‘L’ is for Labor of Love

A husband-and-wife team combines their talents and create a work of art for children.

“My Mosaic Alphabet Book” is the latest creation of Cape Cod mosaic artist Jim Bowen and his wife, Debbie. The hardcover children’s book features letters of the alphabet created in colorful and detailed mosaics by Jim, with poetry written by Debbie to go along with each letter.

mosaicbook_4125“It’s been almost a five-year journey,” from concept to publication, says Jim. The book started with a desire to make something for their granddaughter, Pilar. “What grandparent doesn’t want to make an alphabet book for their grandchild?” Jim says, with a laugh.

Each letter mosaic has intricately inlaid designs of things that begin with that letter. The letter A features an apple tree, an aardvark, and an airplane. Debbie’s poetry ties everything together, giving kids a tongue-twister of letter A words. “An airplane ascends in the African sky, alerting the ants to avoid the aardvark. Alas, they advance up the apple tree, to arrive safe at home before dark.”

Debbie has been a practicing poet since she was a little girl, when her mother bought her a book of poetry. She said she’d always wanted to publish her poetry, and it all fell into place as she started thinking up rhymes to go with each of Jim’s mosaics. V is for Verona, F is for France. “On some of the letters, I didn’t put a place. I thought it’d be fun for the kids to make up,” says Debbie. She says it was a challenge in the beginning, thinking of words and rhymes to go with the mosaics, but as she spent more time with the project, it started to flow, and the stories developed over time.

To make a mosaic, Jim begins with a sheet of colored glass. He scores the glass with a LePointe two-wheeled glasscutter, then breaks the glass at the score line. He continues breaking the glass into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up with pieces as varied and individual as snowflakes. “Each piece is called a tessera,” he says, as he holds up a small orange piece between his thumb and his index finger. “Different units, or tesserae, make up the whole. I think of a mosaic as I think of a community—all different shapes, sizes and colors, which come together as a whole.”

Jim has been creating mosaics for nearly 20 years. He’d dabbled in other art forms, including oil, painting and pottery, but it was mosaic art that truly sparked his passion. He brought this passion to others while teaching at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, Cape Cod Community College, and Rochester Memorial Elementary School. His work can be seen at Cape Cod Hospital, along the Shining Sea Bikeway in Falmouth and at the new Falmouth dog park.

Together, the Bowens created Cape Cod mosaic workshops, and they’ve been teaching the art form through their workshops at the Falmouth Art Center for about four years. “We’ve been very successful,” says Jim. Their success has transferred over into book sales. The Bowens received their first shipment of books in July, and keeping up with orders is a full-time job. “People we don’t even know are sharing it on social media,” says Jim, and Debbie says she has been inspired through this project to write more children’s books. — Marina Davalos

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