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Pieced Together

Inside the home studio of an East Greenwich mosaic artist

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Karen Giarrusso grew up surrounded by nature. Her father was a national park ranger and the family always lived in close proximity to his work; her mother shared a love of birds and taught Karen how to identify different types. Today as a mosaic artist, these natural forms inspire many of the designs under her KG Mosaics brand. “I love the colors of nature and I also love patterns.”

From her home studio in East Greenwich, Karen spends hours working on intricate pieces on most any surface – from mirror frames to candelabras to backsplashes. Mosaic is an artform that requires patience, a flat surface, and plenty of light. Having previously created in a cavernous basement, Karen’s current set-up is luminous by design. “Having a ton of natural light was super important to me,” she begins. “A space where I could open the windows and get fresh air. What I do takes many hours and it’s nice just to feel the light and smell the outdoors.”

Karen also planned plenty of storage for her many supplies and tools. “I wanted everything behind doors so it would look clean. I like to have everything organized and put away as I like to start each project in an organized environment,” she says. Another important element for Karen was having a large level area on which to work. She recreated a table similar to the one her father had built for her and keeps it in the center of the room. “I can reach everything and have a ton of space to work on large projects,” says Karen, who also uses it to display mementos and completed smaller works.

Karen enjoys working with costume jewelry stones, beads, and findings and says, “Since Rhode Island was once the jewelry capital of the United States, there are still many places to buy these items. I love finding vintage treasures of beads and stones. My last piece was done with vintage stones from the 1950s that my daughter and I picked out in my favorite bead warehouse.”

“Classic and clean with a touch of sparkle” is how Karen describes her studio. “Even the light fixtures have crystals in them,” she notes. A friend made the room’s window treatments, which Karen trimmed in Swarovski beads. “They shimmer in the sunlight. I love walking into my space, bright lights and all-white cabinets. I look at my tools and get an excited calm feeling.”