Mary Hong Grayton Beach Artist Finds Healing
Mary Hong’s studio in Grayton Beach, Fla. — the Shard Shop — is known as the place “where glass meets canvas.” Hong — who was named South Walton Artist of the Year in 2014 — makes fine art mosaics using glass, seashells and other found objects.
Her shop, which opened this year, offers classes in mosaic making, art supplies and daily open studio time for artists of all abilities.
Hong’s art fits right in on the sugar-white beaches of the Gulf Coast. Here, we cannot escape sand. It’s our backyard; it comes home with us in our shoes and finds its way into virtually everything we own. It also is the most fundamental component of glass, Hong’s medium of choice.
The transformation from the raw material into a workable medium requires heat, the addition of other elements and time, but when the process is complete, one gets an amorphous solid with almost mystical qualities. Hong fell in love with glass about 15 years ago.
“For me, glass came after so many other media,” she said recently. “Every artist goes through phases, and, when I got to glass, I thought, ‘I have found my happiness’ — I was in love.”
Even after 15 years of working with the same media, Hong still has a driving passion and curiosity to discover all its secrets. She is always tinkering.
“Everything I do has stemmed from experimentation,” Hong said. She quotes Michelangelo when describing her own creative process.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,” she said. “I’m moving glass around … until I see the magic. Then, all of a sudden, I find it. There’s a click. If there’s 10 people in a room watching me, they’re all holding their breath saying, ‘No, that’s not it, and then everyone’s like, ‘That’s it.’ It’s the search for what pleases the eye.”
Beyond aesthetic considerations, though, Hong said her art was also a meditative practice.
“I think we all have crazy chaotic lives,” she said, “… Sometimes it’s just hard to get into that … intention of (saying), ‘Okay, I’m going to sit down and make something pretty,’ or ‘I’m going to take time for myself.’ What makes (this medium) so beautiful is you don’t have to get your hands all dirty. You don’t have to overthink it, you know? You’re just kind of sitting there placing it. It’s almost like a jigsaw puzzle, and you’re making your own puzzle pieces.”
Hong said the process was a healing one for some.
“So many people have come up to me and told me they were healing from an illness,” she said, “… and they poignantly express how much the simple process of creating in the Shard Shop has touched them. Some have come in to make a piece of art to help someone else — a friend or family member — to bless them with something they can look at as they’re going through their healing process, whatever that may be.”
Hong enjoys helping people move forward, but she said her art was also about honoring the past. She encourages customers to incorporate little pieces of themselves into their mosaics.
“Everyone has their little plate of pennies, knickknacks and that stone they got from the Acropolis in Athens,” she said. “It starts at a very young age. Even kids have their favorite little things they’ve foraged and gathered. I’ve had people come in who have lost a husband or a child, and they’ll bring a memento and put it in a piece of art. This is a way to give these little treasures a place of honor on the walls of our homes.”
By enshrining them in works of art, people’s memories are no longer lost in drawers or squirreled away in boxes — disparate and forgotten.
At the Shard Shop, Hong helps people weave those scattered relics into stories that make sense, to celebrate our experiences and heal what’s been shattered.