something wildly therapeutic about turning shards of glass into a very personal piece of art. Although I wasn’t mending a broken heart of glass like Blondie (I’m happily married, but Heart of Glass is a better blog post title), I did experience the enjoyment mosaic glass art can bring during a recent visit to the The Shard Shop in Grayton Beach.


My sister-in-law kindly treated two of my daughters to a class at The Shard Shop as a birthday gift. We took the girls, along with her daughter (my niece/their cousin), to the Shops of Grayton, where you’ll find The Shard Shop next door to Mary Hong Studio Gallery.


Mary Hong Studio Gallery

Mary Hong is a local artist who has been doing shard art, as she calls it, since 1999. Her gallery sells her beautiful creations and also provides inspiration for first-time artists who are going to make their own works of art at The Shard Shop.

Upon arrival, our girls quickly chose their canvases and decided what the subject of their art would be. Each chose an assortment of colorful, multi-textured glass shards to place atop a chalk sketch they’d drawn on the canvas. We helped with cutting some of the larger glass pieces for the girls (safety first!). Craft glue was used to secure some of the pieces while others were placed loosely, all to be permanently set by an epoxy resin coating that The Shard Shop staff pours over your “finished” piece. It was fun to watch the girls create a crab, pineapple and peacock, and we were impressed with how well they turned out the next day when we went to pick up the resin-coated finished products.


While helping the girls with their pieces was fun, my sister-in-law and I wanted to return to The Shard Shop sans children and make our own shard art. Later during our vacation week, we paid our second visit and got to work on making a tree (hers, which I sadly failed to photograph) and a trio of butterflies (mine). Unlike traditional mosaic art, the shard art style is more layered or dimensional. After placing larger pieces of glass from old bottles and dishes on the canvas (or wood plank, in my case), we filled in the design with smaller shards and even some glittery bling (note: not a technical term). The Shard Shop does provide safety goggles and gloves for you to use when you are cutting glass and handling the sharper pieces. There is a safety waiver you have to sign before taking a class – of course there is, there is always a waiver! The instructor we worked with showed us how to cut and sand the edges for a smoother finish so that no one will inadvertently stab themselves while admiring our finished pieces.


While our work might not hold a candle to Mary Hong’s professional pieces, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in The Shard Shop and we each have a handmade souvenir from our 30-A vacation to display in our homes. I would recommend The Shard Shop classes and workshops to anyone who is old enough to safely handle glass (7 is the minimum age for children’s classes). The classes we took were $35 for children and $85 for adults.

This would be a fun destination for a girls’ weekend or girls’ day out. One woman who was in the shop at the same time we visited said she had used shard art as therapy after experiencing some traumatic physical health challenges. Whatever your reason for wanting to do glass art, your creation is sure to be a unique thing of upcycled beauty.

If you’re hungry for lunch before your art class, just walk across the parking lot at Shops of Grayton to Farm Stand, a good spot for farm fresh, organic food. I recently visited Farm Stand and wrote about it in the article, From Farm to Table in Northwest Florida, published by Visit Florida.

Highlighter Tattoos and the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival

Today, during our drive home from school, one of my children offered her sisters highlighter tattoos: peace signs, hearts, and butterflies all drawn in one of several fluorescent highlighter hues. These were not your run of the mill stick-on-with-water temporary tattoos. She would draw the tattoos on their arms herself – for a fee! She came up with a price list and wanted to charge them for her, uh-hem, artwork.

Trying not to laugh hysterically or worry how we will wash off this glowing ink from their fair skin, I decided to do what I thought any parenting advice article would tell me to do: relax, let them have fun and focus on the positive. My daughter was artistic, innovative and enterprising…what a bright (no pun intended) future she must have!?! Ha!

Coincidentally, I found this note inside her backpack, inviting us to see some of her work in the Student Exhibit at the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival, which takes place this weekend in Downtown Pensacola’s Seville Square.


No word on whether the selected artwork has anything to do with her burgeoning tattoo business, but we’ll check it out along with the rest of the festival. Sneaky, but well played move, art festival people!

In all seriousness, the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival is a popular and respected juried art show that takes place every year on the first weekend of November. More than 200 artists display and sell their work in this historic setting. It’s free and open to the public. Families will appreciate the Children’s Art area, with the student art displays and several opportunities for kids to get their hands dirty creating artwork somewhere other than your house. In my book, that’s a win.

If you’re visiting the area for the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show or the Pensacola Marathon, you should make time to head over to the art festival. See you there!

Santa Rosa Beach: Art Classes at Gulf Place

If you spend any time in the beach communities along 30A in South Walton County, Florida, you’re sure to find that each has its own personality. In some cases, the variety is reflected in the architecture. Take one look at Seaside, Alys Beach or Rosemary Beach and the distinctions are clear. Further west on 30A, near Destin, the vibe is more eclectic in areas such as Grayton Beach and Blue Mountain Beach.

I hesitate to label any of these communities because each time I visit the area, I discover something new. Perhaps that discoverability, not to mention the natural beauty and small town charm, is what draws visitors back to these areas year after year.

My latest trip down 30A took me to Gulf Place, a mixed-use development in Santa Rosa Beach with condos and retail space, just across from public beach access at the intersection of County Hwy. 393. What I found most intriguing about Gulf Place was not the restaurants or shops, although they are no doubt worth trying, but the space behind the storefronts. That’s where I found a collection of colorful, wooden huts representing the Artists at Gulf Place, where individual artists have come together to offer original works of art, jewelry and gift items for sale.


Far from a souvenir stand, the artists’ space allows shoppers to browse the varied creations and take home a small piece of the local art scene. During designated times, you can also create your own art. Several art classes are offered on a weekly basis. My daughters and I attended a jewelry making session. Choosing from a wide assortment of beads, my girls each created her own unique design. One chose to make a necklace ($20) and the other made a bracelet ($15). My niece opted for a separate project led by another artist, creating bottle cap wind chimes ($10). All the girls enjoyed their crafts, and the time spent was a nice alternative to shopping for the typical trinkets you might find at a tourist trap T-shirt shop.


Other classes offered by the Artists at Gulf Place include tie-dying T-shirts and painting metal flowers. All of the sessions are first come, first serve. Gulf Place and the Artists at Gulf Place regularly publicize the classes and other events via their Facebook pages so it is easy to follow along with what is happening during your visit to the area.


If art is not your thing, Gulf Place regularly hosts live music events. Greg Allman and Junior Marvin are two of the acts to grace the outdoor stage in recent months. A small farmer’s market is set up each Sunday morning. Selection may vary, but on our recent visit local vendors offered fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, grass-fed beef, honey, candles and other crafts.

Pensacola: The Art of the Brick

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“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of the team.” Just when I’d gotten those words from the Lego Movie jingle out of my head, another toy brick-based creative work comes along.

The Art of the Brick, showcasing Lego sculptures by Nathan Sawaya, is on exhibit at the Pensacola Museum of Art in Downtown Pensacola.

Lego fans young and old can appreciate Sawaya’s impressive creations. He has built multiple human forms, a dog, a pencil, just to name a few – all from the beloved toy bricks. Many of the sculptures are monochromatic. Many depict emotions and various life experiences of the artist.

My daughters, my niece and I visited the museum recently to see the Art of the Brick. Two of the girls went almost immediately to the end of the exhibit, where tables are set up with assorted Lego bricks so that you can build your own works of art. The other took more time looking at each sculpture with me.  (Like almost any event or attraction, if you attend with children, be prepared for kids’ varying attention spans.)

While the girls played with the Legos at the end of the exhibit, I watched a video about the artist that is shown in the same room.

The entire exhibit at the Pensacola Museum of Art is contained within two galleries. You can easily see Sawaya’s work and give the kids a chance to play with the Legos in just an hour or so.

Admission is $12 for adults and $8 for children. The exhibit runs through August 8 at the Pensacola Museum of Art, 407 South Jefferson St.