Artist shares her love for mosaics with Elba
A weekly stained-glass class, held every Thursday at 6 p.m. in the upstairs of the Jared and Brunson Law building in Elba, brings attendees together to learn from Dorothy Vaughan, an experienced instructor who has been working with this medium for over 15 years.
The class is becoming a popular activity for the community. “Most people come when they can, and their work is always there for them to return to,” Vaughn said.
Benefitting from her expertise and guidance, participants attentively listen as Vaughan shares her knowledge and techniques. Members of the class enjoy the opportunity to express their creativity through the creation of mosaics and stained-glass work.
For Vaughan, stained glass is more than just a hobby. Having grown up in Elba, she returned to the community in 2002.
Formerly a substance abuse counselor, Vaughan turned to stained glass as a way to unwind after a long day at work. She explained, “I think it’s a very soothing hobby, and I actually started it to unwind stress.”
Although Vaughan primarily creates pieces for personal enjoyment, she has also sold some of her artwork, including a recent piece to the Covenant Community Church. That piece took about three weeks to complete.
Copied from a prayer cloth, Vaughan created a beautiful mosaic featuring a cross, dove, and fish. Though this is one of her few commissions, Vaughan puts every ounce of perfection into all of her work.
One of Vaughan’s most significant contributions to her community is a mosaic tiger she created for Elba High School. “I made it on behalf of the class of ‘96 that I was in and became enchanted by the process,” she said.
Spending 16 hours a day for weeks on the tiger, Vaughan donated the piece free of charge to Elba High. This mosaic tiger holds a special place in Vaughan’s heart.
She describes it as her most rewarding piece because it is exhibited at the high school. Vaughan's passion for her craft was evident when she described the challenges she faced when installing the mosaic into the school's floor.
The installation process was not a walk in the park. “I had to get them to take up the floor and remove the linoleum. You cannot put a mosaic of glass into a linoleum floor, it just doesn’t work,” Vaughan stated.
When asked about her favorite piece, Vaughan found it hard to choose between her tiger and a piece depicting large poppies.
“It’s kind of a tie with the tiger,” Vaughan said. “It’s a great big ‘ole piece of glass, and it’s got huge poppies all in it.” The poppy artwork, made from a large slab of glass, showcases Vaughan’s skill in capturing the beauty of nature.
Notably, she generously donates most of her work free of charge, recognizing the value of art in enriching her community. Earlier this year, Vaughan took part in the Art Expo at the Elba Public Library. She exhibited several pieces, including a stunning mosaic flower pot that showcased her artistic skills.
Glass is not an easy medium to work with. The intricate process of cutting, grinding, and placing the pieces requires meticulous work. To transform ideas into stained-glass artwork, a specific set of tools and equipment is necessary.
“You need to start with a pattern of some sort and get an idea in your mind. And then you have to decide on a medium,” she explained. Mosaics can be done in a variety of mediums such as wood, glass, and ceramic. “I tend to start with more intricate parts,” Vaughn said.
Guiding students in her weekly classes through the process allows her friends to witness the transformation of their own projects. She describes the moment when the scattered glass pieces begin to take shape as a beautiful process.
“To watch it come together is the most fascinating thing,” she said. “When you first start out, it looks like someone just threw a bunch of glass on it. When it takes shape, you get hit with the reality that you made something beautiful.”