Sonia King’s never been to medical school, but right now she is in her studio working on a heart for a local cardiologist. Of course, this particular heart will sparkle with vitreous glass and will decorate an office, not sustain a human body. However, mosaics are the life’s blood of this East Dallas artist’s universe.
King, who grew up in Lakewood and attended Lakewood Elementary, received her MBA from SMU, went to work as a consultant for an oil company, and traveled the world as a business person. Still, she kept finding herself drawn to great mosaic works of art while in Italy, Tunisia, London, France … . Her mother had studied mosaics in the ’60s, when the Dallas Museum of Art was still at Fair Park, and the art form held a lasting fascination for King. She found herself thinking back to her original degree — a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Finally she had to do it. Give up her day job.
“When I first started doing it full-time, it was like … ‘Oh my god, is this going to work?’” she says.
Today King successfully divides her time between art mosaics, commissions, residential (mostly baths and kitchens) and teaching at the Creative Arts Center, a nonprofit school on Ferguson Road. She is a founding member of the Society of American Mosaic Artists and, at least once a year, travels to Italy or England for a master class. Her work has been exhibited at galleries throughout the city, she is a featured artist in a new book, and each new challenge reinforces her love for the art. She’s in the process of finalizing a proposal for a pebble mosaic pavement at Kiest Park, and will lead a team of Creative Arts students in creating a mosaic mural at the Center — a complete wall of a garden scene to inspire those learning how to paint or work with mosaics or make pottery.
Like many growing businesses — artistic or otherwise — that found their beginnings in a spare bedroom or garage, King’s WhateverWerks Mosaic Studio soon faced the need for an efficient and long-term work space. Weighing the factors, King decided that remodeling would be preferable to monthly rental on an offsite space, and would enable her to continue working on the winding tree-lined street she called home.
One stroke of good fortune preceded the project. Several years earlier when King had converted her attic area to a second floor and master bedroom, she hadn’t realized that she was overlooking the space available for expansion above her garage area, and might have used the space for something else at the time.
Plans were fashioned to meet the business’s basic needs: a work sink, a computer niche, book shelves, visible materials storage (for both ease of identification and inspiration), a reception/consultation area for clients and, of course, a good-sized area for creating the artwork itself with plenty of natural light. Oh, and tile floors.
“A broom is a mosaicist’s best friend,” laughs King. “This is definitely something you do not want to do on carpet.” Besides, tile floors enable King’s cat to play hockey with bits of smalti.
King’s next exhibit will be in conjunction with three other artists for Earth Day at the Bath House Cultural Center in April. She is in the process of creating several geologically inspired mosaics for the event, and was excited to find mussel shells that create a wonderful mosaic moon. New materials are inspiring as are the 600 pounds of traditional smalti that just arrived from Italy.
At least now she has somewhere to put it all.