Mosaic Memories: La Jollan creates sentimental art piece

The 12- by 15-foot cement mosaic in the front yard of Francesca and Steve Petroski’s La Jolla home is a veritable eye-spy game of curios and memories. Coins from countries gathered during international travel, piggy banks from childhood, antique plate chips, sentimental jewelry and military buttons are just some of the memorabilia embedded in the mosaic.

“I started going through jewelry boxes and looking at all these trinkets and thinking back on all the memories associated with them,” Francesca explained. “I didn’t know what to do with them, but I wanted to keep them. I’m not going to wear these pieces or use them anymore, but I didn’t want to get rid of them because they have so much sentimental value. Everything had a story — the story of my life.”

Inspired by seeing something similar at a friend’s house, Francesca said she decided to turn her family’s precious items into a piece of art. “I was really artistic as a child and through college, but I got caught up in the corporate world, had children and became caught up in everyday life. I considered art to be a therapy, but it fell to the wayside,” she explained.

“When I saw my friend’s piece it really inspired me. I thought to myself ‘Why wait? I’m going to do something right now.’ ”

The back yard of the Petroski’s home on Ivanhoe Avenue was featured in this year’s La Jolla Historical Society Secret Garden Tour, which further motivated the couple to spruce up their front yard.

Steve, inspired by an abalone shell, sketched a design in the shape of a seashell to represent their proximity to the beach. Francesca collected small trinkets that could be added in their original form. Her son, Nico, helped “create” additional pieces by breaking larger items into shards.

Handyman Jose Guerrero assisted with the execution, including cutting the bricks to fit the space and cementing them in place. Start to finish, the process took five months.

“It was creative and therapeutic,” Francesca proclaimed. “We didn’t buy a single thing, it was all items we already had — plus, neighbors would bring plates to contribute. It just felt like an opportunity to express ourselves and our family’s history. There are some pieces on here that no one would know the story behind, but me.

“It’s really about going through life and memories.”

Having completed the piece, and now using it as a “patio” space with chairs and a bench, Francesca said she would be willing — with Guerrero’s help — to guide those interested in creating a similar piece. She can be reached at (858) 342-2413.

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